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January 1, 2013

 

A new year.† The count starts over from scratch.† Like the last two years, I plan to write a report for each day that I add at least one new species to my list for the year.† As a reminder, species names that are new for my year list will be rendered in ALL CAPS.† To those of you who get these reports by email, this is a good time for you to let me know if you want to removed from the mailing list.† The reports are eventually available on my website, and if you prefer to look at them that way, at your leisure, rather than get them by email, just let me know.† Likewise, if you are reading this on the web and would like to be added to my email list, let me know; Iíd be more than happy to add you to my list for emails.

 

So, my first bird of 2013 was DARK-EYED JUNCO this year.† I quickly added CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE, SONG SPARROW, PINE SISKIN, and HOUSE FINCH in our yard.† Then I saw that the VARIED THRUSH that had been around for a couple of days was back again.† Here is a picture of that little beauty that I actually took yesterday.

 

 

We donít get Varied Thrush very often, so it was nice that this one stuck around for the new year.

 

There are more yard birds I might have gotten, but I headed down to Juanita Bay Park at that point, to see what I might pick up down there.† I got AMERICAN CROW on the way.† There were the regular ducks out on the lake, and I picked up BUFFLEHEAD, AMERICAN COOT, and RINGED-NECKED DUCK right away.† Here is a picture of a male Ring-necked Duck.

 

 

Here is a female.† Iím always interested in the differences between the sexes.

 

 

Meanwhile, I added RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD.

 

The next species was MALLARD.† Mallards are so common that I tend to overlook them, but the males are really pretty birds.† If they werenít so common, they would be one that birders look for.† Here is a male in the sunlight.

 

 

Here is a picture of part of Juanita Bay Park, in the bright sunshine of New Yearís Day.

 

 

Another duck that showed itself was GADWALL.† The males always look pretty plain when seen with the naked eye, but up close, they have a beautiful pattern to them.

 

 

There was also a female HOODED MERGANSER, my first of three merganser species for the day.† I like this picture of her.

 

 

Later, I saw a male and female COMMON MERGANSER.† Too far for pictures, though.† There were a number of DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS around, too, as always in the winter.† There were also the usual GREEN-WINGED TEAL around.† Here is a picture of a male.

 

 

There was a GREAT BLUE HERON there, as well as AMERICAN WIGEON (a duck) and WOOD DUCKS.† There were also a number of PIED-BILLED GREBES.† I had hoped to see swans, but someone told me that they had been there earlier but had flown away.† While I was there, one TRUMPETER SWAN flew back in, though, and went onto my list.† A woman on the observation platform pointed out a mature BALD EAGLE in a tree across the bay, and later an immature one flew around overhead.

 

I decided that I had seen most of what I was going to see, and I needed to get home for something, so I left then.† On my way out of the park, I saw the resident RED-TAILED HAWK, and on the way home, I picked up some FERAL PIGEONS.

 

So, I had 25 species then, and that seemed like a good start to the year.† Last year I only got 10 on the first, but I was up to 32 after the 2nd, and Iím not going to be able to bird tomorrow or the next few days.† I was up to 44 by the end of the 5th last year, so I wanted to not fall too far behind the pace this year.† I decided to head up north to Edmonds and see what I could add up there, on the waterfront and at the fish hatchery up there.

 

On the way north, I stopped in Lake Forest Park at a house I knew with feeders, and I added BAND-TAILED PIGEON, a species that is normally very difficult for me to get, but now that I know about this house where they hang out, it has become an easy one.† Here is a picture of one of them.

 

 

I stopped at the fish hatchery in Edmonds, where I had seen a large number of birds just two days ago, when birding with an Aussie mate who came through town.† Today was really dead, though.† We had seen at least a half dozen species that would have added to my year list, but today I was only able to add RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET.† I did get a picture, though.† The kinglet is a very active little bird, and getting a picture is a real challenge.† I donít think I have ever gotten one at all before.† Today I played the song on my cell phone, though, and one came and displayed for me for quite a while.† It was still a challenge to get a picture, but I got one that shows the red crown, which you normally donít see at all.

 

 

I also added BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE and ANNAíS HUMMINGBIRD there.

 

I had stopped at Subway on the way and gotten a sandwich.† I sat in my car and ate it, while watching for birds, and I did manage to pick up SPOTTED TOWHEE while eating.† Then, as I was about to leave, there was a little flock of BUSHTITS that came through.

 

I moved on to the Edmonds pier.† I got GLACUCOUS-WINGED GULL and MEW GULL easily.† There were also a lot of HORNED GREBES around, as well as RED-NECKED GREBES.†† There were also a couple of PIGEON GUILLEMOTS.† A COMMON GOLDENEYE (another duck) flew past, and later I saw one or two more of them.† There was a little group of SURF SCOTERS next to the ferry, which was loading.† A PELAGIC CORMORANT flew by and I got a good look at it.† Those were all common ones that I would expect to see there any time in the winter, and nothing ďgoodĒ showed itself.† It was sunny, but kind of windy, so I moved on from there.† I drove up to Sunset Avenue, north of the ferry landing, because we had seen some other species there the other day.

 

I soon picked up the third merganser species, RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, at least one male and several females.† I had also forgotten about another species we had seen the other day, a small goose called BRANT.† Here is a picture of a small group of them.

 

 

Here is a close-up of one.

 

 

I donít see Brant all that often, and I donít recall ever getting a picture of one before, so that was nice.

 

The other species I got there was BLACK SCOTER (called American Scoter now, I guess).† I have only seen them two or three times before, but there were several of them out there, and I got good scope views.† Too far for pictures, though.

 

It was getting late by then, but I stopped at the fish hatchery again on the way home, in an attempt to see more of the species we saw there two days ago.† I decided to play a bird song on my cell phone, because the habitat looked so good for it, and I was rewarded by a lovely little PACIFIC WREN who responded to the song and flitted around.† This is the best picture I got, but it doesnít really show his little wren-like personality very well.

 

 

This next picture, taken with flash, shows his wren look, but it is pretty blurry, unfortunately.

 

 

It was fun to see him, as I have only seen them a couple of times before in my life. †As I left, I also picked up NORTHERN FLICKER and AMERICAN ROBIN, to bring me to a total of 45 species for the day.† That is an excellent start to the year, considering I only spent about five hours birding and it was all in the suburbs.

 

Tomorrow Iím flying to the San Diego area for a funeral, and Iíll be back on Saturday.† I might pick up one or two species in San Diego, but I wonít have time for any actual birding.† I plan to head for California on Monday next week, and I expect to have a lot of birds to report for that trip, so stay tuned.

 

 

Thursday, January 3

 

I wasnít really planning to do any birding today, but while walking from our hotel to my sisterís house this morning, I saw this beautiful RED-SHOULDERED HAWK.

 

 

It was calling repeatedly, and looked beautiful in the morning sunshine.† Fortunately, I had my binoculars and my camera along with me.

 

As I approached my sisterís house, I saw some birds in a tree and on the street, and they turned out to be WESTERN BLUEBIRDS.† Here is a picture of a male.

 

 

On a roof across the street were a couple of MOURNING DOVES.† Here is a picture of one of them.

 

 

I had also picked up BREWERíS BLACKBIRD in the hotel parking lot, as well as EUROPEAN STARLING on my walk.† So, I had five birds for my year list without even trying.† My sister has bird feeders, and among all the House Finches there was one HOUSE SPARROW, my first of the year.† That was 6 today.

 

My two sisters and I had an appointment to see a lawyer about my brother-in-lawís estate, and on our way out of the housing development where my sister lives, there was a BLACK PHOEBE hunting bugs on a lawn.† Back from the lawyer, I picked up a juvenile WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW at my sisterís house at a feeder.† Wow, I had 8 for my year list, and I hadnít even done any birding.

 

As it turned out, there were a couple of hours in the afternoon when my sister needed a nap and I had some time available.† I chose to go over to the San Elijo Lagoon for a little actual birding.† My first new bird there was a COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, a ďgoodĒ bird that I donít see all that often.† I tried for a picture, but failed.† Walking a little farther along the trail, I saw a YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, a common California bird in the winter.

 

The bird I was especially looking for is one that is an endangered species and only lives in the San Diego to Palos Verdes area along the Pacific Coast.† I knew they lived at the San Elijo Lagoon, and I saw them there in October.† I tried playing their song, even though the species is endangered, and most birders would frown on playing the song, and many people say it is ďillegalĒ to do so, although I donít believe that.† The law says it is illegal to ďharassĒ an endangered species, and so far, no court has said that playing a birdís song constitutes ďharassingĒ it.† I can understand why people might think that was harassment, and I respect their decision to not play calls for those endangered species, but I donít agree with them, and I donít believe that it is actually ďagainst the lawĒ until some court interprets the law that way.† Anyway, I didnít get any response to playing the song.

 

A little farther along the trail, I saw a little bird that was repeatedly flying out onto the trail, and it turned out to be a lovely little CALIFORNIA GNATCATCHER, the bird I was especially looking for.† I hadnít even played its song in that area.† I thought they were a very shy species, but this bird was extremely ďconfidingĒ, as birders say, which means it didnít seem to be bothered by my presence at all.† I took a lot of pictures and looked very closely at it because they look very much like their cousin, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.† I saw that the underside of the tail was black, though, as well as some other subtle indications that this was the California Gnatcatcher, and my pictures confirmed that later.† Here are some pictures of the little beauty.

 

 

 

 

After a while, with the bird just 8 or 10 feet away, I played the California Gnatcatcher song, and this bird did respond with the same song.† It did not seem ďharassedĒ at all, and continued to flit around feeding right out in front of me.† I was pleased Ė my target species had been found.

 

I continued on the trails, and picked up CALIFORNIA TOWHEE.† Here is an interesting picture of that bird, as it started to scamper off the trail.† I later saw 2 or 3 others.

 

 

Up until then I had been on trails down the hillside, but then I walked along the lagoon itself and picked up some common water birds.† I got SNOWY EGRET and GREAT EGRET, birds we donít get up in Washington usually, but ones that are very common in California.† There were some shorebirds, and I quickly picked up SEMI-PALMATED PLOVER and WILLET.

 

There were three AMERICAN AVOCETS foraging for food.† Here is a picture of one them, in its black and white winter plumage.

 

 

There were some ducks, including one RUDDY DUCK, also in its black and white winter plumage.

 

I also saw a shorebird that seemed at first to have a really long bill.† I thought it was a snipe at first, but ended up deciding that it was a LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER.† Here is a picture of that bird:

 

 

There are two species of dowitcher, and the differences are subtle, especially in the winter.† The bill size isnít completely diagnostic, but this one had such a long bill and its plumage is such that I decided I would call it a Long-billed Dowitcher.† Interestingly, later I saw another dowitcher and I decided that it was the other species, after seeing my pictures.† Here is that bird:

 

 

The bill seems a lot shorter to me, and the markings around the face and on the breast and stomach are enough different that Iím going to call this one a SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER.† Ideally, the best way to distinguish the two species is by hearing their vocalization, but I didnít hear either of these make any sounds.† I might be wrong, but Iím going with Long-billed and Short-billed for these two birds.† If anyone reading this has another opinion, I would be very glad to hear it, along with the reasons.† It wouldnít be the first time I was wrong in an identification, and Iím always willing to learn.

