Reub's journey

09 September 2011

The nurse and the sandpiper

We had such a nice house guest for two nights, a young woman-a nurse- on an epic solo road trip across the country.  M was so upbeat, helpful, and easy to talk with that we were sorry to see her go. She was headed down US 101 along the Oregon coast, and it so happened that John and I were going to the coast ourselves.

We loaded the dogs in the car and found a stretch of lonely beach to exercise them. Just the three of us with  Ed and Reub, and an assortment of sea birds. There was a fabulous flock of beautiful little western sandpipers, pausing on their migration to feed in the wet sand, but periodically taking to the sky in breathtaking aerobatic formations: beautiful exhilarating birds.

Ed is a ball dog, and M took her turn at entertaining him with the "chuck-it," a long-handled ball launcher.

M had a good arm, and tossed that ball long and hard down the the very moment when the flock of startled sandpipers flew up...

...and one little shape fell like a stone, onto the sand below, just at the edge of the lapping waves.

"You hit one," John exclaimed. Poor M. She was mortified.

We hurried over to look at the bird, sure from its posture and strange head movements that it was dying. John gently moved the little fellow away from the greedy tide, and we debated what was best to do. Should we put the bird out of its misery? Drown it? Leave it to the quick mercy of predators? M looked on, stricken with remorse. I felt terrible for her.

But while we had this sad conversation, the little bird straightened his wings, adjusted his balance, and smoothed his feathers. Then he pooped. And finally he flew straight up into the air in front of us. He vanished in the windswept sky as we watched awestruck by this tiny miracle, a tragedy averted.


  1. I am so happy the little sandpiper flew away! I have a MAJOR soft spot for injured animals. The pictures are amazing! I would love to go there!!!!!

  2. Hi GG: The picture of the sandpiper is awful. I snapped it sadly, & thinking it was wrong to take a photo of a dying animal I didn't re-take it. Such a a little beauty; if I had known he was recovering I would have taken more!

  3. oh thank goodness! i'd hate to think your guest would be wracked with guilt for years to come!

  4. From many of my experiences I find birds can go into a shock and then restore jus as before. Perhaps they are playing dead to avoid some danger. Perhaps they are easily concussed.

  5. I know when we've had a hit bird - one was hit by a bicyclist out in front! - they seem stunned for a bit and then recover themselves. awesome!! i love sandpipers...

  6. Happy ending, thank goodness! I love the way the light catches their white undersides as they turn en masse.

  7. Happy ending! Poor little thing - wonder what it was thinking...

  8. Some people are such a delight to be around and you were lucky to have M spend some time with you.
    I love those ball launchers. Being a girl, I throw silly like a girl, but with the launcher, my dog gets a real long run.
    Good for the little guy sandpiper. He awoke from his stunned antics and flew away.

  9. twg: If it had ended badly I actually think this would have bothered her for the rest of her life.

    Tabor: Just imagine flying up into the air, when BLAM you get blasted by a giant yellow object that came out of nowhere. Definitely cause for going into shock. This little guy looked more than stunned...

    Slim: I love sandpipers too, and I had to look these guys up in my birdbook to id them. They aren't permanent residents here.

    ER: They were positively breathtaking when they flew in formation. Knocking one out was devastating.

    Pauline: I imagine the thoughts went kind of like this:
    "What a great day to be a sandp...KERBLAM...ohnoooooo...where am I?...OMG IT"S GODZILLA...just breathejustbreathejustbreathe...ahh that's better...that's much better...I'm outta here!"

    Manzanita: Somebody should have won a Nobel for inventing the chuck-it. And yes, thank you very much, I would like to buy a duck.

  10. Thank you many millions of times for this beautiful story and the exquisite photos. Wow.

    Alls well that ends well!

  11. WHEW! I'm so glad the little guy saved you from a horrible dilemma.

    What are the odds that a thing like this might happen? How very amazing that it ended happily!

    GREAT photos!

  12. Thank you, Reya.

    Jo: The odds of this happening are enough, I guess, to make me never ever throw a ball anywhere near a bird!

  13. I'm happy for the little bird and I am very happy that Reub is getting better.

    Carry on doing what you are doing and things WILL get well. Dogs can be trained.

  14. So glad to hear that it regained its composure and flew off. They're such lovely birds.


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