Vagrants for Days…

The past week has been pretty crazy (and exhausting) bird wise. It all started last Sunday when I was able to chase a slaty-backed gull that had been found a few days prior at Presque Isle State Park on Lake Erie. As it was a second record for the state and would be a lifer for me, I was eager to find it.

I arrived just after dawn and had hopes that the bird would be found promptly by the large group of birders present. However, it was not to be and the roosting gulls began to disperse with no sign of the gull. Consequently, I was destined to spend the next 8 hours searching the whole park for the gull, a task made extremely difficult by the fact that, due to a tragic string of misfortunes, I had no scope with me.

Happily, in those many gullless hours, I was able to see a whole array of other interesting birds to keep me occupied and away from despair in the freezing temperatures.


Common Goldeneye. Honestly, any day that you get to see and hear 100s of goldeneye is a good one in my book.



American Tree Sparrow


Common Redpoll, a nice bird for PA.

Of course, there were loads of gulls as well; namely hordes of great black-backed, a scattering of lessers, and a single Iceland; the latter being my first of year.


Iceland Gull


Lesser Black-backed Gull

Eventually, as it was very close to going dark, after 10 hours of searching, a group of birders found the gull. It was ridiculously distant, but through a scope the views weren’t bad at all. And of course it’s pretty hard to complain with a bird as cool as this one.


Slaty-backed Gull!!

I thought that was going to be the end of my rare bird chasing for a while. I was proven wrong pretty quickly however when news of an absolutely insane bird got out. The bird in question was a black-backed oriole in Berks County, a first record for the ABA if accepted. There is a good bit of mystery surrounding the origin of this bird, which is traditionally bound to central Mexico, but that is neither here nor there for this blog post so I’ll just leave it at that.

Of course, despite my being rather tired after a long week and having looming flu symptoms, I couldn’t not chase this bird, so I set out Sunday morning at five with a couple other young birders.

The chase itself doesn’t make too good of a story: we drove four hours plus some birding stops, arrived at the house hosting the oriole, waited 15 minutes until the bird showed, freaked out with excitement, photographed, freaked out some more, and just generally basked in its glory. I mean… it’s a freaking black-backed oriole in Pennsylvania. Who wouldn’t get excited?



Black-backed Oriole

Unfortunately, my flu got really bad as we were leaving the oriole spot so we had to cancel our planned birding stops for the afternoon and retreat back to Pittsburgh, whereupon I promptly fell asleep and haven’t gotten out of bed in two days. Did chasing the oriole make this horrific flu strain worse? Probably. Was it worth it? Totally.

Getting a second state record and a first ABA record in a 7 day span, pushing my ABA list to 604, is really not bad at all. Frankly, it’s been a pretty good week.

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