 

I later saw a cute little SPOTTED SANDPIPER, to bring my total for the day to an additional 21 species for my year list.† That brings me to 66 species for the year so far.† Not a bad start to 2013.† Getting 21 more today, when I wasnít even planning on doing any birding was a nice surprise.

 

There is one other species that I hope to see here in this area, and if I see if, or anything else, Iíll put out another report.† Otherwise, I intend to come back in early February to help my sister with estate issues, and Iíll try for several Southern California species at that time.† Since I wasnít expecting to come to San Diego at all this year, I should get some upside to my predicted totals for the year.

 

 

Friday, January 4

 

Today was a non-birding day, but I did manage to add to my year list, so Iíll document it.† No pictures today, though.

 

This morning I walked around the edges of the golf course here at the resort hotel where we are staying and saw some distant GREAT-TAILED GRACKLES flying.† The males are easy to identify because they have a very long, odd-shaped tail.† I also saw a cute little BEWICKíS WREN, a bird I see in our yard at home sometimes, but I havenít seen yet this year.† There was another small bird, too, and I was stumped on it.† It looked like a warbler, and it had a greenish back.† The breast was pretty yellow, and I noted that the feathers under the tail were also yellow.† Consulting my field guide back in the room, I decided that it must have been an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER.† Everything was right for Orange-crowned Warbler except the yellow breast, but I guess that some of the subspecies can be pretty yellowish underneath, so thatís what Iím calling it.† There just isnít anything else it could have been, as far as I can come up with.

 

Later, in the church yard while waiting for the funeral to begin, Christina spotted a bird flying over, and it was a single WHITE-FACED IBIS.† Then this afternoon at the cemetery, there were a couple of COMMON RAVENS flying around overhead vocalizing.

 

So, I added 5 more species today without doing any actual birding, other than the short walk around the hotel grounds this morning.† That puts me at 71 for the year now.

 

 

Saturday, January 5

 

This was another non-birding day; we flew home today from John Wayne Airport in Orange County.† This morning before breakfast, I looked out the window of our room and saw a little bird in a tree right outside.† I got my binoculars, and at first glance, I thought it was a Yellow-rumped Warbler, a very common bird in California.† But, with a closer look, I could see it was actually a TOWNSENDíS WARBLER.† They are also fairly common, but not nearly as common as the Yellow-rumped (called Butter Butts by some birders).† So, that puts me up to 72 species for the year.

 

Iím planning on heading out for northern California on Monday or Tuesday, so I expect that there will be more reports soon, with pictures, I hope.† The last several weeks have been something of a blur, with the holidays, the final illness of my brother-in-law and all its uncertainties, and then the quick trip to the funeral.† I was looking forward to getting out on the road again, but right now it feels pretty good to be home, and I hope things get back to some kind of ďnormalĒ, whatever that means in these perilous times.

 

 

Tuesday, January 8

 

I headed out of Seattle on Monday morning because the weather forecast for the mountains I had to go through was best for Tuesday.† After Tuesday, it is going to get colder and there is a much bigger chance of snow.† I donít like driving on snow or ice after my little skidding incident last year.† The lowest temperature I saw today was 32 degrees, and the road was clear and dry or clear and damp all the way.† Mostly it was well above freezing.† I did have fog (low clouds) on the main pass through the Siskiyous, but I felt okay with the driving.

 

Yesterday I had had an easy 7 hour and 20 minute drive to Grantís Pass, Oregon.† I had rain most of the time, but it was mostly just a drizzle, and it didnít make the driving difficult.† I had a clean, good-smelling room at Motel 6, with a microwave and a little fridge for 42 bucks, including tax.† Thatís my kind of traveling.

 

As I came down the south side of the mountains today, I again went through the clouds (that is, it was foggy), but I broke into the bright sunshine just as I got to the Mount Shasta area.† Here is a picture of Mount Shasta, in all its winter glory.

 

 

In that same area, I saw a raptor sitting on a fence post, and it was clearly a ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK.† That isnít a bird I have seen very many times, and I wish I could have stopped and gotten a better look, and maybe gotten a picture, but I was whizzing past at 70 mph.† It was a large raptor and it had a white head and upper breast, with a dark stomach.† I canít think of anything else it could have been, so I have counted it as a Rough-legged Hawk.

 

The next bird for my year list was a TURKEY VULTURE.† I later saw quite a few more of them.† They are very common here in California.† I also picked up WESTERN MEADOWLARK from the freeway at 70 mph, although I did see a number of them later in the day at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).

 

That was my first destination of the day, the Sacramento NWR.† It turned out to be foggy in the central valley, for the most part, but I got off the freeway anyway, to see what I could see in the fog.† Incidentally, I had realized this morning in my motel room that I had left home without my birding telescope!† I always worry about what Iím forgetting, and yesterday I realized I had forgotten my sunglasses.† I fixed that by buying a pair for 9 bucks at a gas station store, and I like them better than the ones I had forgotten.† I also discovered this morning that I had forgotten the little scissors I use to trim my mustache, but I can go two weeks without trimming it, so that was okay.† The scope is another story.† How dumb is it for a birder to leave on a birding trip without his scope?† There is one redeeming fact, though.† When I got my new scope last year, I gave my old one to Fred, the friend Iím visiting here in Sacramento.† So, at least I can share the use his scope and be okay while here.† He even has consented to loan it to me when I go to Monterey later this week, so even the big mistake of forgetting my scope is actually not too bad.† My new scope is only 10 or 20 percent better than my old one, anyway, so Iíll be fine.

 

Anyway, as I got off the freeway for the Sacramento NWR, I picked up AMERICAN KESTREL for my year list.† Once at the NWR, I took the six mile auto tour.† I rapidly added NORTHERN SHOVELER (a duck), GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, HERRING GULL, NORTHERN HARRIER (a raptor), and RING-NECKED PHEASANT for my year list.

 

Then, through the fog, I saw some white geese.† What do you know, they were ROSSíS GEESE, the species I had stopped here specifically to see.† They look very much like their cousins, Snow Geese, but there are some subtle differences.† I thought these were Rossís Geese, and I got some pictures that confirm that.† The pictures are pretty poor though, due mostly to the lighting and fog, so I wonít show them.

 

Here is a picture that shows the amount of fog I was dealing with.

 

 

A little farther along, I picked up SNOW GOOSE and also CINNAMON TEAL (another duck).† You are supposed to stay in your car on the auto tour, in order to disturb the birds as little as possible, but there are three places where you can stop and get out of your car.† I stopped at the second one, and looked around.† While out of the car, I spotted a LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, a bird I particularly like.† I stalked it and got some pictures.† These are the best I got.

 

 

 

Not great, but the fog made the light very flat, which isnít good for pictures.† A black and white bird is difficult to photograph in the best of conditions, and flat lighting only makes it worse.

 

I continued around the tour route.† There were at least three adult bald eagles that flew over and put on quite a show.† I was looking for sparrows on the road, and there were a lot of White-crowned Sparrows, but I had already counted them in San Diego last week.† Then I saw a GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW and soon after that some AMERICAN PIPITS and two or three LINCOLNíS SPARROWS.† I tried for pictures of those last two, but was unsuccessful.

 

My final new species for the day was EARED GREBE.† I always have a problem distinguishing the winter-plumaged Eared Grebes from the Horned Grebes, but Horned Grebe is rare at the Sacramento NWR and none have been reported this year.† I was more concerned at first that it was a Pied-billed Grebe, but then a Pied-billed Grebe swam out and I got a picture of the two of them.

 

 

The Eared Grebe is the one closer to the camera.

 

So, that was the end of my birding for the day.† I was ten minutes late on my schedule, so I headed back to the freeway and on to Sacramento.† I plan to be here for the next three days, before heading to the Monterey area.† Weíll see if I can add some more birds to my list.† Iím now at 89 species for the year.

 

 

Wednesday, January 9

 

Today Fred and I headed out to the American River, to look for birds.† Our first target bird was a Townsendís Solitaire that had been seen at one of the parks along the American River, up by Hazel Avenue.† We dipped on the solitaire, which would have been a great bird for me, as I have only seen two of them before in my life, but there were other birds around.

 

I got onto an OAK TITMOUSE, a bird that I donít think I have ever gotten a picture of before.† They are very active and hard to get a picture of.† Here is one I got today of the little cutie:

 

 

While watching for the solitaire, a couple of WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCHES flew into a tree and flitted around feeding on the branches Ė getting bugs, I guess.† Here is a picture of one of them:

 

 

My pictures from today are all kind of ďsoftĒ, as the light was terrible.† It was heavily overcast most of the time, and the light was very flat and poor.† Many of the pictures were taken with the sky as a background, and that was especially difficult today.

 

A DOWNY WOODPECKER flew in.† I was hoping it was a similar-sized, similar-looking woodpecker that only lives here in California, but it turned out to be a Downy.† It was a female, and here is a picture of her, in a funny position for a woodpecker.

 

 

Here is a more conventional pose:

 

 

A little later I spotted a male Downy Woodpecker, and here is a picture of that guy:

 

 

I also picked up CEDAR WAXWING, HERMIT THRUSH, WESTERN SCRUB-JAY, and NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD there.† Here is a picture of a Cedar Waxwing.

 

 

After an hour or more, we gave it up and went across the road to the Nimbus fish hatchery.† There are several birds that are regular there, and I wanted to pick them up for the year.† I saw a couple of GREEN HERONS inside the screened off area where they raise the fish.† It seems like a pretty good life for a heron, living at a fish hatchery, with lots of pools of fish to feast on at any time.† I wonder if they spend their whole lives there, inside the screening.

 

Here is a picture of a male Common Goldeneye on the American River.

 

 

I had already counted that species at Edmonds, earlier in the year, and later this week, I hope to add its cousin, the Barrowís Goldeneye.

 

Another species I had already counted was there, and I got this picture of a female Common Merganser.

 

 

There were a lot of people fishing on the river, just below the hatchery.† We watched a guy pull in a very nice sized salmon, but I didnít get a picture of the fish.† Here are some of the fisherpeople, though.

 

 

There were some gulls on a wire over the river there, and I added CALLIFORIA GULL.† Then I picked up another good bird there, PEREGRINE FALCON.† Iíve seen one there before.† I got some pictures today.† They are rather distant and had the same poor lighting we had all day, but here they are.† In this first one, you can see the falcon is eating its prey, which is probably a swift.

 

 

Here is another picture of the falcon, a little later.

 

 

They arenít great pictures, but they do show the bird, with all its field marks.† The falcon was flying under the Hazel Street bridge repeatedly.† I noticed that each time it flew under one particular spot, as soon as it passed, one to five WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS flew down out of a hole in the underside of the bridge.† I must have seen a couple of dozen swifts fly out of there in a few minutes.† I didnít see the falcon get another one, but I was happy to add the swift to my year list.

 

It was noon by then, and we went back across the road to look for the solitaire again, and again didnít see it.† I picked up LESSER GOLDFINCH, though.† Here is a picture of a female.

 

 

The camera focused on the branches in front of the bird, unfortunately.† I saw AMERICAN GOLDFINCH there, too.

