Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Tale of 2 Hoodeds

I wish that the 2 photos above were taken by me yesterday, but alas that is not what happened. So I asked Doug Koch to send me the above pics (click on photo to enlarge) that he took on Tuesday morning when I was originally supposed to be at Coney Island with him, Ken and John. But I am ahead of myself.

Having missed out on Tuesday to see the gray hooded gull, I kept checking to see if it was still showing up. I knew that some birding buddies of mine from Ohio--Dan, Doreene and Bill--were planning to try to see the gull yesterday before flying off Friday evening to Brazil for 3 weeks of birding there. As a result, when the gull was seen again on Wednesday, we hatched a plan to try to see it together on Friday.

Also on Wednesday, reports came in that the hooded crow, which had been found on Staten Island in late June, but then had disappeared, was relocated on the New Jersey shore. This bird, which lives in Europe and is largely non-migratory, created a big stir when discovered because it would be a first North American record of the hooded crow. But because its origin/provenance was unknown, there was much doubt whether it would eventually be accepted by the ABA as a wild bird that had arrived in the US unassisted.

As a result, my Ohio friends had chosen not to chase it back in June when it was first found. However, since my friends were driving from Ohio to NYC, we decided if the crow was seen again on Thursday to meet in Philadelphia on Thurs. nite. I checked the listservs all Thursday morning waiting to see if the gull and/or crow were being reported. My friends began driving at 3 PM towards NYC.

A very tardy report finally came in about 5 PM that the gull was seen briefly from 7:30-8 AM on Thursday, but not for the rest of the day. At that point no one had reported seeing the crow. Since there is still uncertainty that the hooded crow will be accepted by the ABA, my friends decided not to go to Philly, but instead took a more northerly route towards NYC. When the crow was finally reported about 9 PM as having been seen Thursday afternoon, it was too late for them to change their routing, and it was definitely too late for me to get to Philly on a plane Thurs. nite.

I had a ticket on hold to fly to NYC at 6 AM Friday, but was not all that confident that the gull was still at Coney Island since Thursday was the first day of 8 days in a row that it had not been seen during the afternoon. Also, there was a big Aretha Franklin concert happening Thursday nite at Coney Island which might or might not affect the bird. But since I had the reservation, and because my friends were going to try for it, I finally decided to cross my fingers and hope that it would show up on Friday.

Unlike last Monday evening, my plane took off on time and even arrived at JFK airport early. I rushed out to catch a cab to take me to Coney Island. Fortunately there was not much traffic, and I was on the beach at 8 AM greeting my friends plus a birder from Texas that I had met last year. The weather was not bad--sunny, low 80's and a nice breeze. We proceeded to work up and down the beach, stopping to talk with other birders as we patrolled. We met birders from Colorado, Maryland, and upstate NY as well as locals. The first birders on Friday had been there at first light--6 AM--but as the day wore on the gull still did not come in.

About 1:30 a young woman excitedly informed us that she had just seen the gull on the pier. About 20 birders made a mad dash toward the pier. She said she saw the bird 1/2 way out flying around. We did not find the gray hooded gull, but did find a common tern which like the gull has a red bill and red legs. We figured that she had seen the tern, and thought it was the "bird with a red bill and red legs" that all the birders were seeking. When we relocated her she showed us the picture she had taken on her cell phone of "the bird" to find that it was a common tern.

At 2:15 we had to call it a day so that Dan, Doreene and Bill could return their rental car at JFK, and be ready to catch their flight to Brazil. I decided to join them since I had a return ticket on hold for 7 PM. When I got home last nite I found that the gull never was seen yesterday, and so far not today either, but the crow was seen several times yesterday and again this morning. I did enjoy seeing my friends, but came home with sunburned lower legs and no gray hooded gull or hooded crow for my effort.

While I got used to chasing during my big year in 2010, I much prefer to go birding. I don't really like beaches, but it is pretty funny that the one time I have been to the world famous Coney Island beach was to chase a gull. I am returning to NYC in a couple of weeks to see my son who lives in Brooklyn. Maybe I will get another chance at both the gull and the crow. Stay tuned!

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