Donna and I started 2013 off with a pre-dawn run up to Comox to see if we could add the Citrine Wagtail to the 2013 list. We hiked out to the regular spot, and stood around for about an hour wondering where the bird, and the other birders, had gotten to.
Standing on a wet, muddy road in near freezing temperatures on a dull January morning is not without it's benefits though, especially when one is on the Courtenay estuary. We had five Tundra Swans fly over, amongst the hundreds of Trumpeters going this way and that. The calls of so many Trumpeter Swans gathered in one spot was wonderful in and of itself. We were also able to study the myriad plumage differences amongst 1st winter Thayer's Gulls, as there were about 100 feeding in the partially flooded field where the wagtail should have been. Other gulls, mostly Mew Gulls, numbered about 1500. American Wigeons were abundant in the fields as well, with about 2000 sharing the fields with at least 11 Eurasian Wigeons and a scattering of Mallards and Northern Pintail. Keeping a close on this winged buffet, was a very dangerous looking adult Peale's Peregrine Falcon, and 25 or more Bald Eagles. In the hedgerows, Fox, Song, Golden-crowned and White-crowned Sparrows kept us occupied trying to spy something different. Evening Grosbeaks called from the distance, and small flocks continually flew overhead, along with clouds of Pine Siskins and the occasional small flock of Purple Finches. But no wagtail.
Eventually, a little after 09:00, Ed from Quadra walked out and shared the news that the wagtail had moved about two fields over, and there was already a crowd of birders there looking at it. Apparently, it pays to check the internet chat groups or have friends in the loop. But such is life, being a Luddite and a social outcast. We thanked Ed, and rushed over to see it.
The Citrine Wagtail was easy to find, as it was about 60 meters in front of a half-dozen birders sporting various vintages of optics, typical western Canadian winter clothing, and some well earned New Years Day hangovers. The bird was now in a spot that I used to bird now and then, and as happy as I was to see it, I was also reminded of all the great birds I had seen at this site previously, and how much fun I had birding here with friends and family in the past. Friends and family that I have not seen in a very long time. But that was a long time ago. Before the dark times...before the Empire.
New Years day often brings such thoughts to the fore, and 2013 maybe more so than in the past. Never have I felt such dread at the direction things seem to be headed, and rarely have I felt so alone in times as confusing as these. But at the same time, never have I felt that change was so close, and that better times are waiting for us, if we would just push a little harder to catch up to them. If a little grey bird from Asia can survive a winter alone on the Courtenay Estuary, our obstacles should be easily overcome.
Happy New Year friends. May 2013 be entirely different than 2012.