 

Next we moved on across the river to Sailor Bar.† I added RING-BILLED GULL there.† There were some ducks there, too, including the ugliest Mallard hybrid I have ever seen.† Mallards hybridize with other ducks and with geese, and they produce what I call ďpark ducksĒ that you see in parks where people feed the ducks.† This one had a very odd curly tuft on top of its head.

 

 

Moving inland from the river a couple of hundred yards, there were a couple of WHITE-TAILED KITES.† I got a couple of pictures, despite the terrible lighting and sky.† Here is one of them doing what I call its ďhover actĒ. †They can hover in the air, while they look for prey down on the ground.

 

 

Later one of them flew right overhead, and I got this picture.

 

 

There were several Western Scrub-Jays around there, and I got this picture of one of them.

 

 

I ate my humble lunch there, and then we walked up by the pond.† I got COMMON GALLINULE (formerly called Common Moorhen) there.† Here is a picture of Fred and Tugboat, by the pond.

 

 

We still had some time left, so after a stop at a grocery store, we went to the Effie Yeaw center, on the American River.† We walked around, but there was little there, and the lighting was even worse than earlier.† I did finally pick up CANADA GOOSE for my year list there, as well as WILD TURKEY.† Here are a couple of turkeys.

 

 

There was a Red-shouldered Hawk there, too.

 

 

Finally, I saw a number of ACORN WOODPECKERS there at Effie Yeaw.† So, we had a quiet day of birding, and I picked up 19 more species for my year list, to bring me to 108 species for the year now.† Tomorrow we will look for more.

 

 

Thursday, January 10

 

This morning we got kind of a late start, and headed out about 10.† Again Fred drove and we took Tugboat with us.† We headed west to Davis and stopped at the Vic Fazio NWR, to check it out.† It is in a flood plain, and has been closed due to flooding.† It was still closed today, but it looked to us like it ought to open sometime in the next week, so we will try to go there next week, when Iím back from Monterey.† There are a couple of species I would like to get there, and it is always on our birding routes when Iím here in Sacramento.

 

After that short stop, we headed farther west through Davis and Winters, heading for upper Putah Creek.† Between Davis and Winters, I picked up a local species for my list, YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIE.† We ended up seeing maybe a dozen today, in ones and twos.† We have a particular place we stop on the way to upper Putah Creek, and today we saw some finches there.† Fred got a better look than I did, and he was sure that at least one was a Purple Finch, which is much less common than the very similar looking House Finch.† I didnít feel like I got a good enough look to count it, although I saw nothing that would have ruled out Purple Finch.† So, that bird is still on my needed list.

 

Next we stopped at Lake Solano county park and paid our 5 bucks for day use.† Tug had to stay in the car, as no pets are allowed in the park.† It was fairly birdy, although I missed one or two species I had hoped to see there.† There were a lot of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, several of them showing their red crowns, which is kind of unusual.† There was another little bird, and it turned out to be a HOUSE WREN, a species I never used to see, but have seen a number of times in the last year or so.† I got a couple of pictures of the little cutie.† Here is a face view that doesnít really show most of his markings, but I like it anyway.

 

 

The main field mark of House Wren is that they are plain, with no real markings on their head.† All the other wrens have some kind of facial marking.† Here is a picture that shows his wren personality and look.

 

 

Look at those cute little feet.† I like wrens.

 

I saw one of the species that I was specifically looking for in that area, PHAINOPEPLA.† I am not likely to see them anywhere else this year, unless I get to Las Vegas, and even there, it is no guarantee.† Here is a picture of the black male Phainopepla.

 

 

Here is a gray female.

 

 

That is quite a hairdo that they have, isnít it?† Sort of an exaggerated Mowhawk.

 

There was a nice sized flock of Cedar Waxwings that moved through, and lots of Dark-eyed Juncos.† There were a lot of Buffleheads and Canada Geese on the lake, along with a number of goldeneyes.† I was looking for Barrowís Goldeneye, a difficult species to get, and I have seen them at that lake in other years.† Today none of the goldeneyes were Barrowís, though.† I got good looks at a White-breasted Nuthatch, which is a good bird, but I had seen two of them yesterday.† There was a beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk flying around overhead and calling for some of the time.† It was a beautiful sunny day, too, and everything looked great in the sunshine.† They have had some rain here in recent weeks, and things were just starting to green up.

 

I got another species I was expecting to get there, INDIAN PEAFOWL.† It is a pretty bogus species to count Ė I donít think the American Birding Association counts it.† These birds are wild, though, and have survived there for years, so I count them in my own list.† Here is a picture of Fred and a couple of peacocks, showing the look of the park.

 

 

Here is one of the peacocks.

 

 

A very gaudy bird indeed.

 

We drove through the campground there, but didnít add anything new.† By that time it was time for lunch, and we stopped at a nice spot along Putah Creek and I had my ham and cheese rollups and some veggies.† Fred doesnít usually eat breakfast or lunch, but he had some pineapple today.† I canít imagine surviving on one meal a day, but he seems to like it.† He used to sometimes have a little cereal at breakfast time, but he doesnít even do that recently.† Sometimes he has a Dr Pepper during the day, but today it was the pineapple instead.† He says he just isnít hungry, so he doesnít eat.† His body must be very efficient at burning body fat; I envy him that, although I wouldnít want to skip breakfast and lunch, as I enjoy eating.

 

We stopped a couple of other places, looking for birds, but found nothing else of interest.† We headed for home and stopped on the way to look for Blue-winged Teal at a pond in West Sacramento where we have seen them before.† They are reported from that location all the time, including in the last week, but we didnít see any there today.† Fred did spot a COOPERíS HAWK on the opposite shore of the pond, though, so I added that to my year list.† It was too far away for a picture.† I mentioned that I had forgotten my scope on this trip, and we had Fredís, which was good at this point, as the hawk was probably too far away to identify with binoculars.

 

So, I only added five species to my year list today.† This morning I had thought I might ad 7 or 8, so in that respect, it was a disappointing birding day.† On the other hand, it was a beautiful mostly sunny day, and I was out and about, seeing birds, with great company in Fred and Tugboat.† In that respect, it was a great day.† (You know the saying Ė the worst day of birding is better than the best day in the office.)† Tomorrow we plan to head south to Cosumnes Preserve, and my Burrowing Owl site on the way there or the way home.† It wonít be a big day in terms of numbers, as I have seen so many species already this year, but I will add some, I am sure (knock on wood, no jinx).† I now have 113 species for the year.† What a life!

 

 

Friday, January 11

 

This morning we got out of here a little earlier Ė 9:30.† Not exactly early, but better than yesterday.† Real birders must laugh at my schedule for birding, as sunrise until 9 am is the best time for birding, by far.† As you know, I consider myself to be a dilettante birder.† I enjoy the hell out of it, but I canít really say that I do it seriously.

 

Today we headed down south to Cosumnes Preserve, to see what we could find.† Fred drove again, so Tugboat could again come along.† Tug is a really great birding dog, because he patiently sits in the car when we need him to do so, and he enjoys his time out of the car on a leash.

 

We went to the office area first, hoping to get a birding list for the preserve, but they werenít open.† There was a Hermit Thrush there, but unfortunately, I had left my camera in the car.† I donít know that I have ever gotten a picture of a Hermit Thrush.† From the office area, we walked out onto the trails, leaving Tug in the car.† There were TREE SWALLOWS flying around, an early date for them.† Later we saw a lot more.† (As Iím sure you remember, when I see a bird that is new for my year list, I render its name in ALL CAPS.)† So, I had my first swallow species of the year.

 

One of the species we saw at Cosumnes last year was one I was looking for today.† The first time we went by the place where we had seen one last year, I played the song on my phone, but we saw nothing.† Later, on the way back, I played it again, and this time I noticed a little bird down in the reeds.† Sure enough, it was a cute little WRENTIT, a species I have only seen three times before this year.† I even got pictures this year.† Here is the little cutie.

 

 

The white eye with dark iris is one of the field marks.† Here is kind of a strange shot, but I find it interesting.† It shows the light streaks on the breast.

 

 

I was very pleased to pick up Wrentit there, as I have seen it so few times.

 

After walking a bit on that trail, we went over to the boardwalk.† There were some SANDHILL CRANES around, and here is a backlit picture of a couple of them.

 

 

They are pretty shy, and it is hard to get close to them.

 

I picked up BLACK-NECKED STILT there.† Here is a picture of a male Cinnamon Teal, a bird I counted a few days ago.

 

 

I picked up MARSH WREN, too, for my year list, but couldnít get a picture. †Wrens just flit around so much and are so shy that it is hard to get pics of them.† I also got BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD there.

 

There was also a GREATER YELLOWLEGS there.† I neglected to get a picture of it, but later we saw another one, and I got a picture of that one.

 

 

Note the long bill and the yellow legs.

 

We didnít see anything else new there on the boardwalk, and it was getting to be lunch time, or later, so we drove over to the tiny town of Locke, where Fred wanted to buy some replacement cups for a china set.† The shop was closed for lunch, unfortunately, so we went back on over to Cosumnes.† On the way, there was a field with some standing water and some shorebirds.† I picked up a couple of more species there, and got pictures.

 

Here is a shorebird called a DUNLIN.† Note the slightly drooping bill.

 

 

There was also a smaller species of shorebird there.† There are two species of that size in the area, and difference is the color of the legs.†† These birds clearly had yellow legs, so they were LEAST SANDPIPERS.† Here is a picture of one of them.

 

 

Often it is hard to determine the leg color of the tiny ďpeepsĒ, but the light was perfect today, coming from behind us, and the yellow legs showed up great.

 

We got back to Cosumnes, and drove along Desmond Road.† There were tons of ducks and geese on display along there.† I got this picture of a male Northern Shoveler.

 

 

They are very colorful and the bill is broad and curved from side to side.

 

There were also Northern Harriers flying over, both a male and a female, which have very different coloring.† Here is a picture I got of a female flying by.† It is somewhat blurry, but for a picture of a flying bird, with my little camera, it is pretty good, I think.

 

 

There were more Sandhill Cranes there, too.

 

 

I saw a small bird that I counted the other day up at the Sacramento NWR, the American Pipit.

 

 

There were tons of geese around, mostly Greater White-fronted Geese.† From time to time, they would fly and make a real racket.† Here is a picture of a bunch of them flying.

 

 

As I mentioned, there were tons of ducks.† They were mostly the same old ones, but at one point, I picked up a male BLUE-WINGED TEAL.† I got it in the scope and showed it to Fred.† Then it more or less disappeared, and we never saw it again.† Go figure.† I have no idea where it went, but we both got excellent looks at it, so I have counted it.† They are fairly uncommon here on the West Coast, so I was happy to see one today.

 

Moving on, there was a nice Red-shouldered Hawk showing itself.

 

 

On our way home, we stopped off at Cosumnes River College to see BURROWING OWL.† They were doing some construction of an overpass or flyover or something, and it wasnít clear that we would be able to even see the Burrowing Owl site.† As it turned out we could still access it, but it will be interesting in future years, to see if they are still there and still viewable.† Today we only saw one owl, and here is his picture:

 

 

The grass was long this year, and the view of the owl wasnít as good as in previous years.

