Saturday, November 30, 2013


The difference between a Big Year and Medium Year is going to places like Nome. For one bird. In the winter. (Arguably, it's also the distinction between a sane birder and crazy one.) It's my fourth time to Nome this year - a tiny outpost on the west coast of Alaska, accessible only by plane (or boat.) Last week it was -2F here. I'll let you decide how crazy that makes me.

Oh, and the bird? The McKay's Bunting. A close relative of the Snow Bunting, it nests on just two remote islands in the Bering Sea - St. Matthew Island and its smaller satellite, Hall Island. Uninhabited, and accessible only by boat, these islands lie between the Pribilofs to the south and St. Lawrence Island (Gambell) to the north. Thankfully, the birds winter on the western coast of Alaska, where they're slightly more accessible. But with a global population of only 6,000 birds, they're never very common. 

It's a beautiful morning as I leave Anchorage. I've seen the city and surrounding landscape change through this year, during my 6 visits and 50 days in Alaska. And with ice floating in the Cook Inlet, framed by snow-clad mountains, I think this may be the most beautiful time to be here.

I arrive in Nome at 11:30am - just as the sun is rising. I never see the sun though - it's low and hidden behind the leaden and cloudy sky. It reminds me of Barrow on the north coast, which by now is in its long sun-less winter.

Snow came late to Nome this year - which also delayed the arrival of the buntings. And so, as I entered town, I was happy to see the place blanketed in snow. Walking round Nome brought back happy memories of the spring - birding with Hans de Grys and Abe Borker and his father. It brought a smile to my face thinking of the fun we had here - some of the most treasured memories I have of this year. 

The McKay's Buntings have been most reliable at Icy View Subdivision - a small residential area about a mile out of town. It's surrounded by grassy tundra which attracts the Buntings - both McKay's and Snow Buntings. And apparently some of the homeowners put out seed to attract the birds.

I take a cab from the airport out to Icy View. It's a loose collection of about 100 houses...

Icy View Subdivision. 
At the corner of Fore and Aft Drive, and Round the Clock St.

...some of which are pretty funky...

...some even more funky...

...and others that don't look much like houses at all...

I walk around looking for birds. Apart from the omnipresent Ravens, there aren't any. It's cold, windy and it's started to snow. After an hour, I'm exhausted. I haven't seen any white birds, and there don't appear to be any feeders. I start rethinking my plan - maybe I should have brought birdseed? Maybe I'm too early and should have come later in the year? Maybe...and then my search image whizzes by - 4 white birds flying over my head! They head out to the grassy tundra and then disappear. My binoculars are covered in too much snow to get a good view of the birds flying away. But they looked almost entirely white to me. McKay's?

And then I notice a tiny pile of seed husks outside one of the houses - that's probably where the birds flushed from. Someone is feeding the birds. Or rather did - there doesn't look like much left. I move to the other side of the road, and wait - hoping for the birds to return. The first thing to return is the homeowner, looking slightly confused at this guy standing outside his house, in the cold snow, with a telescope.

"Are you looking for the snow birds?"

Yes! I reply. Snow birds are what the locals call the buntings and most people here know about these white winter visitors. Once we've broken the metaphorical ice, he tells me that the birds have only just started to appear - and come in one or two times a day. He generously retrieves a bag of bird seed and dumps a good amount on the ground, wishes me luck, and (sensibly) heads inside.

Within 15 minutes the first bird flies in. It's white. It's a Snow Bunting. This is a good practice in identification. The McKay's should have a lot less white in the wing - only at the very tips, and a whitish back. (At this time of year some of the white feathers are edged in brown, but will never be as dark on the back and wings as a Snow Bunting.)

Snow Bunting - notice the large amounts of black
in the folded wings and the dark back.

And 15 minutes later, I hear chirping above me. I look up and the wires are covered in white birds!...

From this view I can clearly see the tails. Snow Buntings have dark central feathers in the tail, whereas McKay's are almost entirely white. These birds have white tails!

McKay's Buntings - notice the almost entirely white tails

and white tips to the end of the wings...

There are at least 12 McKay's and 2 Snow Buntings. Once the birds start feeding on the ground it's easy to spot the difference between the two species:

Two McKay's Buntings (top and bottom birds in each pic) - white backs, minimal black in wings. Two Snow Buntings (left and right in each pic) - much darker backs and more black in the wings

Group of McKay's Buntings. Notice the tiny patch of black in the wings 
and tail of the lower right bird. (Snow Buntings have solid dark central tail feathers.)

