Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ferry Freeloaders

We hear a lot about ship-assisted vagrancy these days. "So-and-so bird is crazy, so it must have been carried over on a ship" some birders proclaim with each rarity that visits our continent. This is a big deal - a bird that rode over on a ship would be non-countable, according to the prevailing view. Well, the truth is, there are some birds that hitch rides on ships within our sacred ABA area borders that people are completely ignoring. The effect these birds have on our lists is absolutely detrimental. Hell, I've seen birders count these ferry freeloaders. They count them! It's madness.

We became aware of this sick and twisted phenomenon last weekend, while birding in New Hanover County, North Carolina. Aside from being home to the most populous Wilmington in the United States, it is also home to the mouth of the Cape Fear River, the largest river entirely within North Carolina. There is a ferry that connects one side of the river to the other, running from Fort Fisher across to Southport. But there's one problem. Southport isn't in New Hanover County. It's in Brunswick.  Birds (especially gulls and grackles), have a habit of riding the ferry, due in part to the easy supply of bread given to them by children. These freeloaders spend the day riding back and forth across the Cape Fear and across the county line.

Go ahead, look into the eyes of this heartless ship-assisted bastard - but don't you dare count it for your Brunswick or your New Hanover lists.
These birds have probably been border-hopping on this boat for months (especially those grackles). It has reached the point where we can't even tell which side of the river these birds are originally from. Can you count any of these birds? Do they count when you first get on the ferry, but not when you cross the border halfway through the ride? Hell, all the grackles and gulls around both ferry terminals have probably ridden the ferry at some point in their lives. So those don't count either? And how can we be sure that any of the birds within several miles of the terminals didn't ride on that ship? Did the birds even originate in one of the two counties? They may have ferry hopped all the way from - God forbid - South Carolina. I know those Mottled Ducks at the Fort Fisher Aquarium looked awfully guilty.

Where did you come from?!?
This first-cycle Herring Gull never made it onto the ship while we were watching - but there's no telling it hasn't landed on the boat in the past.
I can only see one solution to this problem: shut down the Southport ferry, and wait for all the birds that rode it to slowly die off. I'm tired of paying the $5 fee anyway. Or I guess we could just stop worrying about ship-assisted birds and ignore the arbitrary non-countability rule that someone made up long ago... but that's crazy.


  1. Yes sir.

    Pretty sure the only people that really insist on Ship Assist as a disqualifier (despite it being super statistically unlikely in almost all cases of vagrancy) are the ones who are lazy and or bitter and don't want to go chase the vagrant, so they just proclaim it's not countable in the first place.
    Obviously the people who would be hard ons about this are ones who put the list before the birds, which is why their foremost concern is making sure nobody else's list gets bigger than theirs.

    Nice crushing.

    1. Indeed, the ferry is the perfect environment for hardcore crushing. I just couldn't help myself.