A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Our daughter teaches biology and related subjects at Chico State College. She is an avid birder and pre-warned us for our visit. Seemed that a bird not known for our side of the Pacific was spotted nearby. The bird was a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and normally at this time of the year they are in southeast Asia, like Vietnam. This fellow took a wrong turn evidently. Anyway she wondered if we were up for an expedition to seek out the bird. Sure. Twitching, or a twitcher, is a British term among birders for one "who frequently travels long distances on short notice to see rare birds". We were going to be twitchers for a day. She said we could be of great help as  "We could use the extra eyes on this one!" Right.

Up early
fill up with gas...in a hurry,

and make sure the windshield is clean for there will be extensive windshield ornithology along the way.

We arrive at the marshland wetland preserve and begin looking for a sandpiper

 that does not look like this,
nor this,
or this either...wait, this is a Killdeer.

After about 3 hours of fruitless searching along with a dozen or more other birders, we break for lunch. The mood is grim. Birders are a strange lot. After lunch it is decided to go back and give it another go for an hour or so. We return and there are birders all over looking for this one solitary bird and he's been spotted. The tension is high as if you are one number away from a bingo. The guy in the shorts to the right is the one who spotted the bird a week earlier. Here he is off down the road a few hundred yards informing some other birders where they can see it.
It is spotted once again, spotting scopes swing into action, and subdued jubilation is abundant with silent high fives all around. I look through a scope and yes, he is different from all the thousands of other sandpipers littering the marsh but no way would my wife nor I have picked him out of the crowd. Then he flew. I went to get my 400mm lens, the bird is spotted again, but this time 50 yards away, among tall grasses, down behind a low rise. Here he is
Can't see him? Here's a another shot.
Oh yeah, he's there, popping his head up every once in awhile. It's okay, I never saw him there either but one poor bloke had to settle for this as his only sighting of the rare Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.

We were back in Chico in the very late afternoon and I was twiched out. But a spot of tea brought me around and I was ready for another twitching expedition...next year.


  1. FUN!! I really enjoyed the story and the photos on this post. Certainly an adventure. Imagine the car ride home if "the" bird wasn't seen! Twitchers that miss such a sighting say that they "dipped on it" or just "dipped". I am glad that your crew did not dip. Rest up for the next one!

  2. P.S. I can't see a bird in the last two shots either!

  3. Well I think some of them have twitching in their head. I believe that is a cow pie you got a photo of, though I don't know how it got out in the marsh. I guess some people are easily entertained. ;^) I do hope you had a nice day with your daughter and I liked the photos that had real birds in them.

  4. That's some serious birding! I think that's the best shot I've seen of a Shell station!


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