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January 1, 2015
A new year has begun, and my 2015 birding list has started.† As previously, whenever I see a new species for my year list, I plan to write a report (also when I happen to have some pictures I want to share, even if there aren't any new birds that day).
My first bird for 2015 was AMERICAN CROW.† The local family was making a huge racket outside my window this morning, before I even got out of bed.† There must have been some kind of predator in the neighborhood - a raptor or maybe a coyote.
The bird feeder in the yard was fairly active this morning, and I soon picked up PINE SISKIN, BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE, HOUSE FINCH, SPOTTED TOWHEE, and DARK-EYED JUNCO.† It's interesting that last year it took until mid-December before I saw a Pine Siskin anywhere, and this year it was the second bird I spotted.
Before breakfast, I added EUROPEAN STARLING, ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD, RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD, and AMERICAN GOLDFINCH.
I took care of some computer stuff, and at about 11:15 I headed down to my local park, Juanita Bay Park.† It was a beautiful sunny day today, although the temperature was in the 30's.† Here is part of Juanita Bay from the end of the boardwalk, where I spent the next hour or so.
The water level in the lake is always lower in the winter, but today it was about as low as I have ever seen it.† I soon picked up AMERICAN ROBIN and GREAT BLUE HERON.† There were ducks around, of course, and I ended up seeing MALLARD, GREEN-WINGED TEAL, BUFFLEDHEAD, GADWALL, NORTHERN SHOVELER, HOODED MERGANSER, WOOD DUCK, AMERICAN WIGEON, and RING-NECKED DUCK.† Not a bad haul.† There were lots of PIED-BILLED GREBES around, too.
There were a couple of BALD EAGLES; they flew around a little and one of them caught a fish.† They perched on the osprey nesting pole while the one with the fish ate it.
I love eagle pictures, so here is another one.
I added DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT, GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL, †and KILLDEER, but the real show was the TRUMPETER SWANS.† Here is a picture of four of them flying by.
Here is a closeup of a Trumpeter Swan flying.
Another swan picture, showing a pair of them.† Swans mate for life, or at least, for a number of seasons.
They are large birds.† You can see how much larger they are than the two ducks on the right in that picture.
Here is a family picture.† Normally I see adults with one or two young ones, but this pair seems to have successfully almost-raised four young ones.† The juveniles, hatched last year, are the darker ones.† You can see they are a bit smaller than the adults, too.† Swans start breeding when they are about 3 or 4 years old.
Various groups of them took off and flew around from time to time, and here is a picture of a couple of them landing again.
There were at least 24 of them there, at one point.† Here is a picture that shows where they hang out at the mouth of Forbes Creek.† You can see the old highway bridge in the background.† It is part of the park now, and today there were lots of people out and about, enjoying the holiday and the great weather.
It was getting on for lunch time by then, so I headed back toward home.† On my way to the car, there was a single sparrow right next to the path.† Here is a picture of a winter-plumaged GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW.
That's frost on the grass next to the path.† The boardwalk was very frosty and slippery today.
Back at home, I added SONG SPARROW and HOUSE SPARROW at our feeder.† My total for the day was 30 species.
So, 2015 is underway.† I expect to travel to California at least 3 or 4 times this year, and I hope to do Washington State county birding as well.† Washington has 39 counties, and I haven't ever birded in 7 of them.† I'd love to visit all 7 of those this year.† I'm also thinking I'll do a trip to Southeast Arizona in May, reprising my 2011 trip.† In addition to all that, I'm planning a 6 week trip to Fiji (one week) and New Zealand (5 weeks) in October/November.† I haven't made a spreadsheet or added it all up, except roughly, in my head, but I hope to count more than 500 species this year, if I make all those trips.† 2015 - here we go.
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
I went out birding today, for only the second time this year,† Before I get to that, though, I need to report my other year birds.
On January 2, I picked up CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE and BEWICK'S WREN, here at home in our yard.† On January 3, I added Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove), also here in our yard.† Yesterday, on January 5, I saw AMERICAN COOT at Phantom Lake in Bellevue, when I had gone after having lunch in that neighborhood.† That had me at 34 species for the year, after yesterday.
Today I went over to Marymoor Park and walked around.† There weren't many birds, but I got a few for my year list, and I got some pictures.† I was surprised to see 8 or 10 Great Blue Herons sitting on or near the nests in their heronry.† Here is a distant picture of the nest trees.
Here are a couple of closeups I got later of herons on the nests.
