In 2009 I wrote a poem lamenting the fact that this particular bird had successfully managed to avoid being seen by me for many, many years.
Even prior to our visiting Los Angeles, I had been scanning the yahoo listserves of the local bird groups to see if any unusual species had been sighted recently. When the Orange County Birding group mentioned that a Solitary Sandpiper had been spotted at the John Baca Park, I got excited. At the first birding opportunity that I had, I asked my son, Kurt, to drive me to that place where hope thrives. As soon as he parked the car, I jumped out and headed straight to the place described in the listserve where my nemesis supposedly lingers.
It wasn't there.
Sighing deeply I ambled aimlessly along the trail. I looked back to where I stood a few minutes ago and saw a birder. He looked familiar. Jim Rowe was the one who showed me the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at the Southcoast Botanic Garden many years ago.
"Looking for the Solitary?" I asked the obvious.
"Yup" he replied, "saw it here five times out of six that I'd been here."
We talked about birds as we waited for several minutes. Still nothing.
"Well, I'm gonna look for the Least Flycatcher" he said as we both turned towards the trail.
I took one last look at the ditch and saw some movement.
"It's there!" I gasped.
Jim peered through his binoculars and smiled. "Oh yeah!"
Satisfied, Jim said goodbye. I called Kurt to show him the bird that had made my birding life miserable for so long. When my son arrived, I was about to point the sandpiper to him but it was no longer there. Was I just hallucinating? Without Jim to confirm the sightings, did I really see the Solitary Sandpiper?
Thank heavens for the miracle, I managed to get some photographs despite my trembling hands.
A Clash of Wills
16 hours ago