My dad, my son, and I had just spent a fairly enjoyable morning at Jordan Lake’s Ebenezer Point finding lots of lingering warblers. Well, I enjoyed the warblers, Noah enjoyed the playground. But we managed, in our short and not entirely focused time there, to find plenty of Cape May Warblers (a lifer for my dad), and a Dickcissel (an excellent bird for the fall around here and a county bird for me). I didn’t get a new bird for the Big Year, but I was ok with that. I’m sort of at the point in the year where I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Those birds I missed for the fall? They’re probably not going to end up on my list. I’m slowly coming around to the fact that my initial goal of 216 is looking a bit out of my reach. Not out of anyone’s reach mind you. A dedicated birder with an open schedule and excellent contacts would potentially hit 230 in the Triangle. But that’s not me. It was never going to be me with a full-time job and a toddler. I suppose in the stages of grief this is what is known as acceptance.
So, I had just returned home and sat on my couch and pulled up my e-mail to see a brief message. “Franklin’s Gull at Fearrington Point. On our way”.
I turned around, left Noah with my dad, jumped back in my car and was off.
Fifteen minutes later I was standing on the Fearrington Road causeway staring at a dozen gulls of the Ring-billed variety, two Laughing Gulls and a beautiful second-cycle Franklin’s Gull. The prairie dove itself. A state bird and #200 for the Triangle Big Year. (Laughing Gull was #201).
This was both a moment of celebration and moment of frustration. You see, I had crossed this very bridge earlier this morning with my dad and my son. I looked out the window and saw the flock of gulls loafing on the old roadbed. I even noted to my dad that one of those gulls looked a lot smaller than the others, but because Noah was with me and we had limited time at our destination, I forgoed (forwent?) stopping.
This was obviously a bad decision.
This Franklin’s Gull was discovered by someone else. It could have been me. But this is the sort of thing that would sting a whole lot more if I hadn’t seen the bird. Thanks ye gods I did, and it was a piece of cake too.
The next day I went sans Noah and birded the hell out of Mason Farm, picking up two additional new TBY birds. A Bay-breasted Warbler sent me to the books for confirmation, but the late Least Flycatcher was easy enough (thankfully the one Empid I feel good about identifying without a vocalization), making a total of four new birds for the weekend.
210 is in my sights. And after that? We’ll see.