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Sunday, February 01, 2015


Today was mainly a travel day.† I was going from the Monterey area to Sacramento.† There were two reports that the Mountain Plovers near Rio Vista had been seen yesterday.† One of the reports gave a specific location.† So, I decided to make a small detour and stop to look for them.† I hadnít found them on Wednesday, but this was my second chance.


I took some back roads through Livermore and Antioch to Rio Vista and had lunch at the McDonalds in Rio Vista.† Then I moved on to Flannery and Robinson Roads, northwest of town.† As I approached the key location I saw a couple of sparrow-like birds fly up onto a fence wire.† They turned out to be LARK SPARROWS, one I needed for my year list.† Here is a picture I like very much of a Lark Sparrow.



I got that picture from my car.


A little farther down the road I saw two of the Burrowing Owls I had seen on Wednesday.† I got this picture of them today, again from the car.


One of the owls moved over and turned around, making them bookends, so I took another picture.



Owls are so cool.


Moving on up the road to Robinson Road, where the plovers had been seen yesterday, I found them.† Here is a picture of a MOUNTAIN PLOVER.


That particular bird has a black line from the eye to the bill, but not all of them had that.† Here is another Mountain Plover that doesnít have the black line.


The birds were spread out over several acres, and at one point I did a scan with binoculars and counted 40 birds.† No doubt there were more than that.† The closest ones were about 60 or 70 feet away, I estimate.† Here is the best picture I was able to get.


Mountain Plover is a plain looking bird, but they are pretty uncommon so it was great to see them.† I had only seen them once, or possibly twice, before.† They mostly winter in Mexico, but a few winter in the California Central Valley each year, and this flock seems to be sticking around this year.† In the summer they migrate to the Rocky Mountains, where they breed.† I guess thatís where they get their name, from their breeding grounds.


So, having gotten what I was looking for, I headed back to Flannery Road and over to Highway 113, then north to Dixon, then on to Sacramento.† I did get this picture of a Western Meadowlark singing, which I like, along Flannery Road.


I always like to get pictures of birds singing.


So, I added two species to my year list today, and one of them was a great one.† That brings me to 153 species for the year.


Iím in Sacramento now, and I need to make a list of target birds to look for here.† There wonít be a lot of them, so it will be targeted birding, I think.


As I write this, it is halftime at the Super Bowl, and the Seahawks are tied, after looking pretty bad in the first half.† Weíll see how they can do in the second half.† What a life!



Monday, February 2, 2015


Fred and I headed out to Vic Fazio reserve to start our day.† I was hoping to see a rare (for the west coast) sparrow, but we couldnít find it.† I did see a single BUSHTIT, though, for my year list.† Normally they are in a flock, but I only saw one today.


There was a Red-shouldered Hawk sitting out in the open, and it let me approach pretty close for pictures.



Later, on our way out of the reserve, it let me get a picture of it from the back.


We drove around the auto tour loop and saw a lot of birds, but nothing I needed for my year list until near the end.† Eventually, I saw some gulls and added HERRING GULL to my year list, my last large gull for the year.† Later I got a picture of a Herring Gull in its winter plumage.† In the summer, the head and neck wouldnít be streaked like this.† One of the key identification marks of Herring Gull is the light colored eye, and I was glad to capture that with my picture.


I added HORNED LARK to my year list, at a parking lot where we often see them.† I got a couple of pictures.



At that same parking lot, there was a little rooster running around.† I did a Google search and determined it was a silver-laced Sebright Bantam rooster.† A very attractive little rooster, I thought.


Presumably someone released it there, and maybe it was a neighbor who got tired of hearing it crow in the morning.


I also added AMERICAN PIPIT at that same stop.† No picture, though.


On our way out of the preserve, we stopped to look for the Swamp Sparrow again, and this time there was a woman there who was also looking for it.† Someone had told her it had appeared briefly a little while earlier, so we stuck around a few minutes, but it didnít show up again.† I got this picture of a very red looking Song Sparrow, though.† Our Song Sparrows at home are much grayer than this.


Swamp Sparrow is also reddish and looks superficially like this, so I gave it a close look.


Finally, on the last stretch of the auto tour, Fred spotted a WHITE-TAILED KITE, one I had wanted to see on this trip.† It was too distant, and the light was wrong for a picture.† I missed American Bittern, a bird I especially wanted to see at Fazio, as I have rarely seen it anywhere else.† Weíll return to try again, I expect.


We headed south to Cosumnes River Preserve, to look for a couple of species I wanted to get on this trip.† While we drove, I ate my Subway tuna sandwich I had gotten earlier.† Fred doesnít eat breakfast or lunch, and he was driving, so it was a good use of time.


At Cosumnes, we saw some birds, but I missed all the key ones I was looking for.† Here is an interesting picture of a male Northern Shoveler.


Here is a picture of a male Annaís Hummingbird at a feeder.


Here is a Greater White-fronted Goose.


I had gotten Wrentit there the last couple of years, and I played the song a lot today, but had no response or sighting.† Even more disappointing, we didnít ever see any Sandhill Cranes, a bird I had thought was almost a certainty.† It just goes to show that you never know with birding.† I donít think Iíve ever visited Cosumnes in the winter and not seen a number of Sandhill Cranes.† Today they were hanging out somewhere else, I guess.† The water level was higher than Iíve ever seen it there, from the rains in December, presumably, so maybe thatís why.† They have been reported there a lot recently, though.


I did get one more picture I like, though.† Here is a male American Kestrel.† I like the blue color on the male of this small falcon species.


So, it was a disappointing day of birding in terms of seeing my target species.† I did add five species to my year list, and I got some pictures I like.† We also had a great time rambling around seeing birds, so it was a good day, just disappointing in terms of my targets.† Maybe next time.† My five species today brings me to 158 for the year.


Tomorrow our old friend, Chris, comes to town, and we will spend the next 4 days playing a lot of cards and enjoying seeing each other.† I might even get out to see a few birds.† We shall see.



Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Itís a very short report today.† My only birding was a quick stop at Fazio preserve again, hoping for an American Bittern or the rarity there, Swamp Sparrow, on our way to the airport to pick up the third member of our reunion trio, Chris.† We didnít see any bitterns, but again saw at least 50 Black-crowned Night-Herons, a somewhat similar species.† Here is a picture of a couple of the night-herons.


Here is an immature Black-crowned Night-Heron.† The young ones are brown and streaked, like this one.


The coloration of the juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron is somewhat like the American Bitternís color, and the overall size and shape are similar, but bitterns have a different neck and head.† We usually see bitterns at Fazio, but the water is higher than I have ever seen it, and I think that has moved the bitterns to other parts of the preserve.† They seem to like to stand on mud or dry land, and the places where we usually see them are all flooded this year.


At the Swamp Sparrow site, we again saw Song Sparrow and eventually another sparrow that looked very promising.† The promising sparrow was feeding in thick vegetation, and I mostly only got tantalizing glimpses of it.† Eventually it came out enough to determine it was a LINCOLNíS SPARROW, one I needed for year list, but not nearly as good a bird as Swamp Sparrow would have been.† I got a picture of another Lincolnís Sparrow nearby.


Three or four TREE SWALLOWS flew over, too, and although I will see many of them this year, these were the first of the year.


So, that was it for birding today.† Now it is non-stop card-playing for the rest of the week, with some brief breaks for a small amount of birding, maybe.† There is supposed to be a big storm headed this way for later in the week, and that could affect my birding, too, as well as my trip home.


The two species today brings me to 160 species for the year so far.



Wednesday, February 4, 2015


I have another short report today.† Before we got started on the card playing this morning I walked around the neighborhood a little and spotted a single CEDAR WAXWING.† Iím sure Iíll see plenty more this year, but this one was my first.


After playing a round of cards, we took time out from the card games and went out to Nimbus fish hatchery to look for several species I needed for my year list.† We didnít get the Peregrine Falcon that usually hangs out there, nor the White-throated Swifts that the falcon preys on, nor the Green Herons that usually are in the enclosure with the fish tanks.† I had read about a bird that had been seen in a cave across the river, and a lovely BARN OWL was roosting there and looking out at us.† It was a long distance away, but I got this picture which is good enough to identify it, anyway.


We tried for Mute Swan at Mather Lake next, but couldnít find any today.† All in all, I didnít do well with my target species today.† My luck has been better in cards today than in birding.† There is a big storm system coming this way, so I donít know how much more birding Iím going to be able to do on this trip.


My two species today brings me to 162 species for the year now.



Thursday, February 5, 2015


We headed out ďearlyĒ to do some birding at Solano Lake, west of Sacramento.† While loading the car I heard a target species calling and spotted a male NUTTALíS WOODPECKER in a tree next door.† That is a species I was hoping to see on this trip because it is confined to California and a small part of Mexico.† It flew off before I could get my camera out, but a female flew in and I got some pictures.† Here is a female Nuttalís Woodpecker, with bad light.


I got this interesting picture of her hopping up the branch.† Note the feet are not touching anything.


Nuttalís Woodpecker looks very much like another common woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, except the Downy has a large white patch in the middle of its back.


Fred, Chris, and I headed out to Solano Lake, stopping at Subway for sandwiches on the way.† I had several target species I wanted to see there.† One of those was the rather ďplasticĒ species, COMMON PEAFOWL.† They are not native to the US, but the ďrulesĒ allow counting feral or introduced species if they are living on their own and are a self-sustaining reproducing population.† I donít know how long they have been living at the county park at Solano Lake, but I decided a few years ago to count them on my lists, and so thatís where I get my peacock each year.† Here is a picture of one of the many males we saw today.


Another key target for me there was LEWISíS WOODpECKER, and there were at least a half dozen of them around the park. †Here is a picture of one, against the strong backlight.† It was an overcast day, but bright, and so taking pictures of birds in trees was difficult.


The face is red, but you canít really see that in my pictures, with the strong backlighting.† Here is a picture of a Lewisís Woodpecker with an acorn.


There were ducks on the lake, and I got this picture of a pair of Barrowís Goldeneyes.


There were also several of a similar species, Common Goldeneye.† Here is a picture of a male Common Goldeneye.† Note that the white spot on the maleís face is round in the Common Goldeneye and crescent shaped in the Barrowís.


In this light, you can also see that the male Barrowís has a bluish purple cast to his head, while the Common has a greenish cast.† In most light, they both just look black.


Fred spotted a male Nuttalís Woodpecker, and I got better pictures of it than I had of the female in the morning, because it wasnít against a strong backlight.



I saw Hermit Thrushes two or three times.† Here is a picture of one.


It was remarkably birdy there, with a large number of species.† There was constant birdsong, too, although most of that was American Robins singing all over the place.† Among all the species, Fred spotted a GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET, my first of the year.† The little guy didnít sit still long enough for a picture, unfortunately.


There was one more key species I wanted to see there, but none seemed to be around.† We drove across the road into the campground and had our lunch at a table there, but still the species didnít show up.† On our way out of the campground I managed to spot a single male PHAINOPEPLA, though, so it went onto my year list.† I write a lot about the quality of light for my pictures, and here is an example of a poor picture that is poor because of the strong backlight I had to deal with.† This is a male Phainopepla, and you can identify the bird, but the colors are terrible.


The bird flew into a couple of other trees after a while, and I got a better, although more distant, picture that shows the black color with a bluish sheen, and also the red eye.


So, with that, we headed back to Fredís house, to spend the rest of the day and evening playing cards, with a time out to go out and have pizza and beer for dinner.


I added five more species to my year list, which brings it to 167 now.† There is supposed to be a big storm coming through town for the next few days, so I donít know when Iíll be able to do any more birding.† Iíve gotten most of my target species for the trip, although there are one or two more that would be nice to get.



Saturday, February 7, 2015


No birds on Friday, and this morning Fred and I drove Chris to the airport to head for home in Southern California.† After dropping Chris off, we detoured to Vic Fazio (Yolo Bypass) preserve, to look for the Swamp Sparrow and American Bittern again.† We missed on both again Ė the third time, I think it was.† I talked to a local birder who had seen the Swamp Sparrow on the second or third day it was there, a couple of weeks ago, but he had been there ten more times since then to try for a picture and hadnít seen it again.† Others have seen it fairly recently, but it obviously isnít easy to see.† He also said that bitterns were very hard to see in the winter, although they presumably are still around there.


I did manage to pick up a year bird, though.† Here is a picture of a FOX SPARROW.


Itís an odd view of the bird, but it was the best I could do, as it hopped around a lot and soon flew off.


After a stop at the fruit and veg stand near there, we drove on to Costco in Rancho Cordova, east of central Sacramento.† I got my lunch there Ė a hot dog and a slice of combo pizza.† We then stopped at Mather Lake to look for Mute Swan again, but didnít see any.† We also stopped at a place called North Mather Wetlands and looked for bitterns, as one had been reported there last week.† No joy.† Near there, I did see some American Pipits (counted for the year a few days ago), and I got this backlit picture of one on a wire.


Here is a picture of one of them through the chain link fence.


The camera focused on the fence, of course, but the bird was close enough to the fence that the bird isnít much out of focus.


So, our last birding stop of the day was the Nimbus fish hatchery, where we had been a couple of days ago.† Fred soon spotted one of my target birds, flying high overhead, interacting with a couple of Red-tailed Hawks Ė PEREGRINE FALCON.† We never got a close look at it, but it was obviously a falcon and we know that a Peregrine Falcon hangs out in that area, and all the looks at it I got were consistent with Peregrine.† I canít think of any other falcon that size that could be there, so Iím counting it.