I watch the birds for about 15 minutes as they busily munch their way through the new seed. Without the patches of black, these birds would disappear into the snow. 

The Snow Bird of Nome - McKays' Bunting

Before leaving (and before the sun sets - not that I ever really saw the sun) I trudged back into town and checked out the harbor. I was surprised it wasn't frozen.

I was hoping for Ivory Gull - but the sea was empty - not a duck, loon or alcid in sight. Just a flat, cold expanse of sea. But a closer look revealed ghostly-white lumps moving through the water - Beluga Whales. 

As I sat in the airport, checked-in for my evening flight back to Anchorage, I reflected on a great start to my Alaska trip. Heck - I could even head out to Adak tomorrow (Sunday) rather than Thurs and spend more time out there. I'd already seen both my target birds in mainland Alaska - Dusky Thrush and McKay's Buntings. That puts me, at the end of November, on 738 species + 2 provisionals. That's ahead of the pace John Vanderpoel set in 2011 (he ended the month on 743+1.) And with the long-standing record set by Sandy Komito at 748 (745+3), there was a chance that...

"We regret to inform you that tonight's flight is cancelled."

It never sounds like regret. And when you're in Alaska, cancelled flights are never a surprise. And so my one-day trip to Nome now involves an overnight stay. And my plans for an early and extended trip to Adak are scuppered. 

But one thing I've learned this year is that fate throws you curveballs. When one door closes, another opens. An American Flamingo was just located in coastal Texas. Maybe I'd have enough time to leave AK for a few days and swap the white birds for a large pink one?

And besides, if I didn't get to spend the night in Nome, I'd never have known that over-the-top Christmas decorations are not just the specialty of the Lower 48...

Happy Christmas from Nome, Alaska!
+ + +

BIG YEAR LIST: 738 + 2 provisional (Rufous-necked Wood-rail, Common Redstart)

NEW YEAR BIRDS (1): McKay's Bunting

Friday, November 29, 2013


It shouldn't be a surprise that it's cold in Alaska. In the winter. But the -2F that bitch-slapped me in the face as I emerged from Anchorage airport in the early hours this morning was still a surprise. 

I left Boston on Thanksgiving evening. Yeah - Big Year birding doesn't (really) allow for holidays. But at least I got to spend most of mine at home; my fellow big year birding friend, Jay Lehman, was stuck in Newfoundland in bad weather looking for a gull with yellow legs. (I hope he found it, as well as legs with a turkey on the other end!)

I'm in Alaska for at least a week. I'm heading out to Adak in the Aleutians on Thursday, with John Puschock and Bill Sain (from Texas.) I'm here early to (i) look for a Dusky Thrush in Anchorage; (ii) go to Nome for McKay's Bunting, and (iii) buy some proper clothes that will stop me from freezing to death. Seriously.

Big news in Anchorage this year is the return of the Dusky Thrush - an extremely rare Asian thrush. It's the third year this bird has wintered in a small residential neighborhood between the airport and downtown. Since it roams over a fairly large area, I was grateful for all the advice I received from local birders, especially from Dave Sonneborn. I met Dave on St. Lawrence Island earlier in the year, and he helped me find the Stonechat on a previous visit to Anchorage. Today, Dave was going to help me with the Dusky. He lives in the neighborhood, and even had the thrush as a yard bird!

Dave Sonneborn - Dusky Thrush guide for the morning.

Dave and I ventured out after the sun had risen, which at this time of year is about 10am. We drove around to the sound of soft snow crunching under the tires. The trees were veiled in a frosty covering of glittering snow. And with the low, tangential light, it was an eerily beautiful morning to be out. 

As we approached the area where the thrush has been seen most recently the activity increased: swirling flocks of Bohemian Waxwings buzzing around the fruit-laden Mountain Ashes, Black-capped Chickadees and American Robins. We scanned through the Robins, looking for a white-breasted thrush, with an obvious eye-brow.

It was Peter Scully, another local birder, who soon found the bird, whistling for us to follow him into a small courtyard of apartments. A group of trees reached up between the buildings, and it was here that the bird was sitting, scanning its surroundings, which now included a bunch of grown men pointing various large optics at it. We watched the bird for 30 minutes as it moved silently from tree to tree.

Dusky Thrush! Clear white supercilium (eye-brow), rufous wings (and underwings) 
and white underparts with white-edged black breast feathers.

