A Western Reef-heron, a rare vagrant from Africa and the Middle East, was found in Brooklyn near Coney Island on Sunday. Interestingly, one had been seen in NJ several days before, but was only a "one-day-wonder." The location is only a short jump over the Verrazano Bridge and about 45 minutes from me. New York has been very kind to me this year. I've had 3 life birds there. What a nice 500th ABA bird this would make!
Monday came and many birders got to add this bird to their life lists (those who hadn't seen the one in New Hampshire last year). I felt guilty about leaving work, so I decided that I would wait until Tuesday morning to look for the bird prior to going to work. With eager anticipation, I crawled quietly out of bed at 5:30 while Beth slept. I donned some zip-off pants and laced up my boots when Beth popped out of the bedroom, fully dressed, and with a smile said, "Can I come?" She wanted to be with me when I got my 500th ABA bird. I'm a lucky guy!
We stepped into the muggy morning, hopped in the car, and headed east. Traffic wasn't too bad and we easily found the Home Depot parking lot where birders had already congregated. We trekked down a narrow path through some trees and mugwort, snuck through a homeless person's camp (luckily no one was home), and were greeted with a mucky, polluted cove. I scrambled down the slippery rocks while Beth stayed a little higher up with the scope. Despite the pollution, this cove held lots of birds – Black-crowned Night-herons, a Yellow-crowned Night-heron, Common and Least Terns, a Snowy Egret, Spotted Sandpiper, and even a fly-by Black Skimmer.
I scanned the shoreline looking for the Reef-heron. Nothing. The tide was going out and mudflats were beginning to expose themselves. The Night-herons were feasting and "KWOK"-ing at each other. Time passed and more birders appeared all along the shoreline. No Reef-heron yet! A loud squawking rang out from some trees across the shore from us. It took me a second to make the connection, but I realized that it was the sound of parakeets. I scanned with my binoculars and saw a pair of Monk Parakeets circle around and land in some trees. Thoughts circled through my brain… "Wait a second… I've never actually seen Monk Parakeets… I knew they were in NY, but are they countable on my ABA list? Why hadn't I come to NY before to see these?" I said to Beth, "If those parakeets are countable, I think I just saw my 500th ABA bird."
Shortly after seeing my 500th bird
Unfortunately, the Western Reef-heron never showed and I had to get to work. When I got home, I immediately emailed my NY birder buddies – Corey and Mike. These two gents confirmed that I had just added an introduced species as my 500th ABA life bird. Wow. I had really hoped my 500th bird would be something more exciting. Some people would say, "It's your life list, do what you want." But I like to follow the rules of the ABA, so I am officially counting Monk Parakeet as #500!
By the way, for you non-tri-state-area people, tolls for a trip to Brooklyn from NJ (45-min. one-way) are $17.70!!! Damn bridge tolls.