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To String or Not to String: That Is a Very Easy Question to Answer

young birders club mannington marsh salem county nj don glen sam feb 5 2016 imagejpeg_0

[Members and mentors of the New Jersey Young Birders club. Left to right, mentor Glen Davis, Justin Lin, Etan Zeller, Andrew Marden, Sarah Rachkowski, Emma Price, Joe Hernandez, Danny Ceravolo, mentor Sam Wilson, Silas Hernandez, & mentor Don Freiday. Clubs like this are springing up all over the country, a very good thing. And these young people are very good birders.]

“I think I just had a year bird, but I can’t find it again.”

That was me during a New Jersey Young Birders Club field trip on Saturday, March 5, 2016. We were at Mannington Marsh, in Salem County, NJ at the peak of duck migration (more on that on my blog), and I had picked up a distant speck in my binoculars. When I jumped off it to try with my scope, it seemed to disappear.

But Glen Davis, another NJYBC mentor, picked it up and said, “Oh, yeah, can see what you are thinking. . . ” Of course, the young birders wanted to know what it was (none of them, I believe, ever found it, it was a good 2 miles away and going away). We didn’t tell them at first, in part because we wanted them to find it and give at a try, and partly because. . .we just were not sure.

And never would be. Our potential year Osprey sailed off into the blue abyss, unidentified.

Osprey is one of those birds you can often identify as far away as you can see one. But Glen and I let it go. Why? I can’t speak for Glen, but I never got the look I wanted to seal the i.d.

“Something important just happened.” Me again, to the young people. “Glen and I let that bird go unidentified, because we would stringers if we claimed we positively identified it. It was just too far to make that call. But there are birders out there who would have claimed it. Don’t be one of them. Once you get a reputation as a birding stringer, you are unlikely to lose it.”

Important lesson, well learned. These kids are good.