The face pattern and thin bill reminded me of a Redwing - another Eurasian Thrush - which was a common winter visitor to the UK of my childhood (and hopefully a visitor to my Big Year in Dec!) 

What a great start to my Alaska trip! I thought this bird might take several days of searching - and Dave and Peter found the bird in less than 30 minutes.

"Let me in - it's cold out here!"
Hairy Woodpecker - on the side of a house. 

Tomorrow, I'm going back to Nome. It's a favorite wintering ground for the McKay's Bunting - an even whiter version of the Snow Bunting. 

Thank you Dave for helping me find such a great bird - and for the fantastic meal that evening of delicious Thanksgiving leftovers. On all my travels this year, most of them alone, it's nice to share good company and good food. The perfect compliment to a cute Dusky Thrush.

+ + +

BIG YEAR LIST: 737 + 2 provisional (Rufous-necked Wood-rail, Common Redstart)

NEW YEAR BIRDS (1): Dusky Thrush

Monday, November 25, 2013


I'm running out of time, and running out of places to find new birds. At least, that's how it feels. And I think I'm about to do something very crazy...

One of the inspirational voices this year for me has been John Vanderpoel and his blog. His incredible Big Year in 2011 netted him 743+1 species. He narrowly missed beating Sandy Komito's all time record of 745+3. By mid December, John realized he needed to up the ante if he was going to beat the record. So he flew to the furthest West town in North America: Adak, a tiny island in the Aleutians - closer to Russia than Anchorage. There, he hoped to see Whiskered Auklet, Whooper Swan and any stray Asian vagrants. He came away with just the Auklet.

Which brings me to the crazy thing I'm considering - going to Adak. (OK. It doesn't sound quite sound so crazy now that John's done it!) Here's why:

1. A flock of swans were seen there yesterday (seen by locals - based on distribution most likely Whoopers - which are known to winter on the island.)
2. Adak is one of the few places in North America to see Whiskered Auklet.
3. There have been several sightings of Smew this fall on Adak.
4. How cool would it be to go somewhere that remote? In the winter?

Oh - and:

5.There's a Dusky Thrush in Anchorage (back for the 3rd winter.) 

I'm thinking of going to Adak on Sunday, Dec 1st and returning to Anchorage on Thursday, Dec 5th. (There are two flights a week to Adak.) I'll be chasing the Dusky Thrush before and / or after Adak, as well as heading up to Nome to try for McKay's Bunting. Or - possibly going to Adak Thursday Dec 5th - Sunday 8th.

I'm posting this now, as I'd love some company out there in the Aleutians. This could be a great trip for anyone who wants to add these hard-to-get species to their ABA list, go somewhere truly remote, and see if I'm making all this big year stuff up! (Am I actually going to all the places that I say that I'm going to?) John Puschock of Zugunruhe Birding Tours has offered to come as a guide (he's been coming to Adak since 2004, but never in the winter.) Plus - there's a sale on air miles with Alaska Airlines. 

 If you're interested in coming, drop me a line at

Whiskered Auklet (photo by John Puschock) - Adak, Alaska.

+ + +

BIG YEAR LIST: 736 + 2 provisional (Rufous-necked Wood-rail, Common Redstart)

Thursday, November 21, 2013


I didn't think to check the forecast before flying to Arizona yesterday. It's always hot there, right? Wrong! Driving highway 17 north towards Flagstaff, the mercury dipped below freezing. I'd be needing my hat and gloves for this bird - a renowned skulker that could take hours of standing around and waiting. In the cold. Yes, my gloves - I did bring them, right?

Word came in on Tuesday of a pair of Rufous-backed Robins at the Cameron Trading Post in northern Arizona. Not only was the number unusual (they're usually singles) but also the location - while they're rare in southeast Arizona, they're extremely rare this far north. Rufuous-backed Robins live in Mexico, and annually cross the border into the US - in very small numbers. This was a bird I was hoping for (one of the more expected winter rarities) but one that's often so secretive and shy, that it's hard to successfully chase.

And so my recovery from driving the many miles of Canada at the weekend lasted only 2 nights. Not risking any delay, I flew out to Arizona the morning after the report and pulled into the Trading Post mid-afternoon, less than 24 hours after the birds were first seen.

Cameron Trading Post, AZ. Cold and overcast.

There were no birders in sight - just straggles of tourists, here to buy Native American arts and presumably to warm up.

The birds had been in a small flock with American Robins - in the east side of a courtyard. It didn't take long to locate the courtyard...

or the Robins...
American Robin - what a beauty! 
(Technically a Thrush, not a Robin, but probably too late to change that now...)

