The Big Dip
If you read my mad scribblings here on 10,000 Birds with any regularity you probably know at least two things about me.
- I am a little bit obsessed with my Queens list.
- I like wood-warblers.
You can imagine my excitement when Eric Miller, a fellow Queens birder, found a Virginia’s Warbler in Alley Pond Park in, yes, you guessed it, Queens, on 31 October, two days after Hurricane Sandy made landfall. If accepted by the New York State Avian Records Committee, it will be a first state record. Can you guess what I did for a very big chunk of 1 November? That’s right, I was out looking for the Virginia’s Warbler with a whole big bunch of other birders. We didn’t find it. We dipped.
Dipping on a bird like a Virginia’s Warbler, which normally is no closer to New York than, say, Colorado, hurt. It would have been a lifer, a new Queens bird, and it is, of course, a wood-warbler. Dipping it was depressing.
Then Eric did the impossible several days later, on 5 November, and refound the bird. How difficult was this bird to see? He was standing right next to another excellent Queens birder, Jeff Ritter, and Jeff could not get on the bird. Again a bunch of birders were out the next day, including me, and again we came up empty. We dipped.
A second dip on such a bird was surely unjust, unfair, and against some kind of law. How could such a thing even happen? I cursed that little wood-warbler in absentia, cursed Eric, cursed Alley Pond Park, cursed birding.
By this point there were some grumblings about stringing from those who don’t know Eric well despite his excellent notes and description of the bird. There were no pictures! How could this Eric character be trusted? So when Andrew Baksh refound the bird yet again on 9 November, in the wake of the brutal nor’easter that hit the east coast, and managed to get some pretty darn amazing and clearly unquestionable images of a Virginia’s Warbler, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. And everyone was out again the next day, today, including me of course, trying to find the bird.
After four hours of searching I had to give up and head home to do things that non-birders take for granted, like do laundry, go food shopping, and head to the Central Park Zoo with Desi. It was yet another dip.
It was when I was in Central Park that word reached me that the Virginia’s Warbler had been refound yet again, this time by Isaac Grant and Anthony Collerton, and was being viewed by at least a score of birders.
Fourteen hours in the field looking for the damned Virginia’s Warbler and I still haven’t seen the damned thing and I have to go back to that damned Alley Pond Park and look for the damned wood-warbler again tomorrow.
Ain’t birding fun?