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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

 

Hereís my first birding report of 2014.† It feels great to start a new year and to be able to start counting birds from scratch again.† Iíll try to see how many different species I can see in 2014, and I plan to write a report each day that I see a new species for the year Ė like I have done for the last several years.† New species for the year will be shown in ALL CAPS.† I would love to exceed the count of 319 species that I saw in 2013 in the Western USA, but Iíll have to do some traveling to do that.† 300 would actually be very good, I think, although it does depend on just where I go.

 

Iím doing one new thing this year, too, called Bird-A-Day, or BAD birding.† Each day Iíll choose a species of bird I saw or heard that day and designate it as my BAD bird for that day.† No repeats and no carrying over birds Ė a BAD bird is one that was seen or heard that day, regardless of whether I have seen it earlier in the year or not, just so it hasnít been designated as a BAD bird yet.† The idea is to see how many consecutive days I can go before I finally miss a day.† I hope that BAD birding will motivate me to get out and bird every single day, since I canít miss a day of adding a new BAD bird to my list.† I figure that if Iím diligent, I should be able to make it through 4 months fairly easily, and if I work at it and take enough trips, I could make 5 months.† My ultimate goal would be to go halfway through the year without missing a day.† It will be interesting to see if I can actually stick to it and make myself get out and bird every single day.† Some birds will be gimmees and many will be easy to find.† One of the strategies is to ďsaveĒ the easy ones for later in the year, when I canít find a ďgoodĒ bird.† Each day I will choose the bird that I think I am least likely to see again this year, and save the others for later.† Iíll have to plan my travel days carefully, so I can pick up a good bird each day.† That probably means I wonít be doing 8 or 9 hour days of driving, and Iíll be stopping sooner than I have in the past, so I can find a bird for that day.† I expect to find a lot of new places to bird, along the routes I have travelled so many times, between here and California.† Iíll mention my BAD birds here, at the end of each report I write.

 

So, with that out of the way, here is todayís report.

 

My first bird of the year this morning was BEWICKíS WREN, and I rapidly added HOUSE FINCH, CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE, EUROPEAN STARLING, SPOTTED TOWHEE, DARK-EYED JUNCO, AMERICAN CROW, SONG SPARROW, ANNAíS HUMMINGBIRD, FERAL PIGEON, AND RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD.† That brought me to a dozen birds before breakfast.† They are all common yard birds here, and I hope to be able to save all those species for emergencies later in the year (for my BAD birding list, that is), in case of terrible weather or illness or something.† They all went on my year list today, though, of course.

 

After breakfast, I headed across Lake Washington to the University District in Seattle, in pursuit of an uncommon warbler that has been spending the winter in a small area over there.† I had corresponded with a woman who saw it yesterday, and she told me exactly where she had seen it.† While crossing the floating bridge to Seattle, I picked up DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, BUFFLEHEAD (a duck), and BALD EAGLE for my year list.

 

At the warbler site, I didnít see any birds at all at first, so I walked around the area for about 20 or 30 minutes, not seeing anything.† Another birder I have met before showed up about then, with his wife, also looking for the warbler, and we were talking about our strategy for finding the bird when it flew in and landed about fifteen feet away!† It foraged around on the ground for five or ten minutes, and I was able to get pictures of this lovely little PALM WARBLER.

The light colored ďeyebrowĒ, the lightly streaked breast, and the yellow color in the rump area are diagnostic of this species, but if I hadnít known what I was looking for, I donít know if I would have been able to identify it or not.

 

I had only seen Palm Warbler one time before in my life, and that was back in 2011 in San Diego.† Palm Warblers breed in the north parts of Central and Eastern Canada, and this one should be wintering on the Texas Gulf Coast.† A few birds do spend the winter on the West Coast, although even that small number are generally a lot farther south than Seattle.† This one has been hanging around in this general neighborhood for at least the last several weeks.† I hadnít bothered to go over to look for it for my 2013 list, but I when it was still there yesterday, I decided it would be a great way to start off 2014.† Here is a picture of it from the front, showing the crown of its head and the lightly streaked breast.

 

After ten minutes or so, it flew up into a fir tree and foraged around up there for a few minutes, and I got this picture.

 

So, with that excellent bird under my belt, I set out to see what else I could see on this lovely sunny New Yearís Day.† I stopped at Log Boom Park, which is at the north end of Lake Washington.† There were a lot of ducks there, and I added MALLARD, AMERICAN WIGEON, NORTHERN SHOVELER, and HOODED MERGANSER to my year list.† Here is a picture of a male Northern Shoveler.

 

The female isnít as colorful as the male.† Here is a picture of a male and a female.

 

The female looks like a lot of female ducks, except she has that wacky huge, curved bill.

 

Here is a picture of the north shore of Lake Washington, taken from the dock at Log Boom Park.

 

I always think that the male Hooded Merganser is an attractive bird.† Here is a picture of one with its hood fully erect.

 

Here is the same bird with its hood down.

 

The female Hooded Merganser is less colorful but still interesting, I think.

 

Among the ducks, there were some scaup.† There are two species of scaup, and the differences are subtle.† I think the following pictures are of GREATER SCAUP, and that is what I am putting on my list for today.† Here is a male Greater Scaup (I think).

 

Here is a picture of a female and a male.

 

I also added RING-BILLED GULL there, and I got this picture of one.

 

To non-birders, they are all just ďseagullsĒ, I know, but there are differences among the dozen or so gull species here on the west coast of the US.† This one is pretty easy to identify, if you get a close look, because of the black ring around its bill.

 

[1/2/2014 Ė I forgot to list COMMON MERGANSER here.† I saw a couple of females near the dock and three males in the distance.]

 

An American Crow posed for me, too.† I donít take pictures of crows very often, partly because they are so common and everyone knows what they look like, but I rather like crows, and this one was begging to have its picture taken.

 

You can see that its wing feathers are actually a little iridescent in the sunlight.

 

I called it a day as lunch time approached, satisfied to have done some actual birding today.† Back here at home, I added BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE to my year list, bringing me to 26 species for the day.† Last year I had 46 species on January 1, but this year Iím taking it more slowly, as I want to visit the various places close by in search of ďgoodĒ birds for my Bird of the Day, each day.† I plan to head for California next Tuesday or Wednesday, and in the meantime, I plan to visit a number of the local birding sites, concentrating on finding ďgoodĒ birds for my BAD list.

 

My Bird of the Day is Palm Warbler, of course.† It was far and away the most difficult bird I saw today, and it is a great start for my BAD birding experiment.

 

 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

 

[I forget to list COMMON MERGANSER here yesterday, so I mention it now.]

 

The rain was supposed to hold off until this afternoon, so after breakfast, I headed over to Marymoor Park in Redmond, to look for a bird that has spent the winter there the last 2 or 3 years.† They are rare in Western Washington, or at least, pretty uncommon.

 

Upon arrival at the park, I added CANADA GOOSE to my year list, and soon saw a couple of GREAT BLUE HERONS sitting high up in trees.† There was also a hawk in a tree, with its feathers all kind of puffed up and its tail feathers spread out.† I decided it was a COOPERíS HAWK, so that went onto my list for the year.† Here is a picture of that guy.† The picture isnít very good because it was taken looking up into a cloudy bright sky.

 

I thought it was interesting how it had spread out its feathers.

 

I drove around, looking for my bird, which tends to perch near the top of a tree.† I saw a small flock of CACKLING GEESE, a smaller version of Canada Goose, only about the size of a Mallard.† With them were some GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULLS, which looked about the same size as the cacklers.† In one parking lot, I saw a KILLDEER, one more for my year list.

 

So, I was picking up birds, but not seeing my target one.† On Thursday mornings there is a bird walk at the park, and I figured I would see the group at some point.† I saw them coming back up the trail from the lookout over the lake, and I watched them.† When they all pointed their binoculars in one direction, I would look where it appeared they were looking.† If you canít find the birds, find the birders, and then look where they are looking.

 

At one point, I thought I saw my target bird, but it was a fleeting look, and I decided it wasnít good enough to count it.† As the group arrived where I was standing, looking out over the fields, I greeted Michael, the leader of the walk.† Iíve seen him several times over the last couple of years and went on his walk once.† He asked if I had seen the shrike, and I told him no, but that is what I was looking for.† We both looked in the direction where they had just seen it, and he spotted it in the distance near the top of a tree.† I got a distant but good binocular view of the NORTHERN SHRIKE that I had come there to find.† Success!† Presumably it is there all winter, but it isnít easy to find usually.

 

They moved on their way, and I went down the path they had just come up, to look for Purple Finch, which I had seen there back in November.† No finches, but I did see a lovely little PACIFIC WREN, another good species I donít see very often.† On my way out of the park, I stopped at the headquarters building to check out the birds coming to the feeders there.† I added NORTHERN FLICKER and RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH there.† On my way out of the park, there was a small flock of AMERICAN ROBINS feeding in the grass.

 

I had lunch scheduled with a friend, and after our lunch we went to Phantom Lake in Bellevue.† Here is a picture of Chris at Phantom Lake.

 

There were ducks on the lake, and I added RUDDY DUCK to my year list.† Here is a picture of one of the little Ruddy Ducks.

 

They have a funny little tail, which they often hold erect, but this one was trailing its tail behind it in the water.† Here is a front view of another Ruddy Duck.

 

They are pretty drab now, in their winter plumage, but in the spring, the males turn a bright red-brown color and their bills turn a bright blue that has to be seen to be believed.

 

While were standing on the dock, a Great Blue Heron flew in, and I took this picture.

 

So, that was my birding for today.† I added another 12 species to my year list, bringing me to 38 for the year.

 

My Bird of the Day was the Northern Shrike, since I probably wonít see another one this year, unless I do some winter birding east of the Cascades, where they are more common.† The Pacific Wren wouldnít have been a bad choice, either, but they live at my local park, Juanita Bay Park, and I imagine I can see one there at some point.† If you want to follow my Bird-A-Day adventures specifically, you can see my list for the year at any point on this web page:† http://www.birdaday.net/BirdADay2012/default.aspx .† You will have to scroll down the page and look for my name, to see my list for the year to date.† You can also see the lists of the other participants.

 

 

Friday, January 3, 2014

 

It was sunny but cold this morning as I headed off to go birding.† My first stop was Log Boom Park again, where I had been on Wednesday.† I was looking for more ducks.† I soon picked up GADWALL, then found a few RING-NECKED DUCKS in the midst of the many hundreds of coots.† I was hoping to find a Eurasian Wigeon among the many American Wigeons, but no such luck today.† I never did see one in 2013, but Iíll keep looking.† It is a vagrant that ought to be in Asia at this time of year, but a few of them winter on the West Coast of the US each year, and they hang out in the middle of flocks of American Wigeons.

 

I did get good long looks at some scaup, and I was able to identify both Greater Scaup, which I had counted on Wednesday and LESSER SCAUP.† The differences are very subtle, and it was nice to see them both in the same place, through my scope.† The shape of the head was different, and the male Greater Scaup has a greenish cast to his head when you see it in strong light, while the male Lesser Scaup has a purplish cast.

 

Among the huge number of ducks, I managed to pick out just one CANVASBACK, a duck I donít see very often.† It was actually the species I was particularly looking for this morning at Log Boom Park.

 

After a while, I put my scope back in my car and walked a little on the trail in the park.† There wasnít much bird action, but I did get some pictures of a cute little Song Sparrow foraging in the sun.

 

 

Song Sparrow is a common bird, and birders usually donít pay any attention to them, so I thought a couple of pictures would be nice.† You can compare them to the pictures down the page of another sparrow I saw later.† They are superficially similar, but you can see the differences.

 

I also saw a nice little RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, another common bird.† I tried for a picture, but they donít sit still for even a couple of seconds, and I chased it all over, but never even snapped a picture.

 

From there I went up into Lake Forest Park, which is a community, not a park.† I was searching for a particular species that is kind of hard to find, but they come to a feeder in a particular yard I knew of.† I have seen them there several times before, and I wanted to see if they were back again this winter.

 

Sure enough, as I pulled up, there was one BAND-TAILED PIGEON sitting out in the open, high in a tree.† They are usually in a small flock, but this was the only one I saw today.

 

Next I visited a park I had never heard of before this week, Wallace Swamp Creek Park, in Kenmore.† It is only 15 minutes away from my house, so it seemed like I should be familiar with it.† It was a very nice park, with a rushing stream and lots of bare deciduous trees.† There werenít many birds around at first, but I walked around exploring the park.† This American Robin was sitting out in the sun, begging to have its picture taken.

 

We all see robins all the time, but do you ever look closely enough to see the broken white eye ring or the yellow bill?

 

Toward the end of my walk around the park, I came upon a good sized feeding flock of little birds.† Most of them were Dark-eyed Juncos, but there were also Black-capped Chickadees, House Finches, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Bewickís Wren and maybe others Iím not thinking of.† Nothing new for me, but at least I was birding, checking out the little guys as they flitted around the trees and bushes feeding.

 

There were a couple of Song Sparrows at that point, too, and then I saw another bird that I thought was just another Song Sparrow.† I checked it out, though, and it turned out to be a FOX SPARROW, a bird I donít see very often.† I got a couple of kind of blurry pictures of it.† Compare them to the pictures of the Song Sparrow I showed earlier.

 

 

The marking on the head is different in the Song Sparrow, and the Fox Sparrow has a white eye ring.† The markings on the breast are different, too, when you look closely at the patterns.

 

So, that was the extent of my birding for today.† I added 7 more species to my year list, bringing me to a total of 45 species now.

 

All afternoon Iíve been considering which bird to designate my Bird of the Day.† I donít see Canvasbacks very often, but they are around for the next couple of months, if I go looking for them, and I should see one again sometime.† Fox Sparrow would be a good choice in many ways, as I donít run across them very often, and that one would be harder to specifically look for, since they could be anywhere.† I guess Iíll choose Band-tailed Pigeon for today, though, as it is the one I have seen the fewest times in the past.† The thing is, I think they must be coming to that feeder every day, and it seems like I could get them by simply going back there again.† Still, this way I wonít have to bother chasing them again, so Iíll take Band-tailed Pigeon for my BAD bird today.

 

 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

 

It was another sunny day in paradise today, but cold again, too.† It was still in the 30ís when I started out.† Today I went to my local park, Juanita Bay Park, to see what was around there.† The boardwalk was frosty and slippery, and I walked slowly and carefully out to the observation point, carrying my scope, my binoculars, and my camera.

 

As soon as I got there I picked up a couple of ducks that are there year round, WOOD DUCK and GREEN-WINGED TEAL.† They will be good ďsafetiesĒ for my BAD birding; I can pick them up at any time with a ten minute drive to the park.† Iíll save them until I start getting desperate, later in the year.†

 

There were a couple of Bald Eagles sitting on posts, and all the coots were formed up into a tight raft, to protect themselves from the eagles.† I guess they figure there is safety in numbers.† Here is a picture of Juanita Bay in the morning sunshine.

 

Here is the view directly across the end of the bay, to the right of that last picture:

 

Note the pole in the middle of the picture.† It is a nesting platform for ospreys, although I have never seen one build a nest there in the 15 years Iíve been going to the park.† Today one of the eagles was perched on it.† You can just barely see the eagle in that last picture, if you know what you are looking for.† With my camera, though, it was well within range.† Here is the Bald Eagle sitting on the osprey platform.

 

I never get tired of eagle pictures; they are such magnificent birds.

 

After a little while, the eagle took off and started swooping around over the bay.† It had singled out a Pied-billed Grebe and the poor grebe kept diving under the water when the eagle would get close.† The eagle kept at it, though, and I got a couple of pictures.

 

 

I figured the eagle had made a mistake picking on a grebe, as they are excellent divers and can stay under a long time.† I saw an eagle get a coot a couple of years ago, which would be a lot easier, I would think, as coots can only dive for a few seconds at the most.† With the coot, the eagle just kept harassing it, forcing the coot to dive, and when the coot finally got exhausted, the eagle snatched it up and flew to a perch, where it ate the coot.† I guess the eagle today knew what it was doing, though, because after a few minutes of swooping, it hit the water and just sat there for 20 or 30 seconds.† It had gotten the grebe, though, as I could see when it took off with it and took it to a perch, where it first plucked the feathers and then consumed the bird.† I wonder if the eagle could see the grebe under the water and intercepted it when it when it surfaced.† The water of Lake Washington is pretty clear, and it was a bright sunny day.

 

Meanwhile, across the bay there were three TRUMPETER SWANS, the bird I was specifically looking for this morning, for my BAD list.† They are only around in the winter, and the last few years, there have been a handful of them on Juanita Bay all through the winter, on most days.† I could see them well enough in my scope, despite the distance, that I could tell they were Trumpeter Swans, not Tundra Swans, which look pretty similar and sometimes show up in smaller numbers there.

 

I scanned the opposite shore with my scope, looking for another species I thought would be there, and I found four WILSONíS SNIPE, a nice one to add to my year list.† They leave this area for three or four months in the summer, and they arenít very common at any time.† The shore across the bay from the park seems to be pretty reliable for them in the winter, though, in the last couple or three years.

 

Some Mallards swam by, and with the bright sun on them, the malesí heads were very iridescent.† Here is a male Mallard in the sun.

 

Next I went across the road to what is called the fire station road by birders.† It is an access road to some kind of sewer connection, I think, and it is just beyond the fire station, hence its local name, I suppose.† Here is a picture of the fire station road, across the main road from the parking area for Juanita Bay Park.

 

I walked up and down the road, looking and listening for little birds.† I played the song of one of the ones I have seen in the area before, and a flock of at least a half dozen GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS flew in and were feeding all around me in the brush.† They kept moving all the time, and I wasnít ever able to get a decent picture of one, but it was a good species to see, as I donít see them all that often.† A little later I got a good look at a Fox Sparrow, one of the birds I had seen yesterday at Wallace Swamp Creek Park in Kenmore.

 

So, that was it for me today, for birding.† I added 5 species to my year list, to bring me to 50 for the year so far.

 

As for my BAD bird today, I guess Iíll go with Fox Sparrow.† I didnít count it yesterday because the Band-tailed Pigeon seemed a better choice, but the other species I saw today will be easier to see again, I think.† The snipe ought to be around through April, so Iíll have plenty of time to see them again, and the Golden-crowned Kinglets are year round residents of the park.† Given how well the kinglets responded to my playback today, I ought to be able to call them up again later in the year, even if I have to visit a couple or three times.† As for my original target, the Trumpeter Swans, they will only be around for another couple of months, at the most, but they are so big and obvious that I should be able to get them later, too, perhaps when I get back from my upcoming California trip.† So, today Iím taking Fox Sparrow, although they are actually more commonly reported around here in the winter than either Wilsonís Snipe or Trumpeter Swan.† Choosing a bird each day is interesting, and there will be many opportunities for regrets, Iím sure.† I figure Iíll go back tomorrow, and maybe again on Monday, and count the swan and the snipe then.† I plan to leave on a 19 or 20 day trip to California on either Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on the weather forecasts, and I have a number of birding sites to stop at along the way.† California will open up a whole new batch of BAD birds to get, ones that donít live in Washington.

