This has been one of those surreal birding weekends for me. I've been trying to break my streak of bad luck on paddles out to the mudflats. So far I have:
Broken a paddle on the river and had to wave down for help
Burst a tube
Punctured the shell
Almost lost my phone
Dumped out all my drinking water
Had to paddle back against the tide in choppy water
Forgot to let air out of tubes so have added a mile hike to my usual trek
Tripped and dropped scope
On outings this year I have also:
Forgotten tent 1 hour drive from house
Forgotten wallet 1 hour drive from house
"But Jimmy," you ask," What about the awesome title of your blog post this week? It sounds like a radical 80's movie, but you haven't let on what it is about!"
"Calm yourself, my students," I would answer. "I will let you know all in due time..."
This week I was sure I would break the streak. No problems! I've got it all figured out now!
It started off well and nice. I made it out to the flats paddling with a nice, swift tide, and was scanning away looking for that elusive Golden-Plover sp. I was looking at a large flock of Black-Bellied Plovers when another bird began to stand out in the crowd.
|Can you see me?|
|How about now?|
Look closely at the very center of the picture. Sandwiched between two Black-Bellied Plovers is a slightly smaller bird with a smaller head and bill. When I picked it out in my scope, I hoped against hope that it wouldn't fly off before I got pictures. Luckily for me, when the whole flock left, it elected to stay behind.
|Smaller Bill and Golden Coloring|
|Better lighting. Notice the overall golden wash and the dark ear-spot.|
Finally! After weeks of weekends paddling out to the flats I tracked down a Pacific Golden-Plover for my year, bringing me up to a total of 244 on the year, one bird shy of my goal. On my way back to my boat, I noticed on of the cows of Triangle Island was tossing it's head near where I pull out. I hurried to the area, with visions of a trampled and gored kayak laying scattered over the island running through my head. It would be a fitting repayment, in a cows mind, to get me back for all the times I tramped across their pasture. Thankfully, the cow was just scratching itself on driftwood, and not bothering my boat.
The next day I was determined to track down another bird on the flats. I was also exhausted. One of the unknown joys that I have had in paddling is of the fisherman that fish from the shore where I launch my kayak. I know several of them by sight, and they are very friendly and supportive. They always sincerely remind me to be safe, and the small talk is always a nice send-off. I was a little distracted when I launched today, and after a tough paddle without a lot of tide helping me along I finally landed at the flats. After being greeted and chased by a horde of mosquitoes, I managed to track down another Red Knot, but not much else out of the ordinary.
|Red Knot: notice the pretty silver scaling on the back.|
|I've noticed that they scurry quite quickly compared to the |
plovers that I usually find them with
I was at level: Surreality. (I know it's not a word.) But I was about to hit level: Falcon: Retribution.
On my way home I made the mandatory stop at Ford's Pond. I was totally exhausted, and didn't want to stop, but I just had to. It's the same Ford's Pond affect that allowed local guru birder Matt Hunter to help find me a Black-Necked Stilt the week before after leading a field trip on the coast.
I scanned and immediately noticed an American White Pelican, not a year bird, but a good bird for the county nonetheless. There were also a half-dozen Cackling Geese, and 2 Black-Necked Stilts. Suddenly, the ducks and shorebirds panicked. Peregrine, I immediately thought. Except, when I looked up from my scope, a falcon shape was lazily gliding down to the flats, where it landed. I got my scope on it, and saw an obvious falcon sitting on the flats. So obvious, in fact, that it looked quite strange.
"Why are the shorebirds not paying any attention to it?" I wondered. In fact, I watched as two Yellowlegs, and one of the Stilts walked right past it. Then, I began to pay attention to the falcon itself. It was very brown, in fact, it was obviously a light-brown color. And its breast was all weird. I noticed it had thin barring running vertically up and down the breast, and the "moustache marks" on the face looked all wrong, they reminded me more of a Kestrel than a Peregrine.
"Is that a Prairie Falcon?" I spoke aloud. "No way..."
I hustled back to my car to grab my camera and my field guide. Still convinced that it was a juvie Peregrine, I took my time and checked the field guide in my car. Other than a tundra-type bird, all juvie peregrines were darker, like their parents. And a juvenile Prairie Falcon did indeed have vertical barring on its breast. But the kicker was dark underwing coverts or "armpits" on the bird in flight.
When I got back to my scope the bird was flying low over the pond, and was beginning to fly away. I got on it, and indeed, it was a very sand-brown bird, with blunt-ish wingtips, and undoubtedly dark armpits.
"Retributioncolonfalcon," I whispered to myself. (Not actually.) Earlier in the year I missed a Prairie Falcon when my 250K mile Corolla Wagon was in-and-out of the shop. I have since bought a Subaru Forester, but the mileage I have put on both of the cars is a subject for another post. It felt good to get a "make-up" bird, but it felt even better to reach my goal, #245!
So is my year over? Hardly. Next weekend, I am leaving on a Douglas County Pelagic trip out of Coos Bay, Oregon. That opens up potential for a really big total for my big year. But right now, I'm happy to have met my goal.
And as for the title? The theme of this blog has started to turn 1980's movie-montage styled, so here is some video for thought: