Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Lifer Shorebird!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009
My life bird: a Terek sandpiper.

I had grandiose plans to make this new shorebird's identity a mystery—to make y'all guess about what species it was. I had still images and a short video clip. I had a clever, April-Foolsy write up baking in my tiny mind. Then the problems started....

First of all, I've been under the thumb of a debilitating virus/cold/disease and it's a difficult thing even to think straight. Mind you, I'm not asking for pity. I'm just completely unused to being this mentally and physically out of commission.

Secondly my computer is as full as a June wood tick on a fat puppy. So the programs I normally rely upon to help me post video to my blog (QuickTime, Final Cut) are not cooperating. I think it's a disk-space thing....but who knows. And I can't make the new (frustrating) YouTube work, either....

So this post will be decidedly straight forward.

Here's the rub. The new bird was a really cool, medium-sized shorebird with an upturned bill, called a Terek sandpiper. One of the very first articles I worked on as a cub-assistant-editor the first week I joined the staff of Bird Watcher's Digest, in 1988 (!), was about the discovery of a Terek sandpiper in California, and the mad birding dash that ensued. That bird was North America's first record for the species.

Terek is the name of a river in Russia, and I believe that's where the sandpiper gets its name: it breeds from Finland through Siberia.

So I had a longtime desire to see this bird. Now here I was at a huge expanse of shorebird habitat in Asia, looking for my lifer Terek sandpiper. During our orientation, the local guide showed us a poster with common shorebirds of the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary. Prominent among the birds shown was the Terek sandpiper. I asked the obvious question: "Are there Terek sandpipers here now?"

The answer came: "Oh yes, we should see them!"
When I replied "Ossum like a possum!" no one understood what I meant.
My friend Steve Rooke, one of the many Brits on this birding trip, said by way of explaining: "Don't mind him. He's American!"
Like that cleared things up....

Mr. Clever, Steve Rooke, scans for a rarity among the shorebirds at Olango.

As mentioned in yesterday's post, I spotted the Terek sandpiper up close to our observation blind, and I drank the view in. Everyone got good looks at it, but those in our party who had Asian birding experience (nearly everyone but me) were more interested in spotting rarer birds among the clouds of waders in the distance.

I focused on the Terek and took some photos and video. In the video you can hear my fellow birders picking through the other distant shorebirds. Then you hear me announce the Terek sandpiper—in semi-dorky fashion. If I could figure out how to edit the sound on videos in iMovie, I'd de-dorkify the clip. Alas, you gets what's there, sans edits.

It's great when you spot your own lifers, especially when it's a bird you've wondered about seeing for a long time. Twenty one years after I first read about the "Terek sand" I finally got to see one!


On April 1, 2009 at 9:17 PM Kathiesbirds said...

So sorry you have been so sick! So awesome that you got a lifer! How long did it take before it went from "wow" to, "Oh, that's just another Terek sandpiper!" Me, I'm still tryjng to learn all the ones we have in the USA! Still, seeing a new bird for the first time is always so thrilling. Though, there are many "common" birds here that I never get tired of seeing.

On April 2, 2009 at 1:14 AM said...

Hi Bill,

Adri from here. Just found out about your blog, was looking for it at Birdwatcher's Digest but can't seem to find it there.
Great blog by the way. Interesting and very informative.
Its a pleasure birding with you guys and hope you come back soon!
Good luck birding and get well soon!