Waiting for the White Wagtail in Austin

Hi, all. I, like everyone, am worried. I feel certain that if I stay home and avoid interaction, I will be fine. And, I have done that, mostly. But, I have been birding 6 times in the last 2 weeks, once alone and 5 times with 1-3 friends, socially distant, of course.

The latest conquest was the White Wagtail, a Eurasian bird FAR OFF course in Roy Guerrero Park, immediately south of the Colorado River at Montopolis Drive minutes from downtown Austin. The bird has been working the river's sandbars for over two months. I had tried for it two months ago and missed. Friends Jean and Terry and I decided to try again last Friday. 

Overlooking the Colorado River, we stood and sat on the grassy south bluff, now well matted from birder traffic. With our scopes and binocs scanning the far sandbar, we saw lots of birds that afternoon, 22 bird species to be exact. But, no Wagtail. 

After hours of scanning, my brain and eyes turned inanimate objects into the beautiful bird. Sticks and rocks acquired the white face and white outer tail feathers, the black bib, cap, nape and tail. Hallucinations! Time to go home!

We checked ebird often enough to learn that the bird flew up or down river, sometimes depending on the release of water from the dam, but not predictably enough to ensure a sighting.

We planned to go back Saturday morning, but rain kept me inside. My hearty friends went back with no luck. I joined Jean Sunday morning, 8:00-11:00, 35 bird species, but no Wagtail. We decided we would try later that day at 6:30 p.m. At 4:30, I received an excited call from Jean. The bird was at the sandbar! Hurry!

I arrived at 5:15 to see two people on the bluff hunkered over their scopes. Wheeling quickly to the edge, I started scanning the sandbar. Jean got me on the bird, gave me a big socially distant hug, shouldered her scope, and left with a big smile on her face.

Alone then, I watched the bird for an hour, thinking about how it had arrived here and the eventual trip back to its home country, probably winging northwest through the U.S. to Alaska and then across the Bering Sea and farther westward, back to more familiar regions. I watched him feeding along the rocky shoal till he faded from view with the dusk.

It is a lovely way to spend time alone or socially distant.

Stay safe, y'all.


Unknown said…
I'm so glad you got the bird! How exciting!
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