Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tattle Tale

Mother always knows best. When she noticed me heading out the door in my swimming trunks, she reminded me not to jump in the ocean with my phone in my pocket.

"I know, Mom!" I called over my shoulder as I slammed the door.

It was going to be a good day. My friend Tim and I had planned a leisurely day of birding, swimming, and getting stuck in traffic jams in Orange County. "Ready to see tattlers?" I asked as we backed out of the driveway. I saw the neighbor's car just in time and slammed on the brakes.

Half an hour later, we pulled up at the Most Reliable Tattler Spot in Orange County (also known as Little Corona City Beach) and headed down to the shore, all the California beach birding essentials in tow: binoculars, camera, swimsuit, and flip-flops. I had the home field advantage, so it was merely seconds before I had the scope on a Wandering Tattler perched on one of the preferred rocks. Our target easily disposed of, we wandered ( pun intended) down to the beach itself. I scoped the waters offshore while Tim sauntered off to photograph a Whimbrel on another patch of rocks.

Several minutes passed. The Whimbrel flew off, but Tim was still intent on someone on those rocks. I decided to investigate, and found him photographing a couple tattlers at obscenely close range. I quickly ditched my scope and splashed into the tidepools to join him.

Then, I remembered something. Feeling very clever, I turned around and deposited my phone, keys, and wallet by my scope on the beach. I waddled back into the tidepool on my knees, cradling my camera and trying to ignore the chilly water that engulfed the lower half of my body. The tattlers, unimpressed by my antics, napped on the rocks.

Eventually, I worked my way close enough (carefully avoiding particularly jagged-looking rocks and sea anemones) to wake up one of the birds.

Tattlers aren't overly fancy, but somehow they manage to endear themselves to most birders. Perhaps it's their comical teetering, or the way they scamper energetically over the rocks, or their own subtle beauty...

Thirty minutes had passed before we had clicked away to our satisfaction. Surprisingly, I remembered to retrieve my affects on the way back to the car. I even remembered to take my phone back out of my pocket when we went swimming later in the afternoon.

My unfortunate wallet, however, remained forgotten in my pocket and went boogey-boarding with me.

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