I can't imagine they are starting nesting activity in January, but there they were.† Maybe they are claiming the nests for this coming breeding season, or looking for mates or something.† It seemed strange to see them at the nests in January, though.
I saw a lot of Golden-crowned Sparrows today.† Here is one I saw early in my wandering.
There were a couple of Spotted Towhees in that area, too, and here are a couple of pictures of one of them.† I find them to be a very attractive bird.
I also took a picture of an American Crow.† I don't take pictures of them often, and I like crows.
Here is a picture of the Sammamish Slough.† It has been raining a lot lately, and it is pretty high.† In the summer, the closest channel, which looks like the main river in this picture, is dry.
I saw a RED-TAILED HAWK across the slough in a tree, but it was too far away for decent pictures.† One more for my year list, though.
There were another couple of dozen Golden-crowned Sparrows near the parking lot, feeding on the ground or perching in the blackberry brambles when a dog would come by.
I like the colors in that picture.
In among the Golden-crowned Sparrows, there was a lone WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, and it went onto my year list.
While I was walking around, large flocks of geese kept flying overhead.† There must have been at least a couple of hundred of them at one point.† I chased them down later, and the vast majority were CACKLING GEESE.† I also found one small group of CANADA GEESE, which had a few Cacklers mixed in with it.† Here is a picture of a Cackling Goose.
Note the short, stubby bill and the relatively short neck.† Here is a Canada Goose for comparison.
The bill and the neck are the main differentiators, but Canada Goose is also much larger than Cackling Goose.† Here is a picture that shows both species together.
You can see there that there are big ones (Canada Geese) and little ones (Cackling Geese).† They used to be considered subspecies of the same overall species, but a few years ago the Cackling Goose was split off as its own species.† Each of the two species has its own subspecies, too, with a range of size within each species.† I'm not expert enough to tell which subspecies the birds in this picture are, but there is enough size difference that I'm convinced that the little ones are Cackling Geese and the larger ones are Canada Geese.† If you didn't know better, you might think that the smaller ones were young ones, but by the time that most birds can fly, they have reached their adult size, and these are all adult birds.
So, I added four more species to my year list today, bringing me to 38 species for the year.
I have several birding trips planned for this year, and the first one is to Northern California, later this month.† Stay tuned for reports and pictures.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
Today's theme is raptors and owls.† I got up a little late this morning because we lost power during the night for about an hour.† I can't sleep without my CPAP machine, so when the power came back on about 6:45, I managed to get some more sleep.
My birding day started before breakfast.† I was in my basement office when I heard the neighborhood crows making a huge ruckus.† I knew what that meant, so I grabbed my camera and rushed upstairs.† When I got to the back door and looked out, I scared off a hawk that had caught a pigeon.† It was tearing off the feathers while the crows were cawing like mad and flying around.† The pigeon escaped when the hawk flew off; I guess the hawk should have killed it before it started to pick at it.† It all happened much too fast for me to even think about getting a picture.† A short while later, while I was preparing my breakfast, I heard the crows going off again, so I took a look.† The hawk had come back, and I got some very poor pictures.† The light was poor at 8:30 AM on an overcast, foggy winter day, so that's my excuse for the poor quality of the pictures.† Still, I was able to add COOPER'S HAWK to my year list, and here is a profile picture of the bird.
Here is a front view.† Because the streaks on the breast are vertical instead of horizontal, I can tell it was a first year bird, hatched last year.† Here is a front view, showing the streaking.† Check out the pigeon feathers sticking to its feet still.
It flew to the fence and showed its pretty barred tail.
So, that was a good start to my day.† I had seen several postings about sightings of two owl species up at Eide Road in Stanwood.† That is about an hour north of here, and the fog was supposed to burn off, so I headed north after breakfast.† I stopped at Subway and picked up a tuna sandwich for my lunch and went on to Eide Road.† There were about a dozen cars there already, and there was a small group of photographers just up the road from the parking lot.† I joined them and had great views of a perched LONG-EARED OWL.
I have more pictures, but the pictures just don't do justice to how beautiful the feathers on the back are.† The subtle colors were magnificent, seen through binoculars.† That's the back of the bird in my pictures.† It faced the other way for the whole two hours I was there, and mostly it was looking the other way.† Owls are cool in the way they can swivel their heads all the way around.
After taking more pictures, I moved on down the path, in a search for the other owl species that has been reported there this week.† Here is a picture of the fields at Eide Road, to convey an idea of the habitat and weather today.
