Greg Lawrence is an ace New York birder who is one of the lucky (?) few who has birded with both Mike and Corey. He is a former President of the New York State Young Birders Club and a guy you want with you if you are trying to identify a rarity. We are lucky enough that he agreed to share the story of how he saw the latest addition to the New York State Checklist. (That is, when Mike is thankful and Corey is trying to get over the raging jealousy that he feels about missing this amazing first photographed record.)
On Sunday, I woke up in a morning fog to a myriad of texts about a bird and if I had already seen it, if it was still there, etc. I woke up a bit more and realized that one of the texts mentioned a Kirtland’s Warbler. And it mentioned the bird was seen at Hamlin Beach State Park, only ten minutes away from my house in Brockport, New York.
I dragged myself out of bed, got myself ready, and hustled to my car as soon as possible. I texted Andy Guthrie, who initially found the bird, to ask what was up. He responded shortly after, saying that the bird was just refound and was being seen right by the park entrance/exit booths. I got to the booths and could already see at least 20 birders all looking into the trees. It was right at this moment I realized I needed to pay the $6 entracne fee to get into the park. Having used up some of my cash the night before, I was stuck with $4 and a u-turn away from the park. Cursing at myself for my stupidity and also how close I was to that bird, I drove down to Crosby’s, a gas station about five minutes away to use the ATM.
Finally armed with enough cash, I returned to the park and parked in the nearest parking lot. I ran over to the closest group of birders. These included Andy Guthrie, Kevin Griffith, Dave Tetlow, Brian and Brooke Morse, and Tom and Jeanne Verhulst. They said that the bird had just moved back into the woods out of sight. While we were talking, the bird sang off in the distance in the woods. We joined the main mass of birders and went back to where the bird had been refound by the park exit road. After quite a bit of time spent waiting while the bird taunted us by constantly singing, Jim Pawlicki finally spotted it close by in an ash tree right on the edge of the woods.\
There it was!
Kirtland’s Warbler by Greg Lawrence
Point blank looks at New York state’s first record of the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler! Camera shutters went off at an incredibly high rate and everyone stood amazed at the sight. We all followed the bird in our binoculars as it climbed through the tree. After a couple minutes the bird took off, flew around the corner and back into the woods. Everyone was satisfied and tried not to get too excited as some birders were just arriving, having missed out on the spectacle we witnessed. Not often do you get to see a first state record of such an endangered, gorgeous, bird with such a beautiful song. Thanks again to Andy Guthrie for an incredible find and to Jim Pawlicki for the constant updates and for getting the word out on the text alerts and listserves across the state. Just goes to show that migration is nowhere near over in June, and that you never know what is out there.