Thursday, January 3, 2013

Purple Sandpiper: The Last Adventure of the Year

It was the last day of the year, and I had a little time. I decided, despite the weather, that a drive out to Cape Spear might be relaxing. The closer I got to the Cape, the more the wind picked up, the driving sleet increased, and the temperature dropped. I had no intention of getting out of my car.

I parked on the bend of the parking lot where I could get the best view of the point and raised my binoculars. Within moments, Clyde Thornhill appeared passing by my window. He was breathless and hurrying to his car. Why? He had just come upon a large flock of Purple Sandpipers on the rocks close to shore. He was rushing back to get his camera and return to the rock's edge. He encouraged me to see them.
Oh, no. I had planned to stay in the comfort and warmth of my car. But.... I had never really seen the Purple Sandpiper up close. Reluctantly, I pulled into a parking spot, drew a deep breath and dawned my hat, gloves and gear. I had to go on the long, long wintry walk to the shoreline.

The walk down wasn't too bad, for every step I took, the wind blew me forward another six inches. Standing up was my biggest challenge. Clyde had already reached the water's edge and disappeared down over the cliff. I skated on down the hill.

When I arrived, I wasn't disappointed. There was a very large flock of Purple Sandpipers scattered all over the rocks. They, too, were holding on for dear life as the wind pulled and tugged at them. (When a crashing wave flushed them off the rock, there seemed to be 50 or more.)
I began to work my way down over the slippery rocks with the wind driving me closer to the water. What was I doing? I finally, got low enough to reduce the brunt of the wind and try to hold my camera steady in my shivering hands. The pelting sleet was stinging my face and blurring my lens and binoculars.
Nevertheless, I was close, very close to the Purple Sandpipers. They were amazing.  The longer we stayed, the closer they came. It was a wonderful opportunity, and I was really glad I took it on.

When the birds flushed to another area, I did not follow. I was happy with what I had seen, I raised up to meet a blast of cold wind that was going to be in my face all the way back to the car. It took every ounce of strength I had to get back up the slippery hill. This is a hill I often walk, but on that day, it felt like Mount Everest!

I finally reached my car, winded and exhausted, and sat there with a smile on my face as I wiped the sleet from my face and dried my gear.

I couldn't help but think of the inscription on the wall of the General Post Office in New York City: "Neither rain nor snow nor heat nor gloom of night stay 'birders' from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." Now, I may have to do it all over again to ensure I see this species in 2013:-(

1 comment: