Saturday 15 December 2012

Talk to the SDFO.

We had the good fortune and immense pleasure to be invited to a get-together of the San Diego Field Ornithologists (SDFO). They are a group of birders with varying involvement in birding but their enthusiasm is overwhelming as is their generosity of spirit and friendliness. There were around 35 people at the event and a sumptuous buffet was laid on which was delicious.

Part of the glorious grub up for grabs. With Ann Hannon the lady who
produced it all and Gary Nunn the chief taster!
There were three short presentations to the group and we were chuffed to have been given the opportunity to give one of them. First Paul Lehman gave a run down of the rare birds that had occurred in San Diego County over the last year, one of the latest of which, an Evening Grosbeak, we had seen ourselves.

Paul Lehman summing up the San Diego County rarities for 2012 thus far.
(That's him on the right of the picture.)
We were on next and we gave a short talk about Wader Quest, who we are, what we are doing and why. We included some photographs from our trips so far including photos of birds that the assembled crowd would love to find on their local patch.

Me, pontificating on the joys of Northern Lapwings (the painful groans that
accompanied the photo from the audience illustrated the desire that there is
for finding one of these splendid plovers locally.
We then explained about the plight of our focus species, the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, and the problems it is facing in the wild, thus the need for a captive breeding programme. We explained exactly how the scheme was being run both in the UK and in Russia and recounted the story of the hunters in Myanmar. In doing so we showed exactly how the captive breeding programme fits into the fight to save the spoonies.

Talking about the captive breeding programme (Guy McCaskie with whom
we went to the Salton Sea has seen more than one Spoon-billed Sandpiper
in summer plumage in the USA, he is the chap sitting under the screen with
the spoonie showing)
The talk was well received and there was much interest from people afterwards who came to talk to us, it seems there was a bit of confusion about what the programme and was all about so we were very happy to be able to shed light on the various queries we received from members of the group. I think by the end of the evening all were supportive of the programme and indeed we have already received a generous donation for it from one of the attendees of the meeting, Sue Smith, via the Just Giving site.

Our closing slide.
The meeting ended with an identification quiz given by our friend and host Gary Nunn. It was very popular and we even got one or two of them right ourselves including the Long-billed Dowitcher I'm relieved to say!

The quiz, Gary on the right of the picture.
Our stay in San Diego was marvellous, we enjoyed superb hospitality from Gary and his delightful wife Leslie and were much amused by the antics of their children Ryleigh, Obi and Levi.

Elis and me enjoying the company of Gary and Leslie at an Indian restaurant .
We have met some wonderful people in the field...

Meeting local birders looking for Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow. OK I know
that's not a wader either, like the Evening Grosbeak, but there were some
lovely Marbled Godwits there too with a couple of Hudsonian Whimbrels.
And here they are, two Hudsonian Whimbrels with Marbled Godwits and a
'Western' Willet disappearing off right.
... and at the meeting who have helped us in every conceivable way, San Diego birders are the business, we can't speak highly enough about them and can't wait to go back one day.

We were pleased to to meet some well known personalities in the birding world. Paul Lehman is one of the USA's top birders who offered us much information which he readily gave in an open and friendly manner. At the talk, especially during the discussion about the bird quiz, we listened intently to the tips he gave hoping that we would be able to remember it all in the field should we need to. Also in the audience was Philip Unitt from the San Diego Natural History Museum, who was also passing on pearls of wisdom. Our friend Guy McCaskie, who escorted us to the Salton Sea and found us our Stilt Sandpipers, was there too offering sage-like advice usually tinged with a bit of good old British humour (he originally hails from Scotland, not that you'd know it from his acquired American accent). We enjoyed his company both at the Salton Sea and also at the meeting where he was most forthcoming with advice about  possible trip in April to Texas for returning waders and in June for the Bristle-thighed Curlews.

Guy me and Gary at the Salton Sea.
All-in-all our trip to the USA enjoyed a spirit of helpfulness and friendly advice from the locals; Rangel Diaz in Florida, Knut Hansen in Washington, Garry George in Los Angeles (who sadly we were unable to hook up with this time), and Gary Nunn in San Diego were all generous with their time and knowledge making the  'quest to the west' a resounding success.

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