A birder's life is full of ups and downs. A bird photographer's even more so. Not seeing the bird (or birds) being searched for is one of a birder/bird photographers's biggest frustrations. On the other hand, encountering a species out of pure serendipity is their ultimate joy. For both to happen in a single day is what makes a birder/bird photographers' life quite exciting.
Such an event happened on Saturday, September 20th. Fall migration has begun. And when fall begins, the place to be is the row of Tamarisk and Eucalyptus trees along Laguna Road in Camarillo - known to birders everywhere as Laguna Tams. That small grove of trees is what is referred to in the birding world as a migrant trap. At the height of the autumnal southward flight of migrating birds, the Tams have been known to harbor some uncommon warblers and vireos.
Perhaps it was still too early in the season. Or maybe this was really not a good year for birding. Because in the two hours that we spent at the Tams, our search for the rare warblers yielded only one Orange-crowned Warbler, and one Townsends. And yes, there were some Song Sparrows and Common Yellowthroats by the creek, but these are species that are common everywhere. Thankfully there were also a few Warbling Vireos.
Frustrated, we tried the bridge along Wood Road where a Solitary Sandpiper was seen about two weeks ago. There was a sandpiper there alright. And it was by itself (meaning it was solitary..ha ha) but it was a Spotted Sandpiper.
"Where do you want to go now?" my wife asked seeing the dark clouds of frustration beginning to cover my face.
"Let's go to Playa del Rey", I answered. "At least we won't strike out because there will always be Oystercatchers and Surfbirds there."
As we hit the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) there were some areas where cars can be parked and people can look at the Pacific Ocean a few feet below. At one of these vista points, we saw some gulls basking in the sun. As soon as I pulled over, Cynthia jumped out and started scanning the rocks by the ocean's edge. I followed her bringing just my binoculars as we weren't expecting anything unusual here, except for the gulls.
"There's a bird walking on top of the rocks over there", my wife said pointing to a pile of gray boulders. I caught a glimpse of some movement and focusing my binos on the moving object, my heart leapt and my jaw dropped.
"Darling, it's a Wandering Tattler!" I exclaimed. "Don't let it out of your sight," I instructed Cynthia as I sprinted to the Jeep to get our cameras.
One of the reasons I suggested going to Playa del Rey was that I was hoping that we would see the Tattler there, even though there were no reports of it being seen at that place lately. And so for the next thirty minutes or so, we enjoyed our serendipitous encounter with our 78th lifer of the year!
I even got a video:
So elated were we that we decided to cancel the trip to Playa and just rest on our laurels the rest of the day.