I thought I was done blogging after I saw my magic #700…an Aleutian Tern in Alaska last May. But I cannot resist sharing this with you, before you read about it in The New York Times.
Late yesterday afternoon I was dutifully at my computer reading and responding to e-mails, when my pulse quickened upon seeing the latest NARBA (refresher: North American Rare Bird Alert) post. Cape May, NJ had just reported a WHISKERED TERN! Common in Africa, this bird has been seen only twice before (1993 & 1998…I was living in Ohio and England those dates) in North America…both times at Cape May. It is so rare that neither my I-phone’s bird app nor the Sibley Bird Guide contain an entry for it.
Admittedly, I have been pretty content reveling in the satisfaction of last May’s trip to the Pribilofs, where I actually reached 702 North American lifetime birds. I had passed up several opportunities this summer to hop an airplane and try to see another “new one”. But this CODE 5 was almost in my backyard! I was off….but not until this morning. I took a calculated risk that this MEGA-rarity would hang around a few days like the two previous ones.
Within seconds of reaching the Cape May hawk watch platform, I spotted the bird, as well as several birders from my past; including the Cornell student I met two years ago in the Pacific Ocean (Half Moon Bay pelagic). He had taken a 3am bus from Ithaca to Bergen County and convinced his non-birding parents to drive the four hours to Cape May. I was pleased to show them the distant tern, acting like a swallow, catching insects off the surface of the pond. #703 is in the books…..#750 doesn’t seem that far away.