On a scouting trip to Hayward Shoreline Park, a friend and
I observed a single Baird's Sandpiper along the levy
trail as well as many Least Sanpipers. Waterfowl
included many Northern Shovelers and Northern
Pintails but little else. The full-on winter duck situation
appears to be a little ways off still.
Somewhat later, a trip to Don Edwards turned up both Virginia
Rail and Clapper Rail as well as a multitude
of Common Yellowthroats, and Marsh Wrens.
Finally, just beyond the toll plaza on the Dumbarton Bridge,
we found a group of about 30 Wilson's Phalaropes
feeding in the first pond. We pulled over and observed them
for a few minutes through the car windows.
This evening, my friend Brian and I decided we both needed
to find something beautiful and alive, on which to focus
our minds and take them, if only briefly, from yesterday's
tragic events. Simple words fail to describe our nation's
shock and growing sorrow after the fall of the World Trade
Center and the horrible loss of four passenger planes. But
I, as many people, am trying to concentrate on life, family,
and all the many things that can help heal the horrible
wounds of war. I believe, we will survive this event, but
not without a concerted effort to live and celebrate life.
Brian's and my somber visit to Alviso was successful in
that we were able to relocate the Stilt Sandpiper (reported
at the marsh near the corner of State and Spreckles Avenues),
but we were not as jubilant as we would have been a few
days ago. We will all find ways to survive our collective
loss and I'm sure some would say that watching birds after
the events of this week is a shallow escape from reality.
Perhaps it is, but I feel we will all need something, anything
over the next few weeks to remind us that the world is still
filled with friendship, beauty and life, although much of
that life was lost on Tuesday.
Well, I decided I couldn't resist the temptation...
Kenneth Petersen and I drove up to Arcata after work on
Friday and braved 7.5 hours of holiday weekend traffic to
chase down the Common Greenshank. We arrived at my
out-of-town friend Jesse Conklin's apartment about midnight
and crashed on his floor, hoping to get an early start in
morning. We left Jesse's place at around seven and went
directly to a drive-thru coffee place. Once suitably caffeinated,
we proceeded to one of the two locations the bird had been
reported the previous week. We waited along elevated banks
of the Mad River and joined up with a group of about ten
other birders. Everyone had telescopes trained on the shallows
and many of us were also armed with handheld radios so we
could receive incoming messages from other birders stationed
nearby. We sorted through several groups of Greater
and Lesser Yellowlegs for more than an hour and none
of them had green legs!
Eventually the message came that "the bird" had been located
a short way down river, closer to the ocean. We mobilized
quickly to the new location, very excited and a little worried
that the flood of incoming birders might spook the bird.
We hiked down an awkward wooded trail to the beach and moved
quickly to the area upstream where a group of about 15 birders
was excitedly watching the Greenshank at close range
bird! We too were able to find the bird among the many Sandpipers
and with surprising ease. True, it may not
be the most distinctive bird, but after looking at every
single shorebird along the river, this one stood out as
After about half an hour of close observation, seeing
it feed, preen and expose its telltale white back, we felt
we had done our job, secured the area and could dedicate
our attention to other things. We spoke with Mike Mammoser,
Kevin McKerrigan and Bob Reiling for a short time and exchanged
bird stories. The weather was foggy, but warm and pleasant.
Everyone was satisfied with the experience, then... "We've
got a Ruff over here!" The voice on the radio was
staticky and I had to ask the person on the other end to
repeat. We were able to find that bird too; it was standing
right next to the Greenshank. Imagine, two rare birds
in the same spot. You know you're birding someplace special
when you get a Ruff as a bonus bird.