There was a Black Phoebe doing its fly catching act there.† They are quite common here in California, but an attractive little bird, I think.† Here is a picture.


Another target species we missed the other day was in the fish tank enclosure today, GREEN HERON.† Here are a couple of pictures of that guy.



So, I added three more species to my year list today, bringing me to 170 for the year.


Our reunion is over, but the storm system is still with us, and Iím not sure when Iíll head for home.† Tomorrow is supposed to be very windy and rainy, and then Monday is supposed to clear by the afternoon and evening.† I suspect Iíll head north on Monday.† I think Iíll go home along the coast, so I can look for a very rare bird in Crescent City (the first US record ever, I understand, although I did see it in Britain in 2010), another quite rare one for the western US just north of Crescent City, and a lifer goose for me near Lincoln City in Oregon.† I always enjoy the drive up the coast of Oregon, too.† There are probably other birds I can look for on the way, too.† I need to do more research, and since tomorrow is supposed to be rainy all day, I should have time to do the research.



Monday, February 9, 2015


I hung around Fredís house on Sunday while the rain and wind moved through.† I did a lot of research on birds to look for on the way home, and I spent some time just sitting on his front porch watching the rain.


This morning I was up and away by 9:30, which was right in the middle of my target window.† My first stop was at Colusa NWR, to try again for the rare duck that has been seen there this winter.† (I had stopped two weeks ago, on my way south and hadnít seen it.)† As I drove up to the spot where the duck has been seen from, I saw a group of 5 or 6 people with binoculars and scopes, so I parked and hustled back down the road to where they were.† It turned out they hadnít seen the duck.† It was a group from somewhere on the East coast, making a quick sweep of the west for rarities.† They had flown into Portland, gone down to Lincoln City , OR, to see the Bean Goose there.† Then they had gone on down to Crescent City to see the Common Scoter there, and then on to the Golden Gate Bridge to see a Rustic Bunting there.† This morning they were looking for the same rare duck I was looking for.† Interestingly, tomorrow I hope to see the scoter in Crescent City and the next day I hope to see the Bean Goose near Lincoln City.† I think itís interesting that a group of birders from the East coast came clear out here to look for the same birds Iím hoping to see on my way home from my reunion.† Not just the same species Ė the same exact birds.† It shows how rare they are, though, that a group would fly across the country to try to see them.


Anyway, back to this morning Ė they hadnít seen the duck, but I thought I might as well give it a try, since I was there.† It had been seen to the north of Highway 20 the last few times it had been seen, so we were looking north today.† Two weeks ago it had been appearing to the south, and I had looked south that day.† Looking north was way better, as the sun was behind me, instead of in my face.† I gave it up and moved back to my car, but when I got there I tried one more time, from a different angle.† By golly, I saw the sucker!† FALCATED DUCK.† One of the East coast group happened to be nearby, and he saw it too, through my scope.† There were two women there who didnít see it because they were too short to see through my scope, and I didnít want to adjust it, for fear of losing the duck.† The others joined us, but I lost sight of the duck while trying to show them where to look, and no one found it again in the 15 or 20 more minutes I stayed there.† It is only the second time Iíve seen Falcated Duck, and I presume it is the same bird I saw back in 2012, the first year it showed up here.† It is an Asian species, and the 2012 bird was only the third California record of the species.† Today the bird was much too far away for pictures, but here is a picture I took in 2012 of what I assume is the same bird.


It was satisfying to be the one who spotted the duck among the many hundreds of ducks out there, and I hope they re-found it after I left.† They had come a long way to see it.


So, having gotten my first rarity of the day, I headed up Interstate 5.† I got a Subway sandwich and later ate it in the car at a rest stop south of Redding.† I had had a rain shower earlier, but I went through a big thunder shower, with lightning and driving rain, as I approached Redding.† At Redding I turned west and took the long, long Highway 299 over to the coast.† I was driving through showers for about three hours and finally got to Arcata, on the coast, at about 4:15.† Back in 2012 I had driven that same route through a snow storm and had spun out while passing a hay truck, and almost slid off the road.† I donít have a good feeling about that road, and I was glad to be finished with it today, finally.


There was a sparrow I wanted to see in Arcata, and last night I had managed to Google a phone number for the guy (Gary) who has had one in his yard at his feeders for the last several weeks.† He invited me to stop by to see it, and there were also some other interesting sparrows there, too, so I was eager.† Interestingly, there was another rarity in Arcata that I had wanted to see, but it hadnít been seen for about three weeks, so I gave it up.† Gary called me today when I was still over on I-5,† though, and told me that the Brambling (the second rarity) had been reported again today.† That got my juices flowing, as Brambling would be a lifer for me.† It is a Eurasian bird, way out of its territory.


Anyway, I got to Garyís house about 4:15 and talked with him a little.† I sat on his porch and watched the birds coming to his feeders.† There were a number of sparrow species, and here is a picture of a White-crowned Sparrow.


Here is a Fox Sparrow, one I had added to my year list just a couple of days ago.


Here is a Golden-crowned Sparrow.


Next, I got a new year-bird, WHITE-THROATED SPARROW.


Eventually the one I was looking for showed up, and I added HARRISíS SPARROW to my year list.† It is only the second or third time I have seen the species, I think.† It should be in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, or Texas at this time of year, and in the summer it breeds in the far north of Canada.† They do show up regularly all over the country in the winter, but only rarely.† Here is a picture.


The white throat indicates it is a first winter bird, I think, and in the summer it will have a black face and bib, as well as a wide black stripe on its head.† Here is another picture of the little beauty.


Iíve seen pictures of the bird from several weeks ago, and it seems to be getting more and more black feathers on its face and breast all the time, which is what would be expected.


Here is another picture of a White-throated Sparrow.


Here is a picture of an American Goldfinch in winter plumage.


There are two morphs (color variations) of White-throated Sparrow, the white morph and the tan morph.† Most of the ones I saw today were white morph birds, but I think these next two pictures are of a tan morph one.



The biggest difference is that the stripe above and behind the eye is tan, rather than white.


So, by then it was after 5 PM, and normally I have stopped for the day by then.† Gary was willing to go with me to look for the Brambling, though, so I followed him to the place it had been reported from today.† There were a couple of women in a car there, and they said they had been there for an hour and they hadnít seen it.† Gary knocked on a door nearby and introduced me to a friend of his who had had the Brambling in her yard until about three weeks ago, and she let us look in her back yard.† Nothing was going on, though, and I gave it up.† I might go back in the morning and see if the Brambling is around.† I have a couple of other things I could do here in Arcata, though, and I havenít decided yet on tomorrowís plan.† I definitely want to go up to Crescent City tomorrow, where I have a reservation at a motel for tomorrow night, to see the mega rare scoter there, but I could spend the morning around Arcata, and I have to decide.† There are at least three separate places I would like to go here in Arcata tomorrow morning, but I wonít have time for all three of them, I fear.† Crescent City is about an hour and a half to the north, and I have several places up there I want to go, too.


