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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ugly Birds to You, Manna for Me

Yesterday afternoon, following training, I left the Hyatt Regency, hale and hearty, but arrived at my office with a snoot full of grass & tree pollen. I KNEW I should have been lazy and taken the light rail! So I'm sneezing like a Disney dwarf, but that isn't going to stop me from birding this weekend.

You see, back in September, my birding buddy Don, asked if I wanted to go on a couple of pelagic trips in October. I made the STUPID decision to be Quaker-modest and skip the trips to save money and all-that-grown-up-crap. Besides - I've sailed out of Northern California numerous times and what's really left to see for me, besides some puffins and the odd Black-footed Albatross?

So, without me, on October 11th, Don headed out on a SBBO Pelgaic Trip. They got a Short-tailed Albatross, Flesh-footed Shearwater, Laysan Albatross and others. For you non birders, read, President Obama, Queen Latifa and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands showed up at the party, to nibble the cheetos and hand out gold-plated Euros.

My cheeks are still pea green with... you know. The Short-tailed Albatross is a bird I've prayed to find for decades now. I could have been a contender!


Don is a gentleman. After his jump up & down lifer, he asked if I wanted to go along on his next scheduled pelagic, Oct 18th. Well, thinking there was NO way to top Don's Oct 11th trip, I, the nin-com-poop, declined his invitation.

So, imagine my... chagrine (?), hysteria? when Don's next trip pulled up a bird so rare only once before in recorded history had it shown up in North America - a White-chinned Petrel. Further luck is there happened to be on board ship a guy who was familiar with the petrel down in Chile(!) from where the birds are normally found. So in other words, besides the luck of having a man on board who is on speaking terms with that species, the bird-in-question sat its bum down on the ocean waves and posed for photos. The photos were so the bird could make sure he made the ABA list - see the photo below? Go ahead - try and tell me that sucker isn't smiling?


I wanted to cry... I have not had much luck this year with my birding - having missed an Asian Red-necked Stint that was kind enough to show up locally, any of many Least Bitterns (which have been on my hit list for many, many decades) and other fleeting shadows on my life list besides.

How can I explain how awful this feels? It's like you want to meet [fill in your favorite celebrity here] and you are invited to a party at some friends house, but you turn down the invite because you want to stay home and trim your toe nails. Then, the day after the party you find out [fill in favorite celebrity here] was at the party, slapping shoulders and promising everyone a spot on America's Got Talent. OK... so the friend invites you to another party the following weekend, you stay home to pluck your eyebrows. After all, who is going to beat [fill in favorite celebrity here] showing up at a party, and guess what! Effing [fill in here, a celebrity you wouldn't even DREAM of ever meeting] shows up and swears he/she will keep in touch with everyone who attended said party. OK. Now imagine that I feel even worse than that.

So when Don asked if I was interested in a pelagic this Saturday, Oct 24th. I had the brains - for once - to say 'HELL yeah'. Can the luck continue for Don? Can it begin for 'moi'? Is that Chilian beaut hanging around waiting for us? Can that Short-tailed Alb. put in another special guest appearance? And if not, will at the very least, little Orphan Annie... I mean, an Ancient Murrelette show up and fly onto my life list?

I don't know the answer to the above question, but to hedge my bets as well as the Saturday trip out of Half Moon Bay, I am also taking a trip the following day, out of Monterey.

Wish me luck; my guess is, I'm going to need it.

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