Monday, October 22, 2018

Dipped and Gripped, A New Hope

The Common Ringed Plover liked to associate with this group of Snowy Plovers during its stay at Abbotts Lagoon, but not while I was there. This flock is acclimated to people but a beach person (as opposed to a bird person with a camera) still managed to walk right through them and put them in the air.

By now many of you have heard about the Common Ringed Plover at Abbotts Lagoon in Marin County, or have seen it for yourselves. This is a MEGUH bird and only the 2nd ever properly identified and documented in California. I was out of state when California's first was found, so this would not only be a savory state bird, it would be a lifer. When the so-so photos first came out of the bird as a candidate Common Ringed Plover I thought it was fully legit (The Global Birder Ranking System's #7 U.S. birder is usually right about these things), but not living anywhere nearby had to pray someone would be wise enough to follow up on it and be able to confirm if it was refound - which is exactly what happened. Loads of birders then saw it Thursday and Friday and I resolved to make the pilgrimage to Abbotts on Saturday...but by Friday night I was feeling QUITE shitty due to a cold and wondered if I could even make it out of the house.

Long story short, I felt well enough for the chase on Saturday and chase I did. I managed to feel something approximating normal until noon. However, on this day, unlike the previous AND following days, it went missing for most of the day. By 1PM I was really going down the tubes and couldn't maintain the vigil for much longer. Of course, after I left (and got cell phone reception again) is when I found out it was seen right around sunrise that morning....and oh big surprise it ended up being seen later that day as well. I finished the day feeling physically like ass, and emotionally like ass as well. Though some other heartwarming birds (Red Knot, Pectoral Sandpipers, Burrowing Owl, Red-throated Pipit) did their best to blunt the piercing impact of the missed plover, it was nonetheless a resounding birding defeat, my worst of the year.

My heart was filled with hate.

My body had betrayed me, but other factors were in reason to go into that now though. In the end, it doesn't matter. A bunch of woulda coulda shouldas do not a life bird make...they make for an ugly, shameful DIP.

This one cuts deep. Myopathy of the soul has set in, not to mention a weird rash. Spirit? Broken. Talk about getting gripped off. I love seeing life birds. I love seeing Old World birds in the New World, especially here in my home state. This dip ranks right up there with Citrine Wagtail (who knows when there will be another, if ever) and Greater Sand-Plover (ugh what a bird to dip on - still only one record on the continent). Another life bird down the tubes.

In times like this, it is best to reminisce on the Ross's Gull. That was a fucking bird.

But I need not just pathetically cling to the dearly departed Ross's Gull. In these dark times, that is not my only source of light...of hope.


There is another.

I may very well finish 2018 with all of one (!) life bird for the year for the first time ever, (that would be Swainson's Warbler), but I am going to start 2019 by getting the hell out of here and going to Belize! I love birding the Neotropics, and I think almost everyone who has had the pleasure feels the same way. Once immersed, no matter the country, you are drawn back to it. This will be my first time going to the country, and from what I gather, the birds of Belize can vaguely be generalized as a mix of Yucatan Peninsula and what I have previously experienced on Atlantic slope of Costa Rica. This won't be guiding for Max Rebo Birding Tours (though maybe Max could be convinced to run a Belize trip afterward), but my first international trip with both Billy and Annabelle. Anything can happen! Disaster could strike! But no matter what there will be birding.

The list of raptors one can find in Belize is long and mouth-watering. There is a good chance I will get to reconnect with White Hawks, which I've only seen a couple times before in Costa Rica. This cooperative juvenile was at Virgen del Socorro, a great spot for raptors itself.

Why Belize? Belize is the size of New Jersey - it's a small country, and getting around to different birding hotspots is alleged to not be very time consuming; long days on the road are easy to avoid. There are lodges galore, and as Billy likes to say (she has been there already), it is just set up for a birding trip. Three of the four places we will be staying are known for the quality of birding on or within walking distance of the property. I have even scheduled a transfer for our first destination, which is a lifer experience (TREATYOSELF); I've always just rented a car for the entirety of dedicated birding trips before. Kind of stoked that we will just be immediately whisked away to life birds (we will pick up a rental a few days later) after we land. Also, since Annie is coming with us we aren't exactly planning on being immersed in the jungle every day, so having amenities available (like the English language!) to help keep her happy (and thus all of us) will be croosh.

It goes without saying that there are a number of extremely desirable birds that one can find in Belize, and since there are dozens of species I still haven't seen (including many of the "Yucatan specialties") that make their bird homes there, that leaves me with a lot of juicy target birds of many flavors. There are wetland flavors (Pinnated Bittern, Ruddy Crake, American Pygmy Kingfisher), taloned flavors (Black-collared Hawk, Bicolored Hawk, Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Orange-breasted Falcon), bland flavors (Plain-breasted Ground-Dove, Yucatan Flycatcher, Northern Schiffornis), cataclysmic birdgasm flavors (Jabiru, Agami Heron, Ocellated Turkey, Tody Motmot), etc. You get the idea.

I almost forgot...for all of you wringing your hands and grinding your teeth in suspense...YES! THERE WILL BE GERI BIRDING!!!! Can't wait. Belize is not filthy rich in tanager diversity, but it is home to the crippling Crimson-collared Tanager, and we should run into them. This unabashed banana lover was photographed at Sarapiqui Eco-Resort in Costa Rica, a Geri Birding mecca, though I think it is now called Dave and Dave's Nature Park or something like that.

So there you have it. The plover cuts deep, but with some luck in a few months I'll be bagging a bunch of lifers without this even being a fully committed all-hands-on-deck birding trip. Should be pretty sick. Wounds heal with time...and a steady diet of lifers.


  1. I feel your MEGUH pain...

    Belize. Feel my envy. I could sure use a tropical birding pick-me-up. Lucky you!

    1. Is this pain related to a redshank by any chance?

      Envy felt and acknowledged.