Sunday, August 23, 2020

A Birding Tale

[Photo copyright Joe Hernandez.]

"Shearwater! Shearwater! Shearwater! Shearwater!"

I show people birds for part of my living, and some people even think I'm good at it, but that was the best I could do in my sudden frantic state. I had no camera.

Silas Hernandez had a quiet frantic in his voice. "I don't have it."

"There! There! There! There!" Oh, I'm good at giving directions to birds, all right. Finally, "It's in front of your brother!" I suspect Silas had been looking far out into the bay, since it was a shearwater after all. Nope. The damn thing flew right at us, over the spit north of the landing, point blank.

I met Silas and his brother Joe just that morning, at Norbury's Landing, two young guys looking for birds before heading off for a wedding. We chatted, and Silas mentioned he had a milestone, I think he said he was at 398 species for North America and hoped to notch 400 this trip. I asked what he had in mind, and he said there wasn't too much in the way of possibilities. I believe it, but this was two days post-Tropical Storm Isaiah . . .

So we parted, me walking up the beach, getting up to the sandbar, raising my bins, and landing on an Arctic Tern resting belly-down on the sand. Huh, I wonder if Silas has this one? I turned and saw the guys getting in their car, so I jogged backed down the beach, yelled and waved them over.

399. Then it got interesting. I'm studying the tern and this bird flashes through my bins.

This is how people who bird a lot identify birds: we look at them and say, "Holy s--t, that's an Audubon's Shearwater." Then we identify them using field marks, which is what I did, screaming the whole time. Luckily Joe was ready with his camera.

Audubon's Shearwater from shore is stupid rare. Audubon's shearwater 40 feet away over a sandbar is double dog stupid rare.

[Audubon's Shearwater, photo's above and below copyright J. Hernandez.]

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