 

 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

 

It was another sunny and frosty morning here in Kirkland today.† It was about 30 degrees when I left to head north to Edmonds.† There is a ferry terminal at Edmonds, and next to it is a fishing pier and marina.† I knew I could pick up some easy year birds from the pier, and there is always the possibility of seeing a ďgoodĒ bird.

 

Here is the view to the north from the fishing pier, showing a ferry at the dock and Mount Baker in the distance.

 

Here is the view to the southwest, showing the Olympic Mountains across Puget Sound.

 

You can see what a clear and sunny day it was.† The temperature was about 35 there on the water.

 

There werenít many birds around, though.† I got HORNED GREBE as soon as I arrived.† Here is a picture of two of them in their winter plumage.

 

There were several of their larger cousins around, too, RED-NECKED GREBES, in their drab winter plumage also.

 

I soon added PIGEON GUILLEMOT, and they were also very drab looking in their winter plumage.† There were a lot of SURF SCOTERS over by where the ferry docks.

 

There was a guy there with a scope and a camera, and we chatted about the birds for a while.† At about that time, a couple of goldeneyes (ducks) flew in, and I noticed they were BARROWíS GOLDENEYES, which are less common than their cousins, COMMON GOLDENEYE, who were also around for comparison.† Here is a picture of the female Barrowís Goldeneye.

 

The diagnostic features are the steep forehead and the all-orange bill.† Here is a poor picture of a female Common Goldeneye.

 

You can see that her forehead is more sloped and her bill is mostly black with some orange near the tip.† The color difference is due to the lighting in each case.

 

The male goldeneyes are different also, but the male I saw today was a first year male, I believe, but he hadnít yet gotten his full adult plumage.† As a juvenile, a male Barrowís Goldeneye looks like a female, and then develops his adult plumage in his second year.† As an adult, the color of his head will change, and he will develop a white crescent on his face.† This bird today was just starting to get his facial marking.† Note that he has the steep forehead of a Barrowís Goldeneye but not the yellow bill of the adult female, and he has the beginning of his facial crescent.

 

Here he is flapping his wings.

 

I also picked up RED-BREASTED MERGANSER and PELAGIC CORMORANT to finish off my birds for my year list today.† I went up the coast to the other side of the ferry terminal to look for a couple of other species, but I didnít see anything new there.† I also stopped at Log Boom Park again on the way home, and today I saw over a dozen Canvasbacks, the uncommon duck I had seen a couple of days ago.

 

That was 8 new year-birds today, bringing me to a total of 58 species for the year.

 

Today is another interesting BAD birding decision.† The Barrowís Goldeneyes were the least common bird I saw today, probably, but either Pelagic Cormorant or Canvasback would be nice choices, too.† I will probably see all of them again this year, but I wonít see any of them very often.† Iím still trying to understand all the nuances of the strategy that will work best.† The ďbestĒ choice each day depends partly on where I will travel this year and that is still up in the air.† I have to make a decision, so Iíll make it Barrowís Goldeneye today.

 

 

Monday, January 6, 2014

 

I had a busy day planned today, getting ready for my departure for California tomorrow, but I wanted to get a decent BAD bird and I also wanted to get a new species for my year list.† If worse came to worst, I could always take a yard bird for my BAD bird, but getting a new year-bird was going to be tough, as I have seen so many of the common local winter birds already.† Later that wonít matter, but I hate to break a streak, and so far, I had seen a new year-bird each day.† With my California trip starting tomorrow, Iíll have more opportunities for new species, so getting past today was critical.

 

The temperature was hovering around freezing, but it wasnít raining, so I headed down to Juanita Beach Park, which is on the north side of Juanita Bay, which is a bay of Lake Washington, for the non-local readers.† Normally I bird at Juanita Bay Park, which is across the bay on the south side, but I wanted to look for the swans that had been on the north side a few days ago, for my BAD bird.† I also knew that some gulls hung out on the north side of the bay, and I had hopes of seeing a new species of gull for the year.

 

I went out on the boardwalk at the east end of the beach, but the swans werenít where they had been a few days ago.† Nor could I see them anywhere in the bay.† I used my scope to search the shoreline, hoping to see the Wilsonís Snipe I saw there a few days ago, since that would make a decent BAD bird, but they were absent this morning, too.

 

So, I went back to my car and drove down to the west end of the beach, where the gulls hang out.† As I approached that end of the boardwalk, I saw a photographer whom I had seen the other day over at Juanita Bay Park, and he told me that there were two swans near the shore.† Great news!† Sure enough, I was able to see the Trumpeter Swans and get pictures.† Most of the time, this is what I was looking at:

 

I guess they were rooting around on the bottom, eating aquatic plants.† They would spend about 30 or 40 seconds feeding, then come up for air for about 5 or 10 seconds.† It was damn cold out there, waiting for them to surface and hoping they would turn to the right angle for a picture.† Here is a picture of one on the surface.

 

Here is one with its wings spread a little.

 

So, I had my Bird for the Day, my BAD bird, Trumpeter Swan.

 

There were indeed a couple of dozen gulls there, but most were Ring-billed Gulls, which I had already seen.† There were some other, larger gulls, and I was hopeful, but I ended up deciding that most of them were hybrids of Glaucous-winged Gull and Western Gull.† Those hybrids are referred to as Olympic Gulls, and they are abundant in the area.† There was one there that looked to me like a pure Glaucous-winged Gull, and I took some pictures.† The distinguishing thing about the Glaucous-winged Gull is that they donít have any black on their wing tips.† Most gulls have black wing tips, which makes it appear like they have a black tail when they are on the ground or the water, as the wing tips stick back farther than the tail does.† I had already counted Glaucous-winged Gull this year, though, so it was no help to my desire to add a new bird to my year list today.† I did take some pictures, as I donít know if I have any pictures of Glaucous-winged Gull.† Here is a perched gull, followed by ones with their wings spread.† You can see the tops and the bottoms of the wings, and there is no black at the tips.

 

 

 

I know, what could be more boring than pictures of ďseagullsĒ?† Even birders mostly ignore gulls, both because they are boring and because they can be very difficult to identify.† I had been hoping for Mew Gull or maybe Herring Gull, but no joy.

 

I had a limited amount of time, as a friend was coming over for lunch at about 11:15, so I moved on and walked around a little wetlands they have created there.† I was hoping for a sparrow or a woodpecker that I needed.† Well, I didnít find one I needed.† I saw a Song Sparrow and some House Finches, but nothing else.† There was a Northern Flicker (a woodpecker), too, but none of the peckers I need still.

 

I was out of time by then, so I got in my car and headed toward home.† When I got to the other end of the parking lot, though, I spotted a large bird in a tree.† Aha, I thought, here we go.† I parked the car and took my binoculars and camera to check out this large bird.† It turned out to be a RED-TAILED HAWK, a very common species, but one I had not yet seen this year.† Success.

 

Next comes one of the strangest episodes of my life.† Fair warning, this is very weird.

 

I wanted a picture of the hawk, so I took my camera and tried to turn it on.† Nothing.† The light didnít come on, nothing at all happened when I pressed the on/off button.† Damn, I thought, my camera has failed, just as I am getting ready to leave on a trip.† I was thinking it was a good thing I still had my old camera, at least.† I thought it was barely possible that the battery had suddenly failed, rather than the camera itself, so went back to the car, where my spare battery was in my birding bag, which I had left in the car.† Standing at the passenger side door to my car, I opened the compartment on the camera where the battery lives, and it was empty.† No battery.† It was the strangest unreal feeling, sort of like I was suddenly in the twilight zone.† How could there be no battery in my camera?† I had been using the camera for an hour or so, taking two or three dozen pictures.† But the battery compartment was empty. †Impossible.

 

I didnít know what to think, but I put my spare battery in and went back and took some pictures of the hawk.† Here is a picture of my year bird, Red-tailed Hawk.

 

I was (and still am) somewhat shaken up by the missing battery mystery, but I needed to get home to greet my friend, Dan, who was coming for lunch.

 

I told Dan the story and dragged him back down to the park, where we walked over all the ground I had covered between the last picture I took and the point where I discovered there was no battery in my camera.† We didnít find anything.† I had looked through all my pockets, my car, and my birding bag by then, just in case I had removed the battery and put it somewhere, and then completely forgotten it.† I canít imagine why I would have done that, but I canít imagine any other explanation, either.

 

OK, you are thinking, it must have fallen out of the camera somewhere along the way, and Dan and I couldnít find it.† To really understand how mysterious this is, you would have to see and hold my camera, and remove the battery.† There is a little door on the bottom, and it has to be pressed and slid to one side simultaneously to open the little door.† I canít imagine it happening accidently.† But wait, that isnít enough.† There is a little blue lever that holds the battery in, and it has to be pressed to the side at the same time that you either grasp the battery or shake the battery out.† If that happened accidently, which I canít imagine, then the little door would still have to be closed, sliding it to latch it.

 

That is all I have to report about it.† I donít understand it.† Did I take the battery out and throw it away, forgetting completely that I did that?† Why would I do that?† And, how could I not remember it?† Did it somehow rub against my coat in such a way to unlatch the little cover, then unlatch the blue lever, and then shake the battery out, and then close the little door again, latching it in the process?† Those would appear to be the only two options.† If it was the second one, then you have to add that neither Dan nor I saw it when we retraced my steps.† If I took it out and then threw it away, then that would explain why we didnít find it.† As I said, I went through all my pockets, the car, and my birding bag, although if I had found it, I probably would be even more shaken, as that would imply that I had removed it (for no reason at all) and then completely forgotten doing so.

 

As I said, I still feel a bit shaken up by the experience.† I canít recall ever experiencing anything quite so impossible before.† And, as I also said, you would have to actually see the camera and remove the battery yourself to really understand how impossible it would be for that happen by accident.

 

So, I did add a bird to my year list today, Red-tailed Hawk, and that brings me to 59 species for the year.† Tomorrow I head for Ocean Shores, on the Washington coast, my first stop on my way to California.† Iíll try to add another year bird tomorrow, so I can have my excuse for writing a report.† I hope my spare battery doesnít disappear as well.† Maybe Iíll take along my old camera, just in case.† Can cameras eat batteries?

 

My BAD bird for the day is Trumpeter Swan.

 

What a life!

 

 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

 

Today was getaway day for my California trip.† I was up and out of there by about 9:20, which is about what I was expecting.† Even if I had made the effort to get away earlier, the rush hour traffic would only have been worse.† It was raining and the freeway was backed up until I got to Bellevue, but it was pretty open after that.† I donít really like driving in the rain, but this was more of a drizzle, and the only problem was having to constantly change the frequency of the windshield wipers as showers came and went.† Iím driving my new Honda Pilot that I got in late November Ė its first open road test.† It drove just fine, and I enjoyed my Aussie country music as I drove.† It was Slim Dusty today, my original Aussie music discovery.† I have over 300 of his songs on a USB drive, along with an equal number of other Aussie songs, and I got through three ďalbumsĒ worth today, which is about 75 songs.† I was pleased to find that the Pilot got over 24 miles to the gallon on the way down.† I was only getting 19 or 20 mpg in my Trailblazer in recent years on the highway.† The Pilot is a little larger, but they make cars more fuel efficient these days, it seems.

 

My first stop was at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, just north of Olympia.† I needed a potty stop, and there arenít any rest areas along my route today, southbound.† After taking care of that little duty, I walked for ten or fifteen minutes and looked for birds.† It happened to be in a lull in the rain, so I took advantage of it.† I added GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW to my year list, which took the pressure off to find a new year-bird for the day.† I figured I would see more year-birds in Ocean Shores, but that might depend somewhat on the weather, which wasnít looking good.† I also had a good long look at a cute little animal that I think was a muskrat.† I tried for a picture, but there wasnít much light and it was behind some branches.† When I tried to get into a better position, I spooked it and I didnít see it again.† There are no pictures to day at all, due to the rain and darkness all day.

 

As I approached Ocean Shores, I turned in to Ocean City State Park, to look for birds.† It was raining too much to get out of the car, but I have seen some birds there before from the car, one species in particular, and I thought I might as well drive around through the camping loops and see if I got lucky.† There wasnít much to see until I was on my way out, and then I spotted some birds feeding on the ground.† There were a couple of Northern Flickers and a Song Sparrow, but there was another bird, too, and it turned out to be a HERMIT THRUSH.† I guess I had seen them before in that park, but I had forgotten, so it was a pleasant surprise today.† I donít see them often, and I thought it would make a good BAD bird for today.† At that same place, I saw three VARIED THRUSHES, which is the bird I was specifically looking for there today.† So, it was raining, but I was birding!

 

I pulled in to Ocean Shores about 1:15 and checked into my motel.† I put the food from my cooler into the little refrigerator, pretty well filling it up, and then had some lunch.† I had brought leftover steak, cheese, mini-peppers, and sugar snap peas from home.† It made a much better lunch than a greaseball from Mickey Dís, which was what I had been considering.† I had one of my Balance bars for dessert.

 

It was raining lightly, but pretty steadily, but I decided I might as well drive around and hope the rain let up at some point.† I drove slowly down the peninsula through residential areas, but there werenít any birds on display.† At the end of the road, where it turns and goes west, I pulled over to scan a part of Duck Lake, something I had done a couple of times on the way down there.† Nothing on the lake, but when I looked the other way, there was a BELTED KINGFISHER sitting on a railing, and I had a good look at it.† There wasnít enough light for a picture from the car, and it was still drizzling too much to venture out of the car.

 

I stopped at the access to Damon Point, and walked through the drizzle to the edge of the channel, but there werenít any sea birds out there, as there have been in the past.† It was pretty choppy and nasty out on the water, so maybe they were somewhere more sheltered.† Next I moved on around to the Sewage Treatment Plant, to see if anything interesting was on their ponds.† There were several species of ducks on the two ponds I could see from the car, but nothing new for me.† It was again drizzling too much to get out of the car.

 

My next stop was at the jetty, at the tip of the peninsula.† There are three species of shorebirds that live on the rocks of the jetty, and they were the main reason I had decided to stop in Ocean Shores on my way south.† The tide was still out farther than ideal, and the rain kept me in the car.† I pulled out to the end of the access road to the beach, but I didnít feel like driving through the rather deep-looking sand, to get closer to the jetty.† I sat in the car with the windshield wipers going, looking through the windshield at the rocks, which were maybe a hundred yards away.† I could see some birds in the rocks, and I could tell they were ďrockpipersĒ, which is what birders call the three species of shorebird that live on the rocks there, but I was too far away to identify them, especially the species I really wanted to see.

 

Meanwhile, I saw some SANDERLINGS on the beach running around in front of the waves, like they do.† One more for my year list. ††After ten or fifteen minutes, the light rain turned to drizzle, and then to mizzle, and finally it was really just a heavy mist.† I decided to hike across the beach to try to get a look at the rockpipers.† After all, I am a champion birder, and a little dampness falling out of the sky shouldnít stop me.

 

I was able to approach fairly closely, and I could stand with my back to the wind, so the mist didnít blow on to the front lenses of my binoculars very much.† I watched the birds as they fed on the rocks, and I soon identified BLACK TURNSTONE, which is the most common of the three species.† Next I was able to pick out some SURFBIRDS, the second most common one.† At one point I thought I had seen the third species, but it was a brief look.† The third one looks a lot like a Surfbird, except the bill is a bit longer and thinner.† As I kept watching and didnít see that one again, I decided I couldnít count it, as it was just too brief a look, and I might have been wrong.† The tide was coming in, which was driving the birds a little closer to me, which was nice.† I checked several times to be sure the incoming tide wasnít cutting off the access I had used to get to my vantage point.† The rain was holding off pretty well, too, so I kept at it.† Eventually, I did get a definitive look at a lovely ROCK SANDPIPER, the bird I really wanted to see.† I have only seen the species twice before, and both times were here at the jetty in Ocean Shores.† They are a fairly rare bird, and this is the best place to see them on the West Coast, I think.

 

So, with that success under my belt, and the sky darkening from the approaching night, I headed back to my room.† I stopped at one beach access and drove a little on the beach, but didnít see any birds except gulls.† I love the ocean anyway, and driving on the beach is pretty cool, I think.† The surf was pretty rough, and I enjoyed seeing it up close.

 

So, thatís my story for today.† I added 8 more species to my year list, bringing me to 67 total now.† The Belted Kingfisher was new for my Grays Harbor county list, too.† I am still keeping lists for each of the 39 counties in Washington State, and tomorrow will be my first time to bird in Pacific county, so I will start a new list.† I have a couple of places to stop, but it is going to depend on the weather.† Iíd also like to stop tomorrow in Seaside, Oregon, but again, the weather will be a factor.† Based on the forecasts, today should be the worst day of the trip, in terms of rain.† We will see, though.† I expect showers tomorrow, but I am hoping for some dry spells between them.† I have less than five hours of driving to do tomorrow, to get to Lincoln City, Oregon, so there will be some time for birding, if the weather cooperates.

 

As far as my Bird-A-Day for today, I would have been perfectly happy with Hermit Thrush or even Varied Thrush, but Rock Sandpiper is the hands down winner, in terms of unlikelyhood of seeing it again this year.† I wonít see one anywhere else but here, and they are only here in the winter.† So, my BAD bird for today is Rock Sandpiper.† Between the tide (not high enough) and the weather, I hadnít really expected to see one today.

 

 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

 

I slept well last night, and I was up and out by 8:15 this morning, which is early for me.† It had stopped raining about 9 PM on Tuesday night, but it was just starting up again as I pulled out.† Based on the weather forecast, I was hurrying to get to Seaside Oregon by noon, as it was supposed to start raining there about then, and I wanted to look at the bay for three sea ducks I had seen in November there.

 

It drizzled and rained all day long, as it turned out, until I got to my final destination for the day at 3 PM.† On my way out of Ocean Shores, I took a side road just because I wanted to see what was along it.† I didnít expect anything in the rain, but I wanted to see it for future reference.† There were a few uninteresting ducks, but nothing else until I reached the end of the side road. †As I approached the highway intersection, I flushed a little group of CALIFORNIA QUAIL.† A couple of them landed in some bushes, and I got a very brief look at them, but it was enough to identify them.† Based on how the weather was looking, I was happy to have a year-bird, and one that would be a decent BAD bird.

 

Soon I was in Pacific county, a Washington county I had not birded in before.† I was going to stop at a couple of places, but the rain put paid to that idea.† I watched from the car, though, and I took one side loop through Bay Center.† I ended up getting 15 species from the car, despite the rain.† One of those was even a year-bird, NORTHERN PINTAIL, a duck.† So, now I have another Washington county under my belt.

 

The rain continued and I continued on my way.† It was a pleasant enough drive, despite the rain.† There isnít much traffic on the coast road in the winter, and I only got behind slow trailers or recreational vehicles a couple of times, and both times they used a pullout fairly soon.

