Another Saturday morning, another early start. As the proverbs says, “The early birder gets the bird but the second mouse gets the cheese. ”
20 minutes before 6 AM, I headed north to meet Dickcissel in Marin County. Our destination was, oddly enough, the filming location of the movie that put a generation of people off birds for a lifetime. The movie was Hitchcocks’s The Birds and the location was Bodega Bay. We were headed across the bay from Highway One to Campbell Cove.
We pulled into the parking lot 20 minutes after seven and there were already six cars in the parking lot and beyond the lot we spotted four birders standing on a rise, peering into the trees. This is always a good sign. The more eyes the better.
The birders were standing on a narrow ridge about twenty feet high. We recognized a few as birders from San Francisco and they told use that our quarry had just been seen ten minutes earlier. The good news was the the bird was still around but the bad news is we shouldn’t have stopped for coffee in Novato because we would have seen the California rarity, the golden-winged warbler.
Dr. Insomniac is a devious tyrant. Had we not stopped for his elixirs, then we would have seen the golden warbler.
More birders arrived every minute and the lot was full. We stayed on the narrow ridge, which provided eye level views of the willows while other birders headed to the beach or went into the “cave”, a muddy track under the willows. With so many eyes, someone was bound to see the golden-winged warbler again. The question was, would we be able to get to the right location in time to see the notoriously sulky bird. We took our chances and took a wait and see approach and hoped the bird would come to us!
An hour and a half later our wait paid off. Dickcissel spotted the wayward warbler off to our left. I soon had my binos on the bird, bold, chickadee-like facial pattern, yellow mohawk, and yellow wing bar. The warbler was foraging under the canopy with a flock of white-crowned sparrows. We were able to observe the bird for a few minutes before the warbler dropped down and out of sight.
I quickly became aware that our narrow ridge had become a very crowded place. A woman to my right was thrusting her elbow into my side as she tried to get a view of where the bird was just seen and a man standing behind me was huffing and puffing into my right ear, his warm, coffee tinged breath gave me the willies! We were surrounded by rabid birders who were manically trying to add this west coast rarity to their life lists. This seemed like the worst rush hour subway ride imaginable! It was clear the bird had flown and after a celebratory fist bump, it was time to extract ourselves from the overcrowded ridge without falling to our deaths!
The maddening crowd on the ridge looking into the willows where the golden-winged warbler used to be.