Hundreds of gulls were on an ice sheet near the boat launch, so we started to scan for Iceland Gulls or maybe something better. That's when lighting struck! While scanning the flock I quickly found a bird that was smaller than the Ring-billed Gulls, with a mostly plain yellow bill, greenish-yellow legs, and a dark eye.
I called over to Frank, "Hey, looks like I've got a Common Gull here." He quickly confirmed the call, and started texting and calling other local birders.
|Mew Gull, Spruce Run Reservoir, NJ photo Rob Fergus|
In trying to explain the significance of this find to my nonbirding friends, I told them it is like the birding equivalent of pitching a no-hitter. Most pitchers never get one. Most of the time we can only dream of finding a new bird for a state or country. It's a real treat to find something new. I told my friends that this just doesn't happen very often.
And then it happened again. Less than a week later!
My buddy Michael Rehman texted that he had a Barnacle Goose out at the same reservoir on January 16. This was a bird I had been looking for all winter, and was on the top of my wish list for the county. I was on my way to a funeral, so didn't have time to look very long that morning. On my way home from the funeral, I stopped by the reservoir again. No goose. Driving out of the park, I saw a flock of juncos fly up off the shoulder of the road, so I pulled over to check them out. As I watched the sparrows and juncos, a small bright brownish bird flew in to join them. The bird was very bright, almost cinnamon colored. In my binoculars I couldn't quite make out what it was. I got out my scope and was able to see it for just a couple seconds in the scope before a car came by and the bird flushed--not to reappear.
With my scope, I could see that it was a bunting. I checked the wingbars, which seemed brownish, and due to the short view, I thought it was probably an Indigo Bunting. This would be a very good local winter record, so I told other birders about it. I looked for it a few times over the next week, but couldn't find it.
Then Frank Sencher Jr. finally relocated it and photographed it a week later. The photos showed the bird better than I had seen it, and seemed to show that it wasn't an Indigo Bunting, but a young Lazuli Bunting--another bird never confirmed from New Jersey! The next morning even better photos were obtained by others, then the bird spent the rest of the week hiding from eager birders.
|Lazuli Bunting, Spruce Run Reservoir, NJ, photo by Sam Galick.|