Texan vagrants, take two

The weekend did indeed bring more luck.

I'd hatched a vague plan to go meet Mike Britt at Laurel Hill to try for Golden Eagle, but he (wisely) called it off to hit the coast.

Unsurprisingly, I'd barely got out the car at Laurel when I got the text for Lapland Longspur and Bonaparte's Gull in Liberty State Park. Breaking a few speed limits, I headed over. There were a few folks on the Bonaparte's and I had a quick look through a scope before even turning the engine off. Just as well, as a harrier kited over the cove and put the birds up, and this delicate, diminutive little gull floated away on the breeze.

The gales were howling on the edge of bay, and I barricaded myself against a tree, searching in vain for the longspurs. One of my nemesis birds, and I had a creeping feeling they weren't going to just fortuitously reappear for me.

I was about done, when I looked up.

Against the blue, all 15 grams of Texan Cave Swallow rowed bravely into the howling headwind, coming in off the ocean and passing front-lit above the London plane trees. It was a fleeting moment, but its tawny rump, throat and neatly capped head were crisply illuminated by the still low sun. I later realised how different the view would have been in silhouette.

This was even better than a Franklin's gull (for me anyway - I saw many wintering Franklins living in Arg/Chile).

POSTSCRIPT: Sunday morning I was on my balcony just doing a quick scan through the gull flock that roosts on the pier below, when another bundle of hirundine energy came in off the river and hawked insects at eye-level with my 8th floor vantage point. I was torn between running 3 blocks to get my SLR out the trunk of my car, or just watching it and trying to get some video on the point-&-shoot.

I did the latter. Lesson for the day - shooting cave swallows with a tiny camera IS NOT EASY.

But the views as it hawked in the sunlight for around 30 minutes were amazing.

I put the news out on the Manhattan side and there was a bit of a scramble from friends over there to get on the same bird, but the Hudson river is nearly a mile wide here, so it was tough for those guys who hit the Chelsea pier.

It's not very often Hoboken gets one up on Manhattan on the bird front....

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I work in NYC and own a wildlife and wilderness agency specializing in the southern cone of South America. I still do some guiding down there, especially looking for Fuegian and Patagonian avifauna. I'm particularly interested in the wintering ecology of neotropical migrants, and in avian biogeography in general. You can follow me at - @domhall And find me at - AventuraArgentina.com