I’ll See Your Rarity and Raise You Another – Gambell Day 4

In some places birds drop right out of the sky in front of you.  Such is not the case in Gambell.  If you want “little brown jobbies” (small passerines) in Gambell, you need to work for them and that means walking.  Now I bragged last week that I was ready to walk all day long and all week long.  It is of course easier to say those things on paper than actually do them.  That being said, my walking paid dividends today.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper – #711 (Photo by Mark J. Billings)

The Dusky Warbler was I still gnawing at me. It really wasn’t that great of a look.  So I was “all in” when many of the group decided to give the Far Boneyard one more try for a better look.  Walking cam with the territory right?  This time I positioned myself on the right flank at the base of the mountain. Three minutes into the walk, the Dusky Warbler came up right in front of me and flew away low against a dark green background. I yelled “It’s up going away”  I saw the bird clearly in my binoculars – the brown upper parts contrasting with the paler ventral and the hint of a buff supercillium.  This was the look I was waiting for; I was happy as hell my binoculars were Swarovskis rather than my old Zeists from 1988 that I used till this year. It actually landed on a rock this time and Barret Pierce got a decent photo.

So here I sit on Sunday night in Gambell after only four days of a ten-day trip.  All six of the “core” year-birds are now in the bag.  In addition I’ve added three excellent Eurasian vagrants – Stonechat, Pallas’s Bunting and Dusky Warbler.  There will be strong winds out of the Northeast the next two days (not good), but I’m optimistic. Stay tuned.

Today’s rendezvous was set for 8:30 AM.  Earlier than the previous days starting time because everyone wanted another shot at the Dusky Warbler. Paul and Aaron Lang figured it would be best to try early while the bird was actively feeding and more importantly before the forecasted winds picked up.  This morning there were twenty-eight participants.  The line began to slowly advance. After two minutes somebody yelled “There it goes, left to right!”. Unlike yesterday, I caught a decent view of the bird in flight and a quick look when it landed. I guess it was a good enough view to count it, but certainly not satisfying.  It was number 710.

The group continued to walk through the far bone yard but weren’t able to raise any other birds.  Some of the group had wandered down to the marsh next to Troutman Lake.  A Sharp-tailed Sandpiper flew straight up, circled high and dove straight down to land again in the marsh.  Paul Lehman went into the marsh after it and slowly walked towards it trying to gently push it towards the group.  To make a long story short, everyone eventually got excellent views of the shorebird. It was the second year-bird of the hour for me!

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