The intrepid Steller’s Sea-Eagle is basically an endangered species native to Russia and Japan. It had NEVER been spotted in Canada or the Lower 48 states until this past summer. Startlingly, one was photographed in New Brunswick, Canada in July, 2021. Covid and location made it impossible for anyone but the game wardens to see it. This vagrant disappeared after a few days and a month later showed up near Halifax, Nova Scotia. After another brief visit, it wasn’t located again until early December …..in Taunton, Massachusetts. Again, a two-day stay and poof…..the “largest eagle in the world” (20 pounds with an eight foot wingspan) was gone. Not to be found again until 3:30pm on December 30….in Georgetown, Maine. National publications have been tracking this incredible individual’s travels.
Lucky for me, I was only 268 miles from Georgetown on Friday, December 31. But it was New Year’s eve. Family and friends were planning to gather at our Vermont home. Was there time to chase this MEGA-rarity, maintain relationships and show up at work on Monday? Yes! Provided one sleeps only three hours, has a VERY understanding spouse, flexible houseguests and a forgiving daughter and agreeable paddle tennis teammates who had already been “calendared” on January 1 & 2 for activities in Haverford, Pa.
Accompanied by my adventurous buddy (Joe Knowles), we left Vermont at 4am New Year’s day, arranged to collect my lifelong friend Jeff Dingle…..THE friend that introduced me to birding in 1968….in NH, and headed to Maine. By 9am we had not received any sighting reports so we drove to the spot our bird was last seen a day earlier. But where were the birders? We expected to see a crowd given that 250 people had posted on e-bird December 31st. Then Joe checked his phone for any possible listserv updates.
We drove the foggy and winding 2.9 miles (in what felt like an hour) to the Five Islands Lobster Company located at the end of a pier. As we approached the sea coast, dozens of cars lined the road. Our hearts raced as we knew the distant bird could disappear behind an island at any moment or become obscured by the accumulating fog. Thankfully the birding Gods delivered an impossibly wonderful New Year’s gift.
HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope your 2022 starts off as well as ours did.