And as I was settling in for the long wait (which, with only 2 hours to sunset, wouldn't be that long) I saw movement in the Russian olive against the perimeter wall. It was a thrush - with a rufous back!

 Rufous-backed Robin (also technically a Thrush!)

And then, remarkably, the bird hopped down onto the lawn and into the open. I had amazing views of a normally very reclusive bird...

Rufous-backed Robin. Lacks the white eye-arcs of the American Robin, 
has more streaking under the chin, and an obvious rufous back.

I watched this bird for 5 minutes. It was nervous and cautious and I felt privileged that it trusted me while it went about its important business (tossing leaves aside.) A really stunning bird! I hardly noticed the cold (and no - I didn't bring my gloves!)

I drove to Phoenix last night after seeing the Robins, ahead of a threatening snow storm. I was up early today, ready to track down my last code 1 bird of the year - Sagebrush Sparrow. The ABA assigns each North American bird a code based on how populous they are. Code 1s are the most common; code 5 the least. (Well - code 6 is technically even less common: that code is reserved for extinct or locally extirpated birds.) 

I arrived at the "Thrasher Spot" as the sun was rising. An hour southwest of Phoenix, in Buckeye, the sage and creosote habitat is a popular place to find desert birds. 

The "Thrasher Spot" - Buckeye, AZ.

In fact - I was here in January this year, and undoubtedly saw Sagebrush Sparrow then. But that was before Sage Sparrow was split into Bell's and Sagebrush - and since both species winter here (Bell's are vastly outnumbered by Sagebrush) I had to come back to make sure I saw the right one. (I saw Bell's in San Diego back in October.)

The desert - sage and (distant) creosote.

This is such a beautiful area to wander around (and hopefully not get lost.) Despite the arid conditions, the place is full of life. It wasn't long before I saw a thrasher run across the sandy desert floor, from one sage bush to another. A Bendire's Thrasher...

Bendire's Thrasher - pale undertail coverts, orange eye and short curved bill. well as a stunningly pale Le Conte's Thrasher - that was too fast for me to (photographically) catch.

And then the sparrows started appearing - running around like little thrashers. Occasionally I'd see one dart across the ground out of the corner of my eye. And then they'd call - a thin, high-pitched "tseet" from some impenetrable sage bush. And even more rarely, they'd sit atop the sage and survey the surroundings. Apart from one Bell's Sparrow (the Mojave subspecies - canescens), which a thick dark malar stripe, these guys were all Sagebrush Sparrows...
Sagebrush Sparrow. Thin, pale malar stripe, and extensive streaking on the back.
Compare to the nominate race of Bell's Sparrow.

Nibbling on the sage. Not the strongly streaked back.

And after successfully finding my way back to the road, I headed to the airport. I was on my way home after a very successful trip to Arizona: two new birds!  

 Say's Phoebe - always a fun bird to see in AZ
+ + +

BIG YEAR LIST: 736 + 2 provisional (Rufous-necked Wood-rail, Common Redstart)

NEW YEAR BIRDS (2): Rufous-backed Robin, Sagebrush Sparrow

Monday, November 18, 2013


This is my last day in Canada. I flew in this morning from Newfoundland to Halifax, where I picked up the rental car that I'd left there 2 days ago. I'm on the 4pm ferry this afternoon from Digby across the Bay of Fundy to Saint John, New Brunswick (where my car is) and then the long drive back home to Boston.

But first - there's a certain Pink-footed Goose to chase. It was re-found yesterday in Truro, Nova Scotia. It was swimming in the Salmon River with a flock of Canada Geese and a rare Barnacle Goose. It's only an hour from Halifax, and I'm hoping the bird is still there.

The Salmon River, like many of the rivers draining into the Bay of Fundy, has a tidal bore: an incoming tide of water that travels up a river against the flow. There's even a viewing platform here. It's mainly a summer touristy thing, but it does provide a useful lookout for me, and the roof provides some relief from the increasing amount of rain that's starting to fall.

Salmon River, Truro. What a bore!

As soon as I arrive, I spot a large gaggle of geese - sitting on the water. Good news! At least, it's good news for the first 2 minutes, after which I've scanned the birds and concluded there's no Pink-footed Goose here. (Or the Barnacle with which it has been associating.) These birds had originally been found almost a month ago, and have been seen feeding in fields over a large area. I prepared myself for a long day. Maybe I wouldn't be on that ferry back home today.

