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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Yay! First lifer for 2014 & About Time

I got up last Thursday morning in my usual state of grumpy and shlumpy. Bleery eyed, I perused my email and saw this message from birder buddy Don, message header: Marsh Sandpiper, message content: Ready?

HELL yeah I was ready!  I immediately went on line. Found out an astute birder just outside of Dixon (about a 45 minute drive from my house) looked into a irrigation type ditch and spotted a 'different' looking shorebird. He reported it to one of the area's premiere birders and shortly thereafter all hell broke loose. There was a mega rarity vagrant bird in Yolo County.

The Little Bunting I missed out on
NOT on my life list

photo by lucky & talented birder, Rob Fowler
This Marsh Sandpiper is yet another Eurasian juvenile bird with no sense of direction. Only once before has one ventured into the lower 48 states. I'm still smarting from my having not gone to see another Eurasian bird - Little Bunting - that meandered into Humboldt County around Christmas. That little bird ought to have been my Christmas present to myself, but I stalled.  End result; nothing ventured, nothing new on your life list. So back in December I went all Scarlet O'hara, raising my thwarted fist to the sky, swearing 'As God is my witness, I shall never miss a rarity again!'

Determined not to miss this one I was out the door in under an hour. Of course, being an idiot, instead of following the directions given in the birding report, I navigated via Google. Said drive was beautiful, taking me through the River Delta, along the shores of the Sacramento River. It put me onto Liberty Road - on the wrong side of the river. Felt like a moron. Took another hour to drive around to the correct side of the river.

Friday afternoon, midday Marsh Sandpiper hopefuls

I arrived at the Marsh Sandpiper site midday Saturday. I wasn't the only one there. The Sandpiper was discovered the previous evening, and as many as 100 birders saw it

The gray span to the right of everyone is actually a far side of an irrigation type ditch, dropping about 6 ft down, with a mud bottom.

When rare birds fly in, it is rather like an impromptu, unplanned get-together for birders from all over the west coast to meet up. There are birders who only know each other from previous stake-outs for rare birds.

I hung about for a few hours, then after conversing with other birders on a game plan, I decided to come back at dawn Saturday morning. Come Saturday in the wee hours, I drove hopefully towards the outskirts of the tiny town of Dixon. The sun was adding shades of pink to the sky when I drove in, lugging my spotting scope about a quarter mile to join the teeming mass of birders.

I was about to give up and lament that I would never see the bird when a cry went up, "There it is! The smallest of those three flying in!"

I was on the bird with binoculars quickly and watched in rapt awe. At one point the little guy flew so close I lowered my binoculars so I could stare at it with my bare eyes. Woah... a true Audubon moment.

The bird landed about a mile up the ditch but I stayed put. I was rewarded  - after ten minutes or so, the bird flew back, landing in front of us all, in the ditch. This is where the story goes all Claire-like.  I wanted to digiscope a shot with the iphone through my spotting scope. As I watched the sandpiper meandering in the puddle, feeding, I dug frantically through my pockets and could not find the eyepiece for my iPhone. Finally I resorted to just holding the iPhone to the scope eyepiece but shots taken that way are never quite up to snuff. Oh well.

Greater Yellowlegs (L), my Lifer Marsh Sandpiper (R)

Marsh Sandpiper on left

SIGH! As you can see above, my resulting photos were crap. Insult to injury, it was only after the bird finally flew off, leaving behind happy birders (minus ONE), did I find the missing eyepiece in 'the vault'. Meaning I'd stuffed it down my t-shirt & forgot where I put it. *sigh* Yet another precious Claire moment. I was so annoyed, but oh well, I had my first lifer of 2014. Nothing, not even crap photos can take that away from me.

The Hookupz below is actually a wonderful tool, that works with my binocs and my spotting scope - that is when I manage to have it with me. Best $15 I ever spent.
My wonderful $15 digiscope tool
lets me use my iPhone camera
to take photos with my binocs and
spotting scope

1 comment:

  1. This ad brings a question to my mind; which came first The Hookupz or your trip?