As promised, there were several SHORT-EARED OWLS hunting over the fields.† Long-eared Owls are nocturnal hunters, and the ones I saw perched today were roosting; that is, sleeping, although they were mostly awake while I was there, it seemed.† Short-eared Owls hunt in the daytime, though.† They were mostly quite far away, and although I got some great looks at them through my binoculars, this is the only halfway decent picture I got of one.
I think their body shape and flat face are interesting.† They are quite attractive when they swoop around while hunting.
After a while I walked back toward where the Long-eared Owls were roosting.† I had heard there was a second one, but I hadn't seen it yet.† On the way, I got this picture of a female NORTHERN HARRIER flying overhead.† There were several harriers out there today, hunting and sometimes interacting with the Short-eared Owls.
Flight shots are always difficult, and I'm pleased with that one.† A little farther along, there were three large birds interacting the sky, and one of them was a ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK, another species I was hoping to see today.† I watched it fly and then land in a distant tree.† The identification was clear, but the distance was too far for a decent picture.† I took some anyway, and because the theme today is raptors and owls, I'll show this very distant picture of a light morph Rough-legged Hawk.
I got good looks at a MARSH WREN and then a RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET for my year list while I was standing there looking at the Rough-legged Hawk and chatting with other birders.† No pictures, though.† (If you will remember, I use ALL CAPS when I first mention a new species for my year list.)
Back near the parking lot, I looked through the thicket where the second Long-eared Owl was supposed to be, and I found it.† It was really deep in the thicket, but I got this peek-a-boo picture anyway.
There just wasn't any way to get a clearer shot at it.† At least I was able to get my camera to focus on the bird, rather than the branches in front of it.
Back with the original Long-eared Owl, I got this picture.
Here is the parking lot, with Mount Baker in the distant background.† It was a beautiful day, as you can see.
Here is a closer view of Mount Baker.
Back with the original Long-eared Owl, I waited and finally it turned and looked back at me.
I know it is a lot of pictures of one species, but supposedly, there are fewer than five records of Long-eared Owl in Snohomish county before this, and it is only the third time I've seen the species, and the first time in Washington.† Here is one last picture, a closeup of its face.
Check out that beak.
I ate my tuna sandwich in my car, at the next parking lot, but no more birds presented themselves.† As I was leaving, though, a Northern Harrier landed in front of me, and I got a picture as it flew away.
Note the characteristic white rump patch.† I like the yellow legs, too.
It was about 1:30 by then, and I had seen the species I was looking for today, so I headed toward home.† I stopped by Thomle Road, though, since it wasn't much out of my way.† Not much there, but I did get a nice picture of a Red-tailed Hawk that I like, and it continues the raptors and owls theme of the day.
This particular bird didnít have a red tail, but I think it was a Red-tailed Hawk nonetheless.† I understand that immature birds donít always have the characteristic red tail, and Red-tailed Hawk has an extremely wide range of plumages anyway.† I think this one is a Red-tailed Hawk, but I'm only a dilettante birder, so I'm always glad to be corrected when I'm wrong.
As I drove back to the main road, I saw this Bald Eagle high in a tree.
My camera kept focusing on the branch in front of the bird, unfortunately, but at least in this picture the eagle is not too much out of focus.† I've had much better Bald Eagle pictures, of course, but again, it was in keeping with the day's theme, so I show it.
My final new bird for my year list today was EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE, seen as I left Tholme Road.† Here is a picture of one of them, showing the black "collar" marking.
So, I added 8 more species to my year list, and I had a great time rambling around in the beautiful weather today.† I'm now at 46 species for the year.
Monday, January 12, 2015
Iím in Sequim, WA tonight, on a quick overnight birding trip to the north end of the Olympic Peninsula.† There was a particular species I wanted to see here, which has been present recently, and there are other winter birds that I can use for my year list, too.† It is an opportunity to add to three of my Washington State lists, as well, since this is the first time Iíve been over here in the winter, since I started keeping Washington county lists.
I caught the 10:30 ferry from Edmonds to Kingston, and from the ferry, I added SURF SCOTER, BRANDTíS CORMORANT, PELAGIC CORMORANT, RED-NECKED GREBE, BRANT, and MEW GULL to my year list, before we pulled out of Edmonds.† At the Kingston end of the run, I added BARROWíS GOLDENEYE, RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, and EARED GREBE before I had to drive off the ferry.
