Last Sunday was a very weird day of birding that went in completely unexpected directions.  I slept in late, and by late I mean the sun was well up and the world was well lit by the time I left my apartment and walked to Forest Park for some digiscoping.  While at the park I took tons of pictures, added Winter Wren to my year list, and just generally enjoyed the common winter birds.  Then two gentlemen showed up and dumped pounds of bird seed on the opposite side of the water hole from the established feeding station where I was taking pictures.  The birds, no fools, skedaddled to where the food was and I was left with a mangy squirrel, a lonely-looking junco, and frustration.

So I did what any birder worth their salt would do.  No, I didn’t relocate my digiscoping rig: I was in a good spot with good light and didn’t want to move.  Instead, I waited for the bird-feeding people to leave and then I went and picked up a big double handful of the bird seed (which was literally piled on the ground) and scattered it in the usual feeding station, at which my digiscoping rig was pointed.

Then, once the birds started coming back, my phone rang.  Not surprisingly, it was a fellow birder (who else calls on Sunday morning?).  Anyway, Jean wanted to know if I wanted a ride to Nassau County where a Ross’s Goose had been spotted at a small pond.  It took me about two seconds to agree and, shortly thereafter, I was in Jean’s car and we were off to Camman’s Pond, just north of Jones Beach.

When we got there there were plenty of birds on the pond and plenty of birders around but no Ross’s Goose.  We checked a couple of other likely spots and were about to make a last-ditch attempt at salvaging our twitch with a nearby Greater White-fronted Goose when Jean checked the time and realized that she had to get to work posthaste.  Fortunately for my birding day I noticed that some top-flight birders, Shai Mitra and Pat Lindsey, had just pulled up and they agreed to take me with them on their planned twitching run to Staten Island for the Western Grebe that had been reported there.  I was introduced to Andy Baldelli, who was also riding with Shai and Pat, and the four of us headed off to Staten Island, but not before I managed to break my camera lens.

What?!?!  Yes, foolish fool that I am I managed to not hold onto my camera when readjusting the scope and the weight of the camera managed to break the lens clean in half.  The body of the camera landed on the ground (a now too familiar sight to me) and half of the 50mm lens was attached to the camera and half was still attached to the scope.  Though I valiantly tried to reattach the two pieces it was not meant to be.  I’m just glad that the camera survived intact (again).  For those keeping track at home, I have now had my camera take rather harsh spills twice and also left it behind twice.  I just hope that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Cameras never gets my name…

Despite the catastrophe I was in high spirits on the ride to Staten Island, and the three birders that agreed to bring me there were full of good birding stories.  It was a fun trip, and made all the more fun when we spotted a flock of Wild Turkeys less than ten minutes after we reached Staten Island.  And then the fun trip got even more fun when we arrived at the pier from which the Western Grebe had been seen of late and Shai spotted it in about five seconds.  I could only watch, green with envy, while Andy and Shai digiscoped shot after shot of the grebe, which was nicely lit by the sun in perfect viewing conditions, the best way one can hope to see a new bird for one’s state list.  And me, with a broken lens, unable to take pictures.

After getting our fill of the grebe (and the Long-tailed Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Buffleheads) we were wondering where to head next.  Fortunately, Shai is so plugged in to the New York City birding network that he quickly managed to find out about a vacant, weedy lot nearby (adjacent to Wolfe Pond Park) that had a Nashville Warbler, two Orange-crowned Warblers, and a Dickcissel present.  We arrived, walked the lot for awhile, and then the warblers, all three of them, flushed up into the leafless branches of a small tree and gave great looks!  We never did find the Dickcissel, but getting a Nashville, two Orange-crowneds, and a Western Grebe in New York in early January was satisfying enough (and it made up for last year’s double dip on the same species).

That was it for our birding for the day, and the ride back to Queens went quickly.  Thanks to Shai, Pat, and Andy for letting me tag along and getting my year list jumpstarted with some rarities for New York State in January.

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.