So, I added three more to my year list today, and two are rarities here on the west coast, while one is only uncommon.† That brings me to 173 species for the year.† Tomorrow is another birding adventure.



Tuesday, February 10, 2015


I was up and out this morning by 8:10, which is very early for me.† I had arranged for a slightly late check out in case I needed it, and I hadnít yet packed up the car.† My first stop was the Brambling site.† The same two women that Gary and I had seen there yesterday evening were there, but they hadnít seen anything yet.† We exchanged phone numbers and I went on around to the next street, to look from that perspective.† (Cell phones have changed birding, as they have changed other things in our world.)† I found another birder there, also looking for the Brambling.† I watched for a while, and got this picture of a Varied Thrush.


I wandered around the neighborhood, but I didnít see anything interesting.† There were lots of birds around, but nothing unusual or interesting.† Back at the main site, I got this picture of a male Northern Flicker.† I like that it shows the pretty orange feathers under his tail.


I gave it up after about 30 or 40 minutes, but on my way out of the neighborhood, I spotted a small hawk in a tree.† I decided tonight, after seeing my pictures, that it was a SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, one for my year list.† Here is a picture from the back.


Hereís a picture from the front.


Birders endlessly debate about the identification of Sharp-shinned Hawk versus its cousin, Cooperís Hawk.† I wonít go into all the details here, but the shape of the head and the location of the eye are two of the indicators that tell me this is a sharpie.† Size can be a good indicator, too, as Cooperís is somewhat larger than Sharp-shinned, but females are bigger than males in both species, so a male Cooperís Hawk is about the same size as a female Sharp-shinned Hawk.† This bird seemed to be in that intermediate size range, so I suspect it was a female Sharp-shinned Hawk.† So, I hadnít seen the Brambling (which I knew was a big longshot), but I had gotten a year bird for my trouble, as well as some pictures I like.


I went on down to Arcata Marsh, which is a well-known birding site that I have visited before.† I was hoping for American Bittern, which has been reported there, or maybe a Red Knot, which has also been reported recently.† I didnít see either one, although I did have a nice little walk around.† In the lake I was walking next to, there were two small grebes, one from each of the species I have a hard time telling apart in the winter.† It was a great opportunity to get pictures of both and to compare them.† Here is an Eared Grebe.


Note the ďhelmetedĒ look, meaning the black cap extends down below the eye.† Here is a Horned Grebe.


Note the ďcappedĒ look Ė the black cap stops at the level of the eye.† The neck is thicker and shorter on the Horned Grebe, too; the head is shaped differently; and the bill is a bit different.† For me, the helmeted versus capped look is the best indicator, though.


So, I didnít get any new birds there, but I did get some pictures showing the differences between Eared Grebe and Horned Grebe.† Iím sure all my readers are thrilled by the lesson.† It WILL be on the final.


So, I gave up on Arcata and went back and checked out of my room and headed north about 11:15.† I stopped for the first time at Orick, to check out the mouth of Redwood Creek.† Iím looking for a gull called a Black-legged Kittiwake, and that was one possible place to see one.† I took a tiny road out to the coast.† The last half mile or so was unpaved and full of huge potholes, which were filled with rainwater from the recent storms.† I did find a bunch of gulls roosting at the mouth of the creek, but none of them had black legs, so I dipped on my kittiwake.† It was noon by the time I left there, so I stopped in the tiny ďtownĒ of Orick and had a burger and fries at the Palm Cafť.† I normally donít eat in local cafes, but I had neglected to get a Subway sandwich, and it was too far to Crescent City, which was my next chance for fast food.† The burger was quite good, but the fries were boring and I spent more than I would have for fast food.† It took half an hour, too, which is the main reason I eat fast food on the road Ė I would rather spend my time birding than waiting in a restaurant for my food.


I got to Crescent City about 1:30, and I made my way to the place the rare scoter has been seen.† I expected to see other birders there, as I have read every day about people seeing it (including this morning), but no one was around.† When I arrived, there were a lot of Surf Scoters there, as well as the female Long-tailed Duck that has been reported.† Most of them soon flew off into the outer harbor, but some remained.† I scanned what was left, and there it was Ė COMMON SCOTER, the first record in North America for this species.† I moved over closer to where it was, and got some poor pictures.† The light wasnít good, and it is a pretty plain looking bird, as you can see.



The shape of the bill and the yellow spot on it are the diagnostic features, along with the shape and black color of the rest of it.† I think it is pretty interesting that such a non-descript bird can generate such excitement among birders that people come from all over the country to see it.† Now Iím one of them.† I had actually seen this species in Britain on my 2010 trip, so it wasnít a lifer, although it is a new one for my US list.


Here is a Pelagic Cormorant in the same place.


Having gotten the mega rarity, I decided to go north of town to look for a couple of birds Iíll probably see later this year anyway.† There has been a Sandhill Crane hanging around a dairy to the north of Crescent City, and also Cattle Egrets in the area.† I expect to see Sandhill Crane at Malheur NWR in late May and I hope to see Cattle Egret in Arizona in May, although it isnít a certainty.† I found the dairy, but I never saw the crane or any Cattle Egrets.† I talked with a couple of other birders while near the dairy, so it is obviously a place that birders go.† One of the birders pointed out a distant Peregrine Falcon that was perched on a dead snag.


I was looking for Ferruginous Hawk in the area, as they winter in this county and have been reported in the area near the dairy.† I stopped to check out a couple of hawks that turned out to be Red-tailed Hawks, but then I saw this one on a pole down the road.


I didnít think it looked like a red-tail, but it was hard to tell with binoculars.† A car came along and spooked it, and it flew down to another pole, farther down the road.† I drove closer and stopped and got out and stalked it, and got this picture of it from the front.


That picture did it for me.† The key identifier for Ferruginous Hawk is the long yellow gape.† The gape is the yellow line from the base of the bill that extends back to under the eye.† You can see it clearly in this picture.† The rest of the coloration matches a first year juvenile light phase Ferruginous Hawk, as far as I can see.† I got other pictures, including this next one, as the bird was poised to take off.


The large yellow feet and the feathers on the legs are also characteristics of Ferruginous Hawk.† The spots on the leg feathers are characteristic of a juvenile bird Ė in a mature bird, the upper leg feathers would be reddish brown.† One of the things I like about birding is the way that very small differences can indicate things about the age, the gender, or the species of the bird.


