Thursday, June 13, 2019

Rare bird: Hudsonian Godwit at the San Diego River mouth

Hudsonian Godwit
Hudsonian Godwit. San Diego River mouth, Ocean Beach, California. June 1, 2019.
On Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, a Hudsonian Godwit was found and reported at the San Diego River mouth by Daniel Hite of Mesa, Arizona. This is a first San Diego County record. It was located again in the afternoon and many birders saw it. One of those birders is Guy McCaskie, a long-time resident and birding mentor to many. It was Guy's 500th San Diego bird species! Quite an accomplishment, as the county total ever seen is something less than 525.

Many spring rarities are "one day wonders," as birds in spring are usually strongly driven by hormones to migrate each day (usually, night). Thus it was no surprise that the bird was no where to be found early the next morning. Disappointed birders spread out along the river mouth, and local beaches, hoping beyond reason that it was still somewhere nearby. How startling, then, that Jeff Spaulding reported the bird a mile or so north at Mission Beach on the open beach!

The bird remained the rest of the day on this very popular and crowded beach. About 2:30 the bird disappeared. Not long after, Becky & Steve Turley of Long Beach ( I assume California and not Washington State) reported that the bird was back at the river mouth. And that's the way it went throughout the rest of the week. At high tide the bird fed on the crowded beach; at low tide it returned to the mudflats in the river mouth, easily identifiable among the larger and paler Marbled Godwits.

Of course, I was a hundred road miles away in the Anza-Borrego Desert when the bird was first discovered. And I was back at work Tuesday when it was rediscovered. So I had no reason to expect that the bird would still be around on Sunday, June 1, when I finally had time to go look. And I didn't find it on the beach where it had been reported first thing in the morning. I didn't even see any birders in either direction. So I drove the short, but twisted, route to the San Diego River mouth through the heavy beach town traffic. As I walked up on the dike, Matt Sadowski was setting up his scope on the bird! It was mostly on the opposite shore. Matt had watched it on the beach (even farther north than I had been) when it flew south toward the river mouth.

After Matt left, I drove across the river and was able to view and photograph this beauty in good light at much closer range. It wasn't anything like the views of those who photographed it at point blank range on the beach, though.

The next day, June 2, the bird was on the beach early, and at the river mouth in the afternoon. The last eBird report was after 3:00 pm by John Bruin. It was not reported again.

Hudsonian Godwit

Hudsonian Godwit

Hudsonian Godwit

Hudsonian Godwit

My photos are nice, but there are 465 photos of this individual bird on eBird! Many are much closer and much better. Check them out here.

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