Real Time Tracking of Rarities
Early this morning I was out on the south end of the East Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge looking at common shorebirds and hoping for rare shorebirds. The best birds that I had managed were a couple of Pectoral Sandpipers, a Western Sandpiper, and the Peregrine Falcon that has been keeping the shorebirds stirred up and the birders frustrated almost since shorebird season started. I had worked my way just past the raunt when a bird flew past, heading south, that didn’t compute at first. It seemed mostly white so my brain kept trying to turn it into a tern but it had long legs sticking out behind it. A quick look through my binoculars cinched the easy identification – an American Avocet, my first of the year in New York!
I tracked it as it curved over Cross Bay Boulevard, looking like it was heading for the West Pond, and then remembered that I hadn’t documented it at all. I quickly shot off ten or so shots with my digiscoping rig at what must have been almost a half-mile at that point. The best of the bad shots is below.
Once the bird disappeared from sight I pulled out my trusty iPhone to email the listserv on the off chance that a fellow New York birder might want to check the West Pond for the avocet. I quickly fired off the email and then noticed that I had several emails in my inbox, one of which was from Andrew Baksh and had the subject line “8-1 American Avocet – East Pond Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Queens County…”
His email said:
An American Avocet was observed just past Dead Man’s Cove on the East Pond at
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
This one was not as bright as the one previously found but still retains some
breeding plumage. Last seen flying towards the South End of the pond as Falco
Peregrinus, keeps shaking things up on the pond.
Independently we saw and identified the same bird, minutes apart, and reported our sightings to the larger birding community. If only a third birder had been on the West Pond to see if the bird landed there. It took me about a half-hour to get to get to the West Pond and I did not find the avocet, but Andrew reported it returning to the north end of the East Pond a bit later.
I know that on twitches birders often end up keeping each other updated minute-to-minute and events like the one Andrew and I experienced this morning are becoming more and more frequent. I see the upside easily – more birders know where more birds are more quickly. But is there a real downside?
Oh, and Andrew was fortunate enough to have seen the bird on the ground and got his camera fixed upon it at much closer range and with much better results.