 

We made one more stop after that, at the Watt Avenue access to the American River.† We didnít see much there, and nothing new and nothing worth showing a picture of.

 

So, we had a very nice day of birding.† At the end of the day, back here at Fredís house, I added up the species for the day, and it surprised us both when the dayís total came to 63 species.† We had both guessed 40 to 50.† I added 11 to my year list, which brings me to 124 now for the year.† Tomorrow I head on down to the Monterey area and I hope to pick up some shorebirds and seabirds down there.

 

 

Saturday, January 12

 

I was up today and out of Fredís house by about 9:45.† I stopped at Trader Joeís to get some provisions for my lunches, and I headed for the Monterey area, to visit my friend Ted and his wife Mary Beth.† I had a good three-hour drive, and when I got here just after one, I had my humble lunch while Ted finished his lunch.† We then headed out to Monterey harbor on a twitch.† A rare loon had been reported here all week long, and this was my chance to see it.

 

On the way to the wharf, we passed a park in Monterey where we have often seen night-herons, and sure enough, a BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON was displaying itself, and I picked it up without even getting out of the car.

 

We got to the wharf where the rare loon has been seen, and on our way out to the end of the pier, I picked up BRANDTíS CORMORANT for my year list.† Then I added COMMON LOON as well, and soon after that, I saw a bird in the water that was new to me.† It was just floating there like a gull, but it didnít look like a gull.† I got my binoculars on it, and it clearly was something different.† I got some pictures.† Here is one of them.

 

 

I had an idea what it was, but I didnít have my field guide with me at the time.† Later I ran into some local birders, and showed them a picture, and they confirmed what I thought it was Ė a NORTHERN FULMAR.† Not a lifer, but a bird I only ever saw in Britain, back in 2010.† I had seen reports that one had been seen in this harbor, but hadnít really expected to be able to identify one.† In Britain, I only saw them flying, and they were the white morphs, not the dark morphs that are more common in the Pacific.

 

So, we werenít even out to the end of the pier yet, to look for our rare loon, and I had added four birds to my year list, one of which was new for me in the US.† This was fun!

 

Out at the end of the pier, there were half a dozen birders or more, with scopes and binoculars, so I asked them if the rare loon was around.† Yes, I was told, right out there.† Sure enough, I looked where they said and got a good but brief view of an ARCTIC LOON (lifer).† I saw it long enough to go through the field marks that told me what it was, and it dove under the water.† It didnít come up again, as far as anyone could see, and we stuck around for another 30 or 40 minutes before it started showing itself well.† In the meantime, it would pop up for ten seconds or so, and as soon as I could get my binoculars on it, it would dive again and be gone for five or more minutes.† Eventually I got scope views, Ted saw it, and then I actually got some pictures, when it came in close.† Here is the Arctic Loon.

 

 

 

The key points of identification were the clean transition from white to gray on the neck, the size and shape of the bill, the shape of the head, and most of all, the white patch on the flank.† None of the other loons has that white patch on the flank.† Woo-hoo, I had a lifer, just like that.† Here is a picture of some of the other twitchers.† Later more of them showed up.

 

 

Thatís my friend Ted on the left.† I asked how rare the Arctic Loon was, and I was told that this was only the third record of the bird in California Ė ever.† Thatís pretty rare, all right.† Normally, the birds would breed in northern Alaska and then migrate down the Asian coast in the winter.

 

While we were waiting for the Arctic Loon to show itself better, other loons kept showing up.† I got this picture of a loon that I thought at the time was a Common Loon.

 

 

Now, with the benefit of the picture, I think it was a PACIFIC LOON, another one for my year list.† The key points of identification are the size and shape of the bill, the shape of the head (steep forehead and rounded head), and the faint ďchinstrapĒ under the chin.† I am convinced this was a Pacific Loon, so that is how I am counting it.

 

While looking for loons, I also picked up BROWN PELICAN, as one flew by.

 

Eventually we got tired of waiting for the Arctic Loon to show itself, and we had had great looks and pictures, so we left.† On the way back to the car, I got this picture of a WESTERN GREBE.

 

 

It was getting late in the afternoon, but we headed up to Moss Landing Harbor, to Jetty Road on the north side of the harbor.† The tide was way out, farther out than I had ever seen it, in fact.† I rapidly picked up some of the shorebirds I needed.† There were lots of MARBLED GODWITS.† Here is a picture of a couple of them in the late afternoon sun.

 

 

I got WESTERN SANDPIPER, after a quick scope look confirmed that some of the tiny peeps out there had black legs.† There were also Least Sandpipers, with yellow legs, which I had seen in the Sacramento area.† There were several BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS, too, for my list.† There was also one LONG-BILLED CURLEW.† Here is a picture.† How about that bill?

 

 

It was cool to watch the bird stick its bill into the mud all the way, and come up with goodies to eat.

 

There were quite a few gulls, and I added WESTERN GULL easily.† There are a couple more gulls I hope to add here, but I will have to work harder for them, especially one of them.

 

We were looking for an uncommon duck that has been reported there in the harbor, but didnít find it today.† There were a couple of loons, however, and we kept looking at them, although that was a challenge, as they kept diving and disappearing.† I got this picture of one that I thought was different.

 

 

The position of the eye on the edge of the white part of the head, the white in front of the eye, the upturned bill, the shape of the head and the size of the bill, and the absence of any kind of ďchinstrapĒ like the Pacific loon has, makes me call this a RED-THROATED LOON.† At the time, I thought it was a Pacific Loon, but now I am calling it a Red-throated Loon.† Woo-hoo again!† A four loon day.† Common, Pacific, Arctic, and Red-throated.† Wow.† I have pictures of the three less common ones, and I saw several Common Loons today.

 

While we were stalking that loon, a group of FORSTERS TERNS flew up the channel from the harbor to the ocean, too.

 

So, by that time we were losing the sun, and we headed for Tedís condo on the ocean, north of Monterey.† I had added 15 species to my year list, and one of those was a lifer and another one was new for my US list.† That brings me to 139 for the year, of which 1 is a lifer.† Not bad at all for three hours of birding.† It just goes to show how good it is to go to a new area and a new habitat.

 

Iím not sure yet where we will go tomorrow; the only thing I can almost guarantee is that we wonít be out there early.† Stay tuned for tomorrowís exciting report.† Oh yes, tonight we watched Tedís team, the San Francisco 49ers thrash the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs.† Tomorrow the Seattle Seahawks play, and if they win, then the 49ers will play the Seahawks next weekend.

 

 

Sunday, January 13

 

As predicted last night, we werenít exactly out early today.† It was about 9:45, I think, or maybe a little later when we hit the road.† By that time I had been down to the beach, though, looking for a couple of species.† I picked up SANDERLING on the beach Ė too far for pictures.† I couldnít find a Snowy Plover today, so Iíll have to keep on looking for that one.† I did get a SAYíS PHOEBE on the beach, which seemed like a strange place to see a flycatcher.† I guess there are plenty of flies on a beach, though, come to think of it.† Here is a picture of the Sayís Phoebe.

 

 

When we got away at 9:45 we headed south into the condo complex, because Ted has seen California Quail along the roads.† At one point, there was a sparrow on the left side of the road, and I pulled the car across the road and stopped, to get a look at the sparrow through the side window.† Before I could even look for the sparrow, though, I noticed five or six CALIFORNIA QUAIL right in front of us, on the grass at the side of the road.† If I had kept driving, I would have run over them.† Score!† We went on down the road a ways and parked and went out on the beach to look again for Snowy Plover, but again came up empty.

 

So, with three species under my belt, we headed down the freeway to Monterey and out along the road to Point Pinos, which is northwest of downtown Monterey.† While driving along the cliffs, we saw a bird right next to the road, and it was one we had just been talking about, CACKLING GOOSE.† Cackling Goose is a ďnewĒ species, only a few years old.† It used to be a subspecies of Canada Goose.† Canada Goose actually used to have about 8 or 10 subspecies, and they made the three smallest subspecies into a new species called Cackling Goose, about 4 years ago or so.† Here is a picture of this little goose.

 

 

You canít tell from the picture because there is nothing to give you a size perspective, but this goose looks tiny compared to a regular Canada Goose.

 

We continued along the cliffs, stopping to look for some shorebirds that we often see on the rocks, but the next thing we saw of interest was a common gull species for this area, HEERMANNíS GULL.† They have a dark body and white head, with a red bill.† In the winter, the white head has some dark streaking on it.† Here is a winter plumaged adult Heermannís Gull.

 

 

At one of our stops, I added two more birds to my year list, BLACK TURNSTONE and BLACK OYSTERCATCHER.† Here is a picture of the oystercatcher.

 

 

Next we stopped at the parking area by the golf course out at Point Pinos, to look for a rare bird in this area that had been reported here.† We saw 3 or 4 birders out on the edge of the golf course, near where the bird had been reported, so we approached them, and I asked if they had seen it.† They said no.† They were down from San Francisco for the day, and they had already seen the Arctic Loon in Monterey Harbor that we had seen yesterday, and now they were looking for this other rare (for this area) bird.

 

So, they had been there a while and had seen nothing, so we were all leaving when a woman approached us (an obvious birder, with binoculars around her neck).† She asked us what we had seen, and I mentioned the rare bird we were looking for.† She said, oh yes, it is over there, across the way, on the driving range, right now.† So, we all trooped over there, and sure enough, as soon as we got there, there it was, a female VERMILION FLYCATCHER, which should have been down in Mexico somewhere, for the winter.† Here are two pictures of that bird that I hadnít expected to see this year at all.

 

 

 

Note the white wing bars and the yellowish color under the tail.† The behavior of the bird showed it was a flycatcher.

 

Oh yes, while on the edge of the golf course, talking to the San Francisco birders, we spotted a couple of KILLDEER on the course, my first sighting of the year for that common species.

 

We continued on around the point, stopping to look for a couple of other species we have seen out there before.† We kept seeing more Black Turnstones, which are similar to another species I wanted to see, but never the one I wanted.† Then at one stop, I noticed that one of the ďBlack TurnstonesĒ had bright red-orange legs, and the others didnít.† Hmmm.† I was confused and thinking about various species, when it turned toward me and I got at a look at it from the front.† Aha, the penny dropped!† It was a RUDDY TURNSTONE, a bird I hadnít ever seen in this area, and one that I didnít even know showed up here.†† Last year I saw them down in Texas and also in San Diego.† I hadnít even included them in my spreadsheet for the year, as I hadnít expected to see one.† Now I see that they are seen here regularly, which is interesting, since I have birded here a fair amount and never seen one.† Maybe I had seen them and overlooked them, as I almost did today.† At the same place, we finally saw the bird we had been looking for, SURFBIRD.† Wow, we not only got the ones I was looking for, but another species as well.

 

Then to really top things off, we saw a WHIMBREL, a bird I hadnít really expected to see on a rocky shore, but there it was.† That finishes off the shorebirds I expect to be able to see here in the Monterey area.

 

By then it was well after noon, and we needed to eat.† I had brought along some chicken breast, some vegetables, and some cheese, and Ted had a veggie sandwich from Subway, to which he added some salmon from a vacuum pack.† It was plenty damn cold out in the wind Ė about 50 degrees, but it seemed colder with the wind.† We stopped at a McDonaldís and used their rest room and then had our humble lunches at their outdoor table, which was out of the wind, at least.

