I love my creature comforts, and yet on a recent
Monterey pelagic trip, there I stood, up forward, facing a
cold wind and a driving fine rain. Feeling seasick, cold and
wet...I was NOT happy. ...I swore I would never again set
foot on a boat. Almost immediately, a black blob appeared
150 yards from the boat and someone called, "Get that bird!"
...bobbing up and down before us was a Tufted Puffin. A
life bird and my 400th state bird! Suddenly, I was wildly
happy. I didn't want to be anywhere else in the world, right
at that moment. Try to explain that to a nonbirder and
you'll get a sideways look. [The Western Tanager. Los
Angeles Audubon Society]
IS THERE A DIAL TONE?
by Pat Marks
Everyone gets phone calls. Some are more memorable than
others. Pat Marks, naturalist at the Houston Arboretum &
Nature Center, says that the following "was the best phone
conversation I've had in my entire life," and has offered to
take a Ue detector test to document that she did not
exaggerate her account in the slightest.
Caller Hello, can you help me identify these birds I see in
Pat: I can try.
Caller Well, I live off of Memorial [Drive]... and these
birds come to my backyard every afternoon around four
o'clock. They fly in flocks of 25 to a dozen and they look
just like a duck except they don't have a duck's bill. They
are bright beige and have spots on their backs. I used my
binoculars to look at them and then I paged through the bird
book and they look exactly like a flicker, but my husband
said they aren't woodpeckers.
Pat, using the Socratic method: Do they feed on the
Caller: Yes, they're all over the ground.
Pat What color are their legs?
Caller Their legs are not long and we don't get our lawn
mowed until Friday!
Pat, gamely forging ahead anyway: WeQ, it sounds like they
could be Mourning Doves.
Caller No, they aren't doves because they aren't gray. They
are bright beige!
Pat Some of the doves in this area are beige with spots. Can
you see the way that they move? Doves move their head
forward and then the body follows.
Caller: I can't see them — it's not four o'clock, yet. But they
might move like that. Just look out your window at four.
Pat, continuing on just for the pure joy of it: What size are
Caller I don't know, I don't have any way to measure them.
Pat Compared to the size of a Blue Jay for instance
Caller Well, they are as big as a Blue Jay-if a Blue Jay
Pat Gosh, these birds sound very interesting. Please give
me a call when you find out what they are!
Caller Oh, I will. They really do look just like a duck.
BOLIVAR FLATS - NOVEMBER 18, 1992
by Gail Diane Luckner
A blustery day threatening rain, and a high tide, along with
a fine assortment of shorebirds, greeted 13 intrepid birders
at Bolivar Flats on thk Wednesday morning OG field trip.
A single, obliging Red Knot made an appearance
early in the trip and allowed leaders Gail Luckner and
Winnie Burkett to compare size, shape and bill with nearby
Black-bellied Plovers, Western Sandpipers, Dunlins and
Sanderlings. Several novice birders in the group had their
first looks at Marbled Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone and Long-
billed Curlew and were treated to the beauty and wonder of
over 3000 American Avocets. And Al Clarke got his target
bird for the day-American Oystercatcher.
While six tern species stood side-by-side, birders
tried to differentiate Common from Forster's and Caspian
from Royal. Hundreds of Black Skimmers lined up for
inspection, and a few of them exhibited their "skimming"
behavior at close range. After learning adult and immature
Brown Pelican plumages, Barbara Horvitz accepted the
challenge of counting numbers of each as she picked them
out from among the large flock of American White Pelicans.
Many of the birders also identified their first Black-
shouldered Kites when two of these stunning birds sailed
As we headed for the marsh, Burkett explained the
dynamics of the flats and how they are actually "man-made-
created" by sediment deposits channeled from the jetties. In
front of us, a female Merlin straffed the salt pans, scaring up
hundreds of Western Sandpipers and Dunlins, and Savannah
Sparrows popped up all around us.
In all, the OG birders identified 48 species, and the
several newcomers to the area put Bolivar Flats at the top of
their list for great places to see birds.