Those are by far the best pictures Iíve ever gotten of Ferruginous Hawk, a bird I had only seen twice, or maybe three times, before today, and Iím very happy with them.† I dipped on the Sandhill Crane and the Cattle Egrets, but I still got some pictures I really like.† Ainít birding great?


Since I was already two-thirds of the way to another stakeout location for a species I wanted very much to see, Black-throated Blue Warbler, I continued north into the small town of Smith River.† I found the place where the warbler has been seen, and I looked around.† I never got any sniff of any warbler type bird, but I found the trees it was seen in.† I had read that the warbler was seen drinking sap from ďwellsĒ drilled by sapsuckers in particular trees.† Although I never saw the warbler, I did see a sapsucker either making new ďwellsĒ or drinking from his old wells Ė I think drinking.† Here is a picture of a new one for my year list, RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKER.


You can see the rows of old wells on the tree.† Here is a picture that shows its back.† The pictures are really poor, because the light was so weak.


Iíll probably stop there tomorrow morning as I head north, to see if the warbler is around.† I might also take a detour to the dairy, to see if the crane is showing itself.


It was getting late by then, so I drove back to Crescent City.† I had a little time, though, so I headed out to the B Street pier, to look for kittiwakes again.† No kittiwakes, but I did see another one I was hoping to see there, SURFBIRD.† I donít know where else I might see one this year, so it was a good find.† Here is a very distant picture that shows a Black Turnstone (the darker bird) and a Surfbird.


Here is a Surfbird on its own.


It was after five oíclock by then, but Iím staying right next to the harbor, so I stopped to see if the scoter was still hanging out there.† Yes, he was, and I got this additional picture of him.


None of my pictures of the Common Scoter are good at all, but I plan to stop by in the morning, when the light should be much better, and see if he is still around.


When all was said and done (and, as usual, much more was said than done), I had seen four more species for my year list today, and one of them is new for my US list.† I had a great time rambling around seeing birds and the countryside, so the day was a success.† The weather was dry and warm for the season, too.† I need to do some research tonight to determine if I want to drive home from here in two days, or if I want to prolong the trip and take three days to get home.† If I take three days, I can spend half the day tomorrow around Crescent City, looking for birds I didnít see today.† I like that idea, but I need to check the weather reports and the times and distances to various points.† Whatever I decide to do, Iím heading for home, and that is always a good thing.


Oh yes, I now have 177 species for the year, and one of them is new for my US list.



Wednesday, February 11, 2015


This morning I went out at about 8:30 to try to get a better picture of the Common Scoter, in the morning light.† I did a little better, but itís hard to take a good picture of a black bird on water.


The female Long-tailed Duck came around, and I got this picture of her.


Long-tailed Duck used to be called Oldsquaw, but it was changed a few years ago, out of ethnic sensitivity, I guess.† The male has a very long tale in breeding season.† The Long-tailed Duck seems to hang out with the Surf Scoters, and here is a picture showing the relative size of the two species.† That is a male Surf Scoter in the picture.


It never ceases to amaze me what variations in color and shape that birds come in, but what on earth is the purpose of the bizarre colors and shape of the male Surf Scoterís bill?† Itís just plain ugly, if you ask me.


So, having gotten those pictures, I packed up and headed north.† I had thought about stopping in Coos Bay tonight, and trying for as many as four other good species around Coos Bay, but Iím eager to get home after a couple of weeks on the road, so I skipped the Coos Bay possibilities.† I also skipped going back out to the dairy north of Crescent City again, to look for the Sandhill Crane and the Cattle Egrets that have been reported there.† I did take the time to go back to the house that has had the Eastern warbler species, though.† It was a short detour, and I really wanted to see the bird if possible, partly because I think it is so beautiful.


I saw the Red-breasted Sapsucker again, and I got a better picture today.


It has obviously lived there for a long time, as all those holes are sap wells it has pecked out, and there were thousands more on the two acacia trees.


I played the song of the warbler, not really expecting anything, as birds often donít respond to playback when on their wintering ground.† This time I got lucky, though, and I soon saw a little bird flitting around, and it turned out to be the male BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER that I was looking for there.† He should be in the Caribbean or Central America at this time of year, and they breed in the northeast of the US and southeast of Canada.† Iíve never heard of west coast records before, but Iím sure there are some.† I saw the species in Texas on both my trips there, but never got any pictures, I donít think.† I got one today that I like very much, although the bird is obscured by foliage and not totally in focus.


The picture doesnít do justice to how pretty the dark blue color of the bird is.† The way the bird flitted around, I was very lucky to get even this good of a picture, so Iím quite pleased.


While I was waiting for the warbler to show himself some more, I played the call of another bird that the habitat seemed perfect for.† To my pleased surprise, I heard the clear response from a WRENTIT.† That is a species we donít get in Washington, except in the southwest corner, so I was very pleased to get it.† I had tried in the Sacramento area, but had come up empty.† A little later I went to the other side of the creek and played the song again, and that time the bird actually flew in and posed for me.† Here is a picture I really like of a Wrentit.


Is he a little cutie, or what?


So, with two excellent year-birds under my belt, I hit the road again, but soon stopped to stock up on liquor at All Star Liquors, near the border with Oregon.† I bought six or eight months worth of booze for about half the price it would cost in Washington.† Of course, I will pay the Washington State liquor tax, as Iím required by law to do.


My plan for the rest of today was to drive north, enjoying the scenery along the Oregon coast.† The weather was good, with no rain and temperatures in the low 50ís.† There is a lifer goose that has been wintering just north of Lincoln City, and my plan was to stay in Lincoln City tonight.† If I could get there early enough, I would go out to the place the goose has been seen, and then return to Lincoln City, and then try again tomorrow if I dipped today.† Two shots at it, although all the reports I have seen said it was easy.


I got to Lincoln City about 4:10, and it was only about 20 minutes out to where the goose has been seen.† I almost always book my accommodation ahead of time, so Iím sure a place meets my needs and Iím saved the hassle of looking for a place at the end of a day of traveling.† This time I had planned to stay at the Motel 6 in Lincoln City, but I hadnít booked it.† I had realized while driving today that if I got lucky and saw the goose today, I could go on to Tillamook, rather than backtracking to Lincoln City.† If I missed it today, then I could go back to Lincoln City and try again tomorrow.


So, I got to the Nestucca NWR about 4:30, and I figured I would dedicate half an hour to looking for the bird before giving up and going back to Lincoln City.† Well, I drove into the entrance road to the reserve, and within ten seconds I saw the bird.† It was in a group of Canada Geese, or maybe they were Cackling Geese Ė I didnít notice.† It is lighter in color than the other geese, and I saw it right away.† Here is a picture of the TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE (lifer), my first lifer of 2015.


