When a birder sees a really, really, good bird and another birder doesn’t see the bird, the first birder will often “grip off” the other birder.  This is a process whereby the birder who failed to see the bird is reminded of having missed the bird in any way imaginable.  For example, let’s say that one birder saw a very-out-of-range Purple Gallinule in New York and a second birder missed it.  And let’s say that the next time they are birding together they see a coot and the birder who did not see the gallinule makes some mention about coots being a rather bland bird.  The first birder might then say something like “You know what isn’t bland?  The Purple Gallinule I saw last week!”

Yes, gripping off can often be that stupid, but, and I say this from experience, if you are the one who is on the receiving end it really can get to you.  Of course, the more you show that the gripping off is getting to you the more gripping off occurs in a positive-feedback loop that grows until someone ends up with broken optics.

There are, of course, some things that make gripping off better than usual.  Things like a person just missed the bird by moments, or the bird would have been a lifer, or everyone and their mothers have seen the bird.  What matters the most, though, is that a person who wanted to see a bird didn’t and someone else did.  Where does the term come from?  The exact origins are shrouded in mystery but the term comes to birding from the British who, it must be said, do more than their fair share to enrich the birding lexicon.  A slang dictionary defines the term as “angrily disappointed,” which is as accurate a definition for which one could hope.

What does this have to do with anything?  Well, dear reader, you may have heard of the Ivory Gull that birders have been seeing (and being seen with) in Cape May, New Jersey?  Yeah, I heard of the bird too, but, seeing as the adorable Desmond came into the world when the gull showed up there was no way I was going to be twitching the Ivory Gull.  It’s not that I really minded missing the bird, having seen an Ivory Gull before, and, besides, having a kid beats the heck out of seeing a bird anyway.  But, still, an Ivory Gull!  So of course I was jealous when friends, like Patrick from The Hawk Owl’s Nest, got great looks at the gull, but, well, life goes on, right?

Imagine my surprise when I went out to get the mail on Friday morning and a mysterious package had arrived, addressed to Desmond (his first mail!), and, when we opened it up, we found a onesie decorated with an Ivory Gull!  Who was it from?  Well, take a look at the tag below…

Does little Desmond like his new outfit?  You be the judge!

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.