 

After our repast, we headed up the coast to the Moss Landing area, where we had birded yesterday afternoon.† There was a rare species there to look for too; again, rare for this area, but one I would be glad to get.† First we stopped at the Moonglow Dairy, though.† The dairy is a well-known birding spot around here, and we were looking for a particular species of blackbird that is hard to find.† On our way into the dairy, I got this picture of an American Pipit, a bird I had counted the other day at the Sacramento NWR.

 

 

There was also a bird on a post that turned out to be one I needed still Ė a SAVANNAH SPARROW.† Here is a picture of that guy.

 

 

The streaky breast and the yellow over the eye were the giveaways on that bird.

 

Once we got in to where the cows were, there were flocks of blackbirds all over the place.† We had Brewerís Blackbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, European Starlings, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and finally, the one we were looking for Ė a few TRICOLORED BLACKBIRDS.† They are like a Red-winged Blackbird, but with white on the wings, as well as red.

 

Then, a little farther along, where we turn around, there was a flock of little birds.† Most of them were Yellow-rumped Warblers, but at least three of them were Townsendís Warblers.† I had counted Townsendís Warbler in San Diego, but this was the first time I had seen them in this area, and they were a lifer for Ted.† Here are some pictures of the little beauties.

 

 

 

Here is a picture of one them, looking right at me.† An interesting view, I think.

 

 

After the dairy, we moved on to Jetty Road again, where we had been yesterday afternoon.† The tide was again out very far, and we looked through the birds on the water for the rare duck that had been reported there.† While looking, a couple of other birders stopped and asked us if we were looking for the crane.† We werenít, but I had read about it, too.† It was a juvenile Sandhill Crane, which should have been over in the Central Valley somewhere at this time of year, and way north in the summer.† It is quite rare for Monterey County.† As it turned out, we did see the crane, and here is a picture of it, foraging on the beach, totally out of its normal element.

 

 

Meanwhile, we were still looking for the rare duck.† I also needed another gull, though, and I looked through the hundreds of gulls that were loafing on the beach in the harbor.† I was able to pick out a couple of THAYERíS GULLS.† That finishes off the common gulls that I can expect to see on the west coast, I think.

 

We talked to another birder who was also looking for the duck, but he hadnít seen it either.† He did give us better information about where it had been seen yesterday, though, and we had been looking in the wrong place, it seemed.† Still, it was getting late, and we wanted to get home.† We thought we could always try again tomorrow or the next day.† On our way out of Jetty Road, I stopped because I saw a shorebird called a yellowlegs.† There are two species, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and the biggest difference is the size of the bird.† I stopped and we got out, to scope the bird.† It had disappeared in the meantime, but before we got back into the car, Ted noticed that the guy we had been talking to about the duck was down the road, looking out to the north.† I looked out in the direction he was looking, and I saw it.† It was a long distance off, and while I kept my eye on it, Ted got the scope out of the car.† At about the same time that Ted got back with the scope, the guy we had talked to showed up and he confirmed that he also thought it was our duck out there.† We got the scope on it, and we all agreed, it was the female LONG-TAILED DUCK that we had been looking for for the last hour or two.† I had expected to see one eventually this year, up in the Seattle area, but it would have meant going over to the Port Angeles area, and then seeing one far out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.† It was great to check it off today.

 

It was very interesting today how much we interacted with other birders.† I got at least two species today only because other birders took the trouble to talk to us Ė the Vermilion Flycatcher and the Long-tailed Duck.† All day long it seemed like we were just plain lucky, being in the right places at the right times.

 

So, we headed for home, then.† I added 16 species today, which is far more than I had expected.† That brings me to 155 species for the year so far, and one of them is a lifer.† Iím off to a fantastic start for the year, after only 13 days.† Now it will slow down considerably, of course, and my expectations will be a lot less from now on.† My spreadsheet for the year only shows 240 species here in the US for the whole year, and I already have almost two-thirds of that many.† It will definitely be a lot slower from now on.

 

Back at Tedís house, we watched the recording we had made of the Seahawks game this morning.† They fell behind early and were down by a score of 20 to nothing at the end of the first half.† I had given up and we fast forwarded through most of the second half.† As it turned out, they made an incredible comeback, and actually went ahead by a score of 28 to 27, with less than a minute to go.† We thought they had won it, but then Atlanta pulled off their own little miracle and managed to kick a field goal to win the game at the very end.† It was an exciting game, but now Seattle is finished for the year.† I donít follow football, but when a local team does well, I do watch them in the playoffs.† Iím sure there is a lot of disappointment in Seattle tonight, after a real up and down game today.

 

I havenít figured out what to look for tomorrow, yet, but Iím sure we will come up with something.

 

 

Monday, January 14

 

This morning I went out on the beach here again, looking for Snowy Plover.† Again, I didnít see one.† I have seen them here the last couple of times I have been here, but not this year.

 

So, we headed up north to Zmudnowski State Beach, to look for the Snowys and also other birds that have been reported to be seen there lately.† As we approached the parking area, we stopped and scanned the pond there.† I picked up VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW for my year list.† It is a common bird, and I will see a lot of them this year, but now it is on my list.†

 

After that, we parked and walked over the dunes to the beach, and within two minutes, we had our first SNOWY PLOVER.† In five or ten minutes, we saw four of them.† Here are pictures of two of them.† Note the colored bands on the legs.† The combination of colors would identify where the bird was first captured and banded.† Because the bird is endangered, they try to capture and band all of them, then keep track of them.

 

 

 

Here is a picture of the beach at Zmudnowski State Beach, looking north.

 

 

So, having gotten the plover, we went back over the dunes and walked down the dirt road running behind the dunes, going north.† I was looking for a particular bird, and playing its song on my cell phone.† After a few minutes, one popped up and started singing back to us.† Here is a picture of a CALIFORNIA THRASHER, singing to us.† In fact, here are two pictures.

 

 

 

That was a great bird to get.† I hadnít expected to see one here in this area, but was hoping to see one down in San Diego later in the year, if I got there for birding.

 

We continued to walk along the dirt road, avoiding the muddy spots.† I scanned the field for another bird that had been reported there, and picked up a single HORNED LARK for my year list, too far away for pictures.† I was playing the song of another one I wanted, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, but we never saw one.† About that time, Ted spotted a bird overhead.† It was obviously a raptor, but we werenít sure what one.† It didnít look like any of the usual suspects.† I managed to get a few very distant pictures, and Ted got it in the scope and I got a good look at it.† I could see the facial markings that identified it as a PRAIRIE FALCON, a bird I had never even considered being able to see here.† Here are a couple of the very distant pictures of the bird.

 

 

 

From the pictures, the only other possible bird it could have been is the Peregrine Falcon, but I saw it well enough in the scope that I am sure it was a Prairie Falcon.† At any rate, that is my opinion, and if anyone reading this thinks otherwise, I would be glad to hear about it.

 

From there, we moved on north to the coast near the mouth of the Pajaro River, to a pond I had read about.† I was looking for a particular duck species I had read had been seen there recently, and I did manage to spot a female CANVASBACK there.† I even got this poorish picture that does show the bird, at least.

 

 

The duck kept swimming away from us, and this was the best picture I could get of her.

 

Next we stopped at Subway and got a veggie sandwich for Ted, for him to add his salmon to, and we moved on to the Elkhorn Slough area.† We stopped at an area near a railroad trestle and tried for another duck I need, but missed it.† Our next stop was Kirby Park, which is on the Elkhorn Slough.† We walked up the path and sat on a bench and had our humble lunches.† There were some birds around, but nothing new for my year list.† It is getting pretty darn hard to add anything new at this point, unless I go to a new area.

 

After lunch, we stopped at Strawberry Road, but saw nothing new, and so we went back to the Moss Landing Harbor area.† We cruised Jetty Road for the second time today (once on the way to Zmudnowski this morning), but nothing new.† I did get this picture of a male Red-breasted Merganser.

 

 

To balance that, here is a female Red-breasted Merganser.

 

 

There were a number of Sea Otters there, as usual.† Here is a picture of one of them.

 

 

Over at Moss Landing harbor on the south side, we saw this Pelagic Cormorant diving for fish.† Usually they just appear black, but in the right light, you can see green and purple iridescent colors on it.† In breeding season, they have white patches on their flanks.

 

 

At that same place, I got this picture of a Killdeer, an attractive shorebird that is seen all over the place, not only on shores.

 

 

There was also a Western Grebe diving for fish at that location.

 

 

After that, we stopped at the post office in Moss Landing so Ted could pick up their mail, and while he was in the post office, I got this picture of another bird for my year list, EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE.

 

 

We stopped a couple of other places after that, but didnít see anything new.† We got home early today, just after 4.† I ended up getting another seven species for my year list today, which is several more than I had expected.† Ted has a new hat, and we are now calling it his lucky hat, as we have done amazingly well this last three days.† He will have to wear that hat from now on when we bird.† Iím now at 162 species for the year, one of which is a lifer.

 

Tomorrow we plan to head inland to the Panoche Valley, east of Hollister, to look for several uncommon species that I need.† I donít expect to add much tomorrow, if anything, but Iím sure we will have fun looking.† If there is no report, then it means we got skunked.† We will see.† Even one good bird would be very satisfying.† What a life!

 

 

Tuesday, January 15

 

Before I get going with todayís report, I need to report that Iím changing my call on the Prairie Falcon from yesterday.† One of the reasons I was willing to call it a Prairie Falcon is because a local birder had reported seeing a Prairie Falcon near where I was, just a couple of days before.† He had posted a picture of it, and it looked to me like the same bird I had seen, and it looked like a Prairie Falcon to me.† Then this morning, he posted again, saying that local experts had pointed out to him that his bird was actually a juvenile Peregrine Falcon, of the subspecies that spends the winter here.† I looked it up, and I have to agree, that is what he saw, and that is what I saw.† That particular subspecies of Peregrine has a narrower cheek bar than most Peregrines, making it look more like a Prairie Falcon.† So, I am changing my call of yesterday to Peregrine Falcon, and since I had already counted Peregrine for the year, that lowers my total by one, to 161 species for the year.† This isnít the first time I have had to retract a call, and Iím glad to be able to put it right.

 

We were up and away early this morning Ė 9:15, maybe a record for us.† After a quick stop at Subway for sandwiches, we headed east, beyond Hollister, to the Panoche Valley.

 

Our first stop was the Paicines Reservoir.† I had read about it, but we had never visited it.† It turned out to be a major disappointment.† You could only view it from a distance, and there were very few birds on it.† I did get this picture of a coyote there, though.

 

 

We headed out the road to the Panoche Valley, and stopped to look for Rock Wren at a place we had seen one before.† Not today, though.† No joy.

 

A little farther along there were Yellow-billed Magpies, and I managed to get a picture I like of one of them.

 

 

A little farther along the road, we stopped to again look for Rock Wren, and again didnít find one.† I did get this picture of a couple of California Quail, though.

 

 

The hills were turning green with the recent rains, and I got this picture of a nice looking ranch.

 

 

Next I got a picture of a male Western Bluebird.