 

When I got to Seaside, it was bucketing down, so I stopped at McDonalds and had a burger and fries.† After that I went out to the overlook of Seaside Cove, where I had seen the sea ducks in November.† The ocean was rough, but the biggest problem was that there were 3 or 4 fools out there surfing, and that moved the birds too far out to see well enough with binoculars.† It was raining too hard to get out and use the scope, so I moved on.

 

Somewhere south of Tillamook I saw some white birds in a field, and I turned around and went back.† There were at least 6 GREAT EGRETS in several adjacent fields.† They seemed to be hunting rodents, because I saw one with a small rodent in its bill.† It manipulated it around until it could swallow it whole, head first.† Iíve seen them in fields before, but I never really thought about what they were hunting there.† Now I know.† I was surprised to see them, because I didnít know they came this far north.† I know they are rare in Western Washington, and probably rare in Eastern Washington too.

 

I drove into a wildlife refuge and checked out all the geese in the fields, hoping to find a Greater Whiter-fronted Goose among the Canada Geese, but failed to do so.† The rain was just starting to end when I got to Lincoln City just after 3 oíclock, and you could see a little blue sky to the west.† I had a room booked at the casino hotel here, and since I was so early (due to the weather preventing me from doing any real birding on the way), I decided to try my luck at the craps table before anything else.† I figured that would give the rain a chance to stop completely, and I could then look for birds around Lincoln City.

 

The gods of gambling smiled on me, and I enjoyed 45 minutes of playing craps, leaving with $100 of the casinoís money (plus all of my own, I might add).† As I had hoped, the rain had stopped and it was much brighter out.† I stopped at several places and picked up WESTERN GULL and EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE for my year list, and I explored a couple of places I hadnít seen before.† I checked in, put my stuff in my room, and walked a little on the bluff overlooking the beach.† As I have said before, I love the ocean, and the storm surf was great.† My room is oceanfront, and I enjoyed the view until it got dark.† Now I am enjoying the sound of the heavy surf.

 

So, I added 5 more species to my year list, bringing me to 72 for the year.† Iím going to use the California Quail for my BAD bird today.† Iíll probably see them again this year several times, but where I will see them wonít be around home.† Wherever I might see them, Eastern Washington, Oregon or California, there will be other new birds there as well, so I might as well use up California Quail now.

 

The weather forecast for tomorrow is again for showers in the morning, turning into steady light rain in the afternoon, so Iíll have to try for my birds in the morning.† I have some places picked out to stop, with a number of species to look for, so weíll see how it goes.† The rain is putting quite a damper on the birding so far.† Rain is normal here in the winter, but they lulled me with optimistic forecasts, and then changed them at the last minute.† I hope I can get a bird for my year list tomorrow.† Even if I donít, it shouldnít be hard to get a halfway decent BAD bird, even if I have to do it from the car in the rain.† So far I have gotten at least one new year-bird every day, though, and I hate to break a streak.

 

 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

 

Today I have another short report with no pictures.† The weather has been terrible for birding.† I was up and out by about 8:30 this morning, and it was raining.† Once again the spell between the rain storms lasted from late afternoon until about dawn, then the next wave of rain came through, lasting all day long.

 

My first stop was at Boiler Bay Wayside, where lots of good birds have been seen recently.† Most of them are sea birds, though, and that means using a scope to look out over the water.† Well, the ocean was too rough to see birds on the water, if there were any, and it was much too windy and rainy to set up my scope, so I looked at the rocks for oystercatchers, found none, and moved on.

 

My second stop was just down the road from there in Depoe Bay.† I stopped and got out, despite the light rain, and again looked for oystercatchers or anything else.† While I was out there a little squall came through, and I got well soaked.† No birds.† I drove down to the little harbor there, in the hopes of seeing a grebe or something in the water, but there was nothing there, either.† When I got back up to the highway, the rain had let up and it was only drizzling, so I got out and walked a little.† While I was looking out over the ocean, I saw what I thought were a couple of crows flying out over the ocean, and I thought that was kind of strange.† Then they started calling as they got closer, and I realized they were BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS, the very species I thought I was most likely to get there.† At that point I realized that the ďcrowĒ sitting on the edge of the channel wall was also a Black Oystercatcher.† It had been sitting there the whole time I was there, and I hadnít realized what it was.† I expected to find oystercatchers on the rocks, not sitting up on top of a concrete wall.† So, I felt a great relief, as I had a year bird and it would make a decent BAD bird as well, since I wonít see them around home probably.† Now it could rain all day long, and it wouldnít matter to me.

 

Next I found NW 68th St in Newport, Oregon.† I had seen reports of a rare (for the West Coast) sea duck there, and I wanted to take a look.† I wasnít sure I would be able to identify it, but I thought that there might be other birders there, and I wanted to try, anyway.† It had been reported for the last several days, and several Oregon birders had seen it.† It was reportedly feeding with a flock of scoters, another type of sea duck, and the directions seemed very clear.

 

I found NW 68th St and the overlook was only a few blocks off the highway.† I immediately saw several dozen scoters (maybe as many as 100) feeding in the surf, just to the north of the overlook.† It was raining too hard to get out of the car, though, so I used my binoculars through the windshield, while I ran the wipers.† I could make out the two species of scoter, Surf Scoter (which I had seen in Edmonds last week) and BLACK SCOTER, a new one for my year list.† The Black Scoter is actually called American Scoter now, but I notice that birders still call them Black Scoter, so Iíll do the same.† So, I could see the birds, but not well enough to pick out the rarity, if it was even there.

 

Then I had a brainstorm, and I took my scope off its tripod and brought it into the front seat with me.† I propped the front of it on the steering wheel, and I steadied it with my hands, and I could use it pretty effectively.† The view was pretty good, despite the fact I was looking through the windshield and the rain, not to mention the spray from the waves.† The birds were in the actual surf, though, so they kept disappearing.† To make matters worse, most of them were feeding, which involves diving out of sight for 20 or 30 seconds at a time.† All in all, it was far from ideal viewing, but I kept scanning back and forth through the flock, looking for a bird that looked a little different.† The male scoters of both species are black, and the females are brown, but have some subtle markings on them, which distinguishes the two species of scoter.† The bird I was looking for was supposed to be just a little larger and a ďwarmer cinnamon shade of brownĒ than the female scoters.

 

I didnít have any luck, though, and after about half an hour of that, I was about ready to call it quits, happy to have picked up the American Scoter, which is not a real common bird.† There was a rap on my window, and outside was a guy with binoculars.† Aha, I thought, maybe this is someone who knows how to find the rarity.† But he was actually a birder who lives in Africa and hadnít heard anything about the rare bird.† I didnít see a car, so I assume he was staying in one of the several houses overlooking the water there.† We discussed birds and birding for a while, and then he moved on.† I had already put away my scope, but I decided to try one last time before giving up.† After all, this was an opportunity that wouldnít come around again, and what else did I have to do, anyway, considering the weather?

 

So, I set up the scope on the steering wheel again, and made one last attempt.† Almost immediately, there it was, in the center of my field of vision, a female KING EIDER.† Eureka!† I had found it!† It wasnít feeding, and it just sat there for a couple of minutes, giving me a perfect profile view.† I wouldnít have called the color cinnamon brown, but it was definitely a different shade of brown from the female scoters.† At one point a female scoter swam past, and I could see the differences, including that the eider was a little larger.† If it hadnít been raining, I would have tried for a picture, but I was satisfied to have just seen it so well.† Normally a King Eider would be on the Alaska coast at this time of year, but sometimes they make it down as far as the lower 48 in the winter.† It wasnít a lifer because I had seen one once before, in Ocean Shores a few years ago, also a female.† That one in Ocean Shores had returned several years in a row, and it was well known.

 

So, with that very satisfying sighting under my belt, I continued my way south.† I skipped stopping in the Newport area because of the rain and because there was another rarity in Coos Bay that I wanted to try for if the rain happened to let up.† I stopped in Florence and got a tuna sandwich at Subway, and later ate it by a little harbor in a place called Winchester Bay.† As I was pulling out from there, after eating, I saw a WESTERN GREBE in the harbor, so I had another one for my year list.

 

When I got to Coos Bay, it was still raining, but I followed the directions to the parking place for Millicoma Swamp, south of town.† A local birder has been putting birdseed out and a number of sparrow species have been coming to it, as well as a rarity, Painted Bunting.† A couple of the sparrow species would have been great for me, as well as the bunting, so if the weather had been decent, I would have walked the quarter mile to where the seed was placed, but in the rain, through the wet grass, no thank you.† There were three cars in the little parking area (thus filling it up), so I guess someone must have been braving the rain.† I always say that Iím a dilettante birder, not a serious birder, and todayís unwillingness to get soaked in the 45 degree rain is more evidence of that.

 

I stopped a couple more times to enjoy the ocean, at Yachats and at Bandon.† It was wet and windy, though, so I didnít stay anywhere long.† It was getting late by then, and I just pressed on to my stopping point tonight, Brookings, Oregon.† I only went about 230 miles today, but it seemed much longer.† The road is slow, and I stopped to see things a number of times, despite the rain.† In some ways, it is just as well that it was raining all day, because I arrived right at 5 PM as it was getting full dark, and I wouldnít have had time to do much more birding than I did, anyway.† The rain didnít stop me from enjoying the drive, though.† I love life on the road, actually.

 

So, that is four more species for my year list today, bringing me to a total of 76 for the year.† My BAD bird for the day has to be the King Eider, as I almost certainly wonít see that one again this year.† I would have been perfectly satisfied with the oystercatcher, and the Black Scoter would have been okay, too, but the eider is the Bird of the Day, for sure.

 

Iím hoping the weather will be better tomorrow.† I havenít checked the forecast yet tonight, but I am hoping.† I have 244 miles to go tomorrow, to Willits, California, and I want to stop in the Eureka/Arcata area to do some birding.

 

 

Friday, January 10, 2014

 

Finally I had a day without any rain.† I was up and out by about 8:30 this morning, and it had obviously just stopped raining.† I soon drove into sunshine, and had no more rain for the rest of the day.† Within the first few miles, I had a couple of AMERICAN KESTRELS on wires, so I didnít have to worry about getting a year bird.† As I drove through Crescent City, CA, I saw a couple of BREWERíS SPARROWS on the sidewalk, so I had a second one.

 

I was heading toward a couple of ďtwitchesĒ, meaning birds that others had reported in particular places, so I kept my foot to the floor and boogied on down the highway.† I got to Trinidad, CA a little after 10, and found the house where I was supposed to look for a rarity (on the West Coast).† I couldnít see the feeder that was described, and I spent ten minutes or so walking around the area.† Finally I spotted the feeder, on the very back of the property, on the edge of the cliff.† It would have been helpful if someone would have mentioned the specific location of the feeder, but I had found it, so no harm done.† I had almost given up, though, when I saw it.

 

There were lots of birds coming to the feeder.† While I was there I saw White-crowned Sparrows, Golden-crowned Sparrows, Fox Sparrows, Song Sparrows, a House Finch, Spotted Towhees, and Dark-eyed Juncos.† Most of the birds would only stay at the feeder for a few seconds, and there were often squabbles among the birds.† Here is a picture of the feeder (which was quite a distance away, so my pictures are poor) with a Dark-eyed Junco, a sparrow, and a Spotted Towhee.

 

I watched for about fifteen minutes and then the target bird flew in and stayed for a minute or more.† Here is a really poor picture that shows the female or first year male PAINTED BUNTING that I was looking for.† It is the plain looking bird in the middle of the picture, looking to our left.

 

I had had a good look at it with my scope before I took this picture.† Here is a picture that shows the back part of the bird, as it fed.† Unfortunately, it chose to feed on the other side of the feeder.

 

I was hand-holding the camera, which is one reason the pictures are so poor.† I was very happy to have seen the bird, though, and getting pictures was actually a bonus.† At this time of year, Painted Buntings should be down in Mexico.† I had seen the species in Texas, I think, in 2012, in the spring.† There have been several reported on the west coast this winter, so I guess they get confused or something.† Even in the summer or spring, Painted Bunting is not usually seen west of Texas or Oklahoma, so west coast birders get quite excited when one appears out here.† Painted Bunting was one of the birds that has been seen recently at the Coos Bay site, where I didnít walk out to look for it yesterday because of the rain.

 

Here is another picture of that feeder, showing a Fox Sparrow and a Spotted Towhee.

 

Here are a couple of WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS, a new species for my year list.† The one on the left is a mature one, and the one in the middle is a first year bird, hatched in 2013.† It will get its white crown stripes later this year.

 

So, having seen the bunting, I moved on to my next target.† Another rarity for this area had been seen coming to a feeder in Arcata, just south of Trinidad.† I had called last night and gotten the okay to come by to look for it this morning.† I introduced myself to the homeowner and sat down to wait to see if this one would show.† Someone had reported that the homeowner of the Trinidad house wasnít friendly, but the Arcata people were very welcoming to birders.† There was a guy there already, with his fancy camera set up on a tripod, aimed at the feeder.† He said the target bird had been there between 7:30 and 8 this morning, but he hadnít seen it in the last hour.† I decided to spend a half hour looking, anyway.† Here is the setup of the feeder and the other guyís camera and tripod.† He was behind those bushes, activating the camera when a bird of interest was at the feeder.

 

Most of the birds flew in to the post to the right of the feeder first, before going to the feeder, so I took pictures of them there, rather than at the feeder itself.† I was much closer than at the Trinidad feeder and I was sitting down with my elbows on my knees, so the pictures are much better here.† Here is a Song Sparrow.

 

Here is a male Dark-eyed Junco.

 

Here is a frontal view of that junco or another one.

 

Juncos are common birds, and we have tons of them at home, but this was a great chance to get some good pictures of them

 

Here is a Fox Sparrow.

 

And here is a front view of a Fox Sparrow.

 

It was really fun to be able to get pictures of birds, even if I wasnít seeing the female Summer Tanager, which was my target species there.† While watching the various birds come in to the feeder, I noticed a Hermit Thrush in the grass.† Here is a picture of that guy.

 

Here is a front view of him, when he flew up on a bench.

 

So, I finally gave it up after about 40 minutes.† You win some, and you lose some.† I was quite pleased to have gotten some good pictures, and I enjoyed the attempt.† I moved on to Arcata to do some more birding, but first needed to get some lunch.

 

It appears that Arcata has successful relegated the corporate fast food franchises to an area to the north of town where there are several motels, so my search for fast food around the downtown area was thwarted.† I didnít want to backtrack to the north.† They seem to have opted for food trucks, as there seemed to be a food truck on every corner and in every vacant lot.† I found a Safeway and got a sandwich there, and took it to the Arcata Marsh wildlife area.† I ate in the car overlooking one of the lagoons.† I picked up BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON while eating my lunch.† There were several of them roosting in the bushes across the lagoon.† As I finished my lunch, a female NORTHERN HARRIER showed herself, too, chasing some other bird.

 

I could probably have added other species there, if I had walked around, but they would all be ones I will see later in the trip anyway, so I moved on.† On the way into Eureka, there were four or five TURKEY VULTURES by the side of the road.† South of Eureka, I pulled off at the exit for the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and went to an overlook of the marsh that I remembered.† I picked up TUNDRA SWAN and AMERICAN AVOCET there, but none of the other shorebirds I have seen there before.

 

On my way to the refuge headquarters, I stopped to look at a feeder in a yard, but it was only a male House Finch on it.† But, as I was stopped there, a larger bird flew up onto a wire, and I added RED-SHOULDERED HAWK to my year list.† At the headquarters of the NWR I saw another Red-shouldered Hawk, but it flew before I could get a picture.

 

I walked around a little there, enjoying the sunshine, and picked up a common California bird that we donít get in Washington very often, BLACK PHOEBE.† When a Black Phoebe shows up in Washington, everyone gets excited and goes to see it, but they are abundant in California.† I also saw a MARSH WREN there.† I tried for pictures, but it would never sit still for long.

 

It was getting late by then, so I hit the road and drove straight to Willits, where Iím spending the night.† It was about a two hour drive at that point, and I started getting sleepy.† There wasnít anywhere to stop for coffee, and I was worried that if I had coffee that late in the afternoon, I would have trouble sleeping tonight.† I decided to have one of my food bars, and it did the trick.† I munched it slowly, stretching it out for half an hour, and I wasnít sleepy again after that.† I guess raising my blood sugar level a little was all I needed.† Lesson learned.

 

So, I added 12 species to my year list today, without really trying very hard.† Thatís what happens when the weather cooperates and you travel to a new place.† There are lots of California birds I expect to add to my year list in the next couple of weeks.† Weíll see how long I can keep my streak going, seeing a new year-bird each day.† I have 88 species for the year now.† My bird of the day is the Painted Bunting, of course, as I am extremely unlikely to see another one this year.

 

Tomorrow I plan to drive into Sacramento to my friend Fredís house, and Chris, another old friend from high school and college days is flying in tomorrow as well.† We plan to have three days of talking, playing cards, and maybe a little drinking for some of us.† I will have to get out each day and get a new bird for the year, too, hopefully, as well as keep adding to my Bird-A-Day list.

 

 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

 

The bed last night was too firm and I kept waking up to turn over, but I still managed to get a decent nightís sleep.† I was up and out by about 8:30.† It was raining when I got up this morning, to my surprise, and it continued until I got over the coast range, about an hour later.† As I started out this morning, there was a COMMON RAVEN calling from the roof of the motel, and I took that as a good sign for the day, since I like ravens and crows.† I stopped and got a tuna sandwich from Subway along the way, and I got to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge about 11, I think.† Along the way, I saw a little flock of WILD TURKEYS, so I had two for my year list as the real birding started.

 

At the Sacramento NWR, I soon saw GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE.† There were thousands of them there, probably tens of thousands.† Here is one of them.

 

I soon saw a WESTERN MEADOWLARK for my year list, but it flew before I could get a picture.

 

I had been told that there werenít as many ducks on the refuge as usual because they havenít been able to flood their rice fields for them to feed on.† It was indeed very dry on the refuge.† There were still ducks, but not as many as have been there in the past.† Here is a pair of Northern Pintails.

 

The more colorful one is the male, as usual with ducks.† I had one flying WHITE-FACED IBIS about then, too, the only one I saw today.

 

At one point there was a female Northern Harrier that kept flying around begging for me to take her picture.† Here are three pictures of her.

 

 

 

I just canít resist taking pictures of flying raptors.† The white rump is the diagnostic feature of the Northern Harrier.† The males are very pale, gray on top and mostly white underneath, and the females are larger and a reddish brown color on top.† This was a female.

 

At one place, there was a gull perched on an island, and I got a good look at it.† It was a HERRING GULL, a good one to have under my belt for the year.† I was distracted by other birds, and it flew away before I could get a picture, but it had a yellow eye, which is the diagnostic mark.

 

There was a small group of Ring-necked Ducks, and here is a picture of a male.

 

It always seems to me that they ought to be called Ring-billed Ducks, but supposedly there is a ring around their neck which is hard to see.† I have never seen it.† Here is what the female Ring-necked Duck looks like.