I picked up a tuna sandwich at Subway in Kingston and pushed on toward my goal, which was Port Angeles.† I made a quick stop at Salisbury Point County Park and got COMMON LOON without even leaving my car.† I also added some birds to my Kitsap county list there.
I made one more brief stop at Gardiner Beach in Jefferson county for a few more for my Jefferson county list, but nothing new there for my year list.
Finally arriving at Ediz Hook, the spit that protects Port Angeles harbor, I got down to the real birding for the day.† My first add to my year list was PACIFIC LOON, and I saw more Common Loons as well.† Here is a picture that I think is a Pacific Loon, but Iím not certain.† I saw others that I was much more sure of.
Here is another loon, and Iím pretty sure this one is a Common Loon.† Check out the thickness of the bills at the base, and the overall size and shape of the bills.
Loons are hard for me, though, so Iím not certain of my identifications of these two birds.
There were a couple of BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS along the shore, and I got this picture.
There were a number of American Wigeons there, a species I had seen at Juanita Bay Park back on January 1.† Here is a picture of a male and a female.† I like to show pictures of birds that illustrate the differences in the sexes.
The next species for my year list was BLACK TURNSTONE.† Here is a picture.
Here is a picture of a Brant, which is a small goose.† I had seen them back at the Edmonds ferry terminal, but these were my first Brant in Clallam county.
Next was a little shorebird, a SANDERLING.† Here is a picture.
It was one oíclock by then, and I was hungry, so I ate my lunch in my car at a location where the bird I was looking for had been seen.† While I ate, I noticed two people with binoculars who seemed to be watching something just down the road.† I finished my lunch and drove down to check it out.† Sure enough, they were looking at a couple of SNOW BUNTINGS, the bird I was especially looking for today.† The wouldnít normally be at sea level, but a pair has wintered at Ediz Hook for the last couple of years, I think, and I assume these are the same two birds, coming back for another winter.† I got one quick picture and they disappeared.† The guy who had been watching them said they had gone under a large driftwood log, so I stuck around for 15 or 20 minutes, but they never came out again.† As it turned out, they must have flown off down the beach, unseen by us, and a couple of women down the beach had re-found them.† I drove on down there and got some pictures.† I think they are really attractive little birds, and I hadnít expected to see any this year.† I think this is only the third time I have ever seen the species, and this was my best look ever.† Here are my favorite pictures of them.
So, that was success.† I saw what I had come to see.† But, there were others I wanted to see here today, too, so I moved on.† Another good species I expected to see here was HARLEQUIN DUCK, and I saw a number of them.† Here is a picture of a female and a male.
Here is a picture of a group of them, which I got a little later.
I got good scope views of a couple of COMMON MURRES, so they went on my list.† I had hoped to see Marbled Murrelet as well, but missed that one today.† Maybe tomorrow.
There were a couple of COMMON GOLDENEYES, too, so that was another one for my list.† I had seen their much less common cousin, Barrowís Goldeneye, at the Kingston ferry terminal, and now I completed the set.† There were also a few WESTERN GREBES out in the harbor.
I showed a picture of a Black Turnstone up above, but I had been told that there was another turnstone around as well.† It isnít common at all here, but eventually I saw one RUDDY TURNSTONE, and I even got pictures.
The colors are a little different from the Black Turnstone, and the bright orange legs are a giveaway.† Here are a couple of Black Turnstones for comparison.
It was after 3 oíclock by then, and with the heavy overcast it was getting dark, but I was on the hunt for a couple of other shorebirds that have been seen here recently.† I slowly made my way down the spit, stopping to scan the shoreline, and I was eventually rewarded with good close views of both BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS and DUNLINS, roosting together on the shore.† Here is a Black-bellied Plover in its winter plumage.
The Dunlin were all sleeping, and they had their heads tucked under their wings. I waited and eventually another group of them flew in and I eventually got a decent picture, showing the longish, slightly drooping bill.
I got a picture of a female Red-breasted Merganser there.
I also spotted a group of four LESSER SCAUP for my year list, but they were too far away for pictures.† My final picture for the day is a winter-plumaged WESTERN GULL (I think.† Gulls can be hard for me, but I think this is a Western Gull.)
The size, colors, and shape of the bill are what make me call it a Western Gull.
