|White-winged Crossbill, Napeague (local).|
Thanks to some good local advice, I found my way to the right area and met up with a 'mob' of birders who were searching for the bird. I partnered up with Isaac Grant and we spent the next 7 hours 'flogging' the woods and checking all the previous sighting locations. We did find a Northern Parula and got a see a Northern Saw-whet Owl but we couldn't turn up 'The' bird. It was cold frustrating work with just enough snow to seep through your boots and chill you, but not enough snow to limit the habitat available to the bird. By early afternoon the birders had begun to drift off but I was determined to keep plugging away until I absolutely had to leave at 3pm. At around 1:30pm we found a trail that we hadn't tried before and so pushed down it and kept birding hard. Isaac, who had been dragging a bit was refreshed by a sandwich and a 'Little Debbie' cake that almost certainly contained not a single natural ingredient. Nevertheless it perked up his spirits and, as we went into the new area he seemed inspired proclaiming that he could 'almost smell' the bird.
Not five minutes later I noticed a gray bird on the forest floor about twenty feet off the trail to our left. We lifted out bins simultaneously ... gray bird ... huge yellow undertail coverts, white eye-ring.
"Thats it!" I said.
"I'm on it, yes, thats it" said Isaac.
We watched the bird for a thirty seconds, double checking field marks and frankly beaming with the delight of finally finding the little bugger. Then both of us lowered our heads to turn on our cameras (and did a quick high-five). When we looked up, the bird was gone.
|Virginia's Warbler. Photo: Andrew Baksh (used with permission)|
By 3pm I figured I could safely leave and, after thanking Andrew Baksh again I jumped in the car and headed back East. The traffic was horrible and it took me nearly 3 hours to get home. As a result I was too late to chase the Northern Lapwings that had been found in Montauk that afternoon and, to add insult to injury, I also heard about a Painted Bunting at a nearby feeder (but the homeowners won't let people come and see it). So from the euphoria of the Virginia's Warbler, I ended up a little down and with plans for another pre-dawn start, this time for Lapwings. Will I ever get to 352 species?