I decided to bike down to California Beach with my scope and camera for the evening yesterday. Little did I know what was in store for me! It was the perfect evening for birding; there were no clouds, no wind, the sun was out, and it was beautifully warm. As I was biking down the gravel road to the California Beach rest area where I normally set up my scope, Juncos were flushing from the brush on the roadside, and Yellow-rumped Warblers were singing their beautiful tune in the budding Poplars. When I arrived, I parked my bike and set off with my scope. I set my scope up on top of a tall ridge overlooking the beach, because there is a great view of the lake and the mouth of the river from that spot. There was an abundance of Red-breasted Mergansers, a very snazzy looking bird. Common Mergansers, Northern Shovelers, American Wigeon, and Northern Pintail were resting in groups along the shoreline. A couple of Semipalmated Plovers were busy foraging in the wet sand along the water’s edge. From the trees American Robins, Yellow-rumped Warblers, an Orange-crowned Warbler, Northern Flickers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Common Redpolls were singing and chirping to each other. A pair of Bonaparte’s Gulls were resting on a rock out in the lake, and an immature Herring Gull flew overhead to investigate. After seeing all that there was to see, I took all of my equipment onto the beach where I could see it, and set off with my camera for some photography.
I went for the ducks on the shore first. I walked very casually down the shore avoiding any glance in their direction. However, as I slowly got closer they started getting nervous and called to each other. I turned around so I could walk past them a bit closer, but they did not want that. Everyone piled into the river and swam to the middle, too far for me to photograph. I set out for some gulls next, but they were also pretty shy. I noticed that every once in a while all of the birds would suddenly take off down the river, and were acting very “flighty”. I looked around, and noticed a Northern Harrier soaring lazily along the tops of the willows along the shore, scanning the undergrowth with its sharp eyes. I decided to try taking photographs of various cool things around the beach, since I couldn’t get any of the birds.
After packing up my stuff I moved off down the beach with my bike. I came across a Lesser Yellowlegs foraging along the shore, but it was too shy and wouldn’t let me get close. As I walked, a saw three Arctic Terns flying overhead chasing a raptor of some sort through the trees. It was getting pretty late in the evening by then, so the sun had turned a rich, golden colour. Walking towards the low, bright sun made it difficult to see, but I noticed the small silhouette of another Lesser Yellowlegs on the shoreline against the sparkling water.
I carefully got up, and moved ahead of the yellowlegs again about 10 metres. This time, I laid down about 3 feet away from the water’s edge. The Lesser Yellowlegs kept foraging, plucking microscopic bugs out from the muck that I couldn’t see. After a few minutes it reached me. This time it didn’t run by, but stopped at a particularly good spot for microscopic bugs right in front of me only 3 feet away! It walked back and forth in front of me scanning the sand, and only occasionally would it give me a quick glance. The sunlight shone on its wing and back feathers, making the brown, black, and cream colours really stand out and glimmer. The bright yellow legs stood out against the sand and water behind it. It was close enough that I could see the warm brown of its eyes when it glanced at me. I took a million pictures. It was amazing to be that close to a shorebird. Laying on the wet, cold, sand with the warm sun shining on my back, and being at eye-level with a wild bird that is acting like you are not even there is the most wonderful experience! After a while it moved on down the shore, foraging all the way. I decided to leave it alone then, even though it didn’t mind my presence. I was pretty cold! I hadn’t planned to be laying on the beach that evening, so I wasn’t wearing any rain gear. As I walked back home down the beach pulling my bike, the sun dried me off. I could still see the yellowlegs busily foraging at the water’s edge down the beach. When I was lying on the sand beside the shorebird it almost felt companionable; we were both enjoying the nice weather, the warm sun, and the scenery. I don’t know if it was enjoying my company or not, but I was glad for its company and its trust in me.