 

You are supposed to stay in your car while on the auto tour there, but there are three or four places where you are allowed to get out and stretch your legs.† At the second one, there were some CINNAMON TEAL, but the light was totally wrong to get any pictures.† The males are very attractive, and I expect Iíll get a picture later in the year sometime.

 

After stretching my legs there, I continued on around the auto tour route.† There was a mature Bald Eagle perched in a tree at one point, sitting out in the sunshine, begging for pictures.† I have said before that I never get tired of taking pictures of Bald Eagles, and here is my picture from today.† I had to take it through the windshield, but it came out fine.

 

A little farther along the route, there was a Red-shouldered Hawk sitting in a tree.† It was being blown around by the wind, but here is a picture from the front of a windblown Red-shouldered Hawk.

 

It flew away, but soon came back and here is a picture from the back, showing its dramatic black and white coloration.

 

Soon after that I saw a little bird along the edge of the water, and I got pictures of an AMERICAN PIPIT.

 

 

Somewhere along in there I stopped at a pull out and had my Subway tuna sandwich.† Yum.† I love their tuna sandwich.

 

I had missed seeing Rossís Goose earlier.† I had seen thousands of SNOW GEESE, but the Rossís Goose is a separate species that looks very similar, with some small differences.† They are slightly smaller, but the main thing is the head shape and the bill are different.† Snow Geese have a larger bill, and the lower part of their bill is has a black part that makes it looks like a ďgrinĒ.† Here is a Snow Goose with its grin.

 

Toward the end of the auto tour, I came upon another huge mob of white geese.† Here is a picture of a small part of them.

 

I stopped where I could see a number of the geese and looked for Rossís Goose.† At the first place I stopped, I never saw any.† I moved forward to the next break in the reeds, and I looked again.† This time I found a small group of ROSSíS GEESE.† Here is a picture that shows a couple of Snow Geese in the foreground and a couple of Rossís Geese in the middle of the background.

 

Note the small stubby bill of the Rossís geese, as well as the steeper forehead.† Here is a picture showing two of the Rossís Geese.

 

There were a couple of LONG-BILLED CURLEWS on an island in the midst of the geese.

 

The Snow Geese kept flapping their wings, and here is a picture I like.

 

There was a small group of Green-winged Teal.† Here is a picture of a pair of them.

 

As usual, the male is the more colorful one.

 

So, I had 11 new year list species today.† That brings me to 99 species for the year.† My BAD bird has to be Rossís Goose, because I am unlikely to see it anywhere else this year.

 

Iím in Sacramento now, and for the next three days Iíll be spending most of my time playing cards and enjoying my old time buddies.† Iíll try to get out each day and see a new bird for the year, as well as a BAD bird, but the reports will likely be short.

 

 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

 

Today was first full day of our reunion, and I spent most of the day playing cards and watching a little football.† I did take my lunch out to the back yard and in less than an hour out there, I got some birds and some pictures.† The light was great for pictures, and I could sit in a chair and see birds at the feeder and around the yard.

 

First up was WESTERN SCRUB-JAY.† Here are a couple of pictures of that guy,

 

 

Several YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS flew through the yard, but none stayed for a picture.† The OAK TITMOUSE was more cooperative, coming to the feeder two or three times and posing for me.

 

 

A Black Phoebe came through.† I had already counted that one for my year list near Eureka the other day, but today this one posed very nicely in the light for me.

 

A little flock of BUSHTITS flew through, and I managed to get a good binocular look at one of them before they were gone, but no chance for a picture.

 

There was a Turkey Vulture fly-over and later a Red-tailed Hawk did the same.† There were Dark-eyed Juncos around, as well as Annaís Hummingbirds.† There was also a little greenish yellow bird that was probably an Orange-crowned Warbler, but I didnít get a good enough look to call it.

 

Finally, there was a small flock of birds that foraged around in the trees and bushes, and I had a hard time identifying them.† I eventually decided they were female LESSER GOLDFINCHES.† We donít have them in Western Washington, and I didnít remember exactly what they looked like.† I got a picture of one of them, but it took off just as I snapped it.

 

A little while later a male Lesser Goldfinch showed up, and I did recognize him.

 

So, that was pretty good action considering I just sat in the yard for less than an hour.† I added 5 more species to my year list, bringing me to 104 for the year.

 

Several of the birds today would have made decent BAD birds, and none of them was especially difficult, but I decided to take Lesser Goldfinch for my Bird of the Day.

 

 

Monday, January 13, 2014

 

I went out for a walk this morning before breakfast, and I saw a NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD after a while.† Here is a picture of it, high in a tree.

 

There were a couple of other birds that Iím almost sure were Mourning Doves, which I still need for my year list, but I didnít see them well enough to count them.† Then, as I was coming back to Fredís house, I saw three CEDAR WAXWINGS high in a tree.† Here is a picture of one of those sleek looking birds.

 

In the same tree were a couple of House Finches and a couple of American Goldfinches.† Here is one of the goldfinches.

 

So, I had a couple of year list birds, and we played some cards for the rest of the morning.† After lunch we went on an outing to the Vic Fazio wildlife reserve.† Almost as soon as we started around the auto tour, we saw our first AMERICAN BITTERN.

 

When a bittern realizes there is someone looking at it, it usually assumes that posture.† Here is a close up of its head.

 

Soon we saw our first WHITE-TAILED KITE, a medium sized raptor that I especially like.† Here is a distant picture of that first one.

 

A little while later there were two more kites at the top of a tree.† One of them had a little rodent in its grasp.

 

Here is its partner, without a meal.

 

There was an American Kestrel in a tree, and I got this picture.

 

That was one of several pictures that had the sun behind the bird, making a picture difficult.† Here is a Red-shouldered Hawk with the same problem of backlighting.

 

There were little sparrows on the road, and most of them were White-crowned Sparrows or Golden-crowned Sparrows, but there were also a lot of SAVANNAH SPARROWS, for my year list.† Here is a picture of one of them.

 

Soon after that I picked up SNOWY EGRET for my year list.† Check out the yellow foot.

 

There were very few shorebirds there today, and I think it was because the water levels were so high.† California is having something of a drought, but they pump river water into the reserve for the wintering water birds, and there was actually more water than usual there today.† Anyway, there were two BLACK-NECKED STILTS there today.† I should have taken a picture, but I didnít.

 

There were tons of ducks there today, but nothing new for me.† I have most of the ducks already.† Here is a picture of a female Cinnamon Teal, though.† She is showing her blue wing patch, which I like.

 

Here is a picture of a pair of Cinnamon Teal.† The male is the one with the real cinnamon color.

 

Here is another shorebird, a GREATER YELLOWLEGS.

 

We had a lot of raptors today, and here is another one.† I believe this is a COOPERíS HAWK, one for my year list.† The lighting was atrocious, but I think the bird is identifiable.

 

On our way out we saw a couple more American Bitterns, and here is a picture of one flying.

 

So, that was our little outing.† On the way home there was a YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIE by the side of the road, to add one more species to my year list.

 

I added another ten species to my year list today, to bring me to a total of 114 species so far.

 

For my BAD bird for the day, I guess Iíll choose the American Bittern.† I have never seen one in Washington, and I only see them here less than half the times I go to the Fazio reserve, and that is the only place I have ever seen them, I think.

 

 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

 

Our reunion continues, so most of my day was spent playing cards.† I did walk down the street a little this morning, though, and I picked up a lovely male NUTTALLíS WOODPECKER, a California specialty that I wonít be able to get in Washington.† Here is a picture.

 

It is just about the same size as a Downy Woodpecker, which I see commonly, but the Downy has a white patch in the middle of its back.

 

There were a few other birds around the neighborhood, including several Yellow-rumped Warblers.† Here is a picture of one of them.

 

After playing some cards, we went down to one of the parks on the American River, stopping on the way at Subway to pick up lunch.† There werenít a lot of birds around the park, but I got some pictures of Yellow-billed Magpie, a bird I think is very attractive.

 

 

There were several ACORN WOODPECKERS around, another California bird I figured to get on this trip.† I tired for pictures, and I got one that I like very much.† Acorn woodpeckers drill holes in a dead tree and then find acorns and stuff them in the holes, to eat later.† Here is a picture of an Acorn Woodpecker getting ready to stuff an acorn into a hole.

 

On our way back to the car there was a flock of little birds, and many or most of them were LARK SPARROWS, another one for my year list.

 

That was it for the birding for today.† I added three more species, bringing me to 117 for the year so far.

 

For my Bird-A-Day bird, Iíll select the Nuttallís Woodpecker for today.

 

 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

 

We finished up our reunion get together this morning with one last game of Sergeant Major, and then Fred and I took Chris to the airport, so he could fly back home to Orange County.† Our first reunion was almost 16 years ago, after we had lost contact with each other for over 25 years.† This was the 22nd time we had gotten together over those 16 years.

 

While we were playing cards this morning, Fred noticed a bird on his feeder, and it turned out to be a MOURNING DOVE, one for my year list.† I didnít interrupt the card game to try for a picture.† After all, birding is important, but we were playing cards, for Peteís sake.† First things first.

 

After we dropped Chris off at the airport, we made a stop at Costco for a few necessities, including a couple of cases of liquor for me to take home to Washington, where the tax makes liquor about 75% more expensive than in California.† Costco is about 20 percent cheaper than other stores in this area, so a stop there was called for.

 

After a Costco hot dog, we headed out to a pond in West Sacramento where people have been reporting a duck species I still needed.† I have seen them at this same pond the last two winters, and they didnít disappoint today, either.† Here is a picture of a pair of BLUE-WINGED TEALS.

 

The male is the one with the white crescent on its face.† I think the picture is interesting because of the way the reflection of the maleís head overlaps the image of the femaleís head, making her head look kind of weird.† Here is a picture of a couple of male Blue-winged Teals and a male Cinnamon Teal.† One of the male Blue-winged Teals is stretching its left wing, thus showing its blue wing patch, which appears more whitish than it actually is, because of the lighting.

 

Iím not sure which species the female is.† The females of these two species look very similar, and I donít know how to tell the difference.† I called the female in the previous picture a Blue-winged Teal because she was with a male Blue-winged Teal, and I figured they knew the difference, even if I didnít.

 

There were other ducks on the pond, including Ruddy Ducks, Lesser Scaup, and Canvasbacks.† I picked up a lovely little COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, flitting around in the reeds.† I tried repeatedly for a picture, but the little dear was so active that the only picture I actually took is this one.

 

I donít normally show pictures that donít show the birdís face, but this was the only picture I got, and I donít know if I have ever gotten a picture of a Common Yellowthroat before.† The picture came out great, considering the distance I was from the bird, other than the obvious flaw of not showing the birdís face.† The front of the male yellowthroat is a dramatic black, white, and yellow, so getting a back shot is even more ironic.

 

There was one other interesting species that has been reported to be in that neighborhood, and as we were getting ready to leave, I saw one GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE fly out of the reeds in front of us and across the pond.† Then we noticed there was a whole flock of them across the pond.† Some of them flew up into a tree, and we walked around the pond so I could try for a picture.† Here is a female Great-tailed Grackle in a tree.

 

The males are a little larger and are an iridescent black, with a yellow eye.† Here is a picture of a male.

 

Here is another male, sitting on a fence.

 

Here is a picture of part of the flock, feeding in a field.

 

They mostly live in the south, right across to almost the East Coast, and they have been extending their range into California in the last 15 years that I have been birding.† 15 years ago you had to go to Las Vegas to see them, and then they moved into the Los Angeles and San Diego areas.† We have been seeing them here in the Sacramento area for 4 or 5 years, I think, but they still arenít very common here.† I hadnít really expected to see them here on this trip, until I read about this flock of them the other day.

 

So, that was it for today.† Tomorrow Fred and I will start doing some real birding.† My numbers might not be too high, though, because I am doing pretty well so far at seeing the common birds of the Central Valley, even with the limited time I have spent looking.† Iíll try to add at least one species to my year list each day, though, so I have an excuse to write a report.

 

I saw four more species today for my year list, bringing me to 121 species for the year.† Iíll spend some time tonight doing research, to figure out what other species I can look for around Sacramento before I head on down to the Monterey area on Sunday.

 

My BAD bird for today is Great-tailed Grackle I guess, since I am not likely to see them again except in San Diego, assuming I even get to San Diego this year.† I might very well not see Blue-winged Teal again either, but I can only choose one each day.† Come to think of it, I often see Blue-winged Teal in San Diego, too, and probably more easily than the grackle, so that makes the grackle and even better choice.† I love the sound of that name, too Ė grackle.† It sounds like it ought to be a Dr. Seuss character, or maybe a Sesame Street character.

 

What a life!

 

 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

 

Today was my first real day of birding on the trip, but it kind of fizzled in terms of numbers.† Partly that is because I have so many common birds so far, and partly it was because we didnít get started until 10:30 this morning and stopped before 4.† Another factor was the drought here in the Central Valley of California.† There just arenít all that many birds around in the very dry conditions.

 

Today Fred and I drove south to Cosumnes Preserve, a place that usually has lots of birds.† There were birds, but not in the numbers or variety that we usually see there.† On the way we stopped at my spot for BURROWING OWL at the Cosumnes River College, and I picked that one up for the year list.†† Here is a picture of two of them.† The haziness is due to the fact I had to take it through a chain link fence.

 

Their burrow was close enough to the fence that I spooked them when I got closer, to try to get a picture through one of the openings in the fence.† One flew down the way a bit and perched in front of another burrow (this ďburrowĒ was a corrugated pipe that had been installed for them), and I was able to get up to the fence at that location, to get this shot.

 

As we approached the Cosumnes Preserve on Desmond Road, there were lots of ducks and geese in the ponds, and a couple of dozen SANDHILL CRANES scattered around in little groups.† Here is a picture of a couple of the cranes.

 

Here is a picture of a single Sandhill Crane

 

There was an American Kestrel on a post right next to the road, but before I could get a picture, it flew up onto a power pole, and I got this more distant picture.

 

At the boardwalk across the road from the Cosumnes Preserve visitor center, I got this picture of a Black-necked Stilt.† They are dramatic looking birds, I think.

 

At that same point, I got LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER for my year list.† Here is a picture of a couple of those shorebirds.

 

There were several smaller shorebirds with some of the dowitchers, and it was hard for me to identify them without my scope.† So, since the scope was back in the car, I used my camera and took some pictures at 50X zoom.† Thus I was able to confirm they were DUNLIN.† The slightly drooped bill is the tipoff.

 

There were also a few Sandhill Cranes there, and I got one more picture.

 

It was about 1 PM by then, so I ate my Subway tuna sandwich and some Fritos at the visitor center, at a table.† After I ate we walked out on the Wetlands Trail, and I got the target bird I wanted there, WRENTIT.† I had seen them there the last year or two, and I guess one still lives in the same exact place.† The looks I got were minimal, with no chance at all for a picture.† Last year one was very responsive to playback and perched up for us, but this year, the one we saw skulked down in the brambles, and we only got quick looks at it.

 

That was it for new birds and for pictures.† We drove back along country roads, but didnít see anything new, other than flocks of thousands of blackbirds and a field full of dozens of Long-billed Curlews.† All in all, it was a very slow birding day.

 

So, I managed to add 5 more species today, bringing me to 126 for the year.† My BAD bird for the day is Wrentit.† They donít live in Washington, and I donít see them often in California, so Iím happy with the choice.

 

 

Friday, January 17, 2014

 

I kept my streak alive Ė seeing at least one new species for my year list each day so far this year.† Today was day 17, of course.† I hope to keep it up for another week or so, but we will see.

 

Today Fred, Tugboat, and I were out by 10 AM.† Not even close to early, but earlier than yesterday.† We headed east today, up the American River, more or less.† Our first stop was Mather Lake, to look for a species that we have seen there before a couple of times, and one that I donít see anywhere else very often.† We didnít see it at the park itself, but when we stopped along Douglas Road for a different view of the lake, I saw one MUTE SWAN.† Mute Swan is not a native American species; they were imported from Europe for zoos and parks.† Some have escaped or been released and have reproduced in the wild, and the population at Mather Lake has been there for a number of years.† Here is a picture of the sole Mute Swan we saw today.

 

The lighting was terrible, coming from behind the bird, but you can see the orange bill, which marks it as different from the two native American species of swan, which have black bills.

 

So, with that success under our belt, we drove to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery on the American River.† There were several target species there.† I had already counted this species, but I got a picture that shows a male and female Common Goldeneye pair.

 

Ok, itís lesson time again.† I think I go through this every year, but here is a picture of the male of the other goldeneye species, Barrowís Goldeneye.

 

Note that the white patch on the face is a crescent rather than a circle.† In addition, the color pattern of the back and side is different.† In this light, which was coming from behind me, you could also see that the color of the head of the male Common Goldeneye is an iridescent green, while the color of the head of the male Barrowís Goldeneye is an iridescent shade of blue.† You canít see that in most light, but in this case, it is obvious.

 

Here is a female Barrowís Goldeneye.† The picture doesnít really show it, but her colors are the same as those of the Common Goldeneye, except that the bill of the female Barrowís Goldeneye is orange, while that of the Common Goldeneye is black, with some orange near the tip sometimes.† There are differences in the shape of the head, too, supposedly, but I havenít ever really seen those.

 

I picked up another common species there that had been reported, CALIFORNIA GULL.† I know, they are all just seagulls to most people, but this one has black and red on its bill, some streaking on the back of the head and the neck (winter plumage), and its size is right for California Gull.† The legs are greenish yellow, which I could see through the water some of the time.

 

Here is a picture of the American River at that point, which is just below the Nimbus Dam.

 

Here is the view looking downriver.

 

Water levels in the American River are very low, and flow rates are correspondingly low, due to the ongoing drought in this part of California.† I understand the governor here has declared an emergency because of the drought, as of today or yesterday.† Last year was okay, I think, but I guess one dry year is enough to put them over the edge.† There is very little snow in the Sierras this year so far, I think.† Today was something like day 42 without rain here, and the record is 45, think.† No rain is in the forecast.

 

The Nimbus Fish Hatchery is a trout hatchery, and they have large concrete open-top tanks that they raise the baby fish in.† Most of the tanks are under a huge screened area, to keep the birds from wiping out the fish, I assume.† Here is a picture of the huge screened area.

 

For the last several years, at least, every time I have gone to the hatchery, there have been GREEN HERONS inside the enclosure, and today was no exception.† I guess they must just live their whole lives there, feeding on the fish in the tanks.† Today I saw two of them, and here is a picture of one, with terrible lighting from behind.

 

There are some openings in the screening at one end, so maybe they fly out sometimes to nest and pursue other heron-like activities, I donít know.

 

I had missed a couple of species as we came into the area, and as we worked our way back to the car, I saw one of them on the wire across the river, a PEREGRINE FALCON.† It flew before I got close enough for a picture this year, but I saw it well enough through my binoculars to verify the identity.† The falcon hangs out there because it feeds on the White-throated Swifts that nest under the Hazel Avenue bridge, but I didnít see any swifts today.† Swifts tend to go out looking for food all day, coming back to their roost for the night.

 

I had been scanning the opposite shoreline for another species, and I finally saw a SPOTTED SANDPIPER across the river, too far for a decent picture, although I do have some that are good enough to identify the bird.

 

So, that was it for the fish hatchery, and we moved on.† It was after noon by the time we got out of there, and while I was looking for a Subway to get a sandwich, I saw a fish and chips place, and got some fish and chips, which we took to Sailor Bar, a park on the river a little downstream from the hatchery, on the opposite side.† I had hoped there were tables there, but that was not to be.† We went to the pond there, and I found a log to sit on and eat my fish and chips and veggies I had brought from home (mini-peppers and sugar snap peas).† Here is a picture of the pond there.

 

After my lunch (Fred never eats lunch and usually doesnít have any breakfast either), we went farther upriver on the north side.† We stopped at Negro Bar, and I got this picture of a CALIFORNIA TOWHEE.

 

We went on to Bealís Point, on Folsom Lake, but they wanted 12 bucks to get in to the state park there, and we decided not to spend that much for a chance at a couple of species that I will likely see later this year anyway.† We decided to head back down the river and stopped next at the Lower Sunrise area.† I didnít add any new species there, but I did get this picture of a Yellow-rumped Warbler.

 

We have seen Yellow-rumped Warblers almost everywhere we have been, including in Fredís yard.† They are an extremely common species here in the winter, I guess.

 

We didnít see anything else there, so we moved on down the river to Ambassador Park, a place we like to visit that has a nice view of the river from a comfortable bench along the running and bike trail that runs all along the American River.† On our way to our bench, I spotted a DOWNY WOODPECKER.† I got good looks at it, but couldnít get a picture worth showing.† There were a lot of Acorn Woodpeckers around, and three of them perched in a tree by the river.† I got this picture of a female Acorn Woodpecker.

 

Lesson time again.† In most woodpecker species, red on their head indicates a male, but both genders of Acorn Woodpeckers have red on their heads.† The tipoff that this is a female is that the red is not adjacent to the white over the bill.† In a male Acorn Woodpecker the red on the head meets the white on the forehead.† Lesson over.

 

We sat on our bench overlooking the river, and I played the song and calls of a nuthatch, which we have seen there before.† At first there wasnít any response, but eventually, we heard a responding call that sounded very much like one of the calls I had been playing.† Sure enough, eventually a lovely little WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH flew into the tree right next to us.† If it had stayed there for two seconds longer, I would have had a great picture, but no joy.

 

There were other birds around.† I have already shown the pictures I got of the male Common Merganser and the female Barrowís Goldeneye from the bank of the river there.† I also got this picture of a Golden-crowned Sparrow there.† The light was poor, but it shows the bird nicely, I think.

 

So, that was our birding for today.† We got home about 4 PM, which meant we put in about 6 hours of birding, including travel time.† Definitely not in the serious birder class, but we had a good time, and I saw some birds and got some pictures.

 

I added 8 more species to my year list today, bringing me to 134 for the year.† Tomorrow we plan to head out west, up Putah Creek, beyond Davis.† I wonít get a lot of new year-birds, but I ought to get at least one, to keep my streak alive.† You never know, though, so we will see.

 

For my Bird of the Day, Iíll choose Mute Swan today.† I donít see them very many places, so it is a good choice for the day.

 

 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

 

Today we got out of here before ten oíclock, but not all that much before.† We headed west, beyond Winters to where Putah Creek flows out of Lake Berryessa at Monticello Dam.† We stopped in Winters to get me a sandwich at Subway, and then made a brief stop at ďthe rock pileĒ at what is called Vesper Sparrow corner.† While we were there another birder showed up and said that Vesper Sparrows had been reported there within the last week.† I have stopped there several times over the last few years, and have never had a sniff of a Vesper Sparrow.† Today we saw nothing of interest, and it was incredibly dry, like everywhere else in the Central Valley.

 

Our first real stop was at Lake Solano County Park.† Almost right away there was a female PHAINOPEPLA, one of my target birds there.† Here is a picture of the female.† We saw a male briefly, too.† The males look similar except they are black, rather than gray.

 

There were quite a few birds around, including some ducks on the lake.† As we worked our way down the path along the lake, we came upon a large group of birders.† We exchanged info on what we had been seeing.† They were glad to hear that there were Phainopeplas the way they were heading, and I was glad to hear that they had seen a particular species of woodpecker at the other end of the park.

 

I was looking for Eurasian Wigeon also, an uncommon Asian duck that shows up on the west coast in the winter in small numbers, because one had been reported at Lake Solano a couple of times this year, but I never saw one.† We did see the woodpecker, though.† There were two of them flying around, catching insects, I presume.† Here is a picture of a LEWISíS WOODPECKER.

 

Here is another picture, showing the black back.

 

And finally, here is a picture of one of them in the air.

 

I was happy to see them today because I only see them once or twice a year, if that.

 

We had looks at several Ruby-crowned Kinglets.† I have to look at them very carefully, because they look very similar to another species that I have a hard time seeing, Huttonís Vireo.† None of the ones I saw today were Huttonís Vireo, though, I donít think.

 

On our way back to the car, there were a couple of sparrow-like birds in some bushes, and we got good looks at them.† The birds had some yellow over their eyes, so we thought Savannah Sparrow, but they didnít seem quite right for Savannah Sparrow to me, and the habitat was wrong.† We decided to come back there to eat my lunch, to see if they would show up again.

 

We worked our way back to the car, and then drove through the campground across the road, looking for another target species.† We managed to see just one COMMON PEACOCK.† We have sometimes seen several peafowl there, but today there was just the one male.† I donít know if they are actually officially ďcountableĒ by the rules, but I believe they are reproducing there and living on their own, so I count them.

 

We went on up to Monticello Dam, and I played the song of Canyon Wren, which is supposed to live there, but got no response, like every other time I have tried that there.† We didnít see anything on the drive, so we went back to the park for me to eat my sandwich, Fritos, and vegetables.† While sitting there eating, a number of species showed themselves in the bushes I was eating in front of.† We had Phainopepla, House Finch, Spotted Towhee, Western Scrub-Jay, Northern Mockingbird, Dark-eyed Junco, Golden-crowned Sparrow, and Hermit Thrush.† Here is one of the Hermit Thrushes.

 

Here is the Golden-crowned Sparrow.† I just showed a picture yesterday, but this one is much better.

 

As I neared finishing my lunch, the unidentified sparrow flew in again and posed briefly for us.† We both got a good look at it, and I could see this time it was a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW, an uncommon bird here on the west coast, and one I hadnít expected to see.† I only had time to snap one picture, but it came out pretty good, considering the backlighting.

 

Looking at the picture now, I donít know how I could have thought it was a Savannah Sparrow, but I just wasnít expecting White-throated, and I hadnít even remembered that the White-throated has that yellow over the eye, because I have seen them so infrequently.

 

So, soon after that, we headed back toward home.† We made a slight detour and stopped at the South Fork Putah Creek Preserve, but it was incredibly dry and we didnít see many birds at all.† We had a nice look at a Golden-crowned Kinglet, but I had seen that species in Kirkland a couple of weeks ago.† There was also a Belted Kingfisher there, one I have seen a couple of other places already this year.† Many of the trees look dead, but maybe they are only dormant.

 

We made another pass through the Vic Fazio Yolo Bypass Reserve, where we had been earlier in the week with Chris.† The only new thing we saw was one RING-NECKED PHEASANT.† As we left, I did get some pictures of a Red-shouldered Hawk.† The light was coming from behind it, and this was the best I could do.

 

It shows the reddish barring on the breast and the tail barring pattern, though, which is nice.

 

So, that was another 5 species for my year list today, bringing me to a total of 139 so far this year.† Tomorrow I head for the Monterey area, to visit another old friend and do some coastal birding.† I plan to drive a longer-than-necessary route, going through the Panoche Valley, in search of a few good birds for my year list.† My plan is to get to Tedís house in time for the kickoff of the Seahawks game, at 3:30.† Weíll see if I can tear myself away from the birds to get there in time for the start of the game.

 

My Bird-A-Day bird for today is the Common (or Indian) Peafowl.† I havenít seen them anywhere else in the last 12 years, so it seems a good choice.

 

 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

 

I got away about 45 minutes later than I had hoped this morning, at 9:45.† I stopped at Santa Nella for a Subway sandwich and I filled my gas tank as well.† I decided to still do the Panoche Valley today, even though I was running late.

 

My first stop was a place where I have seen sparrows and Horned Larks in the past, but there were no birds at all.† Normally, I would see hundreds of sparrows while driving that route, but today I saw a grand total of three all day.† The drought has completely devastated the whole valley, and it was nothing but dirt in most places.† I stopped at a resort called Mercey Hot Springs.† There are Long-eared Owls that roost there, in a particular tree, and I saw them a couple of years ago.† I had paid the five dollar ďday useĒ fee at that time, to see them.† They are in a tree that is about 50 feet from where I park the car, but you have to pay to see them.† Today I asked what the policy was these days, and I was told that on weekdays they ďaccommodateĒ birdwatchers by letting them look for five bucks, but on weekends, you had to pay the regular day use fee, which covers use of their swimming pool and spa, as well as other resort facilities.† That fee is 25 bucks.† That policy doesnít seem very friendly to me, but it is their resort, and they can charge what they want, obviously.† I passed, of course.† I canít imagine any way it would have hurt them or their guests to let me look at the owls (and they could have made 5 bucks) but it takes all kinds to make a world, I guess.† I probably wonít see Long-eared Owl anywhere else this year, but it is possible.

 

So, that was one key species I missed today, and I headed to the part of the valley where the second key species, Mountain Plover, is seen.† I almost certainly wonít see them anywhere else this year, and I didnít see them today.† I stopped at least two dozen places and scanned the fields with my binoculars, but I couldnít ever see the flock.† They have been reported several times in the last couple of weeks, but today they were nowhere I looked.† So, I wasnít doing well in the Panoche Valley today.

 

I did manage to see a SAYíS PHOEBE at one point, so at least I wasnít skunked today.† Then a little later I saw a LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, for a second bird.† Iíll see both of those again this year a number of times, but it was nice to see something today, to keep my streak alive another day.† The next three days should be safe, but we will see.

 

Here is a picture of one of the three Savannah Sparrows I saw today.

 

Here is a picture of his friend, on the wire next to him.

 

Normally I see a dozen or more Western and Mountain Bluebirds in the valley, but today - not a sausage.† This drought has really cut down the numbers of birds in the drier places.

 

I did see two groups of Western Meadowlarks, and got a picture of one of them.

 

They have a bright yellow breast with a black bib, but it is hard to get one to face you, when you are close enough for a picture.

 

A little farther along, as I was leaving the valley, there was a covey of California Quail, with one male doing guard duty on a post.† He stayed there as I pulled the car around so I could get some pictures out of the window.

 

But, the valley birding wasnít quite over yet.† I spotted a raptor on a power pole, and it turned out to be another one of the key species I was looking for there, a PRAIRIE FALCON.

 

The lighting was terrible, and I was a long way away, but at least you can see the markings on the bird.† It flew after a minute or so, and when it landed on the next power pole, I was able to get a little closer, with a little better light.

 

Those are the best pictures I have ever gotten of a Prairie Falcon, and I have only seen the species 2 or maybe 3 times before, so that was satisfying.

 

Next I stopped at a spot where Rufous-crowned Sparrows have been reported recently.† I played their song, but saw no birds at all, in the extremely dry conditions.† I even ate my sandwich there, in case they showed up, but I got nothing.

 

So, my birding was essentially over for the day, and I headed for Tedís condo at the Beach, just north of Monterey.† I hustled along and got to Tedís house about 3:50, missing only the first few minutes of the big football game today.† I listened to it on the radio as I approached, and it started terribly for Seattle.

 

So, I got three more year birds today.† I had hoped for more, but the dry conditions and the Mercey Hot Springs policy on their owls kept me from getting more than three.† At least I kept my streak alive, and tomorrow is another day.

 

My BAD bird for the day is Prairie Falcon.† I have seen them in Washington and Oregon, but only 2 or 3 times in all my years of birding.† I saw some Yellow-billed Magpies early in the day, and that wouldnít have been too bad, but the Prairie Falcon seems better to me for today.

 

As I wrap this up, the Seahawks (that is the Seattle team, for my non-football readers) are behind, but there is a whole quarter to go, so it could still go either way.

 

Update, after proofing this, Seattle is ahead and it is looking good for them.

 

 

Monday, January 20, 2014

 

My friend, Ted, lives in a waterfront condo just north of Monterey, and before breakfast this morning, I went out on the beach to look for a bird that is resident here.† I only had to walk a hundred or two hundred yards up the beach, and I found a little group of four SNOWY PLOVERS.† Here is a picture of one of them.† Note the colored leg bands on the bird.† Conservation type people trap the birds in nets and band them, so they can track them and see how they are doing.† The particular colors on each leg would tell them where and when this particular bird was first caught and banded.

 

Here is another one, with its different color bands.

 

Here is one without any bands, which could mean it was only hatched last year, and they havenít yet caught it to band it.

 

Snowy Plovers arenít very common, so I had a good year bird, and I hadnít even had my breakfast yet.† The morning was beautiful, and the waves were larger than sometimes.† The wind was blowing off the shore, as it usually is in the morning, and the spray was being blown back from the waves as they broke.† Here is a picture.

 

I got this picture of a male Surf Scoter in the surf, near the shore.

 

I find most birds attractive, but I must say that male Surf Scoters seem pretty ugly to me, with that goofy bill.

 

Ted had a little chore to do this morning, which I helped him with, and then we headed out to Hollister, to look for some raptors.† We stopped at Subway and got sandwiches, and were looking for birds by noon.† We had a Red-tailed Hawk, and then an American Kestrel.† Soon after that there was a Loggerhead Shrike on a wire.† I had seen a couple of them just yesterday, out in the Panoche Valley, but this was the first picture I have gotten this year of this species.

 

There were some little birds by the side of the road and I eventually decided they were Savannah Sparrows, although they didnít have the yellow over the eyes like the ones I got pictures of yesterday had had.

 

Then the real excitement started.† A large bird flew over us, and we got out and got great binocular views of it.† It was a beautiful GOLDEN EAGLE, one of our target birds for the day.† It appeared to be a second year bird, based on my field guide.† As it circled in the sun, we repeatedly were treated to the golden color of its head and neck.† I wish I had gotten a picture as it was right overhead, but at that point, I was concentrating on trying to identify it.† Young Golden Eagles look a lot like young Bald Eagles, and I was trying to see the differences.† We ended up being certain that this one was a Golden.

 

Next we spotted a large bird in a tree in the distance.† It was clearly a raptor, and we got out the scope.† The head was partially obscured by some branches, but the coloration of the back and wings was distinctive, with various shades of brown, black, and white.† I took some pictures, but it was just too far away, and there was too much heat haze to make them worth showing.† We moved on down the road for a different view and found a place where we could see the head and the front of the bird.† It was clear from that view that it was our second target bird, FERRUGINOUS HAWK.† Again, the pictures are just not worth showing, although you can identify the bird from them.

 

I was getting hungry by then so we moved along, heading toward a park we had eaten lunch at before.† On the way we were stopped by a raptor on a pole, and it turned out to be a Prairie Falcon, another bird I had seen just yesterday, and one that I donít see very often at all.† It was the first time for Ted to see one.† Here is the best picture I have ever gotten of a Prairie Falcon, beating out the pictures I had gotten yesterday.

 

It turned sideways just before taking off and I got this picture.

 

So, we headed off toward lunch again, but again were stopped by a raptor on a pole.† Here is a picture of that one.

 

I took that picture through the windshield, and the light was coming from a bad angle, but it shows the yellow gape of the bird.† The gape is the edge of the bill, extending back under the eye.† I didnít think the bird looked quite right for a Red-tailed Hawk, but it was larger than most other possibilities.† When I consulted my field guide, it turned out that the yellow gape is characteristic of Ferruginous Hawk, and there is a dark morph of the species that looks like this bird.† So, Iím calling this the second Ferruginous Hawk of the day.† The first one was the more common light morph type.† I think I have only seen this species once before, in that same area, either last year or the year before.

 

So, after all that raptor excitement, we had our Subway sandwiches at the Historic Park outside of Tres Pinos.† By the time we finished our lunch, it was about 2 oíclock, and we decided to head for Watsonville, to look for a couple of rarities that have been reported there.† On our way out of the park, I took this picture of a cute little cottontail bunny.

 

We had never visited the Watsonville Slough before, but we found the Ford St access, which is where two rarities have been reported recently.† Almost right away we spotted one of them, a TROPICAL KINGBIRD.† There are several species of kingbird, and they are pretty similar, but none of them should be here at this time of year.† This particular bird has been seen by a lot of local birders in the last month or two, so I was sure of its identity, but I got some pictures and was able to confirm the identity from them.† Here is a side view that shows the length of the bill, which is one important feature.

 

Here is a picture of the front of the bird, which shows where the yellow starts on the breast/stomach of the bird, another feature used to determine which kingbird it might be.

 

In addition, we saw it fly out to catch flying insects a number of times, and there was clearly no white at all in the tail feathers, which is still another diagnostic feature of the Tropical Kingbird.† So, I was completely satisfied that that was what we saw.

 

We played the song and call of Nashville Warbler, since that has been reported there, too, but didnít see any sign of one.† I also played the calls of Sora, a reclusive rail that lives in swamps and reedy areas.† They have been seen there recently, too, but we didnít see one.† There were about 6 Wilsonís Snipe, though, which is a good bird.

 

While were looking for the warbler and the sora, another birder showed up, and we talked with him.† He said he had seen a duck at a nearby pond that I needed for my year list.† I had seen reports online, and intended to go look for it anyway, so we took off to the pond at the entrance to the Shorebirds condos at Pajaro Dunes, on the coast.

 

Upon arrival there, we saw the duck almost right away.† We walked around the pond to get a better angle on it, and I got this picture of a male REDHEAD.

 

They arenít exactly rare, but they are fairly uncommon, and it was good to get one for my year list.

 

There was another bird that had been reported near there, so we looked for that, too.† I played the song and call, and a bird seemed to be responding, but the light was absolutely terrible, as we were looking west, into the sun in the late afternoon.† We had several tantalizing looks at it, and finally one last time it showed it itself better than before, and we reached the conclusion we had found the SWAMP SPARROW.† I would have liked to have had a better look, but in thinking about it afterwards, it just couldnít have been any other species, so I feel ok about counting it.† They are pretty uncommon on the west coast, although maybe not quite rare.† Most of them winter in the southern US, east of the Mississippi, but my field guide shows that some also winter on the west coast, right along the ocean.† They breed in Canada and the northeast US in the summer.† I think I have only seen the species once before, in Texas a couple of years ago.

 

So, it turned out to be a very successful day.† I only added 6 more species to my year list, but every one of them was a high quality bird, one I was very glad to see.† That brings me to a total of 148 for the year now.

 

My BAD bird for today will be Ferruginous Hawk, I guess.† Any of my six new ones would be fine BAD birds, but the Ferruginous is the best one, in terms of my chances of seeing one again this year, I think.

 

Tomorrow I expect to add some common California birds to my year list.

 

 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

 

Today Ted had a dentist appointment at 10:30, so I headed off on my own at about 9:30, to look for a dove that should be in Mexico now, and should never be north of San Diego or so.† It has been seen close to Tedís house for several days at least, so I set out to look for it.† It was reported to be hanging out with a flock of Eurasian Collared-Doves, an introduced species that has moved westward across the whole country now.

 

I went to the Moss Landing cemetery, where it has been seen, and to the streets to the south of there, where it has also been seen.† I found at least a couple of dozen Eurasian Collared-Doves, but never could find the one I wanted.† Here is a Eurasian Collared-Dove.

 

After maybe an hour, I gave it up and moved on to look for other birds.† I saw this Turkey Vulture on a power pole.

 

Like the Surf Scoter I showed yesterday, this is a bird that I donít find very attractive.

 

I did manage to see some LEAST SANDPIPERS about then, so I had one for my year list.† Back at the cemetery, I took some pictures of the little flock of Wild Turkeys that were hanging out there.† Here is a male, showing his stuff.

 

Here is another one looking more normal, not all puffed up.

 

I looked at Wild Turkeys for years, and took pictures of them, before I noticed that little tuft of feathers hanging from the breast.† I have no idea what the function of that is, but some of the birds seem to have it, and it doesnít seem to be gender related.† Once I was aware of it, I couldnít imagine how I had overlooked it for so many years.

 

There were also a number of Killdeer in the cemetery, and here is one of them.

 

There were also a couple of Western Meadowlarks, and I got one of them to show me his yellow front with black bib.

 

So, giving up on the dove for the time being, I went on down to the Moss Landing harbor, to see what was around.† On the way, there was this beautiful male American Kestrel sitting on a pole, and I had to take his picture.

 

Is he a handsome little raptor, or what?

 

At the harbor entrance, I picked up EARED GREBE.† I get confused between Horned Grebe and Eared Grebe in their winter plumages, but I think this picture is an Eared Grebe.

 

There were lots of cormorants flying up and down the channel from the harbor to the ocean, and I think that some of them were the cormorant species I still need, but I wasnít sure enough to count them, so that will have to wait for another day, hopefully tomorrow, when I hope we will see the one I need at the Monterey Harbor.

 

On the other side of the Moss Landing harbor there is a roost for Black-crowned Night-Herons, and I got this picture of one in a tree.

 

In the water were some American Avocets, and I got this picture.

 

It looks to me like half of its lower bill is broken off, but I guess it can get along okay, at least so far.

 

By that time, I figured Ted would be finished with his dentist appointment, and I met him back at his condo.† We set off to look for more birds, stopping at Subway (where else?) for sandwiches on the way.† We went to a new state park called Fort Ord Dunes State Park.† It is located on some of the land occupied by Fort Ord, which I donít think is any longer an active army base.† Ted had done his basic training for the army there, back in the late 60ís or early 70ís, and he related stories to me about some of the places we passed.

 

At the observation platform, we looked out over the ocean and found some WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS, mixed in with the hundreds of Surf Scoters out there.† They were too far away for pictures, but we could identify them with my scope.† I saw a couple of COMMON LOONS out there as well.

 

So, having gotten the scoters, we headed back north again, stopping in Marina at a park there, where we ate our lunch.† After lunch we made our way back to the Moss Landing cemetery area, to look for the dove some more.† No joy on the dove, but I did see a BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD on a wire with other blackbirds, so my list went up by one more.

 

From there we went to the Moonglow Dairy, a well-known birding spot in Monterey county.† There are huge flocks of blackbirds around any dairy, and I soon picked up TRICOLORED BLACKBIRD, one that is fairly uncommon.† Here is a picture of one of them.† The white on the wing is how you can tell it is a Tricolored Blackbird, which looks like a Red-winged Blackbird except it has both white and red on its wings.

 

We looked for other birds there, but I didnít see anything else for my year list and I didnít get any other pictures there.

 

From there we went to Jetty Road, which is part of Moss Landing State Park, I think.† It is a great place for shorebirds when the tide is out enough, and lots of gulls also congregate there.† The tide was a bit high, but it was going out, so we stuck around.† I rapidly picked up some common shorebirds, and added WILLET, WHIMBREL, and MARBLED GODWIT to my year list.† There were some FORSTERíS TERNS flying around as well.† Then I took the time to sort through a large flock of roosting gulls to find the two I needed, THAYERíS GULL and MEW GULL.† The easy ones were falling, as expected.† There were a few species left I wanted, but the tide was still a bit too high, so we went up to Zmudowski State Beach, to see if we could find any American White Pelicans there, or anything else.† No luck there, though, so we went back to Jetty Road.

 

The tide had gone out a lot in the 20 or 25 minutes we had been gone, and there were a lot more shorebirds feeding by then.† Here is a picture of a Sanderling.† I didnít realize what it was at the time, but I got pictures, and later I realized what I had seen.

 

At the time, I thought it was a Western Sandpiper, but it bothered me that it seemed so much larger than those little ďpeepsĒ in the picture, which I knew were Least Sandpipers.† I couldnít figure it out.† There was another little sandpiper type bird I was able to identify, called Dunlin (already counted for the year), and I knew it was bigger than the Least Sandpipers.† Here is a Dunlin, with its longer bill that droops at the end.

 

I didnít really figure it all out until I got back here tonight and looked at my pictures.† Here is a picture of four species that clarified it for me.

 

The larger white and black bird on the left is a Sanderling, which is supposed to be about 7.5 inches long.† The upper bird on the right is a Dunlin, which is supposed to be about 8 inches long.† The little one in the middle with the yellow legs is a Least Sandpiper, which is supposed to be 6 inches long.† The fourth species is the WESTERN SANDPIPER in the bottom right.† It is supposed to be 6.5 inches long, and it has black legs.† It is more black and white than the almost equivalent sized Least Sandpiper, which is why the Sanderlings had confused me.

 

OK, that was too complicated an explanation for almost everyone, but this is a record for myself too, you know, and I wanted to record my observations.

 

There were a couple of other species I still wanted to see, and I found two or three BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS, which took care of one of them.† As we were leaving, I decided to set up my scope one more time and scan the birds feeding in the mud and sand, and I found that some SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS had come in to feed, the final species I was looking for.† Here is a very distant picture of three of them.

 

There was one group of dowitchers on the north side of the road as we were leaving, and I stopped to try to identify them.† There are two species, Long-billed Dowitchers and Short-billed Dowitchers, and despite their names, you canít really tell them apart by their bill length.† The only really reliable way to tell the two species apart is by their calls.† I played the calls of the two species, in the hopes that I would get a response, but I didnít hear anything.† We did notice that when I played the Long-billed Dowitcher call, that several of the birds stopped their feeding and stood still for a while, so maybe that indicated something.† I got this picture, but I donít know how to identify the species from it.

 

It was approaching five oíclock by then, and we needed to be heading for home, but there was a yellowlegs scurrying around, and I wanted to try to tell which yellowlegs species it was.† I had previously seen Greater Yellowlegs, and I needed to see Lesser Yellowlegs still.† The Greater is larger, as the name implies, but size is hard to determine unless you have other birds of a known size to compare it to.† The bill length of the Greater, compared to the width of the head, is greater than in the Lesser, too, but it turns out that that is a difficult thing to determine.† I think it was a Greater, but here is a picture.

 

So, we finally got out of there and headed for Tedís place, except I had to stop one more time to try for the damn dove I had been looking for all day. †We drove down the street where the dove flock had been hanging out, and saw a number of them on a power pole.† I stopped to look at them, but just then something spooked them, and most of them flew off.† We noticed that the next pole down had a number of doves on it, so we drove around to the cross street to get a better view, with the light in a better position, and took a look.† To my surprise, there was my target bird, WHITE-WINGED DOVE, sitting right in the middle, at the highest point on the pole.† Here it is, with the white on its wing showing.

 

It isnít obvious from the picture, but it was also noticeably smaller than the other doves on the pole.† One of the larger birds moved it over to the left, and I got this picture of it.

 

It is several hundred miles out of its normal territory, and I have no idea how it got here.† It is a rare sighting for Monterey county, and I doubt I will see another one this year.† I guess they are seen in San Diego sometimes, but even there they are quite uncommon, and I have never seen nor heard of one there in the last couple of years.† I saw the species in southeast Arizona a couple of years ago, and maybe also in Texas the next year, so it wasnít lifer.

 

So, it turned out to be a big day of birding for me.† I knew there were common species I would see here, but getting the White-winged Dove was the cherry on top of a good day of birding.† I added 16 more species today, bringing me to a total of 164 for the year.

 

My BAD bird for the day is the White-winged Dove, the last one I saw today.

 

 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

 

When I got up this morning, I was told we were in a ďbrownoutĒ, and the lights in the bathroom did seem kind of dim.† The bathroom has no window, and while I was in there, we moved into the next stage, a blackout.† Fortunately, Ted and Mary Beth have some little battery powered LED lanterns, and I was able to finish my morning ablutions with some light.† We went out to breakfast, since we had no power.† The recording at the power company said power should be restored by 9:45, but when we got back from breakfast, they had changed the recording to 4 PM.† As it turned out, the power was actually back on by 1 or 1:30, though.

 

So, Ted and I headed out to find some birds.† After a stop to gas up the car and get Subway sandwiches, we went to the Fishermanís Pier at the Monterey Harbor.† I had several species I hoped to see there, and soon after we got there, I saw a couple of loons.† I was trying to decide if they were Common Loons, or another species of loon that is supposed to be common in the harbor, when two PACIFIC LOONS surfaced next to them.† With both species in the same scope view, it was easy to see the differences.† They were too far away for pictures, but here is a picture of a Common Loon taken a little later.

 

The Pacific Loons were smaller, and the transition from white to gray on the neck was sharp, not gradual like in this picture.† Seeing them in the same scope view with the Common Loons was great.† It made the identification easy.

 

I also picked up HEERMANNíS GULL there at the harbor.† It is an obvious gull, mostly dark, unlike most gulls, and the adults have a red bill.† No pictures this year, sorry.

 

In the distance, I saw another bird that I wondered about.† It was either a Pigeon Guillemot or another bird I needed.† I had left my field guide in the car, but when we got back, I found I had seen a COMMON MURRE in its winter plumage.

 

We moved on around Monterey Bay, toward Point Pinos.† At one point there was a rock with a lot of cormorants on it.† Here is a picture of the coastline there, with the cormorant rock on the right.

 

The cormorants are the black splotches on the rock on the right.† Next we have our cormorant lesson for the day.† There are three species of cormorant on the west coast.† The largest and most common is the Double-crested Cormorant, which shows up inland as well as on the coast.† It is the largest species, but more importantly, it has a yellow patch below its bill.† Here is a picture of a Double-crested Cormorant.

 

Next we have the smallest of the species, the Pelagic Cormorant.† It has a greenish sheen to it when the light is right, and the bill is different than the other two species.

 

In the breeding season (spring), they develop a white patch on their flanks, and in this bird, you can actually see the beginning of the white patch by its foot.

 

The third species is the one I needed still, BRANDTíS CORMORANT.† They have a small brown patch under their bill, and in the breeding season they develop a bright blue patch on their throat as well.† Here is a picture that shows two of them that have the blue throat patches.

 

OK, end of birding lesson, now you know all about the three west coast cormorants.

 

We continued on around to Point Pinos, and stopped at one of the gull roost pull outs.† I got some pictures there.† Here is a picture of a Black Turnstone, a bird I had first seen this year up at Ocean Shores, Washington.

 

Here are a couple of Surfbirds, which I had also seen at Ocean Shores.

 

Here is a picture of a Black Turnstone and a Surfbird together.

 

Here is a picture of a Black Oystercatcher, another one I had already counted this year.

 

So, having seen all those birds, we moved on around the point, looking for another shorebird that likes rocky shores.† We stopped at several places, and at one of them we saw a group of birds loafing on the rocks, waiting for a lower tide.† There were Black-bellied Plovers, Black Turnstones, Surfbirds, and Black Oystercatchers.† There were also two Whimbrels, and one of them flew closer and I got this picture.

 

I think it is remarkable how well it blends into the rock background.

 

While scoping the birds there, I saw one with bright orange legs, and that matched the species I was looking for.† The bird had its back to us, so I moved up the trail a little to get a better view.† The bird must have moved then, though, because I could never find it again.† I was ready to count it based on what I had seen, but it was a most unsatisfactory view.† We kept looking for it, but eventually, we needed to eat lunch.† It was almost two oíclock by then, and we moved on to look for a place to eat our Subway sandwiches.† We ended up finding some tables in the Asilomar grounds.† Asilomar is a conference center in Pacific Grove.†

 

After we ate our lunch, we went back to where we had seen the roosting shorebirds on the rocks.† Lo and behold, as we watched, a bird came out and perched on a rock, and it was the one I had seen briefly before from the back, a RUDDY TURNSTONE.† It must have walked behind a rock earlier and come out again just as we got back from our lunch break.† Here is a distant picture showing the Ruddy Turnstone with its orange legs and a Black Turnstone behind it.

 

Whoopee, we celebrated and headed back north, to see if we could see anything else.

 

We drove to the Elkhorn Slough and stopped at a couple of places we have seen birds before, but the first place we saw anything interesting was at Kirby Park, where we saw at least five Blue-winged Teal males and a couple of Cinnamon Teal males.† Here is a picture of a male Blue-winged Teal (with the white crescent on its face) and a male Cinnamon Teal (very cinnamon colored).

 

I think the duck in the front is a first year male Blue-winged Teal, which is supposed to develop his full male plumage in his second year.

 

We moved on from there and stopped where we could overlook the channels to the east of the railroad trestle north of Kirby Park, and I scanned the dozens or hundreds of ducks that were in the channels there.† Almost at the end of my scan, I picked out one EURASIAN WIGEON, the very duck species I was looking for there.† I had seen one there last year or the year before, and I had seen that other people had reported one there this year, and I had success in finding it.† Eurasian Wigeon is an Asian species that sometimes finds its way down the west coast of the US in the winter.† They arenít quite what I would call rare, but they are pretty uncommon.† I didnít see one at all last year, for instance, despite looking for them all year long.

 

We stopped again at Jetty Road at Moss Landing, but saw nothing new there.† I missed both Brown Pelican and American White Pelican on this trip, which is disappointing.† I got all the shorebirds and gulls I was looking for here, though, so it was a successful visit, birding-wise.† I added 6 more species to my year list today, bringing me to a total of 170 for the year.

 

My BAD bird for the day will be Ruddy Turnstone, I guess.† I see them in San Diego, but not up north, and only once before in this area.

 

Tomorrow I head for home, with a stop in Walnut Creek to visit an old friend.† Iíve seen a new bird for my year list each day so far this year, which makes a streak of 22 days.† I suspect that tomorrow I will be skunked, and the next few days are equally at risk.† So, the streak is either over or almost over.† Iíll send out another report when I do see a new species for the year, but it could be a while.† Or, maybe Iíll get lucky tomorrow.† Iíll be trying.

 

 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

 

Today I was planning on visiting an old friend all afternoon, and I had to drive a couple of hours to get there, so I was expecting to probably get skunked as far as getting a new bird for my year list.† My streak was at 22 days, and I really thought that would be it.

 

But, I figured I had an extra hour to look for birds, so first I stopped at Moss Landing State Park, but saw nothing new there in a brief visit.† I was mainly looking for either pelican species, neither one of which I had managed to see in the Monterey area.† I drove on up to Watsonville and stopped at the Watsonville Slough, where Ted and I had seen the Tropical Kingbird rarity the other day.† As I got out of my car, I saw the very thing I was hoping for, three AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS sitting out in the water.† Success!† No skunk today.† I took a couple of pictures, and here are two of the birds.

 

Within three minutes of my arrival, they took off and flew away, not to be seen again.† My timing had been perfect.† If I had arrived three minutes later, I wouldnít have seen them.† Here they are, taking off for greener pastures, so to speak.

 

So, since I was already there, and I had planned on spending an hour looking for a bird, I stuck around and tried for more.† I saw the Tropical Kingbird again, in the same place it had been the other day.† I played the call of the Nashville Warbler, another rarity here in this area that has been seen there recently, but it didnít show itself.† Then I saw a single TREE SWALLOW, perched on a snag.

 

Swallows migrate south in the winter, but I had read that the first few Tree Swallows had shown up in Monterey County already this year.† Iíll see plenty of swallows later in the year, but this was my first one of this year.† So, I had two birds, when I had expected to get skunked.

 

I continued to look, and to my great surprise, I spotted a SORA foraging in the reeds.† Sora is a fairly common bird, supposedly, but they are usually very reclusive and hard to see.† I never did see one last year, for example, despite trying in many places where they should have been.† This one came right out in the open, and I took a lot of pictures.† Here are two of my favorites.

 

 

I was really pleased to have gotten pictures of such a secretive bird.† For the rest of the morning, I kept remembering it and saying to myself ďSora!† Who could believe it?Ē

 

So, I ended up getting three new year-birds today, despite spending only about a half hour birding.† Excellent result.† That brings me to 173 species for the year.

 

Iíll take the Sora as my BAD bird, I guess, as I likely wonít see one again this year, based on my past experience.

 

Iím in Walnut Creek, California, tonight, and tomorrow I plan to drive to Ashland, Oregon.† Thatís about five hours of driving time.† I plan to stop at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, which I had stopped at a couple of weeks ago on my way south.† I donít really expect to see anything new for my year list tomorrow, but I want to get a good BAD bird, and there will be plenty of candidates there for that.†

 

As a reminder, a BAD bird can be a bird I have seen before this year, as long as I havenít already designated that species as a BAD bird for another day.† It has to be a bird I actually see (or hear) on that day, though, so I need to stop tomorrow to see some bird again, for my BAD bird.† There are a couple of possibilities for a new year-bird, but they arenít likely, really.† If I donít see one tomorrow, then I probably wonít write a report tomorrow.† Iím happy with my streak of 23 straight days of seeing a new bird for my year list.† It gets a lot harder to add to the list from now on.

 

 

Friday, January 24, 2014

 

I managed to extend my streak one more day, by getting a new year-bird today.  I had originally planned to stop at the Sacramento NWR to try to get a good BAD bird for the day, thinking that my streak would have ended before now.  It was unlikely I would see a new year-bird there today, but I knew I could see a number of good BAD bird candidates.  The trouble with the NWR auto tour is that it takes maybe an hour to go around it, if you are looking for birds.  I didnít want to spend that much time there, as I had found a streak-extending species that seemed to be pretty common around a lake near where I was planning to spend tonight, in Ashland, Oregon.  When I saw a White-tailed Kite on a wire along the highway, south of Winters, I made up my mind to use that as my BAD bird and go for the year bird at Emigrant Lake, near Ashland.

