Sandy Cheeks

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

This night was a night that will live in my memories until I leave this planet! Not many bird-lovers get to experience a treat like this!

Leach's Storm Petrel

It’s 5:30 local time, which is 3:30 MST. We will leave for our last night of shorebird banding in 5 hours. It’s bittersweet. I will miss the birds and the banders. (Autocorrect doesn’t like “banders.” It corrected to bangers and banners twice. Seriously.) However, I am looking forward to a cold shower! Why a cold shower? Most households here do not have a water heater. Let that sink into your freshly showered cranium. 

Comida Deliciosa

Delicious food. That has been a highlight of this banding camp. I have noted the recipes for many of these dishes, as I will be bringing them back to the US with me. 

Dino-lit walk on the beach (Tuesday)

After a late lunch/dinner, or linner, we sleep for another few hours and then embark out to the banding site. If you’re wondering how this all happens, too bad. Trade secret. Next section. 

I kid! We set up 4-6 nets with the tide, running perpendicular to the waterline. Following the tide means we constantly have to adjust the nets. The birds are feeding in flocks moving back and forth across the beach, and if they decide to take wing, they will likely get caught in the net. We wait in a little sand nook, sharing stories and giving the birds a chance to conduct normal activities. We check the nets and return back to the nook with our catch!

While walking on the wet sand on Tuesday, I looked down at my feet. The sand was glowing with each step! It was as if I was walking among the stars. It was surreal. I rarely use that word. I hope it’s right... 

This phenomenon is caused by a single-called organism called a dinoflagellate. Now you get the subtitle of this section. If you get to experience this, I’m sure it will leave you glowing. Ha! (Drum sounds.)

Stormy Night

Lewis had to return to camp on Tuesday with some congestion issues. He missed out. Whew. What a night!

We started slow with the typical catch of Western and Semipalmated Sandpipers, but several runs in, the fun started. The extraction group came back with a large bird in a bag. It was an American Oystercatcher, female. Oystercatchers are some of the most impressive looking shorebirds. They are highly specialized for extracting bivalve mollusks from their shells. Check out this snoz!

American Oystercatcher

On the last run of the night, I had a meltdown. In the south, a woman might ask if I had the vapors. And I did. We came upon the last net, of the last run, and there it was. A tiny brown bird, like a hummingbird of the sea. 

Aaaaahhhhhhh! I knew it the minute I set eyes on it. It was my true Valentine. The only one I’d probably stay up until 4 am for. It was a LEACH’S STORM-PETREL. They are secretive. They are adorable. They are highly specialized. And I had one in my hands. In. My. Hands. 

I became the joke of the group for the extent of the banding process. I was making the sounds of a princess obsessed child visiting Disneyland for the first time. Even with the slight language barrier, I knew exactly what they were saying. I was behaving like a crazy person. 

Lobo Marino (Wednesday)

The following morning Lewis and I decided to try our hand at tourist activities. We headed into Paracas, and purchased tickets for the Ballestas Islands. 

It was the typical boat tour. Go as fast as you can to the destination, with a guide speaking into a microphone surely bought in 1973. But anyone who has done a typical tourist activity with me knows I ignore the tour. I’m on my own mission. 

BOOBIES! They were everywhere. I love looking at them. And literally I couldn’t turn my head without my view being filled. They were all different shapes and sizes. Okay, only two different shapes and sizes. But still. The two most prominent Boobies in this area are the Peruvian Booby and the Blue-footed Booby. The Peruvian Booby nests on the islands and we got to see several chicks begging for meals. 

The majority of the tour centered around the lobos marinos. You might know them as a sea lion, but their name in Spanish translates as sea wolf. This species is the South American Sea Lion. But I didn’t listen to a word of that part of the tour. Because: 


There was one non-living part of the tour that was interesting. It was the Paracas Candelabra. It is part of the Nazca Lines. I would tell you more, but you have fingers. And google. Or at least one of those. And I wasn’t listening. Boobies. 

Caught Up

I’m caught up now. I have nothing interesting to say about Wednesday night, so I will have another post about the banding wrap-up tomorrow. 

Thanks for letting me continue growing in your cranium. Just call me your cranium geranium. 


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