Wednesday, 7 December 2016

PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER

video

PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER
Copyright(C) Shawn Fitzpatrick
When you live in, Newfoundland & Labrador, there's no need to wonder if this bird is out of it's normal range with a name like, "PACIFIC...."!!!
I spent much of the past week trying to get a photo of a very skittish, White-winged Dove, in, Renews. After getting the photos I was after, I thought, I am going to take a rest for a day or two and consider some of the other details that have been pushed to a back burner for a while, like putting away the patio furniture! But, it was not to be. No sooner had I gotten home and read a post in a local birding forum about a, Pacific Golden Plover, discovered on the other side of the Irish Loop, in Point La Haye, NL, near the Lighthouse!

Point La Haye was a small town charted by Captain James Cook in 1770. It had 12 families.
Well, I decided I had to hit the road again!  So, early the next morning, I lit out for the northern portion of the "Loop" and heading down the Trans Canada Hwy, to the Hwy. 90 exit, and followed that long and winding road for about an hour and a half until I reached my destination.
The first thing I noticed was a truck parked nearby the Lighthouse, and a long lens protruding out the drivers side window. "Great", a birder has located the bird already! But, alas, it was not to be. He and his wife had been there and scanned the vicinity for a little while already, but had made no discovery of the Pacific Golden Plover. I thought, "dang, it's gone"! "And why wouldn't it be?”. After all, as I rolled down the window of the car, and scanned the ocean-side barrens, my fingers close to being flash-frozen, and likely the ill-fate of the wayward plover! I made up my mind that I was going to give a thorough search before heading home though, cold or not. So, I re-read the postings from the previous day, trying to decipher veiled-worded clues. One birder wrote, “bird is now about 20 feet toward the Lighthouse from the arrow".
I reflected on my youth, to my Hardy Boys, book series...thinking something like..."The Mystery of the Veiled Arrow"! I looked all around and could not see any arrow. But, I know that sometimes birders will scraped an arrow on the road or tie a piece of fluorescent flagging tape to a twig. But, I could not see any such arrow. Oh well, I left it at that. The other Birders that I met earlier had now given up and left for less fruitful sightings along other points of the Irish Loop. I parked at a picnic area; one of those with a Gazebo covering. 
The beach stretched for a LONG way across from the lighthouse to the town. The wind was high, and it was bitter! As I was gearing up to take a walk out there I noticed another car approaching. And I recognized the driver. Another birder. Always a welcome sight when birding, because more eyes the better! And this guy was a good birder. Some people have good experience and thus have a sense of the bird’s behaviors in a given habitat. Such is the case with, Ed!
After a bit of small chat we got out of our vehicles and geared up into warm clothes. It was so cold, and I hadn't packed snow pants! But, I did pack my large Snow-goose Down-filled Arctic winter coat. I put it on OVER my, Columbia winter Parka. Normally, it alone would have sufficed, but today out in the open wind-chill of -14 degrees Celsius, and no snow pants, it was going to be necessary! I picked up my tripod and D3S with attached 400mm prime. No tele-converter this time; I had been having a few glitches with it attached lately, and was not about to take any chances in this case.
Off we went, like a couple of bundled arctic explorers. I thought of Scott on his Arctic exploration mission, and shuddered. "Easy to see how people freeze to death", then I remembered the Sealers Memorial I visited earlier in the spring in, Bonavista, NL. Tears rolled down my cheeks that day, when I saw the statue of the father hugging his son close to his body, as they clung together and died. Death on the Ice! I thought, “headlines would read.... Two Birders Found Perished on Sandbar in, Point La Haye, Newfoundland".
Suddenly, a bird flushed in front of us. Too small to be the Plover, but, a sign of hope that a bird could be out there,... and alive! We settled on it being most likely a, Savannah Sparrow. That name in and of itself seems just so wrong, out here in the midst of the frigid North Atlantic Ocean; “Savannah”, isn't that like a desert? Onward we trudged. By now we had spread apart by about fifty feet, and were left to our own thoughts, after small talk about how it was not likely to be here anymore, had waned. Still, a little further along the beach, there it was, no not the bird, the ARROW!! It was about ten feet in length and was obviously scribed into the sand by foot. So, at least we now knew where the bird once was!
About half way across the long rocky / sandy beach we came across a large flock of Snow Buntings. They are a beautiful sight. Once they're airborne, they go from highly visible to completely invisible in split seconds, as the turn and weave in the air, in unison. A little further along, a lonely sneaker, snuggled up against a piece of well-weathered beach wood. Whom did this shoe belong to? Is this person still alive? You never know, when it's along the shore of an ocean. I took a quick snap of the departed footwear and continued on. Once we came to the point of the beach near the far end, wear the sparse grassy areas gave way to more sand than vegetation, we turned back. And repeated the same pattern of spread. By now, the skin on the front of my legs was hyper sensitive as it brushed against the inside of my pants. Miniature goose-bump, mountains, scraping the denim jeans material, like an ice-age attempting to wear down the sharp peaks. I was comforted by the fact that I was headed back to the car at least. My thoughts turned downward as the end of the trek came closer. Oh well, that's how it goes sometimes. You can't win them all.
I put the camera in the car along with the tripod. And, now another car approved the beach parking lot; two more birders. We engaged in a bit of chit-chat about how the bird had apparently moved on, when one of the people that just arrived, said, "What's that bird?". "What bird? Where? I said! Right there on the ground about ten twenty feet from my car, was the, Pacific Golden Plover!!! YES, there is a bird god! LOL. I opened the door to my car and quickly set up the tripod and mounted the Baby Hubble atop. I fired, and had secured a record. I did not care now if it flew or not. I knew I could only improve upon that photo if it stayed, but if it decided to leave, I at least had made the trip worthwhile now! We watched the bird for a bit, while I flipped to video mode to make a little live clip after having a few photos. I have some experience these days with reading the actions of plovers and how they start bucking their heads, and crouching slightly forward just before lifting off. So, I reached to re-align the framing of the scene of the video clip, and just like that it lifted up and off, we watched it fly over the barrens, heading undoubtedly for a patch of Newfoundland tasty, partridgeberries! It was still a long way to go to get back home as I was continuing onward along the Irish Loop and stopping at points along the way to look for there birds. It was dark in the morning when I left after eating only a breakfast sandwich and a cup of coffee. It was dark when I finally arrived back home in, St. John's, absolutely famished!

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