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Somehow the desire to go out and bird still lies dormant within me. The thought of driving in the pre-dawn hours, of walking on rain-drenched trails, of carrying on my shoulder several pounds of photographic gear, didn't seem quite appealing anymore. I must be getting old.
To while away the time usually spent on stalking some birds, I reviewed some photographs I took more than a year ago. One of them caught my attention. It was of a Spotted Sandpiper taken at the Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park in San Dimas, California. Looking at the scene sort of reminded me of the exodus when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. Moses spread out his hands and the waters of the sea parted to allow his people who were being chased by the Egyptian army to get to the other side.
My photo shows the sandpiper walking hurriedly while the waters appeared to be held back. In reality the bird was on the shore while the tide was ebbing away.
Saturday is trash day in our subdivision. It was the day the garbage collectors pick up the organic (non-recyclable) rubbish that we put outside our houses. For me and my wife this Saturday was trash day seen in a different perspective. It was one of those days when we wished we just stayed home languishing in the comfort of our airconditioned room. Because this particular Saturday we were at the La Mesa Ecopark drenched in unending sweat hoping to photograph the local celebrities named Mr. and Mrs. Spotty. Or maybe even any member of the Hoodie family. Alas after three long hours in the extremely humid mini forest not a single one of our target bird showed up. Not even one. This despite the diligent efforts of resident birder and super guide, Anthony.
Only because of Cynthia's meanderings that she was able to locate the "trash bird" of the park aka Ashy Thrush. At last we were able to get some documentary photographs of a bird. Just documentary shots, mind you. At least those photos somehow helped alleviate our frustrations that morning.
Another redeeming factor, aside from the Ashy Thrush, was that we were fortunate to make new friends. Arman and Sree from Singapore and Pan from China, we hope to see you again.
At half past nine we just couldn't take it anymore. We both agreed to call it a day.
P.S. We learned the following day that both Arman and Sree, who flew in from Singapore for the sole purpose of photographing the Spotted Wood Kingfisher, finally succeded in their mission at 4:40 that Saturday afternoon after enduring a heavy downpour.
I got a text message from my friend, Bong, asking me if I wanted to join him at La Mesa Ecopark Thursday morning. I consulted my wife and she readily gave me the go signal. I texted Bong back and told him I would be there.
In times past I would have been eagerly looking forward to such an outing with my birding buddies yet somehow, after my text message was sent, I did not feel the fire of enthusiasm at all. Perhaps it was due to the sad memories of my past three visits to the Ecopark that were pure disappointments (please see previous blogs). Then there were the thoughts that since we were expecting the handyman to arrive that Thursday to do some work in our house, I really did not want to leave Cynthia to deal with him by herself. She wouldn't be alone, though, inasmuch as we just got a house help recently. But still....
To make matters worse, it rained heavily that night causing some flooding on our basement. We had to stay up until 11 pm bailing out the waters that seeped in through the walls (one of the items that the handyman would be fixing the following day). We went to bed exhausted from all that work and went to sleep much later than our usual 9 pm bedtime.
Thursday morning, I woke up a little after 4 am. A few minutes later, my wife opened her eyes and saw me staring blankly in the darkness of our room. "Are you going to Ecopark?" she asked. I sighed deeply. "I have to go," was my determined reply.
I arrived at the Ecopark earlier than my appointed time with Bong. My meanderings only gave a quick glimpse of the Hooded Pitta. Soon Bong along with the park's bird expert, Anthony, came. We staked out the place where the male Spotted Wood Kingfisher usually hangs out. We were then joined by another bird photographer, and my Facebook friend, Ed. It didn't take long after that when Anthony called us and pointed to the kingfisher. But it flew away even before we could point our cameras at it. Anthony's keen eyes and perseverance finally paid off as we eventually got better views of the colorful male who was named "Spotty" by the local birders.
I told Anthony that I also wanted to get a photo of the male Hooded Pitta. He took me to where it is seen regularly but my bad luck still haunted me. When we returned to where Bong and Ed were still continuing their stake out and hoping for even better shots at the kingfisher, they told me that the Pitta showed up. They were not able to take photos because it came closer than the minimum focusing distance of their long lenses. I tried to hide the pain I felt at that moment with a mirthless smile. A few minutes later Anthony called me and told me he found the adult Pitta. I quickly followed him. He stopped by the trail and pointed at my target bird calling from a branch. "We can get closer," Anthony assured me. I left my tripod behind so that I can better negotiate through the vines and branches that would block our path. Finally, my hoped for Pitta shot had been fulfilled.
Once again I rejoined Bong and Ed. We passed the time resting and enduring the suffocating humidity. Our untiring "guide" came and announced that he saw the immature Pitta not that far from the trail. Then followed the most rewarding photo session bird photographers had always been dreaming of. The subject just sat there and posed for us even as we changed positions, tried various angles, and experimented on various settings.
A little after 10:30 I got a text message from my wife asking me to buy some material needed to help solve the flooding on our basement. I bade farewell to my friends and despite the sultry weather jauntily walked back to my car.
On my fourth try, I am now comforted and filled with joy.