Given the distances, and the time required to cover them, I have to be a bit selective about what I chase. Running to Buffalo to a bird means that I'm going to miss anything that shows up on Long Island for a day, perhaps two. Conversely, bashing the bushes on Long Island might not yield anything while a good bird in the NorthWest might stick for a day and, in retrospect, have been possible to see. Given that many birds stay for short periods during the October migration, the calculus can drive one insane. Is this bird going to stick? Should I do a 1,000-mile round-trip for that bird? What does the weather look like tomorrow, and am I going to miss a wave-day by going? In October, I find myself asking these questions almost daily. I'm also a little gun-shy to be honest - two long range dips recently (Franklin's Gull and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper) have made me reluctant to run North. On the other hand though, Long Island has just not been performing this Fall so far. What to do?
On Thursday I committed to Long Island for the weekend and moved Out East for a four day stay. Was hoping for Western Kingbird, Northern Wheatear, and who knows what else. On Friday afternoon, a Western Kingbird was reported at Montezuma NWR! That's a 9-hour drive from East Hampton on a sunny weekend day, so there was no way I could get there while it was still light. So I decided to skip that bird, and as luck would have it, it stuck for only a couple of hours in any case. So had I gone, I would have missed it.
|Swamp Sparrow (juv.)|
After birding Floyd Bennet for a while (which was crawling in huge numbers of common migrants) the rain finally drove me in to the City. Just as I got home I got a text from Benjamin Van Doren saying that a Franklin's Gull had been found at Montezuma NWR. Now here was a dilemma. On the one hand, if I left right then, I could (just) make it to Montezuma while it was still light. On the other hand, both the previous 2012 Franklin's Gull records had stayed in one place for only a couple of hours. To play Whack-a-Mole or not? In the end I decided that if the bird stayed until the evening, then I would go the next day. Sure enough, the bird was reported at 5:40pm (meaning of course that I could have seen it if I'd gone straight up that day) so I set the alarm for 3:30am.
By 8:30am on Monday I was passing Syracuse on I-90 when Benjamin texted again to say that Jay McGowan had just seen the gull. So by 9:30am I pulled up on Towpath Road, got some positive news from a passing British birder, parked, grabbed the scope, scanned the roosting gulls, then scanned out further on the mud, and .... FRANKLIN'S GULL (NYS 2012 #343)!
|Franklin's Gull - an iPhone shot of the bird about a mile away!|