I head back to the car, ready to start the wild goose chase, when I hear honking. I turn around, and see geese coming in to land, joining the existing swimming geese. These ones are new. Maybe the Pink-foot just flew in?

I run back to the bore platform and start scanning quickly. Canada Goose, Canada, Canada, Canada...Barnacle! (Yes!)

Barnacle Goose - center right. Noticeably smaller that the surrounding Canada Geese, 
with solid black breast, white face and silvery-blue wings.

After losing the Yellow-legged Gull yesterday, I don't stop too long to enjoy the Barnacle but keep scanning. And as I'm running out of geese towards the other end of the flock, I spot a large, gray-brown goose. With pink feet!

Pink-footed Goose! Pink feet, small pink bill, dark head (like the Bean Goose), 
silvery-gray wings and slightly larger that the Canada Geese.

Phew! Big Year nemesis no more! After chasing this bird in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and two days ago in Newfoundland, it's a relief to finally catch up with it. (And this was the bird that caused Jack Black's character so much trouble in the Big Year movie.) That's 3 rare and beautiful geese this week in Nova Scotia - Tundra Bean-goose, Barnacle Goose and Pink-footed Goose. I hadn't planned on coming up to Canada this late in the year - but logistically, driving up from Boston and taking the ferry was pretty simple. I'd love to come back and see the place in the summer. 

As I'm sitting on the ferry across the Bay of Fundy, between scanning for non-existent Great Skuas I check online for bird news. Nothing to chase. But for once, that's good news. I could do with a few days of rest at home. But not for too long. Soon there'll be another rarity discovered. And who knows where that will take me?

+ + +

BIG YEAR LIST: 734 + 2 provisional (Rufous-necked Wood-rail, Common Redstart)

NEW YEAR BIRDS (1): Pink-footed Goose

Sunday, November 17, 2013


I'm met in Newfoundland by a welcome and familiar face...

Welcome to Canada!
(St. John's Airport, Newfoundland)

And by a name that sounds familiar?

Apparently, the local Hayward clan sells furniture.
(To match your local private jet?)

Newfoundland, which I quickly discover is pronounced new-fen-LAND (stress on the final syllable) is Britain's oldest colony. In 1497 John Cabot (actually Giovanni Caboto - he was a Venetian) under Henry VII claimed the island for the English. And in 1583 it was added as a Royal Charter under Elizabeth I. But, of course, like most parts of the British Empire there were people here before it was "discovered." The native Beothuk were here long before the British, but after confrontation, disease and bad luck, finally died out in the 1800s. And 400 years before the British, the vikings, under Leif Eriksson, were regularly fishing here, and had settled an area they called Vinland. Newfoundland was the last province to join Canada, doing so only in 1949.

And, more than 500 years after John Cabot, I'm here! Admittedly, on a slightly less important mission: I'm tracking down a couple of birds. They could both be long gone: a Pink-footed Goose that was seen on a town pond a week ago, and a Yellow-legged Gull that was found a month ago.

Day 1 - Saturday

The goose chase takes me through the barren interior of the island, out to the north coast. The forests, lakes and open highlands remind me of the stark beauty of Scotland.

After a lengthy drive, I finally arrive at Bonavista. Allegedly the site of John Cabot's first landing, he exclaimed, "O buon vista!" (Oh, happy site!) I navigate the haphazard, medieval streets before finally finding the pond. A quick scan shows there's no goose. It's a long drive back to St. John's. It's not a happy site.

Old Day's Pond, Bonavista.
Could have been a happier site.

Newfoundland was settled largely by the British (more than 50% of the population claim British and Irish ancestry) with numbers bolstered by Loyalists fleeing the American War of Independence from the south. And this is evident in the accents, which originate from the West Country in England (Cornwall, Devon, Dorset) and Southeast Ireland. Since the pockets of habitation here have remained largely isolated (a functional road network is relatively new) so too have the accents. Locals can tell the origin of anyone on the island as soon as they open their mouth. To me, the accents are thick, rapid and with a gentle Irish lilt. And while I don't understand everything that's said to me, I am happy to be in a place where mine is not the only unusual accent!

And it's not just the accents that are British - the architecture is too - like the brightly-colored row (terraced) houses of the capital, St. John's.

