Red-necked Stint Malibu Lagoon

Red-necked Stint in the distant muck at Malibu Lagoon

Lifer Red-necked Stint in Malibu

Nothing puts a stop to regular birding walks like throwing out your back. And I threw out my back a couple of weeks ago. So I’ve been largely stuck at home, on a couch or my bed, doing my best not to twist, bend over, or god-forbid sneeze. Until recently, it was a significant accomplishment, achieved through suffering and very awkward positioning, to put on socks and shoes. So when word went out Monday that a Red-necked Stint was at Malibu Lagoon, I confronted a dilemma that I’m pretty sure I’d never faced before: was I physically able to go birding? 

All it required was a 15 mile drive and a walk down a dirt path and down a beach. But driving has been the worst activity, and walking was no picnic either. Balanced against that was the chance to add a lifer, and a bird that had only been seen in L.A. county twice before. I didn’t have to go into work on Tuesday, so I could drop off my kid at school, and drive out to the Malibu Lagoon and see it. I was hoping word would go out before I made the drive that the bird was present. Happily, someone posted on the LACO Birds listserv at 7:45am that the bird had been found. Confident it wouldn’t be gone by 8:30 when I’d arrive, I decided to risk my well-being and head out there. 

Red-necked Stint Malibu Lagoon

Too rufous to be a Least Sandpiper; too delicate and small to be a Western Sandpiper

As with all good super-rarities, there was a group of birders peering through optics when I made my way to the beach. I lined myself up with one of the guys with a scope, and picked out the Red-necked Stint amongst the peeps working the mire in the lagoon. It was pretty far away, so the binocular looks (and the photos) weren’t great, but the red neck was easy to make out. It spent its time feeding, occasionally flying short distances but never coming close. 

Red-necked Stints breed in Siberia and and the Russian Far East, and winter in Australia and southeast Asia. They don’t regularly appear in the lower 48. You can find them in Nome, Alaska, but there’s maybe one a year found somewhere along the west coast. 

I can’t say that it was a thrilling outing. Indeed, it might’ve been the least exciting lifer I’ve added in a long while. But I blame my back for that, and not the bird. There had been a juvenile Black Tern at the lagoon the night before that I was hoping had stuck around (that would’ve been another lifer). But I didn’t see it, and no one reported it during the day.