Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hurts So Good

On Saturday,8/28, I rode up the coast to Old Creek, but there was little on the beach there or between there and home - people and dogs had already scared everything away.  I returned home and after lunch, I decided to do something to get away from the crowds and see if I might find something new. So, I rode my bike a mile out to Montana de Oro State Park and locked it to a gate at the start of a sand trail (old Army Road) out to the beach and the start of the sand spit which runs north between Morro Bay and the Pacific Ocean. (This stretch of sand is only accessible by a long run, hike, horseback ride or by boat.) I had my running shoes and shorts along with a fanny pack holding my binocs. I was set to run the 2k out to the beach and a couple of kilometers along the beach to look for shorebirds, gulls and jaegers.

As I ran along the sandy shore north toward imposing Morro Rock, the birding got better the farther I ran north. I went beyond where I had planned to turn around (I figured I could walk back if I got too tired) and checked the scattered shorebirds and gulls. Then I stopped in my tracks as I spotted a godwit which was noticeably smaller, shorter legged and smaller billed than the Marbled Godwits with it. I knew what I probably had, but wanted to see the bird in flight before I decided for sure that I had found the county's first Bar-tailed Godwit. Sure enough, as the bird flew it had a light rump, a nicely barred tail and was grayer than the Marbleds.

I did not have my camera or my cell phone! I ran back down the beach to try and find someone. After a couple of kilometers, I found a person, but he did not want to let me use his cell phone. I continued to run back to my bike, packed and rode home where I got the word out. (I was hurting from my sand workout, but adrenalin had gotten me home fairly fast.) A group went out to re find the Bar-tailed later that afternoon, but I was too tired to join them. This group, including expert birders Brad Schram, Brian Daniels and Jon Dunn, did re find the bird and took photos. I could now definitely count BIGBY Bird # 290!

I went out the next morning with a bunch of birders who could not go out the night before, to try and re-find the bird. Despite walking out to the spit and all the way to the breakwater (over 6k one way along the beach) we saw no Bar-tailed. We did see about 200 Semipalmated Plovers, 30-40 Snowy Plovers, several hundred Sanderlings, a Ruddy Turnstone, 2 Black Turnstones,and 2 Baird's Sandpipers (BIGBY # 291). We saw some big flocks of terns, pelicans, gulls, and shearwaters birds off shore, but could find no jaegers. In all, we walked about ten miles in the sand. My legs were shot and I was sore for a couple of days after these two days of running and walking in the sand.

Two days later Bill Bouton (his beautiful photo of the Bar-tailed is to the left) and Marlin Harms re-found the Bar-tailed near where it had been originally found, but closer to the trail head! Maybe I will go out again to see if I can photograph the bird now that the soreness is almost gone.
(I later returned, but so did the fog. I re-found the bird with several other birders, but the fog was so thick that my photos were terrible.)