So, when all was said and done, I added 24 species to my year list today.† It was very satisfying to find the Snow Buntings, and Iím very pleased with my pictures of them.† I added 17 species to my Clallam county list, bringing it to 54.† I added 8 species to my Kitsap county list, with one brief stop and the ferry terminal, to bring that to 19.† I also added 4 to my Jefferson county list with another brief stop, to bring that one to 18.† I plan to stop in Jefferson and Kitsap counties tomorrow on the way home for longer times, and I expect to add a lot more to those two county lists at that time.† I donít expect much more for my year list tomorrow, but there ought to be a handful.
So, with the 24 species I added today, Iím up to 71 for the year now.
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Before I get into today, I have an omission and a correction to cover.† I omitted mentioning that I had gotten RED-BREASTED HUTHATCH for my year list, in my yard on Sunday.† The correction is that any reference yesterday to Eared Grebe should have been Horned Grebe.† I get those two mixed up, when they are in their winter plumage, and I should have checked, rather than rely on my memory.† So, I have Horned Grebe, but not Eared Grebe yet.
This morning I was up and out by 9 o'clock, having already made a quick trip out to Subway to pick up a ham sandwich for my lunch.† I had brought along some leftover ham from home, and I enhanced the sandwich with it in my room, before I checked out.† I had mini peppers and sugar snap peas from home, too, for my lunch.
My first stop was John Wayne Marina, which is adjacent to Sequim.† This from the marina's website:
" John Wayne Marina, featured in the June 2003 issue of SEA Magazine as ďBest of the WestĒ for small marinas, was constructed in 1985 on 22 acres of land donated by the John Wayne family. John Wayne frequented Sequim Bay waters aboard the family yacht (the ďWild GooseĒ) and envisioned a marina in the scenic bay prior to his death. Eventually, this vision became reality under the ownership and auspices of the Port of Port Angeles."
I had four target species there, based on recent reports.† The first one I got was NORTHWESTERN CROW.† Northwestern Crow looks just like American Crow, but they occupy different geographical areas, with overlap.† Sequim is actually in the overlap area, which makes it difficult to distinguish between the two species.† The call is a little different, though, and I distinctly heard two different types of calls when I was there this morning, so I feel good about counting Northwestern Crow.† It is a controversial thing among birders, though.
There weren't a lot of birds visible from the northern end of the marina, but I scoped the bay.† I didn't see any of my targets the first time through, but the ones I was looking for are diving birds, so I did it again.† The second time I picked up a nice pair of MARBLED MURRELETS, another of my targets there.† They aren't easy to see, so it was great to knock that one off so early in the year.
I kept scanning, and eventually I spotted a pair of LONG-TAILED DUCKS (formerly named Oldsquaw, before that was deemed to be ethnically insensitive.).† I got great scope looks at them, but I wish they had been close enough to get a picture, because the male is quite striking in his breeding plumage.† That was one of my main targets for this trip, as they aren't very common.
I also added COMMON MERGANSER there, a nice male.† Mostly you seem to see females.
I had three of my four targets, so I decided to head for my next stop, in Jefferson county.† Today was mostly about county birding.† I wanted to pump up my Jefferson and Kitsap county lists.† But, as I pulled out of the marina, I saw there were a number of ducks and water birds at the south end of the marina.† So, I turned around and went back and set up my scope again.† I got lucky and found the male EURASIAN WIGEON that others have been reporting there lately.† Now I can stop scanning every group of American Wigeons that I see.† Eurasian Wigeon is a vagrant from Asia that isn't supposed to be on this side of the Pacific.† They say that about 1% of the wigeons in this area are Eurasian Wigeons, so you just have to keep looking.† That was my fourth target for John Wayne Marina, so I headed toward Jefferson and Kitsap counties to add to my county lists.
On Anderson Lake Road, in Jefferson county, I saw a COMMON RAVEN in the road, eating some kind of food that had spilled out of a container.† I moved on to Indian Island and Marrowstone Island, heading for Fort Flagler.† There were a lot of NORTHERN PINTAILS in the waters around Indian Island, so that was another one for my year list.
On Marrowstone Island, coming into the little town of Nordland, I spotted a BELTED KINGFISHER on a wire, my first of the year.† I got this poor picture of it a few minutes later.
While I was stopped, trying for a picture of the kingfisher, I noticed a shorebird.† Here is a picture of my first GREATER YELLOWLEGS of the year.
I moved on up the peninsula to Fort Flagler.† I donít think I've ever been there before, and certainly not since I started birding.† I got some birds for my Jefferson county list, and I got this picture of a White-crowned Sparrow.† It is a mundane bird, but the picture is sharp and colorful.