Itís a Eurasian bird, and there are very few records in the US.† It is closely related to a couple of other goose species and the difference is in the bill colors.† Here is a close-up of the head of this goose.


I continue to be very pleased with my camera.† I was at least 100 feet away from the bird, maybe as much as 200 feet, and I was hand-holding the camera in low light.† That picture was taken at ISO 800, for you camera buffs out there and my future reference.


So, having gotten the goose, I drove on into Tillamook without a motel reservation.† I hate doing that, but I stopped at the first motel I saw, and they had a perfectly adequate room that had what I need (non-smoking, king bed, microwave, small refrigerator, and wi-fi) for 69 bucks, so I took it.† It would only have been 45 bucks at Motel 6 in Lincoln City, but this is 45 minutes closer to home, and itís a nicer room.† Unfortunately, the bed is rock hard, but the Motel 6 one probably would have been the same and only would have been queen size.


My trip is winding down now.† I only have five hours of driving to get home, and I plan to take the more scenic route through Cannon Beach and Astoria, rather than the faster route through Portland.† I donít expect to see any more year-birds tomorrow, but you never know.† My next trip is in March, to San Diego.


I got 3 more species today, and one of them was a lifer.† That brings me to 180 species for the year, of which one is a lifer and another one is new for my US list.



Saturday, February 21, 2015


This weekend Iím hitting my last Western Washington county for my Washington counties lists Ė Mason county.† I have five counties in Eastern Washington to visit still.† Washington has 39 counties, and now Iíve birded in 34 of them.† I hope to hit the other five in April, or maybe it will be later in the year.† They are all in the northeastern corner of the state.


So, I was away by just before 9 AM, my goal, and I got to Mason county at Belfair at about 10:30.† My first stop was Belfair State Park.† The light was terrible, since I was looking at the water to the south (the sun is in the south up here in the northern regions), and the tide was also poor, since it was almost at its low.† Still, thatís how it worked out, so I did what I could.† I got a handful of ducks there, but no shorebirds, due to the tide, I think.† When I left there, I stopped and got a Subway tuna sandwich, and went on to Mary Theler Wetlands to check it out.† It was great habitat, but mid-day in the winter probably isnít the best time to be there.† I got a couple of common songbirds, and it was interesting to see the place, but I moved on after walking around for 30 or 40 minutes.† I did manage to call up a Pacific Wren there; they are usually very responsive to playback, Iíve found.† I have a problem with pain in my right leg, and I think it is connected to my Achilles tendon, so walking isnít the greatest thing for me right now, I think.† Theler Wetlands was my longest walk of the day.


My next stop was Twanoh State Park, which I had never heard of before I researched this trip.† This is my first visit to Mason county since I started doing Washington county birding in July of 2012, and I think it might be my first visit ever Ė certainly the first visit since I retired in 1998.† The first two entrances to the park were closed for the winter, but the third one, to the boat ramp, was open.† Here is a picture of part of the park, which is right on Hood Canal.


I was surprised to find that Barrowís Goldeneye is a very common bird on Hood Canal in the winter.† Normally, I see many more Common Goldeneyes than Barrowís, but obviously this is where the Barrowís spend their winter.† In the summer they breed in the far north, I think, or maybe inland and north.† Here is a picture of a male Barrowís Goldeneye.


I ate my Subway sandwich there and picked up Dark-eyed Junco, American Robin, and Varied Thrush for my Mason county list while I ate.† Most of the birds I saw today were water birds, but I got a few away from the water.


I stopped two or three times while going down Hood Canal, to look for one of my two target species for the day, a scoter, which is a sea duck.† Hood Canal isnít a canal at all, for those of you who donít know the Pacific Northwest, but a long narrow bay of salt water off the Strait of Juan de Fuca, shaped like a fish hook.† At the start of the day, I was at the tip of the hook, and proceeded down the bottom of the ďhookĒ part. †Here is a picture of a part of Hood Canal from the road along the south end of Hood Canal, along Highway 106.


At that particular stop, I got this picture of a gull.


I know, to non-birders, all gulls are just ďseagullsĒ, but there are a lot of different species of them, so birders have to figure them out.† Iím not especially good at it, and it wasnít until I studied my picture in detail and consulted my field guides that I declared it to be a Western Gull, for my Mason county list.† Western Gulls hybridize feely with Glaucous-winged Gulls, the most common gull here, and Iím not clear what to look for in a hybrid, so this one might be a hybrid, which is called an ďOlympic GullĒ locally.† It seems to have all the field marks of a Western Gull, though, so Iím calling it that.


After I went through the small ďtownĒ of Union, I picked up Canada Goose and Greater White-fronted Goose in a field, and that was nice.† Then I took the Purdy Cutoff Road, which seems to go along Purdy Creek.† I picked up Common Merganser there (having already gotten Red-breasted Merganser out on Hood Canal).† Here is a picture of a female Common Merganser, with her feathers a bit ruffled and sticking her head up.


There was a male, along with two females, there, and I got this picture of a male and female Common Merganser, which look very different.


I saw my only Ring-necked Ducks of the day along there, too.


When I got to Hwy 101, I crossed it and went up the Skokomish River Valley Road.† It was a pretty valley, but I didnít see anything new for the county except some pigeons and a Common Raven.† I stopped at the Eells Springs fish hatchery, to look for the American Dipper and the Green Heron that have been seen there.† A guy came out from the office when I walked in and he told me the heron was usually in some trees on the other side of the fish ponds.† Iíve never seen a Green Heron in a tree, but I looked where he said.† I didnít see it, though, nor did I see the dipper.


I went on up the valley to a forest road with the number 2300 on it.† I went up the hill until the pavement ran out, but there was nothing going on, so I turned back.


Retracing my steps to Hwy 101, I went north, toward my lodging for the night.† I stopped next at Potlatch State Park.† Here is a picture of that park.


I had stopped at least 7 or 8 times before to look for my target scoter, but I did it again here.† Much to my surprise, I got lucky here.† Here is a picture of a pair of WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS, new for my year list.† The bird on the right is a male Surf Scoter, so just ignore him.


So, it was after 3 in the afternoon by then, but I finally had a year-bird.† The birds were maybe 70 or 80 yards offshore, and up the beach a bit (I went to the limit of the State Park; it was private property after that.), and I had my camera on its full 50X optical zoom (equivalent to about 1200 mm in 35 mm terms), so the pictures arenít great, but I think this is the first time Iíve been able to get any pictures at all of White-winged Scoters, so Iím showing them.† Here is my best one of the female White-winged Scoter.


The wind was up by then, and that made for waves, which made getting pictures all the harder, as the birds would pop up and drop out of view, as the waves rolled in.† Here is my best picture of the male by himself.