 

 

So, we were having fun and seeing birds, but I still hadnít gotten a new bird for my year list.† We were particularly looking for a couple of raptors today, and when we got into the Panoche Valley, I saw a large bird on the ground in a field.†† Just as we stopped, it flew, and we could tell as it flew that it was an interesting one.† It landed in a tree quite a distance away, and we managed to get it in the scope.† FERRUGINOUS HAWK.† I had only seen one once before in my life, last year.† Here are a couple of pictures of it.

 

 

 

We were pumped, to say the least!† I had my bird for the day, so I had an excuse to write this report today.† I hadnít really expected to see Ferruginous Hawk this year.

 

Our next big objective was Mountain Plover, another bird I didnít really expect to see this year.† They had been reported a few days ago, though, in the Panoche Valley, and I had directions to the site.† We went there and looked at the fields, but never found any.† We must have spent close to an hour looking for them, but came up empty.† In the middle of that search, we stopped long enough to eat our sandwiches, then continued the search.

 

We headed north from Panoche, to see if we could find a couple of sparrows that are supposed to be out there, but never saw either of them, either.† I did get one other bird for my year list, though, MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD.† Here is a backlit picture of a male Mountain Bluebird.

 

 

We kept looking at all the sparrows on the fences, but they just kept being Savannah Sparrows, not the two sparrow species I needed.† I did see a flock of Horned Larks, but I had counted them just yesterday at Zmudnowski State Beach.† We did see one more notable bird, though.† There was a raptor sitting on a stump, and we went back to see it.† It stayed there, and we had a great look at it, in the wonderful afternoon light coming from behind us.† I got some pictures of it, and I like them very much.† The bird itself was a bluish gray, but the pictures make it look even bluer than what we remember seeing.† Nonetheless, here are a couple of pictures of a Cooperís Hawk.

 

 

 

That was the end of the birding for today, and we headed for home over Pacheco Pass.† It had not been a day of big numbers, but it had been a lot of fun, and I was very glad to get the Ferruginous Hawk.† The two species today put me at 163 species for the year.† Tomorrow I head back to Sacramento, and maybe I can add one or two more species before I head for home.† Stay tuned.

 

 

Wednesday, January 16

 

This morning we went out to breakfast (Ted, his wife Mary Beth, and me), and then I hit the road.† I drove down Jetty Road (at Moss Landing Harbor) again, looking for Clarkís Grebe or some rarity, but saw nothing interesting.† I took the most direct route to Sacramento, up through San Jose and Walnut Creek.† While driving on I-680, after the Benicia bridge, the road goes along a big wetlands.† I spotted some big white birds, but they were too far away to identify.† Finally there was an offramp a couple of miles beyond the last big white birds I saw, so I got off and went back on a frontage road.† At the end of the frontage road, I could see some big white birds in the distance, several hundred yards away.† I stopped and got out the scope, but they were far enough away that the heat haze made them white blobs, pretty much.† With heat haze, the image jumps around and momentarily gets sharper from time to time, so I watched, and at one point it got clear enough for me to see the yellow bill and some black on the wings, and I could say they were AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS.† It was a very unsatisfactory view, but I was sure that was what they were, so I counted them for my year list.

 

When I got to Davis, I got off the freeway to check out Vic Fazio NWR, the area that Fred and I like to go to, that was closed last week due to flooding.† I wanted to see if it had opened yet.† It had.† So, I drove through the auto tour route, to see what I could see.† There were tons of ducks, but nothing new Ė I have almost all the ducks now.† At the far east end of the auto tour route, I did see a lot of Snow Geese in the distance, and among them were four larger birds.† I got the scope on them, and they were TUNDRA SWANS, a good one for my list.† I could have gotten them at home, but Trumpeter Swans are more common in our area, while Tundra Swans are much more common here.† They were too far for a picture, but I saw them well in the scope.† While looking at the swans, I noticed several male Canvasbacks, too, a duck I had counted the other day when I saw a female.

 

Continuing on around the auto tour, I was impressed with how great the light was, especially when I was on the part of the route where I was looking north, with the sun behind me.† Here is a Long-billed Curlew in the nice light.

 

 

Here are a couple of Black-necked Stilts.

 

 

Here is another stilt.

 

 

Those birds were all fairly distant, but the light was so nice that I have shown the pictures anyway.

 

I also got much closer looks at American White Pelican, which was very satisfying, as the heat-hazed long distance view I had had before was very unsatisfactory.† Here is a picture of some pelicans with one of them landing.† I like the way the black on the wings shows, and I also like the shadow on the ground.

 

 

Here is another picture of some of the pelicans in the great light.

 

 

A little later, I got the idea of getting a picture of an American Coot.† I donít know if I have ever gotten a good picture of a coot.† They are so common that birders ignore them, but in this nice light, I thought I would try.† I didnít get anything great, but here is my best one.† At least you can see the eye, which is a challenge with a black bird.

 

 

I wanted a picture of a male Northern Pintail in the great light, but they didnít want to stick around close to the road.† Here is the best I could do.

 

 

The bird was too far away for any good detail, but they are a very attractive bird.

 

At one of the parking areas, we often see Horned Larks, and four of them were foraging on the ground there today.† I got out of the car and managed to get this picture before they flew away.† Again, not great, but the best I could do today.

 

 

It does show the yellow and black facial coloration, but I wanted one where the bird was looking right at me, or close to that.

 

It was getting late enough by then that I needed to move along.† I had had my ham and cheese rollups and vegetables while on the auto tour there, and it was now approaching four oíclock.† On my way out of the preserve, I got a series of pictures of another bird for my year list, one I especially wanted to see at Fazio, as I haven't ever seen them very many other places.† AMERICAN BITTERN.† Here is a picture of a bittern hunting, quite close to the road.

 

 

The light was not good, coming mostly from behind the bird, but I do like the series of pictures anyway.† American Bittern is not easy to photograph, as they are pretty shy, and these are the best pictures I have gotten, probably.† While I was watching, it lunged at a crayfish, and came up with it.

 

 

You can see one claw and the tail of the crawfish.† The bird gulped it down, and here is a picture of it just after gulping it down,

 

 

Does it look pretty self-satisfied, or is that just my imagination?† After that, it assumed the normal posture of a bittern, hoping to blend into the background.

 

 

Here is another picture of the bird, with a nice reflection in the water.

 

 

That concluded my day of birding.† I headed for Costco, where I stocked up on lunch supplies and some booze to take home, as well as a tank of gas.

 

So, thatís three more species today for my year list today.† That surprised me, as I was mainly traveling today.† It also reduces the number of species I might see tomorrow.† There might not be any more reports from this trip, but I am hoping for a couple more species here in the next 2 or 3 days.† We will see.† I now have 166 species for the year, which seems very damn good for January 16.† I just looked it up, though, and last year I was at 168 species after January 17.† So, I am pretty much on the same pace as last year.† 2012 was a great year for me, and a very tough act to follow.† I went to Texas in April and May of 2012, and got a ton of birds.† I will fall behind badly after that point this year, but I hope to make it up on my Aussie trip in September/October/November this year.† Life rolls on.

 

 

Thursday, January 17

 

Fred and I were up and out by 9:30 (with Tugboat, of course Ė he is a great birding dog).† We headed for Davis, which is about 12 or 15 miles to the west of here.† We were looking for an owl that had been reported in a park there.

 

At Grasslands Regional Park, south of Davis, we paid our 6 bucks day use fee and headed out onto the archery course to target number 7.† Once there, we found the dark-barked eucalyptus tree that had been mentioned, and found the ďwhitewashĒ under the tree, thus confirming that we had found the right tree.† It took us about five minutes of looking up into this tree before we finally spotted the LONG-EARED OWL.† It was very obscured by branches, and here is the best picture I could get.

 

 

The pattern on the breast, combined with the ďearsĒ is enough to define it as a Long-eared Owl.† It was a great bird to get.† The only other times I have seen that species was at a place in the Panoche Valley where I read that the current day use fee is $25.† Ted and I drove right past it the other day and didnít stop.† I had paid a $5 day use fee the last two years to see the owls there, but 25 bucks was absurd, so we passed.† It was very satisfying to see one today for a $6 day use fee that went to a local government, not a private operator.† Of course, it did mean that Fred saw it, and Ted didnít.† Do you wish you had paid the 25 bucks, Ted?† I doubt it.

 

There had been reports of a Barn Owl roosting in the same tree, but we didnít see anything like that, despite returning again in the afternoon, to see if the owl had shifted position (it hadnít).

 

From Grasslands Park, we went down the road to a cemetery we had visited before, to look for Barn Owl and other birds.† I was looking for a woodpecker that lives only in California and northern Mexico, and I played its call.† A little bird showed up, seeming to be reacting to the call I was playing.† It turned out to be a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, a new one for my year list.† Then I spotted a ďpeckerĒ at the top of a tree.† What do you know, it was a NUTTALíS WOODPECKER, the very one I was looking for.† I donít know if it was responding to the call I played on my phone or if it just showed up, but I got it.† It only stuck around a few seconds, but we both got excellent looks at it.† No pictures, sorry to say.

 

After that, we went back up Mace Blvd to the Putah Creek South Fork Preserve.† We walked there for a while, not really expecting anything, but there had been owls reported there, including Barn Owl.† Fred spotted another ďpeckerĒ, and it turned out to be a RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER.† I hadnít even thought about getting that bird today, nor the Red-breasted Nuthatch.† I had expected to see both birds sometime this year, though, so they arenít ďextrasĒ, just surprises at this point.† Again, no pictures.† The bird flew off after giving us a couple of brief looks..

 

So, at that point we headed for Vic Fazio Preserve, where I had been yesterday afternoon.† There wasnít really anything I expected to get for my year list, but we enjoy Fazio, and maybe I could get some pictures.†

 

As we entered the preserve, there was a Red-shouldered Hawk perched in a tree.† Iíve shown other pictures of Red-shouldered Hawk, but this is the first full frontal picture, I think.

 

 

Once into the preserve, we went out on the eastern auto loop first.† The first thing of interest we saw was a huge flock of Canvasbacks, many dozens of them, more than I had ever seen before in total, probably.† I took some pictures, but the only one I like is one of some of them taking off.

 

 

Out at the very end of the route there were a lot of Snow Geese.† There was another birder already there, and he pointed out a ďBlue GooseĒ, which is a dark morph of the Snow Goose.† I had never seen a Blue Goose, and it was fun to see one.† It is the bird in the middle, which is dark and has a white head.† It is the same species as the white Snow Geese, but for some reason, a small percentage of them are this dark color.

 

 

There were also a few Tundra Swans there, which I had counted at the same place yesterday.

 

 

Back on the regular auto tour (as opposed to the eastern extension we had been on), Fred spotted another owl, a GREAT HORNED OWL.† We have seen them out there before, and I fully expected to see that species this year, but it is still good to see one and count it on my list.† Here is the best picture I could get of that guy.† Not good at all, but how often do you see an owl, and this was our second one of the day?

 

 

A little later Fred spotted another Great Horned Owl in a tree.† I got better pictures this time.† Not great, but here he is.

 

 

Then I got one with the sun reflecting on his eyes.† Cool, huh?

