Uncle Xerxes

ux4When I was finally confident, through a zoomed in scope, that we were looking at UX on the band, I let my wife know – “UX, definitely, green band on left leg, white band on lower right”. Almost immediately she responded, “Uncle Xerxes!”

Bottle Beach is a mecca for birdwatchers on the Washington coast. Get there 2 hours before high tide, in the right season, and you will be amazed at the volume and variety of shorebirds, especially in spring and fall migrations.

b95We had missed the spring migration, because it was June 3, and supposedly all the birds inclined to head north to breed had already passed through. But I had just read the amazing report of a 21 year old Red Knot, sighted on the east coast. He’s known as B95, and there’s a fabulous book about him, Moonbird. And we really, really wanted to see a Red Knot. However, they are never a gimme in the west coast….

So when we headed to Bottle Beach this time, it was with long shots in mind. Our chances were slim, because it was so late in the spring, and we were not encouraged when we arrived at the parking lot, and there was nobody else there. If the birding is hot, you’re lucky to get a parking spot at Bottle Beach.

ux5But we pushed on , and good grief, there he was, Uncle X,  with two others – Red Knots in breeding plumage, heading north to breed near the Arctic Circle. There were no other people there.

We stayed for a long time, watching. It took a while to confirm that there were indeed three Red Knots. There were many Black-bellied Plovers, Dowitchers, and a few Dunlin, all hanging out, feeding.

ux6

Exhilarated beyond belief by what we had just witnessed, we returned to our hideaway on the coast and let a well known coastal birdwatcher know about our sighting. She forwarded our pictures to Washington Fish and Wildlife, and we got this email  response from them  the next day:

Mark, thanks for taking and sharing the photo! UX was banded at Grays Harbor on 14 May 2014. The band on the lower leg is the metal one issued by the banding lab. The green flag is used to identify individuals without needing to recapture them; green is the color code for the USA. It was one of about 180 Red Knots we captured and processed that day as part of a disease monitoring project. I see that this bird was observed at Bottle Beach on 3 June; that means it has been in Washington for at least 21 days.

When we forwarded that report to a very good friend and excellent birder, he responded, “Have you ever spent 21 days at a McDonald’s?” Love it!

Uncle Xerxes, you go, guy! And get a move on, time’s a wastin’.

What a fabulous opportunity to witness, and share with others, this amazing natural cycle.ux7

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About Mark Ahlness

I am a retired teacher, with dreams of still making a difference.
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