 

So, I stopped only for gas, to pee, for lunch, and to pick up a couple more cases of booze in Redding at Liquor Barn.  I got to Ashland at about 3 PM.  The weather was great today.  Normally when I go over the Siskiyou Pass in the winter, I am worried about ice on the road, and Iím watching the outside temperature indicator on my car.  Well, today it was sunny and 55 degrees at the summit, which is about 4300 feet.  It had been about 70 down in the central valley of California.

 

I checked into my hotel and went on down the road to Emigrant Lake.  I had never been there before, but I had researched it online.  There was just one species that is regularly seen here in January that I still needed for my year list, so I set out to find it.  I had excellent directions for where to look exactly.

 

I think I saw one of them on the entrance road to the county park at the lake, but it flew away, and I didnít bother to stop to try to find it, as I thought they would be fairly common in the area.  Twenty minutes or so later, still looking, I saw a bird on a wire that looked likely.  As I stopped to take a look at it, a car came barreling by and spooked the bird into flying away.  I watched where it went, though, and I got out and took a look.  Sure enough, it was a male WESTERN BLUEBIRD, the species I was looking for there.  Here is a picture of the little cutie.

 

Itís not a great picture, but considering the bird was probably over 50 yards away and I was hand-holding the camera, Iím satisfied to have it.  It is the only picture I have today.

 

It sure is dry here, just as it is in California.  Shasta Lake was lower than I have ever seen it, and there was very little snow on the top of Mount Shasta.  In the middle of January, Mount Shasta should be covered with snow to pretty low elevations, often right down to the highway level.  Emigrant Lake was very low, too, based on the large dry margins around the edges.  All the brush is brown and dry, and Iím sure there would be a lot more birds in a normal year, even in the winter.

 

So, I added just one more bird to my year list today, bringing me to 174 for the year.  I havenít done the detailed research yet to see if there is anything at all I can look for tomorrow to extend my streak another day, but Iíll look into it this evening.  Offhand, I haven't been able to think of any species to look for tomorrow that I havenít seen already this year.  Iíve been wracking my brain all day long, but haven't come up with anything.  So, it is quite likely that it could be a number of days before I send out another report.  We have come through the busy time of the year now, after only three plus weeks, and now things settle into the normal pattern of a new bird very week or two, except when I travel to some new place.

 

Iíll take the White-tailed Kite today for my Bird-A-Day bird.  Iíll be taking more common birds from now on, I imagine, except when there is a rarity to chase.  There are lots of common birds around home, though, so I wonít start running out of those common birds for a couple or three months.  Then it might get interesting, as I try to keep finding a new one every day.  It does mean that I will need to get out birding every day, though, unless I use ones in my yard, and I want to save the ďyard birdsĒ for emergencies.  One of the ideas of the BAD birding thing is to force me to get out and look for a new bird every day, and it will be interesting to see how that works out, and how I like it.  I donít plan to write a report every day for the BAD birds, but I might do a weekly update or something, if there havenít been any new year-birds in that week.

 

 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

 

Well, here I am again.† When I did my research last night, I found out that there is a rarity (for the west coast) that has been seen near my route today.† It has been coming to a house with feeders, and the owners of the house have welcomed birders to stop by to see it.† I emailed them last night, and got permission to come by and directions to find it.† In general, they have been opening up their yard for birders for two or three hours, two afternoons a week, and one of times happened to be today.† To make it even better, my timing was perfect Ė I would be going by their house at just the right time.

 

So, I was up and out by about 8:45 this morning, and I stopped only for gas, a pee, and a Subway sandwich.† I arrived in the Ankeny area, south of Salem, at about 12:30, and I found a place overlooking a marsh full of birds and ate my tuna sandwich, with Fritos and a Diet Coke.

 

After I ate, I parked where Charlotte, the homeowner, had indicated, after first scoping out where her house was.† There were two other cars at the indicated parking area, too, and the four of us made our way up the hill to Charlotteís house.† On the way we saw both Acorn and Lewisís Woodpeckers, which was nice.† Charlotte met us in the driveway and showed us her visitorís book.† She has had a couple of hundred birders come to see this bird so far, in the last five weeks that it has been around.

 

After signing her guest book, I took up position with the other birders, and watched the various birds come to the feeders she had around her yard.† A little flock of Bushtits flew through, and here is a picture of three of them on a feeder.

 

There were some other common birds, like Black-capped Chickadees, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Dark-eyed Juncos, and then the star of the show appeared.† By that time, there were about two dozen birders there.† Here is a distant picture of the rarity, a YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER.

 

The bird should be in Southern Texas, Florida, or Mexico at this time of year, and it should never be west of Texas at any time of year.† How it got to Oregon is anyoneís guess.† Birders like to say that birds have wings and can show up anywhere. †This bird must have flown about 1500 miles on its own, in the wrong direction, before settling in for the winter at this place in Oregon.† Amazing.† Iíve never heard of a Yellow-throated Warbler on the west coast before, but I donít follow all the birding news, and I have only been doing this for about 15 years now.† I saw the species twice in Texas, back in 2012, but this was the best and longest looks at it that I have had.† Here is another picture, one that I like because of the pose of the bird.

 

It flitted around for a few minutes, stopping at one of the suet pine cones that Charlotte makes and puts out in her yard.† It flew away, and I decided not to stick around for another go, although it seemed to be coming around about once every twenty minutes this afternoon.

 

Here is a picture of a Fox Sparrow on the same suet cone that the warbler fed from.† Unfortunately for the birders, the warbler fed on the exact opposite side of the cone from where we were.

 

Here is a picture of the yard, with some of the birders still there.

 

So, it was fun to talk to some of the other birders, and it was great to see the bird, but I moved on after seeing it, rather than stick around for better pictures.† I visited several parts of Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), but didnít see anything else of much interest.† Here is a nice picture of a male Northern Pintail, though.† I think they are handsome birds.

 

At one of my stops, I walked the quarter-mile length of a boardwalk and while I was at the observation point at the end, several groups of Canada Geese flew over.† I got this picture of four of them.

 

If Canada Geese werenít so common, they would be considered real treasures by birders, as they are very attractive birds, I think.

 

So, I added one more to my year list, bringing me to a total of 175 now.† I have seen a new year-bird for 25 days in a row now.

 

My BAD bird for the day will have to be the rarity, Yellow-throated Warbler, as I almost certainly will not see that one again this year, unless I suddenly decide to go to Texas or Florida.

 

Iím in Gresham, Oregon, tonight, which is just east of Portland.† Iím only three hours of driving time from home, or maybe 3.5 if traffic is bad.† My original plan had been to stop again tomorrow night in Southern Washington, so I could do some Washington county birding, but now I just want to get home.† I plan to drive home tomorrow, but I want to try for a year bird along the way, if possible.

 

I did some research, and it is possible, but not real likely.† I have a couple of places to stop, and it will be good for my Washington county birding, as I have never birded in the two counties I plan to stop in, but getting a new year-bird will be tough.† There is another possibility, though.† There is a fairly rare duck that has been reported at two places, just across the river from me at a couple of places in Washington.† I can pick up county birds in a new county while also looking for this semi-rarity.† I have kind of general directions on where these birds were seen, and it will be interesting to see if I can find either of them.† So, I have hopes, but I figure my chances are about 50-50 of getting a new year-bird tomorrow.† We shall see.† My chances of being home tomorrow night are considerably higher, and that is more exciting for me than seeing a new year-bird, actually, so I guess I canít lose.† I love to travel, but after 18 days on the road, Iím ready to be home again for a little while.

 

 

Sunday, January 25, 2014

 

I did it!† I got my year bird today.† I also got home safely, which is even more important, actually.

 

I was up and away by about 8:45 this morning.† The motel I stayed at in Gresham (GuestHouse Inn and Suites) was a bit of a dump, and the breakfast was pitiful, but I stopped at Carlís Junior and loaded up on protein and fat.† Generally I like GuestHouse, and they are inexpensive for what you get, but this one was the second disappointing one I have stayed at.† It was only $53 plus tax, and I had all the things I need (fridge and microwave, non-smoking king bed, clean and not smelly), but too many things were out of order or showing their age.† I had wanted to stay at the one in Wilsonville, but they were fully booked by the time I got around to trying to reserve a room.

 

My first stop this morning was just across the Columbia River into Washington, at the Vancouver Marine Park.† I was looking for the rare (in the US) duck that had been reported there.† I parked at the boat launch and looked at the ducks you could see from there, but I didnít see one that seemed to meet the criteria I was looking for.† I saw some ducks upriver a bit, so I went back to the first parking place, before you got to the boat launch parking, and tried again.† This time, with my scope, I was able to see the male TUFTED DUCK fairly quickly, mixed in with some Scaup, which I took to be Greater Scaup.† I didnít try for pictures, as it was pretty far away and the light wasnít very good.† The bird was preening, and as he moved his head, the tuft of feathers on the back of his head flew around, so it was easy to identify him.† He had a jet black back, too, and the male Scaup he was with had gray backs.† Tufted Duck is a Eurasian species, but it shows up here on the west coast most years, somewhere.† I had seen one a couple or three years ago down in Puyallup, so it wasnít a lifer.

 

So, it wasnít even 9:30 yet, and I had my year bird.† I was in Clark county, Washington, and this was the first time I had birded there, so I started my county list for Clark county.† I picked up a few birds there at the river, but then headed to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), to see if I could add more.

 

Ridgefield was great.† There was a 4.2 mile auto tour, and I drove around that, after registering with the volunteer at the kiosk at the entrance.† I didnít add any more birds to my year list there, but I got some pictures, and I built up my Clark county list.† Here is a Great Blue Heron.

 

I saw a lot of ducks, and I had a nice flyover of three Sandhill Cranes.† They turned out to the only Sandhill Cranes I saw today, and I had expected to see a lot of them.† Here is a poor picture of a Red-tailed Hawk.† The backlighting made the picture very difficult.

 

Here is a picture of a Tundra Swan.† There were hundreds of swans on the refuge today.

 

The yellowish color on the birdís neck and head is due to staining from the places it has been feeding.

 

Here is another swan I saw a little later.

 

This one was interesting for a couple of reasons.† You will see that there is a ďbandĒ around its neck, with what looks to me like P919 on it.† The other interesting thing is that I thought it was a Trumpeter Swan when I saw it.† I wonít go into the differences between the two swan species, but the reason I thought it was a Trumpeter Swan was because of the way the black from the bill meets the eye.† I did a Google search, though, and this swan (P919) was banded in Alaska in July of 2009, and is described as a Tundra Swan.† The lesson I learned today is that there is obviously individual variation in the facial patterns of swans, and you canít count on one feature by itself to identify them.

 

A little later there were two female Northern Harriers (raptors) flying around hunting, close to the ground.† They both kept landing, and I got this picture of one of them on the ground.

 

The round disc-like face is one of the characteristics of this species.† When they are flying, it is easy to identify them, as they have a white rump.† Here is one of them flying.

 

There was a Red-tailed Hawk on the ground a little farther along the route.† It seemed to have some kind of prey, but it was sitting there, looking around.

 

Here is a Great Egret along the route.

 

It had taken me an hour or more to drive around the 4.2 mile loop, so I headed back to the freeway and went up a few offramps to the next county, Cowlitz.† I got a Subway sandwich and got off at Exit 22 from I-5 and then out Dike Access Road.† Again, I didnít add anything to my year list, but I got some birds for my Cowlitz county list.† No bird pictures from that part of the day, but here is a picture of one of a couple of coyotes I saw in a field near Woodland.

 

So, that was it for my birding for the day.† I got my year bird, and I started my Clark county list with 31 species and my Cowlitz county list with 15 species.† That brings me to 176 species for the year, and it extends my streak of seeing at least one new year-bird to 26 days.† My BAD bird for the day will be the Tufted Duck, since it is a rarity, and Iím not likely to see another one this year.

 

It is nice to be home after 19 nights away.† I put about 2800 miles on my new car, and it drove great.† It is a little larger than my Chevy Trailblazer (although not much), but I got 15 to 20% better gas mileage than I got in my Trailblazer, so that was nice.† I love the sound system, which allows me to play mp3ís from a USB drive and displays the song title, album, and artist.† I also like the Bluetooth connection so I can use my cell phone while driving.

 

I had expected that my streak of getting a new year-bird every day would have ended by now, but since it is still alive, I now need to concentrate on trying to extend it further.† There are some species I can look for locally that I havenít seen yet this year, so I will see if I can see one of them tomorrow.† Itíll be interesting to see how long I can keep it up.† One day at a time, though, and tomorrow is what I need to focus on now.† If I see one, there will be a report.† If not, then no report.† We shall see.

 

 

Monday, January 27, 2014

 

Well, here I am again.† Today the weather forecast was for no rain, and starting tonight, it will be rainy every day for the rest of the week, at least part of the time.† It will be interesting to see what I do in the rain, as far as getting BAD birds and year birds.† One day at a time, though.

 

While I was on my trip, there were reports of a rare raptor being seen in the valley south and east of the town of Snohomish, which is about a half hour north of here.† Since today was the non-rainy day supposedly, I decided to go for it, with some backup plans in case I didnít find it.† It was foggy this morning, but I decided I might as well drive up there and see what the conditions were.

 

I drove along the Old Snohomish-Monroe Highway, where the bird has been seen.† It was foggy, but it looked like it was trying to burn off.† As I approached the most likely area, based on reported sightings, I saw a bird on a wire, and I got just a good enough look at it to see it was a STELLERíS JAY.† We get them in our yard most days, usually when Christina puts out peanuts for the crows, which is usually before I get up in the morning.† As a result, I hadnít seen one yet this year.† I was sort of saving that one for tomorrow, when it is supposed to rain all day, but I saw it today, so I have to count it today.† I could have turned around and gone home at that point, having gotten my year bird for the day, to keep my streak alive, but I still wanted to look for the rare raptor.

 

When I got to 127th Ave SE, which is where the bird was seen most recently, I noticed a sign to Lord Hill Park, up the hill.† I had never heard of Lord Hill Park, but I thought I might as well check it out, as I wanted to drive around the area looking for the raptor anyway.† At the top of the hill the fog was lifting, and I found the park.† It appears to be a large, mostly undeveloped park, and I parked my car and walked in the woods a little, looking and listening for birds.† It was just above freezing, but the sun was trying to come out, so it wasnít bad.

 

At one point I saw a little bird fly into some brush.† I watched, and it didnít come out.† I had an idea what it might be, based on its size and behavior, so I played the song of Pacific Wren.† The bird immediately popped up and started calling back to me.† It was indeed a Pacific Wren, and it flew into the tree right next to me and kept calling.† I managed to get some pictures, but this first one is a bit blurry because there wasnít much light.† It is such a cute little bird that I will show it anyway.

 

Here is a sharper one of the little cutie.

 

The first picture looks pretty good, until you see how much sharper the second one is.

 

So, I had a couple of pictures to show today, anyway, and I went back to my search for the raptor.† The fog had lifted or burned off a lot, back in the valley, so I was about to resume my slow drive up the Old Snohomish-Monroe Highway, when I saw a large dark bird flying down the valley.† I was about to chase after it, to see what it was (Rough-legged Hawk has been reported near there recently, and that would be a great one to get), when I spotted my target bird in a tree almost right at the intersection of 127th Ave SE and the highway.† I was stunned, but there it was.† Here is a picture of a light or intermediate phase GYRFALCON, a very large member of the falcon family.

 

What a magnificent looking bird it was.† Iíve seen Gyrfalcon once or twice before, in Eastern Washington, but they were very distant sightings that I wouldnít have even been able to identify except I was with birders much better than I.† I had wondered about my ability to identify a Gyrfalcon, but this bird today was unmistakable.† It was tricky trying to get pictures through the tree branches, and getting my camera to focus on the bird, rather than on branches in front of or behind the bird.† Here is another picture of it from a little different angle.

 

 

If you look closely, you can see some red staining on its throat and upper breast.† I presume that is blood from its last meal.† Here is a closeup that shows that there were still some remains of that meal on its bill, too.

 

Here is a picture of it from the back, looking back toward me over its shoulder.

 

Here is the tree with the bird in it.† The bird is at about 11 oíclock in the tree, in the middle of the white circle.

 

That picture was taken from the same spot as the one before that shows its back.† It gives you a good idea of the zoom power of my trusty little camera.† The conditions were difficult, too, with the bright sky in the background.

 

To make it even more interesting, there was another Stellerís Jay in the yard, so even if I decided that the earlier sighting had not been good enough, now I had one for sure for the day.

 

I drove a little farther up the road toward Snohomish, to see if I could spot the large raptor I had seen flying up the valley earlier.† As it turned out, I found a tree with seven eagles in it.† Here is that tree, as seen from the road.

 

You can see that the fog was still around, across the valley.† Here is a closer shot showing the two eagles on the right.

 

So, that was my birding adventure for today.† It was lunch time, and I headed for home.† I am inordinately pleased to have seen and gotten pictures of the Gyrfalcon (which is pronounced JEERí-falcon, by the way).† They breed in the arctic tundra and winter mostly in Canada.† A few get down to Washington State each year, but they donít generally hang around the same place the way this bird seems to have done for at least the last three weeks, so I hadnít thought I would ever see one well, especially on the west side of the Cascades.† To have gotten pictures of a perched one is beyond anything I would have hoped for.

 

So, with the Stellerís Jay (which I sort of wish I hadnít gotten, so I could count it later this week for my year list), I got two new species today, bringing me to 178 for the year.† Iíll take the Gyrfalcon for my BAD bird, of course.

 

It is supposed to rain all day tomorrow, so extending my streak to 28 days is going to be very tough.† I have the idea I will go my local park and play the song of a bird I have seen there, standing in the rain with an umbrella.† We will see.† Getting a BAD bird will be hard enough Ė I might take a yard bird if I get desperate, but getting a year bird is very unlikely.† Oh well, 27 days in a row is excellent.

 

 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

 

The weather people blew it today here.† It was supposed to start raining here about 8 AM and continue all day long.† Instead, there was some very light rain before I got up, and then nothing at all for the rest of the day.† Fearing the worst, though, I was up and out of here by 8:35 this morning.† I went on down to my local park, Juanita Bay Park, to look for a bird I have seen there before.

 

I parked and right next to the parking lot, I played the birdís song.† After a couple of minutes, I saw a small bird fly in, and I had my BROWN CREEPER.† I got a short binocular look at it, and it flew off.† It didnít like what it saw, I guess, because it didnít come back.† So, no pictures.† I was in my car on my way home by 9 AM, expecting the rain to start at any time.

 

I went out to lunch Ė still no rain Ė so when I got home, I drove on over to Log Boom Park, at the north end of Lake Washington.† I could have used Brown Creeper for my BAD bird, but it was so easy to find today that I thought I would save it for later in the year, when it starts getting difficult to find a new BAD bird.† I was looking for winter ducks, with the theory that they will be leaving this area in a couple of months, so I might as well use them now, while they are here.

