Sunday, April 28, 2024

My Rare Bird Jinx and the Roseate Spoonbill

Let's understand first how rare this bird actually is. In California north of Bakersfield, it's been seen just once, near Moss Landing way back in 1978. This year there has been in the entire American West a single bird found near Bakersfield. It's a Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja), a bird more familiar to the tropics and the Gulf of Mexico coastline. So there was a flurry of excitement when Jody Smith, a local birder, saw one at the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge here in Stanislaus County yesterday afternoon. Word spread quickly and perhaps a dozen birders got a look before sunset last night.
It was sunset before I saw the flurry of emails and online reports, so I was going to have to pin my hopes that it might hang around a little the next day. So I got up bright and early, arrived at the refuge at 6:45 AM, and of course...nothing. That's my kind of luck, my rare bird jinx. I scanned the area for some time, but then gave up. And besides, the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge is a special place for many reasons, so I spent the next hour recording nearly three dozen species. But in the end I returned to the spot where the bird had been sighted again, and....nothing.

I shifted strategy, and drove up the road to an adjacent floodplain where the Spoonbill could have gone. And nothing once again. I was being stubborn, so I decided to give it one last chance and go back to the original discovery sight, and found a couple of other birders hoping to catch a look. And...nothing.

I joked with the other birders that my jinx was such that the only way they could see the Spoonbill would be if I left, because, well, that's the way Murphy's Law works. I told them I would make the sacrifice for them and left.

But...I walked a bit slowly, and just as I was about to disappear from their sight they started yelling and waving their arms. The Spoonbill had arrived! And for once the jinx was broken, and I got to see a very rare bird. And it was pretty impressive even if the picture are a little grainy. It was pretty far away.

It's always a thrill to see a new and rare bird.

1 comment:

  1. Wow Garry! Truly a day to remember & possibly contemplate climate change!?