There were a couple more kingfishers there, too, and I added several water birds to my Jefferson county list there.† I had pumped my Jefferson county list up from 18 species to 33 species today, so I was ready to head on to Kitsap county.
My destination in Kitsap county was Point No Point, at the end of the Hansville peninsula, just north and west of Kingston.† There is a county park at the eastern end of the tip of the peninsula and a modern lighthouse there.† I have seen many reports over the years of all the great sea birds that have been seen from Point No Point, so I was looking forward to adding a lot of winter sea birds and gulls to my Kitsap county list.† Interestingly, there were almost no sea birds there at all, and only a couple of the most common gulls.† I had read that the sea birds and gulls disappear at slack tide, so maybe that was what was going on today.
I sat in my car and ate my humble lunch, and then wandered around the lighthouse park a bit.† I actually ended up adding quite a few land birds to my county list, at that park and at other places I stopped in the area.† Here is a view of the bay to the north and west of Point No Point.† It is very typical of the places I was visiting today.
I stopped at Norwegian Park and did manage to see a small group of Pacific Loons offshore, for my county list.† I moved on to the western end of the Hansville area, to Foulweather Bluff.† I got several species from the end of the road, including Black-bellied Plover and Mew Gull, for my county list.† Just before the end of the road there were some houses and there were a lot of birds flying around and feeding in several yards.† I parked my car and got 3 or 4 more for my county list there, and I even added one to my year list, VARIED THRUSH.† There were several of them around, but none of my pictures came out very good.† Here is the best of them - a male Varied Thrush.† It is blurry, but it does show the bird.
I still had plenty of time to catch my ferry out of Kingston, so I went back to Point No Point to see if any more birds had shown up.† They hadn't, but I did get this picture of a guy walking his cat.
The cat seemed to be enjoying the walk, and the guy said it was 17 years old and he has been walking it for 5 or 6 years.† The cat didn't pay much attention to a dog being walked nearby, but the dog seemed to want to go after the cat and the dog's owner had to restrain the dog.† Maybe the dog wanted to be friends.
I ended up adding 18 species to my Kitsap county list today, to bring it to 37.† I feel good that Jefferson and Kitsap are no longer small total counties.
So, with that, I headed for the ferry and home.† While I was waiting for the ferry to leave, I got this picture of three male Red-breasted Mergansers in the Kingston harbor.
The birds were a bit distant for a close up shot, but I like the wild hair do of that species so much that I'll show this blurry closer shot anyway.
So, that was my little overnight trip to the Olympic Peninsula.† I ended up adding ten more species to my year list today, to bring me to 81 species on the year.† I got all the targets I had a reasonable chance at, and some other good birds as well.† I had never been to Fort Flagler or Point No Point before, and I always enjoy seeing new places, so that was good, too.† The weather was pretty good for winter - no rain, but overcast most of the time, with some sun once in a while.† I was surprised how cold it feels when it is 42 degrees out there and there is a breeze.
Overall for the trip, I added 34 species to my year list on the two day trip, 26 to my Kitsap county list, and 19 to my Jefferson county list.† I also added 21 to my Clallam county list, which was unexpected, as I already had 37 on that list.
Now I have about a week and a half before I head for Northern California for some birding and visiting with friends.
Sunday, January 25, 2015
Iím on the road again. (Cue Willie Nelson). Tonight Iím in Long Beach, Washington, near the southwestern tip of the state. I got here via Wahkiakum county, and today was my first time ever in Wahkiakum county, I think, so I started my county list today. Wahkiakum county is located on the Columbia River, between the coast and Longview (Interstate 5). It is a tiny out-of-the-way county, and while driving through it today, I donít think I ever saw a motel, a restaurant, or a gas station Ė not to mention a town of any kind. Cathlamet is the county seat, and it had a population of 532 in 2010. I drove through it, I guess, but the actual town, if it exists, must be off the main highway. The closest thing I saw to any kind of town there was a marina with a couple of dozen boats in it, and a boat launch.
Anyway, Wahkiakum county is home to the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-tailed Deer. That is quite a name for a pretty basic place. There are a couple of auto tour roads through the refuge, and I drove around. But, before I got to the refuge, I stopped at a county park on the river, just inside the county. The only bird I saw there was a Common Merganser, out on the river and that started my county list.