 

I saw a number of duck species at Log Boom Park, including Hooded Merganser, Canvasback, and Ruddy Duck.† Any of those would be okay for a BAD bird, and I am choosing Canvasback for my BAD bird for today.

 

So, my streak is now 28 days.† I added just the one species today, to bring me to 179 for the year.

 

Tomorrow I hope to head up to Edmonds, weather permitting.† There are three or four species I could see up there for my year list, so Iíll try my luck.† It is supposed to be showery tomorrow, so I might get wet.† There are rudimentary shelters on the Edmonds pier, and I think I could set up my scope under cover and scan the water, even in the rain.† If I strike out at Edmonds, then there are a few birds I could see at a couple of local parks, and I would try for one of those.† I think I have a decent chance tomorrow to extend my streak another day, but it is far from guaranteed.† After that, the weather forecast is better, so I could go up to the Skagit Valley to try for several other year-list species.† But, I donít want to get ahead of myself.† One day at a time.

 

 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

 

Itís great when a plan comes together.† It rained overnight here Ė 0.7 inches between midnight and 9 AM Ė but it was letting up when I finished my breakfast.† There was supposed to be a little break in the rain during the morning hours, and then it was supposed to come back this afternoon.

 

So, I set out in the light rain for Edmonds, to see if it would be better up there.† As it turned out, it was.† It was actually clearing a little out over Puget Sound, and the rain had stopped at the Edmonds pier.† I hastened out on to the pier with my scope, to see if I could see anything interesting.† There were birds around.† I saw Red-breasted Merganser, Red-necked Grebe, Horned Grebe, Surf Scoter, Pigeon Guillemot, and some cormorants.† I was scanning the water farther out, and I saw two birds that looked interesting.† I zoomed in a little and was able to positively identify a couple of RHINOCEROS AUKLETS, one of my target species for the day.† They were much too far away for pictures, but here is a picture I took last January.

 

They donít have the white feathers in their winter plumage, but these two today had gotten their white feathers already this year, and that was good, because it made it much easier to positively identify them.

 

I had been there about 15 minutes, and I had my year-bird.† I finished my scan, but I didnít spend any more time up there.† I could have gone over to the other side of the ferry landing and looked for a couple of other potential species, but I decided to save them for another day.† As I was leaving, the rain was moving in again, and it has rained all day since then, so I was really lucky to hit the lull between waves of storms.†

 

Iím trying to extend my streak now, and so one bird a day is just right.† 29 days in a row now.† Iíd love to finish off January without missing a day, but first I have to get through tomorrow.† Iíll consult the weather forecasts and decide where to go to look for one tomorrow.† I have 3 or 4 ideas of where to look, and maybe Iíll have to try more than one of them.† We will see.

 

With the auklet today, Iím now at 180 for the year.† I looked back at last year, and I had 182 at the end of January, and I didnít add any more until February 6.† Iíve been behind last yearís pace all year so far in 2014, and this is my chance to pull ahead, although if I do so, it will be briefly.† Last year I took a short trip to San Diego in early February and added 15 more to my year list.† It would be satisfying to get ahead of last yearís pace, though, even briefly, so Iíll be trying.

 

My BAD bird for the day will be Rhinoceros Auklet.† Iím starting to wonder if this Bird-A-Day thing is really such a good idea.† I am less than a month into the year, and it is starting to seem like a pain in the neck to have to go looking for a bird every single day, especially with the weather we have here in the winter.† Oh well, one day at a time.† I can always fall back on my ďsafetiesĒ the easy birds I can see any day without even leaving the yard or by going down to my local park, which is only five minutes away.† I figure there are 20 or 30 birds in that category, and others that I would see with some luck, so I ought to be able to go on for another month or two, at least.

 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

 

I figured today likely would be the day I finally had my streak broken, but I planned to give it a go.† The weather cooperated.† It was overcast and dark, but I saw only a few scattered drops of rain all day long.

 

My first stop was at a place I hadnít been to before, Canyon Park Wetlands.† It is actually a storm water retention pond, in the middle of an office park, but it is large enough to attract some birds.† Here is a picture of one end of the pond.

 

My main target there was a small bird in the vireo family.† It has been reported a couple of times recently, and one of the reports gave explicit directions as to where it had been seen.† I was a little skeptical because this particular vireo, Huttonís Vireo, closely resembles another much more common bird, Ruby-crowned Kinglet.† Nonetheless, I wanted to try for it.

 

I found the little bridge at the northwest corner of the pond, and after looking around and seeing nothing, I played the song and call of the vireo.† At first I didnít see anything, and then I spotted a small bird that looked very promising.† I thought it looked like it had been attracted by my playback, and that made it even more interesting.† I soon could see it was one of the two, either the vireo or the kinglet, but it flitted around constantly, moving down the edge of the pond in the blackberry brambles and reeds.† After a while, I decided it wasnít actually paying any attention to my playback.† I chased it the entire length of the building, along the edge of the pond, and I gradually came to the conclusion it was the kinglet, not the vireo.† Iíve seen Ruby-crowned Kinglet a number of times this year, so no year-bird for me there today.† The bill was a kinglet bill, and the dark area on the wing was below the second wing bar, not between the two wing bars.† Iíll have to keep looking for Huttonís Vireo.† The skeptic in me wonders if the reports I saw were mistaken and were actually this bird.† No way to know, but the two species are VERY similar.† I doubt Iíll go back there to look for the vireo.

 

So, I walked around a little, just to see the place. †I saw a female Hooded Merganser there, as well as some Buffleheads.† Either of those species would do for a BAD bird for the day.† Then I drove to Wallace Swamp Creek Park, where I had gone for the fist time earlier this month.† Huttonís Vireo has been reported there this month, as have several other species I still need.† Three of the others are woodpeckers, and they donít tend to hang around a particular place, but another one is American Dipper.† Dippers are pretty uncommon in suburban areas, but I was told that a couple of them nested there a couple of years ago, and one has been spotted at least twice this year.† They forage for food in streams, and I figured if one was indeed hanging around there, it might be possible to see it.† I had exchanged emails with the woman who had reported it, and she told me where she had seen it.

 

I walked to the bridge, where she had seen the bird, playing my Huttonís Vireo songs along the way.† I saw a Spotted Towhee and a Bewickís Wren, but nothing else.† I spent about an hour in the park, walking up and down the creek, which seems to be called Swamp Creek.† I suppose the park (Wallace Swamp Creek Park) might be named after whoever donated the land for the park.† Just a guess, I have no knowledge.† Here is a picture of one stretch of Swamp Creek.

 

There was a raptor in a tree, but it was too distant to conclusively identify.† I would guess Cooperís Hawk; it seemed too large for a Sharp-shinned Hawk, which I need for my year list still.

 

It was after noon by then, and I needed to get home for my lunch, so I gave it up.† Iíd spent a couple of hours trying, between the two places.† It was looking like today was the day I was going to get skunked.

 

I should warn you right now that today I decided that when the streak does finally end, I will write a report that day anyway, just so I donít leave you all hanging.† So, just getting a report on a given day doesnít necessarily mean I got a new year-bird that day.† I like to keep readers in suspense and reveal things in the order they happened.† Iíve made such a big deal out of this streak thing that I figure I ought to finish it off with a report when it ends.† That will be very damn soon, too, I expect.† There just isnít much more to get around here, except difficult ones.

 

After lunch, I decided to give it one more chance.† The forecasted rain showers were holding off, so I headed down to my local park, Juanita Bay Park.† There is one species there that I have been able to attract with playback in the past, and theoretically, they should be there in the winter, although I have only seen them in the spring and summer.† Even better, they have a very loud and distinctive call, and I decided at the start of this year to start counting ďheard onlyĒ birds Ė that is, birds I hear and can identify the call with certainty, even if I donít actually see them.† So far, I havenít had to count any ďheard onlyĒ birds, but I expect it will happen sometime this year.† I thought today might be the day, since my field guide says about my target species ďMore often heard than seenĒ.† They are very secretive birds, hiding in the undergrowth.

 

So, I went to the first place I have seen them, at the west boardwalk, and played the calls.† Nothing.† I walked out on the boardwalk and got this picture of an immature Bald Eagle.† The light was pretty poor, with the bright sky behind it, sorry.

 

It took off when I was there and flew around over the lake with another immature Bald Eagle, possibly a sibling.† It takes Bald Eagles four years to fully mature and get their white heads and tails.† An expert could probably tell you how old this one is, but that is beyond my expertise.

 

So, I went to the other boardwalk, where I also have seen my target species in the past and again played the calls.† Again, I got no responses and saw nothing.† Bummer.† I thought I had a decent chance to see one, or at least hear one.

 

I was ready to give it up and accept defeat, but I decided to walk out on the old bridge and try again.† The habitat looked good for the bird at the south end of the bridge, so I played the calls again.† Nothing.† I walked out onto the bridge and tried a few more places.† Nothing.† I was truly ready to give up by then, and I was rehearsing in my mind what I would write about the end of the streak.†

 

As I walked back toward the car, I once again tired the calls at the south end of the bridge, where the habitat looked so good for this species.† This time I heard a response!† I was pretty sure it was the same call I had been playing, but Iím terrible with calls, and I wanted to be sure.† In a minute or two I actually spotted a bird, and it was a beautiful VIRGINIA RAIL, which is just what I was looking for.† There turned out to be two of them, and they answered my calls a few times, and walked around where I could get great views of them, through the reeds and branches.† I tried for pictures, but the light was poor and they were usually obscured by branches or reeds.† When the light is so poor, it means my camera uses a long exposure time, and I canít hold it steady enough to make the picture sharp.† The branches in the way make the camera focus on the branches, not on the bird behind the branches.† None of my pictures is any good, from a technical viewpoint, but Iím pleased to have gotten anything at all, blurry or not.† Here are a couple of blurry pictures of Virginia Rail.

 

 

In the field guide, the color on the face is more gray that it appears here, and not so blue.† It might have been the low light today, or maybe this bird just is more blue than most.

 

Anyway, I achieved success again!† I not only got a new year-bird, I even got some poor pictures of a very reclusive species.† That brings me to 181 species for the year.

 

For my BAD bird today, I will take the Hooded Merganser I saw this morning.† They generally are much easier to see than Virginia Rail, but they will all fly off to the north in a couple of months, and the rails will be around all year, theoretically.† I have been successful enough in the past, including today, in attracting the rails, that I will gamble I can attract them again when I need to take it as a BAD bird, maybe in a couple of months, when the mergansers have left.† Iím not sure thatís the best strategy, but thatís how Iím playing it.† I could be back down at the park next week, trying to attract the rail again, to use it as a BAD bird.† We will see.

 

So, the streak is at 30 now.† For thirty days in a row I have seen a new species for the year.† At this point, the weather forecast for tomorrow looks pretty good (a fairly small chance of some rain showers), so I think I will head north to the Skagit Flats and Samish Island, north and west of Mount Vernon.† It is an hour drive each way, so it will be an all day trip, but there are at least four species I need up there, and Iíll enjoy the outing anyway, even if I donít get any of them.

 

 

Friday, January 31, 2014

 

Okay, the last day of the month.† I never thought I would get this far with my streak.† The weather forecast looked pretty good, especially later in the day, so I decided to head up to Skagit county, to see what I could find.† It was drizzling when I left home at about 9:30, and it soon turned to actual rain.† Things lightened up a bit when I got to the Lynnwood area, and by Everett, it was looking better to the north, where I was heading.† By the time I got up to Skagit county, it had stopped raining there, and I could actually see some blue sky.† It just got better after that, with sun much of the day, although it was about 40 degrees, so I bundled up when I got out of the car.

 

My first stop was at what is referred to as the Valentine Road feeders.† A house up there on Valentine Road has a large number of feeders that can be viewed from the road, and it is a well known place to stop on a birding expedition to that area.† Here is a picture of the part of the yard with the feeders.

 

One of the first birds I saw was a Red-breasted Nuthatch.† We get them in our yard, too, at our feeder, but here is a picture of this little cutie, in a characteristic pose.

 

Within a couple of minutes, one of my target birds flew in to that same feeder, and I got this picture of a HAIRY WOODPECKER.

 

As Iím sure you remember, being such a diligent reader, the fact I used ALL CAPS to name that bird shows that it was my first one of the year.† So, I was off the schneid, and my streak was alive.

 

There were lots of birds coming to the feeders, and I got this picture of a male Northern Flicker sitting near the top of a tree.

 

As I stood there in the road enjoying the birds, a car backed out of the driveway and stopped next to me.† The woman in the car told me that if the birds were not there at the moment, it was because of the ďSharpieĒ.† I knew she was referring to a hawk I needed for my year list, and we talked about it.† She said it hung out in a particular birch tree.† So, I kept my eyes open, and in a little while, this lovely SHARP-SHINNED HAWK flew in and all the birds indeed disappeared.† Sharpies prey on small birds, and they obviously knew it.† My first pictures were terrible, but eventually it perched and preened for a while, and I got this picture.

 

Here is another picture of the bird looking toward me.† Too bad one of its eyes is obscured by a branch.

 

So, that was pretty exciting.† I never did see a Sharp-shinned Hawk in 2013, which shows what a good sighting it was. I had two year birds at my first stop.† If someone was paying me for each day my streak lasted, I would have gone home then and come back tomorrow to continue my quest.† Since it was an hour drive to get there, and my streak is really not a very big deal (despite the big deal I have been making out of it here), I continued my day, to see what else I could see.

 

There were Bald Eagles all over the place today.† It is hard to believe they were a threatened species a decade or two ago, because they are all over this area in the winter.† I have mentioned before that it is hard for me to pass up a chance at a picture of one, so here is my token Bald Eagle picture for the day.

 

Continuing north, I came upon a dark hawk on a wire.† I wasnít sure what it was.† I consulted my field guide, but I still wasnít sure.† It could have been a dark Red-tailed Hawk, perhaps the subspecies called Harlanís Hawk, or it could have been the dark phase of another hawk species that I was looking for today.† Here are a couple of pictures of that bird.

 

 

I think it was the dark phase of the hawk I needed, but I was reluctant to count it until I had seen the pictures and consulted my other field guides at home.† As it turned out, the question became moot because I saw a couple more of that species later.

 

I stopped at the West 90, a spot where I have seen a particular owl species I wanted to see, but I didnít see one today, that first time there.† I continued on toward Samish Island, and along the road I saw a colorful male Ring-necked Pheasant, a bird I had seen in California earlier this month.† I got some pictures through the windshield as the bird crossed the road, but then I got this one through my open window.

 

I drove around Samish Island, which is not actually an island, but rather a peninsula, and I stopped at the overlook of the bay where I had been before on a group birding trip a year or two ago.† It was bloody cold, and I couldnít stay out there long, in the wind.† I saw a few sea birds, but none of the ones I need still this year, and it was just too damn cold for me to set up my scope and do a comprehensive scan of the bay.

 

Back at the West 90, I sat in the car and ate the Subway sandwich I had purchased on the way north, and watched the Northern Harriers swoop around the fields, hunting.† At one point, I got out and set up my scope and did a thorough scan. While doing that, I saw a SHORT-EARED OWL, my target species there, swooping over the fields.† I have seen them there before, but I have also missed seeing them there, so I was pleased.† I missed seeing that species in 2013.

 

So, having eaten my lunch, I decided to drive the roads in the area for a while, looking for the hawk species I wanted to see there.† I soon saw a bunch of American Wigeons (ducks), and I scanned them and found a Eurasian Wigeon, which is an uncommon wanderer on the West Coast.† I had seen one in California, so it wasnít a year bird, but today I got pictures.† Here is a picture of a male Eurasian Wigeon.† It is the one with the red head.

 

The other ducks with the green on their heads are American Wigeons.† I think this is the first time I have gotten a picture of a Eurasian Wigeon.

 

A little way down the road there was a hawk on a wire, and it was the one I was looking for, ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK.† This one was a light phase one, which is more common than dark ones.

 

I turned around and came back, and it flew down the road to a pole.† Here is a close-up of its head.

 

So, I had all the birds I was likely to see, and I headed back down toward home.† South of Highway 20, on the road to Laconner, I saw a hawk on a post right next to the road, and I turned around, despite the fairly heavy traffic.† When I got back to the bird, there was a driveway into a field there, and I was able to stop right next to the hawk, barely off the busy road.† I got this picture before the bird flew off.† Another Rough-legged Hawk.

 

Looking at my pictures now, I think the dark hawk I had seen that morning was a dark morph Rough-legged Hawk, based mainly on the shape of the head, along with the colors.† It could have been a dark Red-tailed Hawk, though; Iím no expert on hawks, thatís for sure.

 

Continuing on toward home, I took the cutoff on Dodge Valley Road.† I had been seeing swans all day long, in the hundreds, and finally there were some close to the road.† There are two species of swans in the Skagit in the winter, and this was my chance to see and get pictures of both species.† Here is a group of three Tundra Swans.

 

Tundra Swans are a little smaller than Trumpeter Swans, but the main way to tell the difference is in the shape of the head and bill.† Here is a close-up of the heads of a couple of those Tundra Swans.

 

Note the slope of the forehead and the way the black of the bill meets the eye.† Most Tundra Swans also have that little yellow dash in front of the eye, but not all of them, I understand.† Here is a close-up of a Trumpeter Swanís head.

 

I donít see much difference in the foreheads, but I can see that the black of the bill surrounds the eye more on this swan, meeting the eye at the top and the bottom, rather than near the front of the eye.† This bird also doesnít have the yellow dash in front of the eye, but since not all Tundra Swans have it, the way the black of the bill meets the eye is the important thing.† This is the kind of subtlety of differences that birders sometimes have to rely on.† Here is a picture of the whole Trumpeter Swan.

 

There were about a hundred Tundra Swans in one field, and across the road there were just two Trumpeter Swans in another field.† I guess they can tell the difference, even if it is hard for humans.

 

So, it was getting late by then, and I was worried about Friday afternoon traffic.† I boogied on down the freeway and was home by about 3:45, with only one slowdown where there was some police action by the side of the freeway.

 

I added four more species to my year list today, bringing me to 185 species for the year.† For the first time this year, I am ahead of last yearís blistering pace.† I donít expect that to last for long, so I am enjoying it while I can.† I added 10 species to my Skagit county list today, bringing that list to 57 species.

 

I have decided to take Short-eared Owl as my BAD bird for today.† There were 2 or 3 other species that would have been excellent, too, but Short-eared Owl is the one I am least likely to see again this year, unless I go back up to the Skagit in the winter.† I have only seen Short-eared Owl there at the West 90 and in Hawaii, and I donít currently plan to go back to Hawaii this year (although, stranger things have happened).

 

My streak is 31 days now, completing the month of January.† I donít expect it to last any longer, and thatís fine.† It has been a great run, and I have had fun with it.† Iíll send a report tomorrow, one way or the other, since I have played it up so much.