Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Lucid Moment

The setting was Pond 1 W at Hornsby Bend, in Austin (Del Valle) TX. I was scanning the pond on the north side while real-world birding buddies, Shawn Ashbaugh and Scott Young, were scanning shorebirds from the SW corner (see link above). As has happened many times when birding in real life, Shawn started excitedly waving his arms to get my attention. Clearly they'd found something good. Just about anything would have been more interesting than the Pectoral Sandpipers (Calidris melanotos), Least Sandpipers (Calidris minutilla) and Solitary Sandpiper (Tringes solitaria) I'd been perusing. [All three species are beautiful and amazing, as all birds are, it's just that they are common as dirt at Hornsby Bend. With amazing views of thousands of all three, I welcome every opportunity to study a rarity.]

Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) - Background
Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) - Foreground
Image online here

Solitary Sandpiper (Tringes solitaria)
Image online here

After snagging my scope/tripod and jogging toward Shawn/Scott, a very cool thing happened. A dark blur flew across my path, a dozen or so meters ahead. My intuition screamed "immature Peregrine Falcon!", but I couldn't rule out a Cooper's Hawk. As my eyes followed the raptor's glide into Pond 1 W, the bird morphed into a thin, rectangular piece of card board. It then flipped and wobbled back and forth a bit before landing in the muck. Weird, eh? That's what I thought too.  The phrase "that kind of stuff only happens in dreams" also went through my mind. Then a brief, intense, rush of excitement hit me - like intense anticipation. Sadly, this feeling passed as quickly as it came.  I became aware Shawn was beckoning me to hurry up (this too is common in real life). What just happened was I had teetered on the brink of becoming fully aware that I was dreaming - while I was dreaming! This falcon/accipiter incident marked the first "Lucid" moment I remember experiencing while dreambirding. Too bad I never did positively ID the raptor... sigh.

With true dreamspeed we soon joined Scott in the SW corner. In that few seconds journey Shawn told me they thouth they had found a Long-toed Stint (Calidris subminuta). Whoooa! Now that's a quality bird! From that revelatory moment up until I was looking at it, I wracked my brain's for field marks. Something about plumage bounced around (breeding plumage is a bit brighter, turns out). My mind honed in looking for a pronounced whitish eye-line and maybe even a split supercilium (a field mark of the Little Stint - Calidris minuta, turns out). After some inspection, sure enough, we all agreed it was indeed a Long-toed Stint. Huzzah!

Long-toed Stint (Calidris subminuta)
Image found online here

The quality birds, for Hornsby that is, didn't stop there. Near the L-t Stint, an immature Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) was busily feeding. Better yet, almost directly in front of us a few juvenile Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) were just toodling around - the way only phalaropes do. These guys were all in non-breeding plumage, which along with the other two shorebirds strongly suggests this dream was taking place in the late summer/early fall. Upon seeing these cute little buggers so close, I couldn't resist leaning down and attempting to get ahold of one - they were that close! And as simple as that, I did. It's hard to explaing how giddly excited I felt. Another bout of morphing saw this inland rarity turn into a Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) of similar coloring. Probably startled by the transformation I let go of the pigeon and it flew away. Truly one of my cooler dreams.

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)
Image Copyright - 2009 Karen Gallagher

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) - juvenile
Image found online here

1 comment:

yen said...

the leg up Ruddy Turnstone is great shot.


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