Heading home to Dallas TX after completing a seasonal avian field technician job with the Great Basin Bird Observatory in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. I was trying to make the most of my 3-day unexpected stop in Flagstaff Arizona. I had been waiting for a mechanic to work on my truck which was having issues. On the morning of June 17th 2021, I went to the Kachina Wetlands Preserve where wastewater from Kachina Village is evaporated in evaporating ponds. Its a beautiful 70-acre property with trails around all ponds. Lots of locals walk their dogs…. Usually without leashes which is against regulations and is very annoying. I don’t think they realize they are letting their dogs run through the community’s sewage. Most of the non-birder locals asked if I was looking for the Bald Eagles that apparently hunt in the ponds. There were also non-birder wildlife photographers waiting to get pictures of the Eagles. That day I did not find any eagles, but that’s okay because I saw something much more interesting. While birding I stopped for a quick break and suddenly a strange shorebird flew in front of me. I planned to chase it to the area it landed in. Before I could go after it, two other birders walked up the path asking if I had seen the Pectoral Sandpiper which was reported there as a rarity just the day before. I had no idea! While we were talking, the bird landed right in front of us! This bird is rare in northern Arizona at this time of the year; it should be breeding in the northern Russian, Alaskan, and Canadian coastal tundra. In our winter months this species can be found in a variety of habitats across South America, but some even migrate to Australia to use brackish habitats. A true long distance migrant. One of the other birders suggested that it may have been an early breeder, or a bird that just didn’t breed for whatever reason and may have just started its journey back to South America ridiculously early. Or maybe its just very very late bird going north for the summer breeding season. Either way it shouldn’t be in Flagstaff Arizona at this time of the year and I am so glad I met birders who knew what was going on because if I had tried to ID this bird by myself I would have thought I was going insane. I also watched Osprey catch huge goldfish that had to have been released pets because the fish were the domestic “fancy” goldfish variety with split fan tails (which were seen flowing in the wind as the Osprey flew over showing off its fancy food). You wouldn’t expect to see this fancy trait persist in a breeding feral population of goldfish. My word of advice to the locals: don’t release your pet fish into the wild, don’t let your dogs run wild through a wetland preserve, and look at all birds, not just Bald Eagles because there are much cooler species to be seen; you might even see something that’s not even supposed to be there!
Editor Note: This article was sent to us by a friend of NAAS and we are grateful.