August 17, 2009

Wandering Tattler near Live Oak, Santa Cruz

I've been actively birding for almost 20 years, with most of that on the west coast. I've been fortunate to have observed almost all the shorebird species that frequent the Pacific coast. Yet one semi-common western shorebird eluded me.

For over 12 years, I've been searching for the Wandering Tattler.

I knew that although that the tattler is an elusive visitor to our coasts, one of the best places to find one is along the Oregon & Northern California coasts. Yet after years of looking for it in every rocky outcrop, I've been disappointed that I've never seen one in the North American region.

After all, I'd seen one before. Outside the North American region, in 1999 I was thrilled to encounter one feeding on the beach in Maui. Yet, despite that brief encounter, I've never seen one on the mainland coast.

If you are familiar with the rules of birders, you'll know that even though I'd seen a Wandering Tattler in Hawaii, that it didn't count for my personal North American life list. Alas.

Today, while on a walk with my friend in Santa Cruz, we saw a gray shorebird with head tucked which I marked off in my mind as "surfbird." After all, the bird had a solid gray back like a surfbird. But there were some things that were not quite right. Even with a head tucked, it had a clear, sharp white eyebrow. And there were other things about this bird that caught my eye: it had a very mottled breast - nothing like the clear white breasts I've seen on the turnstones or surfbirds that frequent those rocks. And, when it finally untucked its head, it showed a sharp, mid-length gray bill with a dark tlp - much thinner and longer than the bill of a turnstone. Definitely not a surfbird.

Yes! It was the long awaited, elusive Wandering Tattler: the bird I've been seeking on the Pacific coast since before that one I saw in Hawaii so many years ago.

That's what I call a good day. Here's a great picture of a Wandering Tattler.


photo courtesey of Dominic Sherony

Posted by Mary at August 17, 2009 12:00 AM | Birding | Technorati links |

Congratulations. So what's next?

Posted by: Cujo359 at August 17, 2009 12:24 AM

You are very persistent!

Posted by: Matt at August 17, 2009 06:03 AM

Congratulations. That's a lovely bird - hope to see one myself some day.

Posted by: Flo at August 17, 2009 12:46 PM