November turned out to be a pretty good month for rare birds in New England. Sure, the Buffalo Bills lost to the Patriots for about the zillionth time. And of course all of my documentation photos/videos are too soft, too blurry, or just too distant. And yes, I was the only person on the east coast to miss a Franklin’s gull this year. Are all of these minor misfortunes a function of laziness? Poor camera work? Bad drafting and team management for the past 10 years? Perhaps a combination of all three (and I do in fact blame the Bills for my inability to get good bird photos). Regardless, I have had some good fortune with the avian critters lately and I’m looking forward to some more. A quick rundown of the Puritan fun we have been having up in the northeast:
Cave Swallows – An annual and ‘expected’ vagrant (if there is such a thing) in these parts, with good numbers reported from Mass down to my old haunts in Western New York. Us cool kids in Rhode Island even got in on the action. I was fortunate enough to run into some other birders at Scarborough State Beach to help relocate a group of four.
Brown Booby – Another one of the increasingly ‘expected’ fall vagrants on the East Coast, myself and Malcom Moniz managed to find this bird off the coast of Massachusetts after a strong day of sea watching up near Provincetown. Despite the winds and high density of gannets, I was lucky enough to snag a shaky video of this awesome tropical bird. Not sure how this bird managed to get so far north, but I suspect it was drunker than Orson Welles the night before.
Pink-footed Goose – First reported by Mark Danforth on November 20, I decided to draft my Rhode Island ‘A’ team (birder rookie-of-the-fall Malcom Moniz and Frosty-devouring raptor-extraordinaire Olivia DaRugna) to chase this rarity on December 3rd. Nothing like a quick jaunt into Connecticut to nail the bird from that “Big Year” movie everyone was talking about.
There were also plenty of late arrivals in the state this November as well, but that is (hopefully) par for the late fall course. It’s been pretty fun getting to know New England from a birding perspective, and there is still much to explore. Rhode Island, though small, is filled with tons of little nuances and enough rocky coasts to get my Harlequin duck fix all winter long. I’ve barely dabbled into Massachusetts, and that state was nice enough to produce a random Brown Booby the one time I decide to visit. Best of all, I am still getting used to living in an ocean state (actually, THE ‘ocean state’). Whether rational or not, I always have a feeling of possibility whenever I go out birding in my new home. But, in reality, that feeling isn’t at all exclusive to ocean states, great lake states, midwest states, or western states. The feeling of endless possibility is the ultimate allure of birding, and while that feeling is best manifested in rare birds, it really can permeate any birding experience, regardless of how expected the species present are. The only experience in which you lose the chance at the unexpected is birding inside a tiny black box floating aboard the Discovery One with HAL at the controls. So, avoid those bird tours.
Next up in the New England birdcast: alcids. Already seen a few Razorbills off Cape Cod, and Guillemonts are being regularly spotted off of Maine and New Hampshire, but I’m looking forward to much more come wintertime. And who knows what gulls, ducks, or winter finches will blow to this tiny corner of the world. For now, just enjoy some Dunlin, because…..Dunlin.