So yesterday I'm sitting at work and discover that a Western Reef-Heron was just two hours away in Brooklyn. The bird disappeared in the afternoon, but I made plans to be there at low tide this morning.
Birders joke about chasing rarities as being like a drug. I don't want to minimize the problems caused by real drug addictions, but bird chasing does seem like an addictive, or at least a compulsive behavior. As a good Mormon boy who doesn't smoke or drink, let alone smoke, snort, pop, or shoot up more illicit substances, maybe I'm not the best authority here. But for sure, for me, chasing rare birds is as close as I have to an addiction.
At 4:30am I couldn't sleep any longer. By 5am I was on the road, shooting up (so to speak) to the freeway and speeding (OK, maybe not technically speeding--I'm not the fastest driver out there) east on I-78 towards New York.
When I arrived just after 7am, the tide was still pretty high. Nothing to do but wait for it to go down and pray that the bird comes back to feed where it spent most of the morning yesterday.
Jittery. Nervous. My own case of Reefer Madness. Lots of good birds to look at. OK, a few interesting birds to look at. Least Terns diving and carrying fish back to a nest somewhere. Common Terns flying around and feeding young. Black Skimmers doing the same. Then at one point a yellow and green Budgerigar flew past the 30 or so anxious birders watching the channel.
But almost no egrets. One Snowy Egret. One Great Egret across the channel. A dozen or so Black-crowned Night Herons were around, and a smaller handful of Yellow-crowned Night Herons. I remembered my first Yellow-crowned Night Heron back at Santa Ana NWR in Texas more than a decade ago. I'd have to look up when I first saw Black-crowneds back in Oregon in the 80s.
The tide slowly went out. Every couple minutes I looked to see how far it came up a nearby rock, then how much of a nearby submerged branch was exposed, then an old tire in the channel. A couple more egrets flew in. Or rather flew over--they didn't stay. Finally, at low tide, another Snowy Egret came and joined the other bird fishing in the shallow water. But it only stayed a few minutes then flew off again. Not a good sign. Yesterday there were lots of egrets and herons actively feeding at low tide.
But not today. Finally, just before noon, with the tide quickly rising and no more egrets let alone Reef-Herons in sight, I headed back to PA to get a late start on work. 200 miles. $20 in tolls. No bird. My second strike out on seeing this species. A royal pain. Officially a new jinx bird.