Thursday, September 2, 2010
A Change of Plans
It is Thursday nite and I am in Newport, OR. Yes, this is the same place I said a couple of weeks ago that I would not need to visit again when I saw a fork-tailed storm-petrel on a boat out of Ft. Bragg. Little did I know that a sharp-tailed sandpiper would be seen 2 days ago in Bandon Marsh (top photo) on the southern coast of Oregon. And that a ruff would be seen yesterday in Newport. But they were, so as soon as I got off my plane into San Francisco yesterday afternoon, I jumped into my truck to begin the 550 mile drive to Bandon Marsh.
I spent last nite in Yreka, CA and was on the road this morning at 5 to finish the 4 hours left in the trip to reach Bandon Marsh to search for the sharp-tailed. It was a beautiful morning--sunny, breezy with temps in the high 60's. I slogged thru the marsh for 4 hours trying to scare up a sharpie, but none were found. There were lots of other shorebirds, mostly western and least sandpipers, and a few other birders too. There was the occasional whimbrel (bottom photo above), plus a large group of black-bellied plovers.
I studied the group closely because a pacific golden plover also had been found 2 days ago mixed in with the black-bellieds. I found 2 birds that were clearly golden plovers, but then the question became was 1 or both a pacific, or were they both American golden plovers. I know both these birds in full breeding plumage from visiting Alaska, but I am not nearly as familiar with them in their basic or non-breeding plumage. My sense was that I had 1 of each based on their markings, etc. My photos were not as good as I wanted for posting, but I did email them to Wes Fritz, an excellent birder from Santa Barbara, CA who I met when he was doing the chumming on Debi Shearwater's recent trips. He confirmed that I had a photo of each.
I left Bandon about 1 PM to make the 100+ mile drive up to Newport in hopes of finding a ruff since I still need it for my big year. I spent a couple of hours near the Hatfield Marine Research Center with a few birders all of whom were looking for the ruff. At one point we got into a lengthy discussion as to whether we were looking at 2 pectoral sandpipers, or 2 ruffs in non-breeding plumage. While it would have been nice to have had 2 ruffs, in the end they were just 2 pectorals.
Week #35 is completed. I did not bird all that much--a little respite while home--but I did see 44 birds for the week, and the pacific golden-plover brings the YTD up to 676. There is an updated travel map. Also, the big year has now entered its 9th month as of yesterday. I will be out there again early tomorrow to see if maybe the ruff is in fact still around. Stay tuned!