Sunday, August 19, 2012

Just nipping up to Buffalo to look for a gull, back soon ...

3am Saturday morning and I'm awake and trudging through darkness and rain to get the car.  I'd originally planned to go out to Long Island again, but after three trips out there during the week, I've talked myself into running the 5+ hours up to Montezuma NWR instead, mostly for a change of scenery.  By 8am I'm getting close to Montezuma but a new plan has been slowly taking over as I slog along the long miles of I-87 and I-90.  On Friday Willie D'Anna had a FRANKLIN's GULL at Niagara and, while I know it's a really stupid idea to chase a gull that hasn't been pinned down yet, I'm a big fan of gulls.  So when the Montezuma exit comes up at 8:30am, I speed past and drive the extra three hours to the village of Wilson on the Lake Ontario shore East of Niagara.

Well turns out I was right .... it as a dumb idea to chase a gull that hasn't been pinned down.  Willie has gone off to chase a Sandwich Tern and, while Betsy D'Anna does head out a couple of time to check for the bird (and e-mails me some suggestions on where to look), I'm pretty much searching on my own.  Lake Ontario is awfully big it turns out, and after 4 hours of searching I realize I'm going to have to head back if I plan to get back by midnight (as promised).  Franklin's Gull will have to wait for another day ...

Caspian Terns on Lake Ontario (2 shots)

So turning around with a nearly 9 hour drive ahead of me, I make the fatal mistake of checking bird alerts.  The folks of Long Island are seeing lots of American Golden Plovers and a Buff-breasted Sandpiper.  So are the folks at Montezuma so this time, when the Montezuma exit comes up, I pull off and head over to East Road, arriving around 6:00pm.

Montezuma NWR is a really neat place and today it is very birdy.  There are Bald Eagles and Sandhill Cranes, lots of ducks and herons and quite a few shorebirds.   Joining a group of birders, we quickly pick up 4 AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVERS (NYS 2012 # 334) and then a BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER (#335), one of my all-time favorite species.  I spend a lot of time looking for the previously reported Baird's Sandpiper, hoping for the 'Grasspiper Slam' but come up empty.   Still, the thorough search adds 2 Wilson's Phalaropes, a Red-necked Phalarope, 5 Common Gallinules and a Virginia Rail.  By the time I look at my watch, prompted by a dusk-calling Eastern Screech-Owl, its 7:45pm and I know I'm in for a long night of driving.

Home at 2am, and back to bed.  23 hours on the road, 1,000+ miles of driving, and no Franklin's Gull.  That's just how it goes some times and, as a believer in birding karma, I'm hoping I stored up a good balance today to be cashed in at a later date.

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