 

 

Moving on along the auto tour route, I saw a raptor flying in front of us that seemed different from the regular ones we see.† An expert birder would no doubt have been able to identify it immediately merely from the shape and flight pattern, but I had to get my binoculars on it to see that it was a Peregrine Falcon.† I followed it until it landed, and I got this picture of it on the ground.

 

 

This subspecies of Peregrine Falcon looks like I would have expected, which is somewhat different from the bird I saw on the coast the other day Ė the one I called a Prairie Falcon by mistake.

 

We had lots of ducks and avocets and stilts, but nothing else of interest on the way out.† No bitterns, either, which makes me all the more glad to have gotten my bittern pictures yesterday.† No, Iím wrong.† We did get a good look at a White-tailed Kite on a snag.† Here is a picture of that beauty.

 

 

I love the black around the red eye on that species.

 

We also saw couple of hawks in a tree on our way out.† One of them was a Red-shouldered Hawk, possibly the same one I showed a picture of earlier.† The other one was more of a mystery, and I got a couple of pictures before it flew.† Here it is.

 

 

I think it was a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk, so that is what I am calling it.

 

That finished our day, a day of owls and raptors, it seemed.† I added five species to my year list today, which is way more than I had expected.† Iím at 171 species for year now.† Tomorrow we plan to head east to try for a couple of species, but if there isnít a report, youíll know we missed them.† I plan to head toward home on Saturday morning, and I plan to stop at Ocean Shores, Washington on the way home, to see if I can pick up a couple of species there for my year list.† Iím also working on Washington counties now, you might remember, so this would be a chance to add to one or two county lists in Washington as well.

 

 

Friday, January 18

 

My time in California is coming to a close, and it is just as well, as there arenít very many more birds I can target here.† I had two targets for today, and we set out about 10 to look for them.

 

Our first stop was the Nimbus Fish Hatchery on the American River.† We had visited last week, but there was one species I had missed there that I wanted.† When we got there, the Peregrine Falcon was there again, sitting on a wire over the river.† I got a good picture of him today.

 

 

There were ducks in the river, and soon I found my target bird Ė BARROWíS GOLDENEYE.† They look very much like the Common Goldeneye, but there are some differences.† Here is a picture of both male (the black and white birds) and female (the brown and gray birds) Common Goldeneyes.† Note the round circle on the maleís face, in front of and below his eye, and on the female, note that the bills are all dark.

 

 

Here is a pair of Barrowís Goldeneyes for comparison.† Note the white mark on the maleís face is crescent shaped, rather than round, and note that the female has an orange bill.

 

 

There are a couple of other differences, too.† The pattern on the maleís back is different in the two species, and the head of the male Barrowís has a bluish-purple sheen to it, while the head of the male Common has a greenish sheen to it.† The colors on the heads are somewhat dependent on the light, however, so that isnít the best way to tell them apart.† The pattern on the maleís back, the crescent shaped mark on its head, and the orange bill of the female are the best indicators.

 

Here is a male Common Merganser showing himself off in the great morning light.

 

 

The head of the male Common Merganser often appears black, but in this light, you could see the green sheen to it.

 

Fred spotted a little woodpecker right out in front of us in a bush, and it was the one I got yesterday that I had been looking for, Nuttalís Woodpecker.† Just as I snapped a picture, the bird flew, and I ended up with this interesting view of it.

 

 

It landed again nearby, and I got one other picture before it flew away for good.† I like the picture, but it would have been even better if the bird had just turned its head one-eighth of a turn to the right, to really show the facial markings. †The key indicator of this species is the ďladderĒ back, without a large white spot in the middle of it, which the similar looking and similar sized Downy Woodpecker has.

 

 

In the area under screening, where all the fish are raised, there was the usual Green Heron.† The light was coming from the wrong angle completely, but here is a picture of him anyway, very backlit.

 

 

So, I had one of my two targets for the day, and we moved on to Mather Lake, to look for the second one.† You could see part of the lake as you approached the actual park entrance, and there on the water were a couple of large white birds.† We turned around and parked, and there they were, a couple of MUTE SWANS.† Mute Swan is a European species, and most of the ones that live in the wild in this country are escapees from collections or descendents of escapees.† They have been living and breeding in this area for quite a while, though, and I choose to count ones I see here.† Many birders wouldnít count them, since they are descendents from escapees and havenít lived on their own long enough.† The ďruleĒ is that they need to be living in the wild and reproducing for ten years, and I believe this population at Mather Lake has been doing that.† Again the light was terrible, coming from behind the birds, but here is the best picture I could get.† The key marking on this species, to distinguish it from our native swans, is the orange and black bill.

 

 

It was then about 11:15 and I had my two targets for the day.† I had inadvertently left my spare camera battery at Fredís house, and the one in the camera was almost empty, so I couldnít really take many pictures.† Nonetheless, we went to one of our favorite birding places on the American River, Ambassador Park, and walked with Tugboat.† There were tons of Acorn Woodpeckers around, and a number of White-breasted Nuthatches.† We also saw Oak Titmouse, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Spotted Towhee, and a couple more Barrowís Goldeneyes on the river.† We sat on a bench in the sun and watched the bike riders and runners go by on the path that runs along the American River.

 

After a while, we went back to the car and moved on up the river to the Lower Sunrise area, where I ate my humble lunch at a table and we enjoyed seeing more birds.† At one point, an interesting bird flew into a tree out in front of us, and neither of us could identify it.† We couldnít get complete looks at it, as it was feeding on the berries in a clump of mistletoe.† It was quite dark, though not black, and the tail and ends of the wings were black.† We could see that it had a red eye, which was interesting.† It also seemed to have a crest of some kind.† I walked around to the side of the tree and eventually got a better look at it and realized it was a female Phainopepla.† We had never seen a Phainopepla anywhere along the American River, so it took us by surprise.† We have done a fair bit of birding at the various parks along the river, and it was interesting to see a new bird there today.

 

A beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk flew in while I was finishing my lunch, and I should have jumped up and taken a picture right away, but I waited until I was done, and by then the hawk had moved on.† A missed opportunity.

 

We made one more stop on our way home, at the Watt Avenue access to the river.† We walked along the river and enjoyed the sunny day.† Here is a picture of the river along there.

 

 

Those are mostly oak trees, without their leaves, with mistletoe growing in the branches.

 

So, I added two more species to my year list today, bringing me to 173 for the year.† I was at 72 when I left home on the trip, so I added 101 species on the trip.† I plan to head for home tomorrow, and I might stop at Ocean Shores, Washington for one night, to try to add a couple more species.† Other than that, the next trip I have planned is to San Diego for a week in early February.† I donít expect to do much birding on the trip, but I hope to find a few more species for my year list there.

 

 

Sunday, January 20

 

Yesterday I drove to Springfield, Oregon, and I didnít see any new birds.† I didnít see much of anything the last hour or so, as it was very foggy and about 32 degrees outside.† I had a nice cheap room at the Motel 6 in Springfield, with a microwave and a little fridge, so I was good.† I used my cell phone for internet access, instead of paying the motel 2.99 to use their wi-fi.† I sure am a cheap bastard.† The room was only 39 bucks plus tax, and it was perfectly sufficient for an overnight stay.† I cooked my own dinner in the microwave and went to Mickey Dís for my brekkie.

 

Today it was still foggy and was below freezing for the first couple of hours of my drive today.† Eventually I came out of the fog and it warmed up to the mid-40ís by the time I reached Ocean Shores, on the Washington coast.† I got here about 2 PM, and I stopped at Ocean City State Park as I came into town.† (It isnít clear to me why the state park is called Ocean City State Park, when the town right next door is called Ocean Shores.† I suspect there was an old community called Ocean City that no longer exists, but I donít really know.† Maybe they changed the name of Ocean City to Ocean Shores.)

 

At the state park I saw some Varied Thrushes, which I already had for my year list, and I went off walking on a trail to look for my target species. †I played the song on my phone, and soon saw a bird flying into some bushes, and it was making a clicking call, which turned out to be the call (as opposed to the song) of my target species, and it was indeed a FOX SPARROW.† I had left my camera in the car (of course), so I donít have a picture.† I had seen Fox Sparrows at that park before, and it was good to get one today, for my year list.

 

After that stop, I moved on through the interesting community of Ocean Shores to Damon Point, at the south end of the peninsula.† Another species I wanted for my year list has been reported there this year.† Damon Point is a spit of land at the end of a peninsula, and it goes on and on, for maybe 2 miles or so.† When I got to the parking area and parked, I saw that there were dozens of people out walking along the beach toward the point.† Hereís a non-zoomed picture (that is, a zoom of 1.0) of the point from the parking area.

 

 

You canít really see how far out it goes from that view.† Here is a medium zoom shot of a point out toward the point.

 

 

That is a zoomed shot of the middle of the previous shot.

 

Here is a fully zoomed shot, full frame, of the middle of that last picture.

 

 

I think those people were just about a mile away from where I was, which shows you the power of the zoom of my camera.

 

Anyway, I knew I would have to walk out toward the point to see my target bird.† 6 or 8 of them have been reported out there this season, and I figured I would walk as far as I had to see one of them.† There were people coming back toward the parking area, of course, and I stopped one couple who had cameras and binoculars, and asked about my target species.† They pointed out how far I would have to go to see one, and I went on.† As it turned out, it was a lot farther than I had realized.† I walked briskly for over 15 minutes on the hard packed sand, so it must have been close to a mile.† Finally I got to where some people were watching my bird, a lovely SNOWY OWL.† Here is a picture of the watchers.† The owl is the white blob on the left.

 

 

Here is another picture of the watchers, as I call them.† You can see how close the owl was.

 

 

It is the white blob to the right of center of the picture.

 

Here is the little beauty itself.

 

 

It was just sitting there, looking around, seemingly not bothered by the dozen or so watchers who were snapping pictures like mad.† Here is a picture of the bird from the side, showing its wings and tail.

 

 

So, that was great.† I had gotten the Fox Sparrow at the state park, and I got the Snowy Owl at Damon Point.† While I was walking back to my car, I saw one shorebird, which I think was a Sanderling.† Here is a picture.

 

 

It was after 4 by then, so I headed for my digs for tonight, Guesthouse Inn and Suites.† I stayed at another motel in this chain last year, and I was very pleased.† This one is also great.† I have a third floor room with an angled ocean view, a fridge and microwave, a king-size bed, and the promise of a hot breakfast in the morning, all for 59 bucks plus tax.† I had booked a less desirable room for 54 bucks, but the woman on the desk (the owner, I suspect) upsold me to this one.† First she offered it to me for 64 bucks (it was 74 bucks on the website), but when I declined, she made it 59, and I went for it.† It is a very nice room, at least two or three steps above a Motel 6.† For an ocean view on a holiday weekend, I think it is a real bargain.

 

As I have mentioned before, I am now keeping lists for Washington counties.† This was my first time in Grayís Harbor county since I started doing the county thing last July, so I put 15 species on my Grayís Harbor county list today, as well as the two added to my year list.† I am now at 175 species for the year.

 

Check out time is noon here, and Iím only about three hours from home, so I plan to do some birding in the morning before I check out and head for home.† I have two more main species for my year list to look for tomorrow, Rock Sandpiper and White-winged Scoter.† I saw them both here last year in January, so I am hopeful.† There are a couple of longshots as well, but if I can get both of my targets, I will be very pleased.† The Rock Sandpiper is the one I wonít see anywhere else, so that is my primary target.† High tide (when it is easiest to see them) is at about 8 AM, so I need to get out there as early as I can tomorrow.† If you donít see a report tomorrow, you will know that I failed.

 

Thatís my story for today, and Iím sticking to it.† Tomorrow Ė home!† (God Willing And The Creeks Donít Rise)† What a life!

 

 

Monday, January 21

 

I was up this morning about 7:40, and I hurried to get out there, as the high tide was just after 8, and the bird I wanted to see would be easiest to see when the tide was high.† The breakfast at the motel was great Ė scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, and yogurt.† They had cereal, fruit, breads, and waffles as well, but I didnít have any of those things.

 

On my way to the Ocean Shores jetty, to look for my primary target species, I saw a very large bird being harassed by crows, and there was another large bird there as well.† It turned out that a mature Bald Eagle (with a fully white head and tail) had some kind of prey, which was larger than a rat, but smaller than a cat.† When I got there, the eagle was perched on a rooftop, eating the prey.† The other large bird I had seen, which I first thought was a Turkey Vulture, turned out to be an immature Bald Eagle, and there turned out to be two of the immature eagles, actually.† They were trying to get at the prey, and the mature bird wasnít having of that.† It takes Bald Eagles four years to attain full maturity and their white heads and white tails.† For the first three years of their lives, Bald Eagles are mostly dark, with white feathers scattered throughout.† Here is a picture of the mature eagle, sitting on a rooftop, guarding its prey.

 

 

Here is one of the immature ones, flying around overhead.

 

 

Here is another picture of the same bird, I think.

 

 

And here is a picture of the other immature eagle, most likely a third year bird, as I understand it, as its head is starting to turn white.

 

 

So, that was a great start to the day, and I continued on to the jetty, to look for ďrockpipersĒ, which is what birders call shorebirds that feed on rocky shores.

 

It was 34 degrees outside, with a brisk breeze, so I bundled up in my warmest clothes and ventured out to the jetty.† I clambered up onto the rocks, and took this picture of the jetty itself, soon after high tide.

 

 

Here is a picture of the beach to the north of the jetty.

 

 

To the south of the jetty is the channel that leads into Grayís Harbor, a large natural inlet with several towns on it.

 

I am too old and too fat to do much climbing over the jetty rocks, so I walked inland on the sand to the north of the jetty, looking for my birds, where I had seen them last year.† There are three species of rockpipers that live there, and at low tide, they are out on the jetty, where I wouldnít be able to see them.† Thatís why I had to be there at high tide or near it.† I didnít see any, though.† I exchanged pleasantries with a couple who had binoculars, but they were looking for whales and seals, and didnít know anything about birds.† I was getting pretty cold, so after a while, I gave up and started back to my car.† I stopped on the way to get this picture of the jetty from that perspective.

 

 

You can just barely see a person wearing blue, on the beach near where the jetty meets the shore.† That was one of the people I had talked to, and as I took the picture, I noticed a flock of birds fly up as the couple approached the water.† I got my binoculars on the birds, and they were the birds I was looking for!† I hustled across the sand, muttering out loud to myself ďDonít scare them away, Donít scare them awayĒ, but the couple kept approaching the birds, and I was afraid they (the birds, not the couple) would fly off.† As it turned out, the birds stuck around until I got there.

 

I had to clamber out over some rocks to a sandy place where the couple were standing, and the birds were only about 30 or 40 feet away.† There must have been at least a couple of dozen birds, if not more, and all three species were there Ė Surfbirds, Black Turnstones, and ROCK SANDPIPERS.† I had only seen Rock Sandpiper once before, last year here at the same jetty in January, so I was very pleased to see them again.

 

Here is a Black Turnstone.

 

 

The Black Turnstone is darker than the other two species, so they were easy to pick out.† Most of the flock were Surfbirds, and here is a picture of one of them.

 

 

Note the bill size and shape on the Surfbird.† Here is a Rock Sandpiper, with similar coloration, but a longer and thinner bill.

 

 

Rock Sandpiper is also a little smaller than the other two species, but unless you see them next to each other, that doesnít help much. †Here is another Surfbird, with the short, thick bill.

 

 

And here is Rock Sandpiper again, with the longer, thinner bill.

 

 

I had to watch out for the waves, which kept threatening to flood me out, but I kept shooting pictures until my hands were aching so much from the cold that I couldnít stand it any more.† I couldnít wear my gloves and use my camera, and the 34 degrees with the brisk breeze got to my hands eventually.† Even now when I think about it, my hands ache a little, from the memory.† I headed back to the car, and got there after about 45 minutes out in the cold wind.† It felt very good to turn the heater and fan on high and put my hands in the air coming out of the vents, although it took a while for my hands to stop aching from the cold.

 

So, having gotten my number one target bird for Ocean Shores, I drove over to the sewage treatment plant, which was closed today due to the holiday.† You can view one of the ponds from outside the fence, though, and I saw 4 or 5 species of ducks there, including one I needed for my year list still, LESSER SCAUP.† Lesser Scaup looks very much like Greater Scaup, but there are a few small differences.† I believe these are Lesser Scaup, the two on the right being males and the one on the left being a female.

 

 

The most important difference is the shape of the head, which is pretty subtle.† I can never remember which is which, and I had decided that these were the ones with the steep forehead and high crown, and in addition to that, I could see a purplish sheen on the heads of some of the males.† As it turned out, both of those are an indication of Lesser Scaup.† Male Greater Scaup have a greenish sheen to their heads.† In addition to that, the female Lesser Scaup has a larger white patch on her face than the female Greater Scaup, and this female has a large white patch.† So, on those bases, Iím calling them Lesser Scaup.

 

I stopped a couple of places to look for scoters, which are a sea duck.† I need one of the scoters still, for my year list.† I never saw any scoters at all, though.† I also drove out onto the beach back at the center of town, but didnít see anything new there, either.

 

As I passed the golf course, I saw a flock of geese and they turned out to be Cackling Geese, a smaller version of Canada Goose. †Here is a picture of one of them.† Note the short neck and stubby little bill.† To see the size difference, it would have to be next to a full sized Canada Goose.

 

 

I got back to my hotel just after 11, and I managed to shower and pack up and be out by noon, which was the check out time.

 

I have mentioned here before that I am now keeping lists of birds I see in each county in Washington State.† I started that project last July and Iím only counting birds I have seen since then.† There are 39 counties in Washington, and I hadnít even heard of all of them, let alone been to them all.† Yesterday and today were the first times I had birded in Grayís Harbor county since last July, and in the 22 hours I was in the county, I managed to put 33 species onto my Grayís Harbor county list.† I have seem birds in 16 of the 39 counties now, since July 1, 2012.† I hope to knock off 10 or 12 more counties this year, but we will see.† Iím looking forward to seeing parts of the state I have never seen.

 

My two species today puts me at 177 species for the year now.† I probably wonít add any more this month, but we will see.† I had an easy three hour drive home today, and it is nice to be back home.

 

 

Thursday, January 24

 

Before I go into todayís report, I want to mention that I reviewed my list of species for the year and entered them into my spreadsheet for the year.† In doing so, I discovered I had neglected to write down two species I had seen Ė NORTHERN PINTAIL and BELTED KINGFISHER.† So, that increased my total for the year to 179 species.† Thatís what happens when I see a number of new species at one time and donít immediately write them down.† Sometimes I catch it at the end of the day when Iím writing my report, and sometimes not until I enter them into my spreadsheet and realize that I can specifically remember seeing a species, but can find no record of it in my little notebook.

 

So, this morning I decided to head up to the Edmonds Pier to look for several species I hadnít seen yet this year.† We had a nice break in the rain, but the light was pretty poor for taking pictures.† That didnít stop me, though, and I took some.

 

Out at the end of the pier, I got this picture of a female Surf Scoter that I like.

 

 

My first new bird for the year was BONAPARTEíS GULL.† Here is a picture of a Mew Gull on the left and a Bonaparteís Gull on the right.†

 

 

Mew Gull is a small gull, but you can see that Bonaparteís Gull is even smaller.† In the summer, Bonaparteís Gull has a black head, but in the winter it looks like this one. †Here is a picture of two Bonaparteís Gulls.

 

 

I think they are very cute little gulls.

 

Here is a picture of a Pigeon Guillemot in its winter plumage.

 

 

In the summer, Pigeon Guillemot is black with white patches on its wings.

 

The most common sea bird around was Red-necked Grebe.† Here is a picture of a Red-necked Grebe in its winter plumage.

 

 

My second new bird for the year was RHINOCEROS AUKLET.† They have some differences in their winter and summer plumages, too.† Here is a picture of a Rhinoceros Auklet in winter plumage.

 

 

Here is a picture of one that has mostly changed to its summer plumage.

 

 

Those white plumes develop, and if you look closely, you can see a small ďhornĒ at the base of the bill, thus giving the bird its name.† I understand the horn gets larger as the season goes on.† Here is one of them stretching its little wings.† The bird looks too chubby to fly with those little wings.

 

 

After an hour or so, I left the pier and stopped at the Edmondís Marsh.† I played the call for Virginia Rail because someone reported that he had seen one there last week, but I got no response.† From there, I moved on to the street that runs along the bluff north of the ferry terminal to look for White-winged Scoter.† I saw the other two scoters, Surf Scoter and American Scoter (formerly called Black Scoter, and I still think of it as Black Scoter).† I got this very distant picture of a male American Scoter.

 

 

You canít see much in that picture, but I show it because I think it is the first picture I have gotten of an American Scoter.† I think that todayís views were the closest I have ever had of the species.

 

I added one species to my Snohomish county list, too, Barrowís Goldeneye.† I saw them in California and showed pictures here last week.† Here is the more common Common Goldeneye from today.

 

 

And here is a picture of two female and one male Barrowís Goldeneyes.

 

 

It was cloudy today, with a few sun breaks.† Here is a picture of Puget Sound from Edmonds, with a clearing in the clouds that shows the Olympic Mountains in the distance.

 

 

And, finally, a zoomed shot of part of the mountain range.

 

 

So, that was it for the birding today, just a couple of hours in Edmonds.† But, wait, it still wasnít over.† When I got home, I went out in the yard to look for a species that I thought I had already seen this year, but wasnít positive about it.† It wasnít on my list when I reviewed it the other night, but they are often around our yard.† I went out into the yard and called out ďJay, jay, where are you jay?Ē† Right on cue, a couple of STELLERíS JAYS called out and showed themselves in the birch tree.† I spoke to them and got half a dozen peanuts to reward them for being there.† I threw the peanuts out onto the driveway, but while the Jays were cautiously approaching and keeping an eye on me (back in the house, but looking out the window), the lookout for our local crows gave a couple of caws, and in less than a minute, at least a half dozen crows flew in and scooped up all the peanuts.† Too bad, jays, you snooze, you lose.

 

So, I ended up adding three more species to my year list, thus bringing me to 182.† There are a few other species I could look for locally, at the parks nearby, and I might venture out when the weather is good.