I just got back from Niagara Falls. I spent the weekend there w/ a good friend from Toronto named Lee Eric and we had a great time. Now, Lee Eric is understanding of my need to sometimes look for birds when I'm away from home. Understanding enough that he was willing to spend time standing in the cold looking at gulls at a hydroelectric generating station. He even shares an interest in the hobby (ex. he likes showing me pictures of all the birds he sees on his world travels that I haven't seen, lingering just a little bit longer on the photos of birds I will probably never see). So when a Franklin's Gull was being reported from Sir Adam Beck, I thought, well heck, I'm so close...let's go have a look.
I'm like, really stupid. People tell me I shouldn't put myself down like that but those same people tell me that lying is bad so I get confused sometimes. Anyway, for reasons I can't quite remember I decided to leave my scope at home. I think it had something to do w/ only being able to carry so many things from my apartment to my car in one trip. I need to stop making such mistakes. It would have been nice to have a scope.
When we arrived at Adam Beck on Saturday, there were a lot of Bonaparte's Gulls. I honestly thought this one was gonna be easy. The Franklin's's been there for some time now, had been reported the same morning, is seen between Adam Beck and the roosting rocks just south of Adam Beck so there wasn't much ground to cover, and it's a gull that should pop out from the rest of the galaxy even w/o a scope.
I set Lee Eric on the task of pointing out dark gulls. After a while w/ no luck we walked over to the cliff-edge overlooking the roosting rocks on the river just across from Devil's Hole State Park. This is when I wished I had my scope. There were quite a few gulls down there and they were conveniently just out of reach of my identification ability. Don't get me wrong, I could tell they were Boni's but every Boni standing a certain way in front of a rock made it look like it could have a dark mantle or a partial hood. And when you want to find a certain bird, the mind makes everything look good. Around the hour mark, I started to feel bad. Lee Eric felt bad that I wasn't seeing the bird. We gave up and went back to Niagara and drank beer. Neither of us felt bad anymore.
Sunday morning, we went for one more try before Lee Eric had to board his bus back to Toronto. There's not much to say except it was a repeat of the day before. After dropping him off at the bus stop, I now had the afternoon to look for this darn gull. Alright, Jeremy, let's find this thing!
In come the storm clouds. Darkening skies, increasing winds, and a sudden downpour welcomed my return to Adam Beck. An inauspicious start. I smirked. I was prepared to wait for however long it would take and brave any and all elements to find the gull. Bring it on!
*Three hours later*
The sun being back out, a tourist holding a camera got out of her car, walked up to me, and quietly asked me what I was looking for. She had a pleasant smile.
"A Franklin's Gull," I screamed.
She left without taking any pictures.
I knew I had to leave for home soon and the wind had picked up severely. I headed back to the roosting rocks lookout and teetered on the edge of the precipice. My hands were shaking, either from the cold or from the onset of hypoglycemia. If I accidentally lurch off this cliff, I thought, I will probably still be looking for the gull all the way to the bottom. This morbid thought led to morbider thoughts of my head cracking open on the rocks below. Perhaps a birder would find the Queenston Black Vultures peeling away the resilient membrane encasing my brain, and start celebrating seeing an Ontario lifer.
I gave up and left. Ok, so I didn't get the Franklin's Gull. At least I can drive a short distance and add those Black Vultures to my year list. I pulled into the Queenston Heights lookout.
*One hour later*
I left, but instead of letting my thoughts reach their morbidest, I thought, OK, that all stunk, but hey, come now, do you really think I can let a couple of missed birds ruin a weekend where I met this tortoise?