Identifying Sandpipers

I was at Sawhill Pond just before sundown, and the sandpipers were back.  Little brown-gray-white birds with long bills that peck at things in the mud.

According to Sibley Birds West there are 17 species referred to as ‘sandpiper’ and 68 shorebirds overall.  They have distinct names like ‘spotted,’ ‘solitary,’ ‘semipalmated,’ ‘baird’s,’ ‘western’, and ‘least.’  But they all seem to appear exactly the same except for one minor mysterious difference.  To recognize it you hafta be right next to them, but they are always far away.

There was one that day way closer than usual.  The setting sun was hitting it just right and every detail was illuminated.  There were no excuses, but somehow I still couldn’t find the minor mysterious difference.

white spectacles
spotted
long upturned bill
drab bill
stockier legs
walks slowly
mostly white underwing
very weak wingstripe
few streaks
silvery
small reddish area on lower mandible not usually visible
dingy breast
paler face
6″ long instead of 6.25″ long
white rump
dark blotches
one tiny magnificent sparkle in its soul

I swear it didn’t have any of these.  Except the sparkle, but every bird has that.  It was the sandpiper with no identity.

At the same time the bird was watching me. I was in just the right lighting to tell exactly just which kind of human I was.  It noticed I was upright and wearing clothes and holding technology, but almost every human does that.  It just couldn’t discover my minor mysterious difference.

adventure hat
long hair
mustache/beard
glasses
jean vest
hawaiian shirt (replica of one worn by Tom Sellek on Magnum PI!)
dangling binoculars
cargo shorts
sandals
magnificient sparkle in soul

I guess I could’ve been anyone, even tho I knew I was me.

And so we just kept staring until we could figure out the mystery of each other.

Eventually the sun went all the way down behind the mountains. The sandpiper disappeared in the shadows, and I disappeared in a car. We never did come up with the exact identity, but we knew each other well enough to feel sad the other left.

IMG_3423
solitary sandpiper? (shrug)
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