So, with that one under my belt, and feeling very chuffed, I move on up the west side of Hood Canal.† I reached my lodgings for tonight, and seeing their No Vacancy sign, I stopped to check in, to be sure my reservation was okay.† I had called just yesterday afternoon, thinking I probably wouldnít even need a reservation in the winter, but they are full tonight.† They seem to be associated with the Indian casino down the road in Potlatch, and maybe that, and the great weather today (sunny and mid-50ís), is what has them full tonight.† Anyway, I was fine, and I checked in and moved some of my stuff into the room, putting my cold food in the fridge.† The place is very nice, with a microwave and small fridge, as well as a balcony with a great view of Hood Canal.† It is right on the water, although there are recreational vehicles and trailers between me and the water.† Here is a picture I took from my balcony later, as the light was waning.


The view extends to the right, too.† I checked out the ducks out in the water, and then I decided to venture out again and check out the road to the north along Hood Canal.† I didnít really expect to see anything new, but it was not even 4 oíclock yet, and I wanted to see what there was to see.


At Hoodsport, there is a road up into the foothills to Lake Cushman, and I might check that out tomorrow.† I need to do some research tonight.† I saw more places today than I had expected to see, so I have plenty of time tomorrow.† At a tiny community called Lilliwaup, a creek came into the canal, and there was a road along the south side of that creek.† I went up there to check out the ducks in the estuary there.† Nothing interesting there, so I turned around when the county road ended (maybe a mile, no more), and on my way back hit the jackpot again.†


There were two AMERICAN DIPPERS foraging along the creek, which ran right next to the road at that point.† I love dippers, and American Dipper had been my second target species of the day (along with White-winged Scoter), so this was thrilling.† I got out of my car and they let me take a lot of pictures.† It was late in the afternoon, and the light was poor, but here are some of my American Dipper pictures.† They are a very non-descript bird, all grey, but their shape is the way to identify them.† They feed in streams and rivers, actually swimming underwater sometimes.† The two birds today were foraging along the side of the creek, not going completely underwater.† They normally eat insect larvae, but I got this picture of one that seemed to catch a small fish or maybe itís a worm.


It struggled with it for while, but I think it managed to get it down.† Here is another picture.


Hereís one that shows its unique shape, with its short little tail.


Since I love dippers so much, here is one more, for good measure.


So, that was an exciting end to my day.† I put 32 species on my Mason county list, which is not a big number, but considering I only birded here for about 6 hours and it was in the middle of the day, Iím satisfied.† My last two county birds today were new for my year list, which is interesting.† I guess I ďsaved the best for lastĒ.


The two year birds bring me to 182 for the year now, of which 1 was a lifer and 1 was new for my US list.† Lifers are pretty hard to get these days, unless I go to new places.


Tomorrow Iíll ramble around a little more here in Mason county, and maybe add a few more to my county list.† I doubt Iíll get anything new for my year list, so I probably wonít do a report, unless I get some pictures I want to show.† I do plan to stop in the town of Shelton to get some ďtown birdsĒ tomorrow morning, and then Iíll head for home.† What a life!



Sunday, February 22, 2015


I didn't expect to add many more birds to my Mason county list today - I was hoping for 7, to bring me to 39, which is a key number in Washington county birding.† As I've mentioned before, there are 39 counties in Washington, and after seeing birds in all 39 counties, the next step is to see 39 different species in each county.† So, once you manage to hit all 39, you just keep going back to increase the numbers.† After 39, people go for 50 in each county, then 100, then 150, and one guy even has 200 in each county, which I can't even imagine.† I only have 128 species in King County, which is my home county, after almost three years.† I was out birding every day last year, too, with my Bird-A-Day thing.† Anyway, at this point, I'm just trying to visit all 39 counties, and I have five more to go still.† After that, God Willing And The Creeks Don't Rise, I'll see about upping all 39 counties to 39.† So, if I could get Mason up to 39 today, I wouldn't have to worry about getting back there for the next stage.


I also didn't think I'd get anything new for my year list today, but from my balcony I heard a bird calling loudly and persistently.† After I finished breakfast, I went out and walked around, and the bird was still calling.† It was familiar, and I knew I should know it, but I couldn't come up with what species it was.† I traced the calls to a bunch of trees on a hillside across the road, and finally the penny dropped - PILEATED WOODPECKER, a great one for my Mason county list, and a year bird.† I never did see it, but the call is very distinctive and I'm embarrassed that I didn't recognize it right away.† Since I count "heard only" birds now when I'm sure of the identification, it went on my lists.† While I was looking for the woodpecker, I added Black-capped Chickadee to my Mason county list.† I heard them first, then found them, so maybe I'm getting better at this "birding by ear" thing.† All the best birders use their ears as much or more than their eyes when searching for birds.† I'll never be one of the "best birders", but improvement is a good thing.


So, I already had two species toward my goal of 7 for the day by the time I headed out at about 9:20.† Real birders would have been out there by 7:30 at the latest, but the Old Rambler is a dilettante birder, of course, and I'm not an early riser.† (Do I detect some defensiveness here about what a crappy birder I am?† Maybe.)


My first stop was the mouth of the Skokomish River, which I had visited yesterday and not seen anything interesting.† It was windy yesterday and the light was wrong when I was there.† Today it was calm and the sun was in a much better place.† One of the birds I had missed yesterday was Great Blue Heron, which I certainly should have seen.† I thought the habitat at the river mouth would be perfect for them, and when I set up my scope I saw seven of them in my first sweep!† I also picked up my only Ring-billed and Mew Gulls of the weekend there, as well as my first Belted Kingfisher.† That was six for the day, and I'd only been birding for about 20 minutes.


I turned my scope out to the main body of Hood Canal and searched through the ducks and grebes feeding out there.† By golly, to my huge surprise, I spotted a distant male BLACK SCOTER, another great one for my Mason county list and another year bird.† The light was great and I had great views of him as he dove and re-surfaced.† So, I had my 39 species in Mason county and it wasnít even 10 AM yet.


My next stop was a place called Hunter Farms.† I had read about it in a blog written by a birder from Renton named Tim, who is doing a Big Year for Mason county, hoping to get maybe 170 or 180 species there this year.† (A few years ago Tim recorded at least 39 species in each of Washington's 39 counties, all in that one year.)† Renton is at least an hour away from Mason county and he is a teacher with a family, so it will be a challenge to him.† His blog was really great for me in planning this weekend.† There is a general store at Hunter Farms, and I stopped in and asked if I could look around for birds.† The young woman there was very helpful and told me how I could drive out into the fields, to see the birds better.† Here is a picture of some Greater White-fronted Geese (which I had seen there yesterday, actually) with some Canada Geese.† The picture shows that the Canada Geese are larger than the Greater White-fronted Geese, which are in the background.


