Friday I had to decide if I would do any birding at all. A needed rain storm was coming into the area. My decision was to give it a shot and ride between the rain drops. At Virgin Creek a high tide and a big surf event was occurring. I had a hard time finding any shorebirds on the beach but tracks in the sand showed that they had been there recently.
Just a hint here. Some of these tracks could be the Curlew Sandpiper’s. I don’t know if it was because of the weather or something else but the birding was slow. Have been checking known warbler migrant hot spots that I can get to along the coast and there has been nothing moving.
On the way back to my bus stop I started to get a little wet but it still wasn’t bad. I was able to get home without being soaked. Decided it would be a good time to clean out my gutters and was on the roof for awhile. A little later the phone rang. It was Jerry White. You might remember Jerry from the Northern Parula post. He was at Virgin Creek Beach and he was pretty sure that he had found a Curlew Sandpiper at the creek. My brain lit up like fireworks. In all the activity of the previous two days I had forgotten about the Curlew Sandpiper. I guess that proves one of two things. My short term memory is going or I’m not an “obsessive” birder. I would prefer the “obsessive” birder part of that sentence. I don’t know now long the pictures of the Curlew Sandpiper would have been on my computer before I had the time to process them. Jerry was looking for someone to get pictures of the bird. I told him I might already have them. It would have been too dark by the time I could have gotten to Virgin Creek to take any more. We compared notes on the sandpiper and I posted a notice on MendoBirds, a local bird site, that a Curlew Sandpiper was on Virgin Creek. Several other people that Jerry called were able to get down to Virgin Creek before dark to see it. The sandpiper was last seen on Saturday, the 21st.
Curlew Sandpipers are a California review bird. This means that the California Bird Records Committee (CBRC) made up of known top birders (we call them the birding gods) in California have to review pictures and descriptions of the birds before it’s accepted into the official California Records. This irritates some birders who don’t want to have their sightings questioned and the committee isn’t known for their speed in doing their reviews. I submitted my paperwork and pictures on Saturday (21st) and a short time later received an email from Joseph Morlan, President of Western Field Ornithologists (WFO), stating that he had posted my picture of the Curlew Sandpiper on their website. Unfortunately a better picture bumped mine. Bummer!! This is the type of rare bird that causes birders to travel many miles to see. Already there are reports of out of area birders seeing the sandpiper.
The Curlew Sandpiper has never been reported in Mendocino County. If this record holds up, it will be a big deal for me. It will be a life bird, a Mendocino first sighting record and a “green” bird year record.