Little Auk, Dovekie, Nerf Football (that’s a new, yet very apt description)…I’ve always wanted to “know” the species Alle alle. I can’t really explain what that means. It’s not really a desire, but more of a feeling.
Lifer. I’ve seen that word kicked around the internet, I kicked it around one-time, then I examined why I chose to use that term. Turns out, like an adolescent using the word “love” in a romantic sense, I had no idea what I was talking about. I was embarrassed for using the word “lifer”, but I had been looking for one bird, for so long (over 2 years), and it seemed fitting. Until I realized that it wasn’t a rare bird to anyone but me. No, it wasn’t a House Sparrow and no it wasn’t the Ross’s Goose. (Ross’s Geese be damned! More on that another time.)
The Little Auk is a bird that I inherently knew before ever seeing it in real life. Since I was kid, somehow, this one stuck out. And, you know, I didn’t really think about birds back then beyond pretty yellow “canaries”, Cardinals, and Bluebirds.
I can’t put my finger on it, but one must have been a character in an obscure cartoon rented from Erol’s, or seen in an old (because they were “too expensive”) National Geographic in the waiting area at my parents’ shop. There’s something about its name too, “Dovekie”. One thing is for certain, I never thought I’d add this bird to my list — it wasn’t even on my state year list.
It wasn’t even in my mind. Then, BOOM! It was in my face.
My first, dare I write it…?
I wanted to cry. I wasn’t really sure why, but I was in disbelief and I couldn’t believe that I was there with it. It was luck — that’s the only explanation for the timing.
Yes, I know, Dovekies are abundant and on the dinner table for some people, but for the non-naturey-wanted-to-be-a-marine-biologist-kid inside of me, it was everything.
The day was so out of the ordinary.
I’m a planner. I have to be. It’s the only way I can fit into all of the roles I’ve made for myself. (I began listing them, but chose not to include the list. More on that another time.) The trip was so last minute and I am so not a last minute person.
A friend had suggested that I not wait on going to see the Snowy Owls at Assateague Island. SNOW storms depart as quickly as they arrive, and she was right. I decided that I would fit in the 4-hour trip sometime that week.
While checking my messages on Wednesday night, another friend asked me for the information I had on finding the owls. That turned into meeting up for one leg of the trip (conflicting birding goals, happens all the time).
Thursday I headed to Virginia to meet a friend, not birding related (surprise!), and I disconnect for most of the day. Well, around 8 p.m. I checked my messages, an incredible gift was in my in box from pillars of the birding community. I’ll now call it, “The Big Birder, Little Birder Program,” and I’m the Little Birder! (More on that another time.)
Rare Bird Alert
I hardly sleep a wink that night. I get maybe 4-hours of sleep, but I don’t care. At 2:30 a.m. I rise and drive toward the Atlantic coast in the mid-winter darkness.
I arrive around 6:30 a.m. and I meet a new birding friend, through The Big Birder, Little Birder Program (my in box gift from Thursday). That day, we add over 20 species to my list.
We arrive at the Snowy Owl spot close to 8:30 a.m. Fast forward through the Snowy Owl sighting (Sorry! Here’s a photo.). My friend that meets up with us at Assateague stays behind to enjoy the Snowy Owl, while myself and my new birding friend are off to add more birds to our lists.
We’re at the next spot for an hour or so, when I get at text from my friend. It reads, “Rare Bird Alert: I just got pics of a Dovekie…” I shout, “Dovekie!” and we’re on our way.
We arrive. As soon as I have eyes on it, I report it to ebird and a Facebook group for rare bird sightings. Immediately my phone starts ringing, a message is left, another person emails me…the community has been activated.
Everyone is buzzing. Even those who couldn’t get there to see it are happy for us. I’m happy for us, I’m even happier for the bird. It has no idea how much it means to everyone.
It is the epitome of cool.
It was one of those moments when everything had to be timed in just the right way, yet nothing was really planned, and nothing prepared us for this sighting. And it was one of those HAPPY moments, not one of those sad ones.
Life came at us in the best way possible that day and I’m going to hold on to it for a long time, if not forever.