Documenting the Birding Adventures of Scott Whittle
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Double Duck Drive
Friday morning I was checking my emails when I saw that a Black Bellied Whistling Duck had been reported in Broadalbin, about and hour north of Albany. I grabbed my bag and started driving...I was in Broadalbin at about 12pm. For the next three hours I worked the lake by Broadalbin, looking for a spot to see the water, and trying to scope as much territory as I could. I've said it before, but trying to find a bird on a lake that has been almost entirely privatized (even the local park was for "residents only"!) can be very frustrating...the phrase "property is theft" somehow keeps running through my mind. Marxist ideology aside, I did my best but didn't have any luck, and drove home. I got into Brooklyn around 8pm. Just as I pulled up to my house I checked my email...a revised post showed that the duck was not in fact on the lake, but in a pond about a mile away.
I'd scheduled the next two days for Cupsogue to look for Arctic Tern and pelagics, but I really wanted to see the duck, too. After a little hemming and hawing I set my alarm, and at 3:30 the next morning we were out the door and headed back for Broadalbin. By 7:30 we were at the pond watching it eating with a flock of Canadian Geese. I took some photos, and we turned towards Cupsogue. By 2pm I was on the flats with Shai Mitra, who found not one but two Artic Terns. We had a great time studying them for a couple of hours, and then went on to seawatch where about a dozen of us saw Manx, Coreys and Greater Shearwaters. It was the longest day of the year, and we used the it to the fullest.
We stayed at a "cheap" hotel in Riverhead (cheap is relative in the summer in the Hamptons), and I got up early the next morning to try for the third time for Blue Grosbeak at Calverton. Third time (and some good direction from Tom Burke and Shai) was the charm. It took about and hour and a half, but I finally heard a faint call, and as I got closer saw it was the bird. I was able to get some recognizable photos, and then walked out of the brushy habitat and picked a half dozen ticks off my pants and rubber boots (this is one of the ticky-est spots I've ever seen...Monkey had gone into the brush for about 5 seconds on the previous trip and I pull over a dozen ticks off him).
We finished the weekend at Shinnecock looking for Wilson's Storm Petrel and scanning the ocean for other pelagics. We had a couple of more shearwaters (two Great and one Manx, as far as I could tell), but no Storm Petrels. It was a beautiful day, and the time passed quickly...it was mid-afternoon before we knew it, and we headed back to Brooklyn. On the way back I checked my email again...Tom Burke had seen the Black Bellied Duck in Broadalbin, and had noticed a yellow band on its leg. Turns out it was an escape from an aviary about five miles away...not a vagrant from Florida or Texas, and not countable for the year. Still, I wasn't dissapointed...we'd put the effort in for the bird, and that's really all you can do. Next time I'll check more carefully for leg bands, though.
My name is Scott Whittle and I'm a professional photographer (www.scottwhittle.com). I have an MFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. I started birding as a teenager, and then dropped it for many years. I started to bird again in 2007, and have been birding since then in Brooklyn, NY and Cape May, NJ.