sharp-tail still there

Constance J. Sidles csidles at
Sat Sep 28 15:27:56 PDT 2002

Hey tweets, we just got back from the Hoquiam sewage ponds, and the
sharp-tailed sandpiper is still there. In fact, it's exactly where it's
been reported, at the far southwest end, near a log. Marv Breece relocated
it at first light this morning, and John and I arrived shortly after to
benefit from Marv's quick eyes.

The bird didn't give me the impression of being a skulker, exactly, because
it seemed completely oblivious to us and our numerous pairs of binocs and
scopes trained on it like papparazi spotting Mick Jagger at his farewell
concert. On the other hand, it did seem to delight in stopping behind every
single tuft of grass or wisp of bush. In that sense, it reminded me of
birds whose best field marks are all in the head area, and that's precisely
the part the birds manage to cloak every time they move, almost as though
they know they're driving birders crazy.

After awhile of getting only brief (though excellent) views, we had the
great good fortune of being invited onto the private property of the sewage
plant, an invitation that only a birder could love. The plant manager came
out and motioned us onto the property. All we had to do was sign in at the
office. Then we were free to wander about pretty much at will. We ended up
on the wooden bridge in perfect conditions: soft sunlight angled just
right, no wind, no peregrines, no obstructions. We all got good, long
views. With my scope zoomed up to 60 power, I could see every feather. This
is one beautiful bird. It isn't as bright as the books show (just as other
tweeters have reported), but in good light, you can see that its crown is a
rusty color, its breast a beautiful soft buff.

If you decide to twitch this bird, you should probably do so in the near
future. The plant manager told me that the mudflat that the bird favors is
about to be dredged away completely. He said that it wasn't actually a
mudflat at all. It's sludge that was dumped in the pond. The plant manager
said that even a few days ago, it was still pretty liquid. He said a gull
got trapped in it and had to be rescued - only lightweight birds could walk
on the surface. The sludge has become a problem because the sewage pond
water is so low right now. At any rate, the EPA has told Hoquiam that the
sludge must go. The plant manager did not know when the dredging was to
take place, but he thought it might be fairly soon. - Connie, Seattle

csidles at

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