1969 was quite the year for me. Graduated from college, got married, moved to Baltimore to teach school for a year, somehow got out of the draft despite having lottery number 10, and loved The Rolling Stones. One of their albums of the year featured one of my favorite songs, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. No you can’t…but as the song also advised, “if you try sometime, you find you get what you need.”
I almost entitled this “Hits and Misses” or actually in this case, “Misses and Hits”. In some of my earlier posts I have written of looking for targeted birds, missing them but then finding something terrific as a consolation. That is a pretty good kind of “miss” or “dip” as we generally admit. And especially if you try a lot, you are going to have some flat out misses – bird not there, or gone 5 minutes before you arrived or it’s your nemesis and you should not have even tried. You just can’t always get what you want…
But aha!! There is always tomorrow or even the next day and “if you try sometime. you find you get what you need.” As in, why sure we missed the Baird’s Sandpiper found by Spencer Hilde at Carkeek Park when we arrived too late on July 7th, BUT when I went back yesterday on the 9th – early in the morning, I was alone and there it was – a definite Hit. With long wings, black legs and definitely larger than the Least Sandpipers also present, one of which was there on our earlier visit and, which “WANTING” badly, we ignored all of the field marks and convinced ourselves was the Baird’s – until it kept getting smaller and smaller (despite getting closer and closer) and the legs got yellower and yellower and the wings shorter and shorter.
Least Sandpiper – Clearly NOT a Baird’s
Baird’s Sandpiper – Clearly NOT a Least
Baird’s Sandpiper – Now Those Are LONG Wings
When you can’t always get what you want, sometimes you just make it into that something anyhow. Not a good idea and another reason I take so many photos – out of the excitement in the field, a lot of field marks magically appear in the photo and either prove or disprove the find.
We had great looks at the peep in the creek outflow on the 7th – but we saw what we wanted and not what was there. It has happened before and will happen again. Sometimes the “want” is just that great. I will leave out the name, but I recall being in Neah Bay during the Hobby frenzy out along the Wa’atch Valley where the bird had been seen frequently. A problem was that there were also Peregrine Falcons in the area. Steve Pink and I tried to make each one into the Hobby but our filters were working well and there must have been truth serum in our coffee earlier. We stayed with Peregrine despite desperately wanting that Hobby. Rarity and distance traveled probably distort reality sensors and supercharge want overrides. As we watched yet another Peregrine zoom overhead, another birder just a few feet away was exclaiming that he now finally had the Hobby…but he was looking at the same bird we were and we had double and triple checked it -NOT the Hobby. Later that day we finally saw the real thing and had a pretty close flyby of the mega rarity – the Hobby moved from WANT to GOT.
Don’t know what happened to the other birder, He was not with us when we finally had our success. He reported it as an observation on Ebird. He probably found it elsewhere…probably. Reminds me of some reports of Chestnut Sided Warbler – a real nemesis bird for me. But that is a story for another time – hopefully when I finally actually see one in Washington.
Chestnut Sided Warbler – Unfortunately from Maine and NOT Washington
So my Baird’s story had a happy ending as I did “find what I need”. And it was even better, because as we arrived on the 7th, we saw Sarah Peden who was leaving. This was her turf so it was doubly unfair that the peeps she saw as she arrived earlier had been spooked by an Eagle flyby – not to be seen by her again that day – probably including Mr. Baird. But she too must like The Stones, because she returned the next day and found it – a LIFER!! Great for her and encouragement for me to try again on the 9th.
And similarly, George and Terry Pagos arrived on the 7th to join us in missing the Baird’s – a shared downer. They, too must be Stone’s fans (isn’t everyone!!?). I had an eagle experience on the 9th as well. I found the Baird’s in the outflow of the creek – easily observed and, as per the above, photographed. It was foraging with 4 Least Sandpipers and several Killdeer – just as reported the first day. Then three crows arrived and the birds moved to the pebbles on the south side of the creek, but still close and maybe in even better light. A couple of minutes later, a Red Tail Hawk and Bald Eagle appeared and off they all went – much further down the beach to the south across the stream. I did not have appropriate foot gear so I could not follow them. George and Terry arrived a few minutes later and I gave them the good news that it was “here” but the bad news that it had flown south although I was pretty sure was still nearby. I departed and I was happy to see later that they had refound the bird (or maybe it had refound them) and their Ebird report included another of George’s always fine photos.
So a happy story all around – those special chased birds are definitely best when shared – they belong to nobody and to all of us. Birding with The Rolling Stones in mind – pretty damn good stuff.