Sunday, November 25, 2012

Citrine Wagtail

Audy and i woke up early Saturday morning and headed out on the first ferry to Nanaimo, ultimate destination Comox and the Citrine Wagtail, a far out of town vagrant from asia that has chosen a farmer's field and mud puddle as it's extended stop-over destination.

When i first heard of this sighting i wasn't that excited, thinking i already had this species in Thailand, turns out i don't.
Grey and Yellow wagtails yes and White even (seen but not photo'd) but no Citrine.
I've missed a few big birds this last while like last December when the Ross's Gull showed up just below the Okanagan in Washington state (lens was being fixed, for the first time) so really wanted a shot at this one.

Citrine Wagtail is a bird one might expect to find in Thailand in the winter but it's not a "common" bird, i don't think.
I have a Thai language field guide that gives it a 2 binocular symbol rating while Grey and Yellow rate 3.
The lower the number, the rarer, or something like that.

So, coffee programed to peculate the night before, we woke up at 4:30am, leaving just after 5am and arriving at Horseshoe bay terminal with plenty of time to spare.
I imagined that all the cars were going to Comox to see the bird, the cafeteria no doubt would be full of birders and the captain would come on the PA at some point to announce that the Wagtail had been seen that morning.
None of that of course happened, there might have been a few birders on board but our paths never crossed.

I made good time driving and we arrived at the location at around 9:30am, i had heard that mornings were more reliable sighting-wise and this was a good time to arrive.

Wagtail Congregation

I set up my camera and looked for familiar faces among the crowd, perhaps these were all island birders, i didn't recognize anyone.

I heard there was a guy from California in the crowd (embarrassingly enough, i later spaced out and misheard him being referred to as "Mike Toochin" and went up to him and asked if he was Mike when the real Mike was standing right next to him! - i've even met the real Mike a few times before in the field, never had a real conversation, but i should have known the californian wasn't Mike, it was a little funny because he turned to me and said coldly "No, i'm something something (i never did get his name) from California..." oops.

The Wagtail was not in view when we arrived as a shrike had just tangled with it, everyone had their scopes up in a tree looking at the shrike and i was like "uh, anyone seen the wagtail lately?"
Shrikes are cool and all but..

I took note of the arrival of Ilya, a lower mainland birder of renown, i was reassured since his scope looking would surely turn it up soon. He didn't recognize me but all eyes were on the muddy farmers field anyways.

I felt a bit foolish having left my bins (binoculars) in the car as i could have used them (and i've been scolded in the past for saying that i don't typically wear them when out shooting as all good birders should), ironic then that it was first Audy mentioning that she saw with her bare eyes a bird land in a different way than the other sparse birds out at the grass line and then my scanning through big lens that turned it up again.
Chalk one up for the photogs i guess LOL

"I've Got It!"

Where's Waldo?

The bird was so far out at the end of the field that it was pretty much just a blob of pixels, even with my 500mm f4 + 1.4x teleconverter on.

Here's where the story gets interesting, when we  first arrived we noticed a couple of hunters dressed in camo walking back to their pickup truck from the dirt laneway we were on, separating two fields (both for sale).
Later i saw more hunters coming back from being out in the fields, ducks around one's hips like a belt. 
I'm not even sure if it was a hunter or birder (or both perhaps) but at one point a fellow came up to the group and announced that he had just gotten off the phone with the owner of the field and said that since the bird was so far off in the distance at the moment for this day only, the owner would let those that wanted to get a closer look (i wasn't the only photog there, and every birder with scope had a camera by their side as well it seemed) do just that.
please just stay on the high ground and stay out of any muddy areas or puddles of water.
I was pleasantly surprised as i wasn't expecting to get anything other than distant barely ID'able record shots of this bird.
Some local birders there were hesitant and spoke to the fellow to get more info (and see if this was all just being made-up i suspect), the name of the landowner was asked and i guess the answer was the right one, the fellow assured us that he did in fact know the owner quite well and permission had been granted this time only.
At that point half the group that was standing started to walk out to get a closer look, and Audy and I followed them. 
The bird had a largish puddle of water between it and us so the plan was to ease up on the bird slowly, bit by bit.

In the end, we never really got close enough to get much better than this last cropped shot, still, so much better than if the "Where's Waldo" shot was all i had to go back home with, right?

The bird eventually got spooked by a Merlin i believe and headed out of view.

When we were heading out in our car i thought i spotted the bird on the other side of the field by the road and would later read that it had indeed been located there later in the afternoon.

For us, a quick jet back down island and we were on the 12:30pm ferry back home.
yep, that's how we roll, bing bang boom, getter done and all that.

She looks good, i however look like crap.

1 comment:

Ian said...

Thanks for the effort in putting up the informative blob post Paul. It's great to see that you didn't come away skunked! Well done!

The Waiting Area

The Waiting Area