Judging from many, many recent conversations with fellow birders, it seems that 
people are having a tough time of it during these June doldrums. From 
independent sources over the past week, I've heard: "crushing disappointment;" 
"why is it so bad?;" "is it going to get better?" "something could show up, 
right?;" "didn't birding used to be good?;" "this place used to be good, I 
think" and more. And this has mostly been in the context of ordinary, local 
birding, not directly related to the more ominous big-picture concerns 
expressed by Chris recently.

My usual response, admittedly slightly sadistic, is that birding excitement has 
always been relative. We modern observers can't begin to imagine how bad it was 
before the legal protection of birds was implemented a century ago, and yet the 
observers of that time still found birdwatching exciting--and were motivated 
enough to achieve protective legislation in the face of forces as ruthless and 
malevolent as those confronting us now. Imagine the excitement experienced by 
Harry Hathaway, the father of Rhode Island ornithology, when in 1894 he saw his 
first Great Blue Heron, after ten years of field work! It was Hathaway's 
ongoing work that eventually revealed that a unique, seemingly outlying, 19th 
Century winter record of White-throated Sparrow in RI was not an accident. He 
documented two more winter records and lived long enough to see RI's plundered 
and deforested landscape recover sufficiently to harbor the lisping flocks of 
White-throats we now take for granted on the CBCs.

On Long Island, Ludlow Griscom scolded over-exuberant birders who tossed off 
sight records of Ring-billed Gulls in winter and summer, citing a countable 
number of such specimens as the gold standard of documentation for that species 
in that context. Chafing at this discipline, Cruickshank and Peterson figured 
out how to find and identify Ring-billed Gulls better then their 
predecessors--proving again the eternal pleasure of purposeful birdwatching.

Yesterday I saw my first adult Ring-billed Gulls of the season at Robert Moses 
SP, Suffolk County. I'm not sure of the date for my last spring adult, but I 
did manage to record that none were present by 17 April:


And I am able to pull up the date of the late-June return of adults in at least 
one other year:


[note to eBird: please enable sorting of checklists by Julian date!]

A little sleuthing subsequently revealed that two of my colleagues beat me to 
it this year, documenting an adult Ring-bill at Cupsogue two days before my 
exciting find (though it required some follow-up work to obtain their photos 
and a definitive age):


Hypothesis: Ring-billed Gulls whose breeding efforts fail after early June 
abandon the colonies and disperse, some reaching the coast.

Shai Mitra
Bay Shore

NYSbirds-L List Info:

1) http://www.mail-archive.com/nysbirds-l@cornell.edu/maillist.html
2) http://www.surfbirds.com/birdingmail/Group/NYSBirds-L
3) http://birding.aba.org/maillist/NY01

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