It was getting late. 8:00 PM and Bill decided it would be the final hole he checked this evening. We were working Lake Hill one more time, which is where the Willow Warbler was feeding on Thursday. We were so tired. Walking from sunrise to sunset, day after day. My legs felt pretty much like rubber. In fact at 7:30 PM, I mentioned to Bill “Let’s cut it short this evening so we can pack before we hit the bar”. Bill had zero hope of us finding another Mega Rarity two days after the Russian storm had passed, but he decided to investigate this last hole called a barabaras, which is actually more of a depression in the ground that the Russians forced the Aleuts use as a foundation for their homes made of Fur Seal fur.
In fact the only reason Bill decided to check the hole was that he felt guilty watching Doug still walking the ridge. The kid is like the energizer bunny. He just keeps going and going and going. When Bill peeked over the edge of the hole two birds flew out. Bill yelled “Brambling”. As soon as he yelled that, I focused on the other bird, which was all dark. They both flew over the ridge and down into the crater. We alerted Doug on the Cobra walkie-talkies. He had a view into the crater and the vegetated slopes below. A minute later we heard Doug squawk over the Cobras. “Eurasian Bullfinch!”
My heart stopped and I began racing up towards the edge of the crater. Had I heard him right? Eurasian Bullfinch wasn’t even on my Pribilof wish list. Then Doug called out over the Cobra “It’s flying” and for a second my heart sank. If it flys over the edge of the crater-it’s gone. But Doug added “It’s landed. Thirty seconds later Bill and I both finished climbing up to where Doug was standing. Initially, I couldn’t locate it, but both Bill and I picked it up about the same time. It was perched about 50 yards below us on a wild celery large seed pod. The black cap contrasted with the gray neck and back, which contrasted again with the bold black wings and tail. It wasn’t a Brambling that Bill had flushed. It was one of the most coveted birds in North America!
A stunning boldly plumaged gem the size of a Crossbill. Twenty seconds later it flew up the slope right past us and back done the hill it had come from.
The heavy hitters had arrived earlier this afternoon so Doug drove back into town and bring them the news. Bill and I held fort to keep an eye on the bird. I wandered up to the edge of the quarry and he picked up in front of me showing the bold white rump and black tail as it dove down into the quarry. By 8:30 PM Doug had we returned with five birders. Try as we might we were unable to relocate it. I’m sure they’ll be back at Lake Hill at first light. Another exciting birding moment in what’s turning out to be one hell of a year.
A special thanks to my brother Bill for making the effort to search that final barabaras at the end of a very long day and thanks to sharp eyed Doug Gochfeld who turned a Brambling into an Eurasian Bullfinch!