Wednesday, January 06, 2010

New year's eye

Occasional drizzles punctuated the grey skies over Benicia - a city lying by the inland bay in Northern California. It was New Year's Day and my wife and I together with our hosts, Glenn and Haydee Ilan were out birding in this inclement weather. Neither Haydee nor Glenn are birders and they wanted to experience the awareness of feathered creatures that occupy their little corner of the world. (Although in the back of their minds they're probably thinking that birders are a bit "cuckoo" to go out in this near-freezing temperatures just to look at birds.).

The highlight of our foray along the shores and marshes of Benicia was when we were at the fishing pier at the end of First Street. It was there that we saw another couple who obviously were birders, too (the spotting scope and binoculars were a dead giveaway). Glad that we were not the only nuts to brave the cold, we introduced ourselves. Call it coincidence or whatever, but their last name was also Kaufman! Spelled the exact same way as mine! John and Murthia are from nearby Vallejo and like us, believed that the best way to start the year would be to be out birding. A couple after my own heart, I must say.

While they were scanning the west side of the pier, Cynthia and I looked at the gray expanse on the east side. There I noticed a duck that I'm certain was neither a Scaup nor a Bufflehead which were what we have seen so far.  It was a bit far and the light wasn't that good that I couldn't make a positive identification even with the use of my binoculars. I called the Kaufman's and explained my dilemma.

"I think it is a Common Goldeneye, but I'm not sure.", I told John.

Using his scope he finally got the bird in question in view (the bird was always diving for fish) and confirmed my suspicion. It was indeed a female Common Goldeneye. While they were enjoying the sight of the female, I sauntered over to the west side and this time, a male Goldeneye appeared. Yelling and waving once again at the Kaufmans, I told them of my latest finding. They hurried over and once fixed their scope on the male Goldeneye. As I continued to scan the waters, I noticed a raft of ducks about 200 feet away. My jaw dropped as I realized I was staring at a whole bunch of Goldeneyes! We counted 16 of them. This is the most number of these birds that I have seen in one outing. John and Murthia agreed that what we saw bordered on the unusual.

After the initial excitement and without the adrenalin pumping, we now became more aware of the biting cold breezes that chilled us to the bone. We bade our namesakes goodbye and hurried back to where the warmth of a cozy home awaited us.

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