As I drove along the river, there were some ducks, so I stopped to check them out. They turned out to be GREATER SCAUP, one I needed for my year list.
Coming in to what I thought was Cathlamet (and maybe it was), I saw a couple of birds and stopped. A yard had feeders, and I picked up another four species there. I stopped and got out of the car and used my binoculars there, along the highway.
I ate my Subway tuna sandwich at the marina I mentioned, and I picked up 7 more species there. It was a beautiful day, with temps in the mid 50ís and sunny except for patches of fog.
At the aforementioned refuge, I drove Steamboat Slough Road and added to my county list. Nothing remarkable, just a steady accumulation of the winter species one would expect. Belted Kingfisher was maybe my best one in that stretch. I did get a couple of pictures there, though. Here is a Bald Eagle, and I think it is a second year bird, based on its coloration. I didnít realize that Bald Eagles could be so light colored until I saw it in my book. The bird seemed too big to be a hawk, but when I saw the massive bill, I knew it had to be an eagle.
Bald Eagles donít get their distinctive white heads and tails until their fourth year.
Here is a nice Red-tailed Hawk. I saw a number of them today.
You can see how much smaller the bill is on the hawk, compared to the eagle.
I expected Steamboat Slough Road to be open all the way through, since I had phoned to ask about it and had been told it was open. Well, it was closed today, and so I retraced my steps and drove on to Brooks Slough Road. I managed to pick up 3 or 4 more species along there, including my second year list bird of the day, BREWERíS BLACKBIRD. Here is a picture of that guy.
There were also a lot of Golden-crowned Sparrows along Brooks Slough Road, and I spotted one Song Sparrow as well and got a picture.
I stopped one more place in Wahkiakum county, at a park on the west side of the county, on the river. I actually got out of the car and walked for ten or fifteen minutes there (the rest of my birding was from the car, basically, although I did get out a few times. I never ventured far from the car, though. Anyway, at this last park, I picked up Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Varied Thrush for my Wahkiakum county list, both of which were ďgood birdsĒ.
It was after 3 oíclock by then, so I headed for my humble room in Long Beach, which was about an hour away. Long Beach is in Pacific county, and I only had 15 species in Pacific county before today, so one of my goals for today and tomorrow morning was to add to my Pacific county list. I managed to see 7 more species in Pacific county today, which pleased me, since I was mostly just driving through, with one detour as I neared Long Beach.
So, when all was said and done, I had only gotten two for my year list, but the point of today was to add to my Washington county lists. I got 34 species in Wahkiakum county, which is excellent. I would have been quite happy with 25. I also added 7 to my Pacific list, bringing it to 22, which is also quite satisfactory, since I didnít really expect to add any to that list today. Tomorrow morning, I plan to spend a couple of hours here in Pacific county, and I hope to add more then. It looks to me like it is going to be foggy in the morning here, though, and that could interfere with my plans. We shall see.
For the year, my two species today brings me to 83 for the year. As a reminder, Iím on my way to California, first to visit my friend Ted in the Monterey area, and then to Sacramento for a reunion with a couple of old high school and college buddies. I hope to see some birds along the way, and I hope to get some pictures to share.
Monday, January 26, 2015
I was expecting fog this morning, but it was just a little hazy, with nice sunshine.† The temps were in the high 50ís by the middle of the day Ė downright balmy for January in this area.† Normally you could expect rain and clouds.
I had my breakfast (3 hard boiled eggs, yogurt, and turkey sausages Ė brought from home) and went out for a short search around Long Beach, looking for more county birds.† On the beach, from my car, I got Sanderling and RING-BILLED GULL, thus adding to my year list with the gull.† I got five more species for my Pacific county list just driving around town for another 15 or 20 minutes, without ever leaving my car.† I stopped at Subway and got a ham sandwich for my lunch, and went back to pack up and check out.† I also added some very good leftover ham I had brought from home, just to juice up the sandwich.
My first stop was Cape Disappointment State Park.† It was my first time there, and I had fun driving around and exploring it.† At my first real stop, I played the song and enticed a lovely little PACIFIC WREN out to sit in the open and sing back to me.† Too little light in the forest for a picture.† I picked up four more duck species on a lake in the park, and then added Common Loon and Horned Grebe just outside the park Ė all for my county list, of course.
I drove a couple of back roads, looking for more ducks, and eventually I was rewarded with my first CINNAMON TEAL of the year.† I drove on, but then I reconsidered, and I went back for pictures.† The male Cinnamon Teal was sort of hanging out with a male and female Mallard.† He might have had designs on the female, based on the behavior I watched.† Here is the male Cinnamon Teal following the female Mallard.
