Day 332 – “Dipping is a four-letter-word”

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Just mentioning the word “dip”, makes birders like me cringe. In birding slang, “dipping” means to chase a bird, usually a rare one, and not find it. Every dip is seared in a birder’s brain forever. Some dips hurt so much that even years later, birders have a hard time talking about the experience.

Dipping can be sad, disastrous, exhausting and expensive. In my Big Year, when I’ve been birding all day practically every day, it has happened often.

I only have a couple of birds left to see in the ABA Region. I am primarily chasing rarities now. Dipping at this stage, with only 33 days left to go, is catastrophic.

I just left Boston after spending 2 days looking for a Barnacle Goose that I could never find. The first day I went to Westfield, Massachusetts where one had been seen just the day before. My hopes were high at the start of the day. By 4:30 in the waning light, after sorting through Canada Geese flocks til I was cross-eyed, I was feeling the dread that birders know too well.

Like a drug addict, I began the bargaining process in my head. “If I get here early tomorrow, it’ll probably be here.” “It was seen yesterday, I just need to give it more time.” “If I just follow the flying flocks, maybe I’ll find where they land.” And finally, “I can always try for the one seen in Vermont.”

I went to bed with a knot in my stomach. It slowly started creeping into my brain. “I’m going to dip on this bird.”

Out of desperation, I drove to Vermont. No Goose of any type. I drove back to Westfield and tried again. Back and forth, back and forth, I drove from the park to the filter ponds, like a maniac. A flock of 300 Canada Geese momentarily raised my hopes. I scanned through the flock until dark. Nada.

There is no way to describe the feeling of isolation and sheer despondency that I feel when driving back from an unsuccessful chase, alone.

Earlier this year, I did a post on my blog about my 5 worst dips this year. As bad as this was, it doesn’t even make the list!

I am now on a plane headed to California and my next chase. I don’t have time to be emotional about it. If you happen to see me though, please don’t mention a certain Goose.

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  1. James says:

    Was this a case of “I’ll chase it tomorrow”? It has been there for a month now. On the bright side, I got 18 life birds Sunday with a young birders club trip, including Connecticut’s third Snowy Owl of the season! A Horned Lark a few minutes later puts me at a clean 150 birds.

    1. Mark says:

      I bet you will still get your goose. They have been quite regular in the northeast the past few winters and tend to linger. Probably more will come in once we get into December. Thanks for sharing your adventures and good luck

      1. The Dancing Birder says:

        Nice going James! Keep it up. As far as the BAGO, I probably could have chased it one or two days sooner but wanted to spend some time with my daughter. I’ll get another chance!

      2. The Dancing Birder says:

        Thanks Mark. I’m confident I’ll get another chance and I still need Dovekie up there!

  2. David says:

    Yve-A Dusky Thrush was found at Sitka today. Don’t know if it will hang around, but the Anchorage bird did for three years.

  3. Sondra says:

    I just found your blog via your ebird list so I know you finally bagged this one…I got the Ross Goose that was missing off my list this past weekend. My goal for 2018 is make it up to 500 so following you will be an inspiration.

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