Monday, August 20, 2012


Erika and I did not visit the Elephant Seal Rest Stop on the California Coast Highway to see seals. I was chasing my number one nemesis bird, the Rock Sandpiper. A nemesis bird is one that eludes you regardless of effort. For years I searched for Rock Sandpipers along the rocky shores of the Pacific Ocean. This year, armed with eBird, I tried again. According to eBird, a Rock Sandpiper had recently been seen at the seal stop.

No Rock Sandpipers. Instead we found Surfbirds among the rocks. We were disappointed, despite the Surfbird's being an interesting sandpiper. This species has one of the longest but narrowest range of any North American bird. Surfbirds winter from Alaska to Chile, over 17,500 km, but only within the first few feet of the tide line. Early ornithologists were incredulous when Alaskan natives told them that Surfbirds breed on Alaskan mountaintops. One hundred and fifty years elapsed before searchers found the first nests in 1927 in the mountains of central Alaska (Senner and Mccaffery 1997).

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