The streets of St. Johns climb steeply up from the harbor

Day 2 - Sunday

After striking out yesterday, I'm hoping today will be more successful. Today's chase is Yellow-legged Gull, a European bird that breeds around the Mediterranean Sea. It's about the size of a Herring Gull, with bright yellow legs, and a back that's intermediate in gray between Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull. And Newfoundland is the best place to see this bird in North America. In recent years there's been one or two birds wintering in St. John's. Except last year, when there were none. And then this year, on Oct 21st, Bruce McTavish found and photographed one. It has not been seen since.

Local birding guide, Jared Clarke, thinks the bird's still here - there just aren't many people out looking for it. Despite being very busy with kids, soccer practice, and chasing the island's first Virginia's Warbler, he put together a detailed list of places for me to check for gulls - centering around Quidi Vidi Lake. This is a loop that takes me past all the local sightseeing attractions: the local dump, the golf course, the Fishing and Ocean department, as well as the lake itself.

My first stop is Quidi Vidi Lake, which is full of gulls - mostly the small, round-headed Iceland Gulls...
First winter Iceland Gull (born this year!)

as well as up to 10 Black-headed Gulls - a European Gull that's rare elsewhere in the ABA region...

But no Yellow-legged Gulls. 

The roofs on the brightly-colored houses of Pleasantville are full of gulls this morning - but they're all Herring and Great Black-backed:

Pleasantville - just north of Quidi Vidi Lake.
Would have been a lot more pleasant if the gulls had yellow legs!

I spend the morning following the rest of Jared's gull route and come up empty. I retire to Coffee Matters, which is my (excellent) caffeine stop for the day and access to the outside world (I'm using their wifi since I have no cell reception here.)

Coffee Matters. Sure does!

The afternoon is a repeat of the morning's gull search. I see a lot of gulls, just none with the right leg color. Maybe Bruce's bird last month was a one day wonder? 

On my way to Quidi Vidi Lake this morning, I drove past an apartment building whose roof was covered in gulls. They were the first I saw today, but since they weren't on Jared's list, I drove straight past. After checking all the sites this morning, I went back before lunch and did a brief scan with my binoculars - all Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls. This afternoon, I went back again, hoping for some new arrivals in the gull mix. (There weren't.) And then, on a whim, late in the day (3pm) with only an hour or so of light remaining, I went back again. This time, I got my scope out, hoping that I'd missed some subtlety on a Yellow-legged Gull (I hadn't.) But I did see something interesting: the head of a Herring Gull! It was peeking over the top of the roof. Of course - there were gulls on the other side! 

After what seemed an inordinate amount of time, I managed to find somewhere to park on the other side of the building with a view of the roof. And I could see there were plenty of gulls on that side. I got out, raised my binoculars, and the first bird I saw was a classic Yellow-legged Gull! It had all the field marks for which I'd been desperately searching all day: bright yellow legs, white head, and gray back (darker than the surrounding Herring Gulls.) Wow - I couldn't believe it. I'd found the bird! Perseverance really does pay off!

I went back to the car to get my scope (to photograph the bird) when I heard gulls screaming above my head. And even before I looked back to the roof behind me, I knew they were the same gulls. My heart sank as I saw the roof was now devoid of gulls. They circled overhead, and then slowly drifted out towards the harbor. I waited for them to return (they didn't.) And while the gulls were probably heading off to roost for the night, I reflected on my incredible mix of luck - in finding the bird, and then immediately losing it! It had probably been there all day. And within seconds of my arrival, it disappeared for the day. And while I was upset not to get what would have been a great photo, I was happy that my trip here had been worthwhile.

Rutledge Manor Apartments.
Home to a Yellow-legged Gull. Honest!

I met up with Jared later for a celebratory beer, and thanked him for providing such helpful suggestions. Without his confidence in the gull still being here, I probably wouldn't have come. And then I headed off for an early night. Tomorrow, I'm flying back to Nova Scotia. And remarkably, during one of my (many) coffee breaks today, I discovered that a Pink-footed Goose had been relocated to Truro, NS - only an hour from Halifax! Maybe I'd make up for yesterday's wild goose chase?

UPDATE: My recent trip to North Dakota for the Sharp-tailed Grouse made the news! The Grand Forks Herald wrote a story about my trip and interviewed Dave Lambeth and I. I'm sure the folks of North Dakota are raising their eyebrows at such a pointless endeavor. Either that, or they're preparing for the Big Year tourist industry!

+ + +

BIG YEAR LIST: 733 + 2 provisional (Rufous-necked Wood-rail, Common Redstart)

NEW YEAR BIRDS (1): Yellow-legged Gull