Monday, August 22, 2005

Numenius is Good News

Much has been posted about the proliferation of peeps including some rarities at the Los Angeles River. So we decided to go after lunch. (Early morning has been committed for some non-birding activity). We got there around 1:30 pm and sure enough there were a lot of birds at the river feeding among discarded tires, grocery carts, even a baby stroller. However, the riverbanks were steep concrete, some 30 feet high, and even with binoculars, the birds appeared small. The larger birds were, of course, easily identifiable. But the birds that caused a ruckus among the local birding community are too tiny to be distinguished from the commoner species. Surprisingly, there were no other birders around to help sort out the unidentifiable peeps.

We decided to leave after an hour or so and because I felt the place posed a danger to Cynthia. She had this habit of  "disappearing". One moment she is beside you, and next moment she is gone, only to find out that she is on all fours. At first I thought it was just her gesture of worshipping the very  ground I walked on, but then  I realized that she had this tendency to slip or stumble over the most minute objects. Lest I find her rolling down the cement walls into the muddy river, I decided it would be a lot safer for her to move on to San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine – a favorite birding place for us.

It was hot at 3 pm in SJWS but there were still birds to photograph (at least the sandpipers were close enough here than in the L.A. river). We were walking along the trails when I spotted a raptor-like bird flying towards us. Having a very limited success in flight photography, I mentally crossed my fingers and shot at the approaching bird. The bird turned out to be an Osprey (a bird-of-prey that hunts fish). Not long afterwards another raptor appeared in the sky. This time it was a White-tailed Kite but it was too high for any photographic attempt. We decided to close the day at Bolsa Chica where I have a feeling that there would even be lots of birds.

We arrived Bolsa Chica just in time for the “golden hour” as our friend, Dan Trinidad, calls that time of day. It is actually the hour before sunset and usually presents very good light to take pictures. There were already a bunch of photographers at the boardwalk armed with monster 500mm lenses while others have teeny-weeny pocket digitals. Most were shooting the Snowy Egret that was foraging close by, while some were practicing taking flight shots of the numerous terns zooming overhead. Cynthia suggested that I concentrate on the Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus) at the other side of the boardwalk. This shorebird is aptly named because its long curved bill which is as long as its body.

The picture of this bird is one that I am unabashedly proud of - not because of the technical precision of the photograph but because the image invoked a sense of aesthetic contentment in my soul. The setting sun seemed to ignite the plumage of the curlew as it did its crepuscular ballet.  And phoenix-like it lifted my spirit from the ashes of disappointment. The broken heart caused by a twitched but unseen Red-faced Warbler in San Diego had been mended.

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