The marbled godwit was a bird high up on my ‘hopefuls’ list, and a bird that eluded me for some time! A friend saw them at the beach consistently hanging with american oystercatchers, but try as I might I just could not get so lucky. A reported red-necked phalarope got me to one of my usual birding haunts out at the hidden dune ponds at the beach. However it was a very unusual day. Being that I was on a mission trying for a previously reported bird I trekked out even though it was raining and pretty miserable out. Missing my target bird and getting annoyed by the herky-jerky umbrella movements from the forceful wind I figured I would not last too long in the elements. Suddenly, looking out into the dune ponds I saw a large bird, with a up-swept long bill. I knew this was a godwit, but there are two types of godwits that can be seen around here, the hudsonian godwit and the marbled godwit. I was aware the hudsonian type was the tougher of the two to spot. I sent some ‘back of camera’ pictures to some friends that are great at identifying birds and got the sighting out to the area bird list as well so I could share it with my fellow birding community. Just reporting it as a godwit of unknown origin. For a brief time there was speculation this could even be a super rarity such as a bar-tailed godwit or a black-tailed godwit. The fact that the bird was dripping wet sure wasn’t helping me figure out what I was looking at!
Super excited to see this bird and knowing birders would be coming to see it, I hung around attempting to keep an eye on the godwit to help people see it when they showed up. I was getting texts,and calls about it and in just a brief moment of taking my eyes away to look at my phone somehow this large bird was just…gone. People showed up, and dejected I had to inform them that the bird was not here. Smartly some of the birders started to check other possible sites in the area. My guess was the bird had simply walked closer to me and was now hidden by the tall vegetation. But I also had a inkling that a bird I saw flying south may have been it. One birder picked it up across that way, and the group of birders started rushing to the parking lot to get into their cars and head there. Then the phone rang, and that same birder said that it was now heading back towards us. Scouring the area I looked through my binoculars,lenses soaked from the rain, scanning the parking lot outside the dunes really for no reason, the birder next to me did the same. Being a birder much better then I, he picked up the godwit even though we were looking in the same place and I hadn’t noticed it. Drenched at this point, I gave up on the umbrella, and gave in to full soaked mode. The group of birders were all in the same spot and all got to see the bird. It was a great feeling to help out and assist birders getting their ‘year bird’, ‘life bird’ or ‘county bird’. To this day I do regret that my misdirection about the entrance to the parking lot cost a fellow birder and friend a good look at the bird. It didn’t help that a random car drove past the godwit and it flew just as my friend arrived. When the bird flew it did reveal some further I’D points to confirm this bird was indeed a hudsonian godwit. More bummed that I had messed up my friends shot at seeing the bird then I was excited about seeing a lifer, somewhat dejected and soaking wet I apologized profusely only to be met with a super nice attitude that I appreciated so much. I felt a little bit better when a few weeks later a few hudsonians were showing consistently not too far away and my friend got to see them well! “All’s well that ends well”…. I guess…I felt real bad about it. I still feel bad about it.
Fast forward a year and a birder reported a marbled godwit at a place I’d never been. A place where you can’t park hahaha. So I had to walk about a mile or two each way in the hot august sun, but good as gold the marbled godwit was just where it was said to be and gave some really nice looks! Moments like this really confirm how great it is to be a birder. The excitement to see this new species was really a bit overwhelming and it’s hard to stay still enough to get a photo! I also saw a pod of dolphins close to shore as well!
Thankfully, unlike Jerry Seinfeld I didn’t have to do anything to unethical to secure a marbled rye..I mean marbled godwit!
I got a bit of a laugh when a family of five walked next to and continually flushed the marbled godwit without noticing this rare bird that I had searched for years to see. They never did notice the godwit and it gave up trying to feed and flew back right over to where I was. Even if your not a birder how do you not notice a bird with a beak as exceptional as this!!
In the next week or so, while out looking for Western Sandpipers, I had marbled godwits on back to back days…funny how that can happen!! it always takes the pressure off to see the species, and then they seem to come around a little easier after that.
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