Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sandpiper morphs into Snipe

Quite an exciting and thought provoking day today. In short, the new birds today were Rough winged Swallows, Palm Warblers and Wilson's Snipe. The Snipe is what later prompted a long internal debate.

Background: I had been looking for the dratted Spotted Sandpiper. Owen had seen it. Tim had seen it. Maria, NEW to this entire thing, HAD SEEN IT. I had not. I was determined. I got up early and walked the west bank from Locust to North Avenue dam searching for that bird. I saw gnatcatchers, Hermit Thrushes, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Yellow-rumped Warbler, a Cooper's Hawk ... all were dismissed as NOT being the Spotted Sandpiper. Everything I saw fell into the "Yeah, yeah seen it" category.

I joined the UEC crew on the east bank of the river and continued with them. Downy - seen it. I was focused on finding the Spotted Sandpiper. Suddenly, I noticed Tim focusing on a point on the west bank. I was sure he had spotted it, so I swung the glasses around to scan. There it was. It wasn't the gnatcatcher, thrush, warbler, hawk or woodpecker. It wasn't a Mallard, Canada Goose or sparrow. Therefore, it had to be a Spotted Sandpiper. I wanted to see it, and I saw it.

I saw what I wanted to see, and it wasn't until Tim, upon my exultant hoop and hooray, focused on it and said, "Wait!" that I really saw what I was looking at. It wasn't anything like a sandpiper. Not in the slightest, and yet I had been so determined to see that sandpiper that I ignored what the bird actually looked like in order to fit my expectations. It actually was a Wilson's Snipe - quite an exciting bird to spot. Yet, what really made an impression and occupied my thoughts for hours as I walked through Lake Park and the East Side was that initial "seeing what I wanted to see, what I expected to see, and not what was there. "

This Bigby has generated a lot of musings and taught a lot of lessons. Expectations can change reality. Being so wrapped up in what you want to see can blind you to what is there. The physical time and effort in moving from one birding spot to another has given me a great deal of time to mull upon what I am seeing, and what I am missing. I think, with the slower pace and the increased effort, I may also be learning to actually see and not just look for the next bird.

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