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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

First Birdy Mini-Break of 2011, Days 1 & 2

Special alert! Way back in mid November, a Beautiful vagrant Siberian birdie, a Brown Shrike was discovered inhabiting scrublands between two ponds at Clam Cove in McKinleyville just off Highway 101. As bird is willing to sit politely while birders come from around the country to view it, I figure, why can't I see it too? What a great occasion for my first mini break of 2011. Must speak to birding buddy Don.

Day One

6:00 AM - Felt wonderful! Decided to do all the day's driving myself. Hit the road for East Palo Alto to pick up Don, who also having planned to see exotic Brown Shrike was equally gung ho for traveling to see the stunning bird.

9:15 AM - Hit Starbucks, then hit the road. Feeling cheery, doing the driving myself was the right decision all right. What a great day! At Clam Cove we would sally forth on pleasant stroll to see beautiful bird, best known for adorable habit of skewering birds or insects smaller than itself on thorns or barbed wire. Shrikes are the Hannibal Lecter of the bird world.

4:30 PM - Arrived at Clam Cove under overcast and brooding skies - about a half mile or so from angry looking Pacific Ocean. Don had instructions for getting to location of our target bird: Park in south part of parking lot and go through fence, go north along trail, turn left, walk to area between two ponds.

Don quickly strode off with long strides & disappearing down the trail to the beach. Comparing Don's energy levels and walking ability to mine is like comparing a trail worthy Arab stallion with a very fat, stiff leggedy moo cow (the cow would be 'moi'). Assumed Don would be down on beach viewing bird while I'm still struggling though the fence wire.

I felt like crap, stumbling listlessly down the path, I swore oaths aimed at bastard birders who NEVER adequately describe walking conditions necessary for viewing of vagrant birds. If bird viewing required crossing tight wire strung over active volcano caldera, instructions would like read, "Short straight, slightly warm walk to view bird".

At bottom of hill discovered HUMONGOUS mound of sand. Traversed sand-of-death, only to discover landmine field of open pits, strewn with sharp rocks. Sweating and swearing, I stopped, exhausted. I looked up at the dim sky, actively being sucked of the light as I watched. I envisioned a dreadful return walk, myself falling into one of the sandy rock pits. Imagined my brains, strewn festively over the rock-bed. Stupid, effing bird! Whose idea was seeing the bloodsucking feathered fiend anyway? My idea. Right. What was I thinking?

I crawled along the trail. Walk. Stop. Pant. Walk. Stop. Pant. Periodically, I listlessly looked toward the north pond as I traversed past. Blackbirds called there and and a couple of well appreciated Ring-necked Ducks swam; appreciated because if they weren't there, I would only have blackbirds and American Coots to distract me. That would be somewhat annoying both species can be seen near my home without driving for 9 hours. Sucking up the last of my energy, I climbed along a sandy cliff, over a bramble of shrubs. The path was path barely wide enough for two parallel human foot prints. To entertain myself I increased the bitterness of my swearing, concluding the mothers of the birders who give crap directions to see vagrants have mothers who cohabitate with randy Capercallies. Anyone who didn't like my conclusions can go suck a Dovekie.

Stumbling over the last bit of brush into the area between the two ponds, I spotted Don, patiently waiting for me to catch up. He couldn't find the Brown Shrike. No Brown Shite Shrike? Had I the energy, I would have thrown a tantrum. I was so tired I wanted to lie on the sand and just die. Stupid shrike. Stupid birders. Stupid me.

Day Two

Previous night I fell asleep in soft, comfy motel bed at 7:30. This morning ran into Don, enjoying a meal at continental breakfast room where I too enjoyed a hearty meal. The sun shown brightly & I decided Don can do the damned driving. I told Don I'd see him later. An hour later I sat impatiently in my room wondering what the eff Don could be doing? No doubt yaking with motel people. Annoyed beyond belief, I called him. Equally annoyed beyond belief in his own right, Don sat in his motel room, wondering where the eff I was.


We are both rearing to hit the trail to see Brown Shrike. I decided Don could do all the $#&@ driving. We head for Clam Cove.

7:30 AM - Amazing! Hill barely inclined downward! Sand dune was no where near as deep as had seemed in the dark of the previous afternoon. Arrived at sand cliff to discover the climb bearly more than a slight up and down, and the footing not at all as tricky as previously seemed. It was almost as if I had viewed the previous day's hike through a fog of exhaustion or something. Imagine that!

Brown Shrike was alive, alert and present! Beautiful warm brown bird fluttered about in beach scrub, carrying effing humongous dead black insect the size of New York sewer rat. How cute! There are two other birder's present - one who flew out from Maine to see the bird, and who kindly set my spotting scope so I might view the Brown Shrike. The second birder had professional parabolic microphone for recording Shrike's calls for identification and prosperity.

How wonderful to see such a bitchn' cool bird! Note to self: burn gas receipts and motel bill before I realize what the eff I have done to this month's budget.

Brown Shrike at Clam Cove photo © Mary Freeman

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