Thursday, March 23, 2006

40. Long-billed Curlew


It's a big number. It's not 50, but it's nice and round and divisible by ten. You want your 40th bird of the year to be something special. Fortunately, mine was. It was one of my favorites, and a bird that always makes me think of California: the Long-billed Curlew.

The Long-billed Curlew can be identified by its long curved bill, and it lacks the head markings found on other curlews. It's a crazy-looking spectacle, the Numenius Americanus. A big, grand, American bird. The largest shorebird in North America. It is also, unfortunately, highly imperiled. Audubon notes that it is "one of the most threatened shorebird species on the continent."

But it's special to me for another reason, too. It was the first bird I ever identified in California (the first bird I formally identified anywhere for that matter). It was at the bird sanctuary in Alameda, when I was scared and alone and redefining who I was. I was a mess and a wreck and completely lost. I saw it with my friend Heath one evening, and I've never forgotten it.

I've longed to see one again for years, but haven't. To see it again today, with my beloved wife, when I am so much older, so much more sure of myself, so much more alive, absolutely thrilled me.

We saw it last, on our way out. And as we departed, so too did the Curlew, crying out as he took wing over the Bay.


At 1:14 PM, Anonymous said...

how wonderful - and how beautiful the sharing of it


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