Durham Double Century
Durham County is not my home county, but because my home county offers no large bodies of water accessible in the winter for gulls and waterfowl and absolutely nothing in the way of shorebird habitat, it may well be the county I care the most about. And since my home lies less than 200 meters from the county line, I feel like that’s close enough to justify focusing on this county at the expense of my own to some extent.
I’ve been creeping up towards 200 here for some time, which has given me the opportunity to dream a little about what that magic double century bird would be. Would it be one of my obnoxious holes filled? Like a wayward Eastern Screech-Owl or a late Forster’s Tern? Or would it be something completely different? A winter finch or a crazy vagrant so odd it’s not even on my list of possibilities? When an Iceland Gull was reported Saturday morning, along with an American White Pelican, the second option looked to be the most likely. But when I got to the scene of the crime that afternoon neither the White Pelican nor the white gull were anywhere to be seen. But a long line of gulls on a distant shoal beckoned me to scope then, and scope I did.
I did not see anything like looked white-winged, much to my chagrin, but an unusual bird in the midst of the Herrings did the trick just as well.
Yes, in that terrible image you can see the dark mantle, yellow legs and smudgy eye of an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull!
Well, actually I’d be surprised if you saw those last two things, but rest assured I did. And although this is not a rarity on par with Iceland Gull, it’s not a bad bird this far inland, and better, it was #200 for Durham County! I finally reached that rarified air, the mark that only a half dozen or so birders have hit before me. I’m home, friends. Home.
The current top Durham County lister is at around 235, so I’ve got a long way to go (assuming that’s what I’m shooting for), but 200 is good enough for now. Now where’s that champagne I’ve been saving?
Incidentally, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop looking for the Iceland and the pelican. 202 sounds even better.