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.