South Tufa Reserve giveth and giveth. After spending last night at Mammoth hot springs, I drove north and stopped in on Navy Beach to see what was about. At first I was thrilled to see two Least Sandpipers, typical migrants but somewhat early to be around. The phalaropes were again prolific along the shore; I scanned them with my binoculars just in case and found several Killdeer amongst them, looking anxious as always. I began to wander further when I caught sight of something flying in, something darker with a different wing and tail pattern. When it landed I dropped down to its level (the only way to get close to a shorebird, I've found) and crawled over the moist salty shore, which was laden with goose poops and jagged shards of broken tufa.
Resolve through disgust and flesh wounds was rewarded with excellent views of the mystery bird: a Red Knot! This is quite a rare bird for eastern California. Red Knots migrate in great numbers along the coasts of the continent and are only sporadically spotted in Mono County during fall migration. I've had unusual sightings at the lake before but nothing quite so novel.
It's remarkable to me to recall the last time I saw this species, which was during the last days of my New Zealand trip, at Miranda. It was then late March and the Red Knots of the eastern Pacific were just about to depart for their spring migration northward, to skirt Asia and then enter Siberia to breed. To see one now, winging its way back to its own nonbreeding grounds in South America, has a kind of beautiful symmetry to it.
- Panasonic DMC-FZ40