It has been a good month for Rallidae--first the Virginia Rail at Brig during the WSB, then the King Rail and Common Gallinule on Sunday at magical Mercer Corporate Park, and today, a true rarity in another unlikely location, Ocean Grove, a tiny Methodist enclave (the camp meeting association owns all the land) between Bradley Beach and Asbury Park.
I saw the report last evening, and, as I was in Lakewood for the 3rd time this week getting the Subaru fixed, I figured, once that was finally done, I was already halfway there, so I'd give it a try. Driving north up the parkway a little after noon, I realized that this might not have been the best strategy--Memorial Day traffic was already starting in the southbound lanes.
I followed the GPS to the exact address in Ocean Grove, a quiet residential street, and started to look around. Nothing except starlings. I always feel creepy walking around a neighborhood with binoculars and camera--a lot of people don't appreciate you looking into their shrubbery with optics.
I walked up and down the block and around the corner but couldn't find the bird. I saw a woman gardening across the street, but again, I felt it would be a little forward to ask if she knew where the rare bird was. Just as I was about to give up (I was in the middle of texting Mike about my fruitless search) when another woman approached me and asked if I was looking for birds. Yes indeed I am. "Well, we have a beautiful one in our yard." She walked me across the street to the front yard where the woman was gardening, and there, pecking in the dirt, was a Purple Gallinule, far, far way from southern home.
I didn't see it when I walked by there a few minutes before--it must have been pecking away underneath the bushes. The bird has been there for a while--another example of how a rare bird can hide in plain sight if the site is not in sight of birders who care.
I had planned to look for a couple of other rarities in Waretown and Barnegat, but the slow ride on the parkway south to Forked River (where I had to run an errand) convinced me that I shouldn't push my luck and remember my motto: I only need one cool bird a day.