Back in New Jersey the 80 degree temperatures of Florida were a distant memory as I thought about my next shot at my 500th ABA area bird. (Well, my 500th total as I have never birded outside of the ABA Area, but it sounds cooler if I reference the later :)) There was a Swainson’s Hawk in Cape May that I had missed on all my trips out west so wouldn’t that be an ironic twist? So, as soon as Thanksgiving passed I had planned to head down to Cape May and try my luck. Speaking of which, as luck would have it, an Ivory Gull was found in Cape May on Friday November 27th by Jim Dowdell. This would be an amazing number 500 and only the 4th or 5th occurrence of the bird in NJ since recording started and the last was back in the 80s! Could I get down there in time to see it? Would my luck allow for such a thing after missing the Mangrove Cuckoo in FL for 500? Was it possible, I was “supposed” to get this bird in New Jersey?
You never know how these things turn out. For me, it is one of the most exhilarating parts of birding and also one of the most frustrating. A chase of a bird, although wonderful when it works out, can make for some long drives home when you miss one. As I pulled into the parking lot of the Breezy Lee Marina (wonderful directions to the bird provided by many with a big thanks to the Director of Birding Programs for CMBO Don Freiday with some excellent instruction listed on the RBA) I saw many New Jersey birders with scopes, bins and heavy clothing. The wind was pretty strong but if the bird was there I wouldn’t even notice. I got out and saw some familiar faces all looking content but not very “active.” This usually means 1 of a few things. 1. Everyone got the bird and he left. 2. The bird isn’t around and bird watching as turned into bird talking to make the time go by as everyone waits or 3. (and this is the best and rarest of the bunch) Everyone got the bird, he is still around and close, and they have just gotten SO much of him that the often described “twitch” has passed. Well, today my luck rolled a 3 and sure enough the gull flew closely overhead and seemed to enjoy the onlookers and attention. I took hundreds of pictures and came back a second time just for another look of this amazingly beautiful bird before heading home happy and in possession of number 500. Freaking Great Day!