Posted by: DarkEyedJunc0 | January 27, 2014

Tough Love – Bird Chase Style

For every time a birder just walks up to a rare bird “scene” and just looks in someone’s scope, there are times that a rare bird is reported and people spend HOURS searching, in hopes of refinding that bird.

This weekend was one such occasion, when Harvey T reported a Smith’s Longspur at Stone Harbor (confirmed by photo.)

For Rob and me, this was one of those rare occasions that we didn’t have to rearrange 20 things, jump in the car and drive for hours.  We were already down in Cape May for an impromptu weekend getaway.

We did rush from the state park over to Stone Harbor, and joined the search party. Smith’s Longspur is a would-be state bird for many, and a lifebird for me.

So, we scoured the dunes (all I could think was – please don’t let there be any Seabeach Amaranth – so I treaded lightly.)

We searched, and searched, and searched and Rob and I took a break, came back, others left, we continued searching……. well, you get the point.


We put hours into a bird that we never found!

Will I ever complain? NO! (okay, maybe about my frozen fingers and wet feet, but NOT about the futile search.)

These are the moments that help shape a birder / lister / chaser (whatever you want to call it.)

As I recently responded in a blogpost, “This is the kind of stuff you can’t learn in a field guide.”

Those who had much more field time with this bird described field marks “finely streaked, rufous, crouching, will stay low, sounds like a windup toy…..”

These are birders who travel the world, and charge mucho dinero for the privilege to bird with them, birders who are amazing researchers, birders who I am fortunate enough to call friends in the field.

We didn’t get the bird, after investing many hours, but we did see an incredible amount of Ipswitch Savannah Sparrows. (I have never seen so many in one place!)

I learned a lot about the dunes of Stone Harbor – got to see 2 American Bitterns flush and got the honor of birding with some of New Jersey’s finest.

Would the bird have been the cherry on top? You bet. But I won’t complain!



  1. Some of my best experiences in the field have been without getting the prize. The adventure is often more memorable than walking up to find a bird others have staked out.

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