I had all morning this past Saturday to look for birds. I really didn’t have anything in particular I wanted to see but I was sorely tempted to head out to Heckscher Park in Suffolk County to check out the trio of Hudsonian Godwits that had been seen there regularly for a couple of days. But I’ve really become averse to chasing birds for the sake of chasing them (unless they are a lifer or a state bird) so I decided to stick to my home borough of Queens and see what I could find for myself. Fort Tilden and Jacob Riis Park both had some birds but nothing spectacular so I moved on to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, hoping that the recent rains hadn’t filled up the East Pond to the point where it was unwalkable. Fortunately, though water levels had risen quite a bit the pond was still passable in my waders and there were lots of birds as is only to be expected on the East Pond.

I had already found a trio of Snowy Egrets, which are lingering a bit longer than usual this year, when I found a Lesser Yellowlegs. I wanted to get documentation shots of the yellowlegs as it too was a bit late and by getting decent images I could confirm the sighting in eBird without having to worry about writing a description. Then I realized that a Greater Yellowlegs was near the Lesser Yellowlegs and I started trying to get both yellowlegs in the same frame because comparison shots between similar species are always fun. Somehow, I didn’t even notice the long-billed shorebird sticking its head into view. (You can see it up there at the top of the post.) I realized something was going on as I depressed the shutter for the following shot.

Not the most epic bird-photo bomb ever but not bad.

Now, in the moment I didn’t really get a great look at the godwit that had just disrupted my yellowlegs photography. And by the time my brain processed that something good had just flown through my field of view and I got my head out of my digiscoping setup and my bins to my eyes the godwit was winging to the south end of the pond. I had no idea I already had the shots above so I felt I had to try to document the bird! (Once again because I hate having to write eBird descriptions and would much rather just insert an image.)

The godwit just as it decided to turn back to the north and come back.

The Hudsonian Godwit (I managed to identify it as I tracked its flight in my scope) flew right back to where it started from as I missed the focus on the close fly-by. It landed and then was nearly decapitated by Dunlin.

I got the word out on the listservs and watched for a bit longer but it decided to go to roost with the yellowlegs again and stayed tucked up. The bird stayed in the same spot for several hours and other birders twitched it, which is always nice. Instead of being a twitcher of godwits I caused others to twitch one!

Thanks for the photobomb, godwit!

What lesson did I take from my accidental godwit finding? Don’t mindlessly twitch minor rarities that you’ve seen before. Flog your patches and find your own birds! Also, don’t get so into what you’re photographing that you forget to see anything else! I could have easily missed this bird because I was so intent on yellowlegs. Yellowlegs! That would have been embarrassing.

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.