Monday, September 24, 2007


Sometimes birds can make you miserable.

My friends and family think I'm a pretty gung-ho birder, but there are still whole classes of birds I know nothing about, and even worse, whole classes of birds I haven't ever seen. And I have been determined to correct this situation.

So, when the summer Wandering Tattler came out and listed a pelagic trip among its upcoming field trips, I signed us up. Finally, I'll get to see cute little alcids and exotic shearwaters for myself! At last, someone will finally tell me how 'pelagic' is supposed to be pronounced!

We got our reservations, signed our waivers, downloaded some helpful articles sent along by the trip organizers, and I mentally prepared myself to handle my repulsion at waking up before 5 a.m. and my low-level fear of boats (augmented by a recent re-reading of A Perfect Storm). On Saturday, September 29, I'd be ready!

One small catch: The trip isn't on the 29th. It was on the 22nd. Which was LAST Saturday.


Once I realized this—around 8 a.m. on Saturday, a couple hours after the boat had left without us, I was heartbroken. We had been looking forward to this for months. And missing out was nobody's fault but our own. I selfishly hoped the trip would be rescheduled because of the rain, but I knew this wouldn't happen. Crap!!!

Still, we managed to console ourselves with the pleasures of fall migration on land. We took advantage of a break in the rain to visit Huntington Central Park, which was filled with really bright Wilson's Warblers. We also found a Swainson's Thrush and got a quick look at the American Redstart in 'the island' before the rain resumed.

On Saturday afternoon, after the storm had passed, we went to San Joaquin marsh. In the reeds lining the edge of Pond D, we spotted a Least Bittern; we later heard two Least Bitterns calling each other in the pond, but couldn't see them. The front pond had been drained, and the river, which was swollen from the rain, was filled with egrets and herons. Over a dozen Black-crowned Night Herons, both adults and juveniles, were feeding in the shallows across from the parking lot, along with dozens (literally) of Snowy Egrets. These were joined by single-digit numbers of Great Egrets, Green Herons, and Great Blue Herons.

The birds were active and bold, which delighted Glenn and the other photographers exploring the marsh. He joined them at the water's edge, shooting away for hours.

On your marks, get set...GO!

Sunday morning was gorgeous, so I went back to Huntington Central again while Glenn slept in. Both birds and birders were out in full force—a lot of familiar faces were out there. The Wilson's Warblers were still going strong, along with a few Yellow Warblers. I also saw several Western Wood Pewees, and had a quick view of what looked like a Warbling Vireo (slim, greenish-beige, strong white eyeline).

The various little clusters of birders were spreading news of the sighting of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak near the island, but no one I had talked to had actually seen it—they just heard that somebody did. I didn't find it, either.

But the American Redstart was seen by several people—but today, not by me. But I did get to see the Northern Waterthrush, which was foraging in the underbrush of the northern edge of the island.

So I didn't get any lifers this weekend. As a great Englishman once said, "You can't always get what you want." But I still got some pretty good birds—and that's all that I need.

No comments: