Of course, I had to try for the Black-tailed Godwit again! It was seen Thursday (the day I missed it), Friday and yesterday. Sunday morning was wide open……. so off I went. Unfortunately, only a mile from the Chincoteague Refuge entrance, I was abruptly stopped by Mr. Adams of the Accomac County police force. “Good morning, sir. Yes, I was probably driving too fast in anticipation of seeing the rare bird in your refuge”. “You have a bird in the car? That is why I clocked you going 43 in a 25 mph zone?” he responded with a perplexed look and an emphasis on the latter half of that sentence. He didn’t get it.
Anyway, I shook off this minor setback and repressed the event. As soon as I reached the designated area where this shorebird had been seen recently, I noticed one “pretty big” bird about 400 yards out to my left, acting sandpiper-ish. I stopped the car, grabbed the binoculars, and viewing through the car window knew it was a godwit for sure….but was the bill straight – as in the rare Black-tailed Godwit? or slightly up-curved like its more common relative (Marbled Godwit)? I needed the scope. Moving quickly, I clumsily exited the car, grabbed the scope and positioned it across the road closer to the bird. YES, the bill appeared straight…..but I wanted a photo and my camera was still in the car. As I hustled back towards the car, the godwit flapped and began to fly! No chance for a decent picture. I needed 100% confirmation for myself (birders, like most golfers, live by an Honor Code) and the tell-tale, diagnostic marking would be the obvious presence of a black and white stripe on its flapping wings. My 3-day new Swarovski binoculars (note: I am no longer “Junior Varsity” as someone recently labeled my eight year old optics) confirmed Black-tailed Godwit! The photograph below shows where Lifer #642 was feeding (I swear!!)……before a Bald Eagle decided to claim the marsh as its territory.