Friday 22 March 2013

Pectoral Sandpiper in a forest setting.

Our friend David Lindo, The Urban Birder is oft heard to say that "just about anything can turn up anywhere at any time". Well how about a Pectoral Sandpiper on a sandy track in the Atlantic rainforest of south-east Brazil? Sound unlikely? Well it happened to us.

Back in 2010 before we returned to England we had been involved in a number of projects to promote bird conservation and protection of the forest. One of the projects we got involved with was called Brincando com Aves (which literally means playing with birds, but translates as Fun with birds). It was started by our good friend Odette Araujo, but we became more and more involved in it and when she left to live and work in the Amazon, we took over running the group, and did so until we left. This was the single most difficult part of leaving Brazil to be honest, leaving behind these fantastic children knowing that there was no-one else there who could effectively take over the group. There were other local entities that purported to be conservation minded but in truth they were doing it for what they could get out of it in terms of kudos and even money, there was not a fluid ounce of altruism between them.

Elis with some of the original kids. In the end we had 17 coming to our
Saturday meetings.

Demonstrating the art of playback

The kids were always encouraged to identify the birds
by themselves...

But sometimes they needed a little guidance, here Elis is pointing out a bird that we had just seen.
One day we were returning along a track at the forest edge and a bird landed in front of the group. Elis and I didn't see it at first but were alerted to its presence by the kids asking what the bird in front of them was. When I heard one say he had never seen one before I was intrigued, these kids had come to know most of the birds in the local forest intimately. I knew this was going to be good, but I didn't guess just how unusual it was until I has a hasty look through the bins which told me that it was a wader and a Caldrid and closer inspection revealed that it was in fact a Pectoral Sandpiper.

The Pectoral Sandpiper just landed in front of the group out of nowhere!

It wandered about completely unconcerned by the excited shrieks of the kids who stalked it from all sides trying to get photos of it with the cameras that we had just had donated for just such a moment.

Stalking the Pectoral Sandpiper
It was a timely appearance as I was still undecided what the subject of our talk that morning would be. Every Saturday after the bird walk we would have a small impromptu class about something birdy, this day the subject was obvious... migration.

The Pectoral Sandpiper in question...

... and again.
The kids sat wide eyed in wonder and with a new respect for the small bird they had just seen when they discovered that it had flown down from the Arctic and was on its way further south still.

One of our impromptu talks, the lad on the right is writing his
bird log which we encouraged them all to do.
They also tried to draw the birds they had seen.
Some did mosaics made from cut up pieces of plastic stuck onto a board.
The Brazilian Portuguese word for this sort of Calidrid-type wader is Maçarico ('massareeko'). One or two of the more perspicacious of the youngsters noticed that the Pectoral Sandpiper or Maçarico-de-colete had a rather pot belly and then made the connection with my own pot belly. I had acquired a new nickname, I was never called Rick again in the group, it was always Maçarico from then on and although it wasn't entirely complimentary, I loved it and loved the association with my favourite group of birds.

'Maçarico  with his fledglings...
Not sure where they got the idea I had a pot belly from though!
Moments of this sort are rare, but when they happen they stick with you forever. I think the expression is, priceless!

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