Wednesday, October 08, 2008

0 to 80 in 8 hours

Like the Pavlovian dog, mention "Solitary Sandpiper" and I salivate. Ears pricked, tongue hanging, I await for the directions where that bird was last seen. Upon obtaining that information I scamper over to that particular place to eagerly search for my potential lifer.

So when someone posted seeing a Solitary Sandpiper at Pond D at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine, I was there bright and early the following day. Soon I was joined by my birding buddy, Tom Starcic (he was the one who told me about the sighting) and then a bit later on by two more birders - all of us looking for the elusive shorebird. Three-and-a-half hours later, the uncommon sandpiper was still a no-show. By noon we all gave up. My only consolation that morning was getting a picture of the reclusive Virginia Rail as it made its rare appearance around 10 am, venturing out in the open for a few fleeting moments.

Tom and I had a quick bite at the local McDonalds and decided to take a shot at the Bald Eagle recently sighted at Peter's Canyon Regional Park not too far from where we were. There we met Tim Rhoades, another birder/photographer. All three of us stood on a hill overlooking the dam enduring the blistering noonday sun while watching numerous Turkey Vultures and Ospreys flying overhead and waiting for the majestic raptor to honor us with its presence. After an hour-and-a-half, the eagle still hasn't made its much awaited appearance. 

Due to commitments to pick-up our respective wives, Tom and I reluctantly left Tim behind and bade him the best of luck.

After I picked up Cynthia from her work, we passed by Von's Grocery in South Pasadena for some needed household supplies. My wife lent me a sympathetic ear as I related to her how Tom and I zeroed out on our target birds. Just as we were getting to our Jeep, we heard some raucous calls overhead. Looking up, we saw a flock of parakeets fly by and headed towards nearby Garfield Park. We jumped into our vehicle and tried to follow the green-colored birds. A few blocks later, we saw them land on the trees at the parking lot behind the Rite-aid Drugstore. I parked immediately, grabbed my camera and binoculars and ran towards the trees hosting the parakeet flock. Through my binos, I identified the birds as Mitred Parakeets. Although we have seen parakeets fly overhead here in South Pasadena on several ocassions, this is the first time that I have positively identified them and was even able to take some good pictures of these exotic birds. Which would now officially make them my 80th lifer of the year.

Who knew that in a span of eight hours, my luck would change from 0 sightings from a place 50 miles away, to getting a lifer just a few blocks from where I live.

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