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 being different.

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.