The "white-fronted" in their name is due to the white patches in front of their eyes at the bases of their bills.† There are several other goose species that look very much the same, but this is the only one with a white "front" on their face.


So anyway, I headed out onto the rocky dirt track into the Hunter Farms fields, and I got this picture of an American Robin.


I got my only Red-tailed Hawk of the weekend there, as well as my only Golden-crowned Sparrows and one White Crowned Sparrow.† I also saw the one Snow Goose that hangs out with a flock of Canada Geese there.† Tim had tipped me off to the Snow Goose, and I was pleased to find it, as it isn't an easy bird in Mason county.† In fact, my Washington county spreadsheet says it is rare there, with fewer than 5 records in the county, so it was a mega good one for me for my county list.† Here it is with some of its Canada Goose cousins.


As I was taking its picture, the whole flock took off and I got this picture of the Snow Goose and a Canada Goose flying.


I picked up my first Red-winged Blackbirds there, and also the only Brewer's Blackbirds for the weekend.† Hunter Farms was extremely productive me today; I was on a roll.


Next I drove up Purdy Cutoff Road again, since it was the most direct route toward Shelton and home.† I was hoping for Pied-billed Grebe, but never saw one.† I did see another American Dipper, though, and I got some pictures.† Here is the best of them.


I know it a very plain looking bird, but I just love them, and I was excited to see another one today.† I don't know if I have ever seen three different dippers in one two-day stretch before.


I also saw some scaup, a type of duck.† There are two species and they are hard for me to tell apart.† I believe that what I saw today was Lesser Scaup, the species I hadn't seen on Saturday.† Here is a picture of what I think is a male Lesser Scaup.


Next I headed into the town of Shelton to try for some "town birds".† As it turned out, I did very well with town birds and added 6 more species to my Mason county list, including Anna's Hummingbird and Eurasian Collared-Dove.† One house had a bunch of feeders in the front yard.


The most numerous species there was Pine Siskin, and here is a picture of five of them at one of the feeders.


It looks to me like several of the birds were looking at me, even though I was across the street.† Birds always seem to be very aware of their surroundings - I guess they would have to be to survive all the predators they deal with.


The key bird I was looking for in that Shelton neighborhood was Western Scrub-Jay, which isn't very common in Washington, although they seem to be moving in, over the last several years.† I had gotten fleeting views of a couple of them and heard them call, and I also had seen a quick view of Steller's Jay earlier, as well as hearing their call (which I know well because we have them in our yard), but finally I got a good look at a cooperative Western Scrub-Jay.† As I've mentioned a number of times, I'm partial to blue colored birds, so here are a couple of pictures of a handsome Western Scrub-Jay.



I got lunch at Mickey D's and made one more stop, at Kennedy Creek, but the tide was out too far and there weren't any shorebirds there that I could see.† I headed for home and got here by about 3.† I had started the day hoping to add 7 birds to my Mason County list, and I ended up adding 21!† A very successful day of birding.


So, now I have 53 species on my Mason county list.† A real birder would have gotten that many easily in a day, but I only birded for about 9 hours total in the county, and I wasn't out there during the really key early hours.† My style of birding is very laid back, I guess, but I enjoy the hell out of it, and I enjoy taking pictures and writing these reports.† I also enjoy the traveling and the planning for my trips, so it is a great hobby for me, even if I'm not really a serious birder.


I added 2 species to my year list today, bringing me to 184 for the year, of which one has been a lifer and one other has been new for my US list.


My next planned trip is to San Diego, and I plan to leave on March 17.† I may or may not get any more year birds before that trip.† We shall see.



Friday, February 27, 2015


There's been a rarity reported this week down in Issaquah, which is about a half hour south of our house.† Since it would be a lifer for me, I headed out at about 9 this morning on a twitch.


I got to the house where the bird has been seen at about 9:35.† Another birder had just pulled up as I got there.† By the time I left over two hours later, there had been about a dozen cars and about 15 birders there, looking for this one bird.


The weather forecast had said the rain would stop by about 8 this morning, but it was still sprinkling lightly at 9:35 when I got there.† I sat in the car and watched the deck railing where the bird has been seen.† Typically, it has shown up only briefly, hanging around for only a few minutes each day, so I had to keep my eye out for it.† There were a lot of Dark-eyed Juncos coming to the railing, where the homeowner had spread birdseed.† Here is one of the juncos.


There were also a few Chestnut-backed Chickadees coming in, but they never stuck around long for pictures.† Here is the best I could do today of a Chestnut-backed Chickadee.


After about 45 minutes the rain stopped, mostly, and I got out of the car to stretch my legs.† By that time there were maybe a half a dozen birders there, wandering up and down the street, scrutinizing the trees on both sides of the street.† A lovely Varied Thrush came in a couple of times, and I got this picture.


A Spotted Towhee showed up once, and a male House Sparrow a couple of times.† There were Pine Siskins across the street, but this is the only one I saw on the deck we were watching.


Once of the birders spotted a bird at a feeder in another yard, and called attention to it.† It was a female PURPLE FINCH, so I had one for my year list.† The angle was wrong to get a picture, but I got a good look at it.† Later a male Purple Finch was spotted a couple of times, too.


It was coming up on two hours, about 11:30, and I needed to pee.† One woman left, but everyone else was still sticking it out.† Here is a picture of the twitchers and the cars lining the street.


The deck where the bird has been seen is on the right side of the picture.† The white car in the middle of the picture is mine, where I sat for the first 45 minutes.† Everyone is looking the other way because finally someone spotted our target bird on that side of the street.† The first views were through a guy's scope, and I took my turn for a five second look at my first BRAMBLING (lifer).† It was enough to identify the bird, but less than satisfactory.† Soon after, I got a little better binocular look at it in a tree, partially obscured by branches, and then it disappeared again.† Five minutes later someone spotted it up the street, and this time it sat in the open for a couple of minutes. I think everyone got good looks at it, finally.† I had problems with my camera and the backlighting, but I got one identifiable picture.† It isn't any good, but it is my first Brambling, so here it is.† Too bad the bird had just turned away.


Bramblings live in Europe and Asia, and only show up in the US a few times a year, if that much.† Since this one has been showing up for several weeks now, I expect that a lot more birders will be coming to look for it.† The word only got out publicly about three days ago, so this weekend, when people donít have to be at work and the weather forecast is good, I expect that neighborhood to be overrun with twitchers.† I'm glad I saw it today, when there were only about fifteen of us.


So, that's my report for today.† Two more birds for my year list, and one of them was a lifer.† That brings me to a total of 186 species so far this year, of which 2 have been lifers and another one was new for my US list.† It is still two and a half weeks until I leave for San Diego.