The real joy of birding for me isn’t seeing birds that I go looking for — it’s seeing birds that I don’t expect to see simply because I’m more aware of my surroundings because I’m “birding.”

The best example of this was our day trip to a reservoir in Denver where I got one of the shots of the Black-Billed Magpie I showed yesterday. I was glad I could get closer than I’d been able to do in the past, but it wasn’t unexpected.

Unexpected was seeing this little Spotted Sandpiper on the edge of the reservoir:
I was sure I’d never gotten a picture of a Spotted Sandpiper before, but it turns out that I’ve never gotten a picture of a Spotted Sandpiper in breeding colors before because I’d only seen them in Ocean Shores during the winter.

Spotted Sandpiper in breeding colors

If I hadn’t read Cornell’s All About Birds I would probably never have known that “The most widespread breeding sandpiper in North America, the Spotted Sandpiper breeds along the edges of nearly any water source throughout the northern half of the continent. It is at home around urban ponds as well as tundra pools.”

I’m not sure I would have believed that this was the same bird

Spotted Sandpiper in breeding colors

if I hadn’t seen it fly directly to this spot. I’m always amazed how a bird’s neck seems to disappear in certain poses, not to mention an absent leg.

The other surprise of the trip was this Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson Hawk in flight

which I, at first, took for a Red-Tailed Hawk until I consulted my Sibley Guide because the colors just didn’t look quite right for a Red-Tailed Hawk.