But it was completely different this Saturday. We were so lucky to have "angels" who showed us what we were looking for. We planned our birding sortie like so: First go the Upper Newport Bay and look for the Bar-tailed Godwit, then proceed to nearby Mason Regional Park to see White-tailed Kites - all nine of them, and finally to San Gabriel City to add the Lewis' Woodpecker to our yearlist. Sounds simple. But as any birder knows, accomplishing even the best laid plans is quite a different story.
Bright and early we were next to the bike path beneath the Jamboree bridge at Upper Newport Bay. I was scanning the small strip of land to the west where a bunch of shorebirds were still sleeping. However, one of them was busy foraging the island's edge. It looked different from the snoozing Marbled Godwits next to it. Is it possible that we finally found our quarry? I was photographing this bird when a couple of birders appeared on the other side of the creek and started peering through their spotting scopes at the opposite direction of where I was pointing my camera! I looked up at these birders with a puzzled look on my face. One of them, perhaps noticing my curious mien, shouted, "The Bar-tailed Godwit is under the bridge!" I quickly left my camera (which was on a tripod), my wife, and sanity as I ran down from the bicycle trail to the muddy, slippery part directly under the bridge peering at the edge. And then seeing the godwit, which was on our side of the creek, fly off to other side! My wife, who gingerly followed me, saw my exasperation and as in numerous other occasions, consoled me by pointing to the Godwit which was busy looking for food right across from us. I retrieved my camera gear and spent the next hour or so trying to take a picture of our beloved Bar-tailed Godwit. Which was not a simple task considering the bird kept moving as it searched the muddy edge of the creek for food and every so often disappears from view as it gets behind the huge concrete bridge supports.
Elated at our success in finding and photographing the Bar-tailed Godwit, we then proceeded to the William R. Mason Regional Park at University Avenue. We drove around the park trying to locate the "wilder" east side where the Kites reportedly hang out. No "wilder" parts, no kites, only picnickers. Cynthia and I were mulling our next move when Shelly, the local Park Ranger, drove up to us. We told her our dilemma and "angel" Shelly asked us to follow her to the entrance gate, where she 1) gave us the directions to the "wilder" side, 2) gave us a map of the park, and 3) refunded our $5 entrance fee! We happily thanked her and without further ado, drove to where she directed us. As we walked into the "wilder" part (which was actually called Phase III of Mason Park) we saw a lady with a camera and a zoom lens (a bird photographer, we rightly concluded). When asked about the kites, she said she was just taking pictures of them and that she would be happy to take us there. And she did, and there atop a tree were kites, all nine of them!
We were now batting two out of three! Our plan in looking for the Lewis Woodpecker would be after lunch, because that was the time that it had always been reported seen. After our rendezvous with the Kite family, we had a leisurely lunch at Irvine. Then off we were to the suburban neighborhood in San Gabriel. I did a drive by in this area a few days earlier after taking Cynthia to work (which was not that far from the Woodpecker site) and saw nothing. This time we parked in front of the house at 510 Del Mar and stared at the electrical post behind it. Nothing. Just a pole standing starkly against the grey skies. I decided to walk further up to get another angle. As I stood in front of the 512 Del Mar house, I saw it! The bird was behind the pole. As I walked back to get my camera, the Woodpecker decided to cooperate and showed itself in full view right in front of where we were parked. And that, as the saying goes, was icing on the cake.
According to the encyclopedia, the word "godwit" came from the Old English words, "god" and "wihte" which means "good creature". If our experience today was any indication, the Godwit indeed lived up to it's name.
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