Malia called me at 7:15am this morning to say that the plover had stayed the night and was present in about the same area as yesterday. My newly-hatched plan was to have breakfast with Sonia and my host from last night, Tim, and then sprint the 51 miles from breakfast north back to HMB to look for the plover. I left hit the road at 9:45am today. I covered the 51 miles to HMBin 2 hours and 57 minutes. I was pushing very hard to beat the afternoon crowds that would take over the beach should the morning fog clear and the sun appear. This is exactly what happened as I was about 20 miles from HMB, and, as I feared, hundreds of people had descended on the beach before I arrived. Upon arrival, I called Malia to find out where she was. She sadly informed me that the Pacific golden-plover, along with the ~2 dozen Black-bellied plovers with which it was associating, had vanished and could not be relocated.
Tim and me at the diner
62 miles today
UGH - what an incredibly painful piece of news. It was a very intense ride in the complete wrong direction. I probably should have kept going south instead as one of these would likely pop up somewhere along my route anyway. This is a bird I really wanted, and I might have let me personal feelings to tick it force me into taking such a big risk. As I am staying with Chris and Malia in HMB tonight, I will have another crack at the bird on a person-less beach tomorrow morning before I retraced my steps south.
The beach was littered with people this afternoon. There was no place the group of plovers could find peace and quiet - except perhaps for the jetties in the harbor 3-4 miles down the beach. High tide was at 2pm today. I decided that I would relax util around 3:30 and then head out to check the jetties on a falling tide. I had seen loads of shorebirds in one particular elbow of the jetty a few days ago when I birded it after finding the pipit. I arrived today and found a nice mix of the same birds I had a few days ago. I scanned all around with no sign of the golden-plover. There were some Black-bellies, but I have no idea if these were the same birds that were associating with the golden-plover down the beach (Black-bellied plovers are very common along the coast). I decided to relax, take a few pictures, and take another stab at the golden-plover on the beach tomorrow morning once the weekend hoards had departed. As I was about to close-up shop, I took another scan down the exposed beach adjacent to the jetty that the falling tide had exposed. What the hell is that? A buffy head could be discerned from about 100 yards. Could that be the bird? I saw a fisherman climbing off the jetty right near the interesting bird. I started sprinting down the rocky beach toward to bird in hopes I could get a better look at it before the guy flushed it. I ran to within 50 yards of the bird and confirmed theat the bird was in fact the Pacific golden-plover! The fisherman flushed the bird 2 seconds later, and it flew right past me and back towards the harbor. Number 563 was found in the most amazing manner. I had guessed exactly right where the bird had gone after it had been flushed off the main beach 4 miles away 4 hours earlier!
Beach exposed along jetty as tide fell this afternoon
Uncropped frame showing Pacific golden-plover down jetty beach.
Its the smaller bird behind the central Whimbrel.
Crop from above showing plover a bit closer
BAM! No black under the wings!
Black-bellied plover showing black axilleries (i.e. armpits)
for comparison with above
There were quite a few other people hanging around the area, but over the course of the next hour I was very slowly able to approach this bird between regular disruptions from other people and dogs. I entered in "Bird Whisperer" mode and stalked/skulked/crawled my way to within a very short distance of this bird on several occasions. How close did I get? This close........
.....and bit closer still......
......don't move too fast......
.....hold your breath......
......he's right in front of you!
Yes, sure, I may have found this species further south without this big detour, but there is NO WAY I could have seen this bird better than I did today. I would have probably seen it 1/2 a mile out in a plowed field or sod farm. This was an incredibly satisfying find for me for several reasons. First, this is a bird I needed to find to keep the march towards 600 going. Second, I had looked for this bird in Washington and missed it; It was seen at that location the day before and the day after I looked for it. Third, I busted my ass to get here today. Yes, it was a big ride (and I must still do the return half of it tomorrow), but it was a defined ride. This defined devil is better than the undefined one I may (or may not even!) encounter later. Lastly, I think I showed some very good resourcefulness today to find this bird.
And with that, the Pacific golden-plover joins the list in remarkable fashion.
Tomorrow I will head back south through Santa Cruz to Salinas. From there its to south to Monterey!
Goodnight from Maverick's.
Best big wave surfing spot in North America
when its going (not today)