At one point, the male Mallard seemed to be putting himself between the female and the teal.† Here is a picture of the Mallard and the male Cinnamon Teal.† You can see how much larger the Mallard is than the Cinnamon Teal.
Soon after that, the male Mallard chased the teal away.† Here is the male Cinnamon Teal on his own.
Okay, that is a lot of pictures for some damn ducks, but I thought the whole thing was interesting, and I donít have many pictures today.† Consider it padding, to build up my report a little.
So, soon after that, I abandoned Washington State and headed across the bridge to Astoria, Oregon, heading for my humble room for tonight, in Springfield, Oregon.
I had some extra time, so I decided to stop at Ankeny NWR, between Salem and Albany.† I was hoping to pick up a swan there, for my year list.† On my way from the freeway to the refuge, I spotted an AMERICAN KESTREL on a wire, and shortly after that I saw my first WESTERN SCRUB-JAY of the year.† I stopped at a junction that I had visited last year and saw a couple of ACORN WOODPECKERS, just like I had done last year there.
At the overlook at Ankeny NWR, I saw RUDDY DUCK for the first time this year.† Here is a picture of one of those small ducks.
There were two TUNDRA SWANS there, too.† Thatís the bird I was looking for there.† Here is a very distant picture of them.† They must have been 200 to 300 yards away.† The picture isnít anything great, at all, but I never cease to be amazed I can get any picture at all at that kind of distance.
The swans were either preening or had their heads tucked under their wings the whole time I was there.† Here is another picture of one of them.
Even at that distance, I think the pictures are good enough to identify them as Tundra Swans, rather than the much less common (here) Trumpeter Swan.† With my scope I could see the yellow dash in front of the eye, which confirmed the identification.
Among the ducks there was one CANVASBACK, a good one for my year list.† They arenít very common, although Iím sure Iíll see more this year.
There were also two or three YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS flying around, hawking flying bugs from the tops of trees.† Here is a picture of one of those guys.
That was it for my birding today.† I motored on down the freeway to my room at the Super 8 in Springfield.† There is a Panda Express across the street, and I plan to walk over there and pick up some dinner, when I finish this report and get it sent off.
So, I added 15 more to my Pacific county list today, bringing it to a robust 37.† Very satisfactory.† My Washington State county birding for this trip was quite successful.
I added 10 more species to my year list, to bring it to 93.† Itíll go up nicely over the next week or so, as I pick up California birds.† There wasnít anything special or rare today, but it was a very pleasant day of travel, with a little birding thrown in.† Tomorrow it is mostly travel, and I donít know how much birding Iíll do.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Itís a short report today, with no pictures.
I was up and out by about 9 this morning, after having my hard-boiled eggs, turkey sausages, and Greek yogurt.† My first stop was the Manzanita rest area, just north of Grantís Pass.† I had seen a couple of California species there last year, at the northern end of their range, but didnít get anything new for my year list there today, and no pictures.† It was dark, overcast, and chilly.
I filled my gas tank in Medford and got a Subway tuna sandwich, then continued on down the highway.† As I said yesterday, it was mostly a driving day today.† I stopped at All Star Liquor, just across the border into California, to check their prices.† They were about 15% better than Liquor Barn, where I usually stop, so Iíll be stopping there on the way home and loading up the car with booze.
I was getting a little sleepy by the time I got to Redding, so I stopped at a Mickey Dís and got a senior coffee.† I only ended up drinking about half of it, but it kept me alert for the rest of the drive.
My first year-bird for the day was TURKEY VULTURE.† I saw a number of them.† My destination for today was the Motel 6 in Willows, CA, and I got to Willows just a couple of minutes after 4.† I continued on down the road for another 6 or 7 miles, planning to do a quick drive through at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.† My original plan had been to stop there tomorrow morning, but since I was a little early, I decided to check it out this afternoon.
As it turned out, I didnít even have to do the auto tour route, which takes at least half an hour.† As I approached the refuge, there were many hundreds of white geese on the ground and in the water, fairly near the road.† I stopped and got out my scope and took a look.† The vast majority were SNOW GEESE, which was expected.† I can see Snow Goose at home, in the Skagit Valley in the winter, but I was looking for another very similar goose.† After about ten minutes of scanning, I was able to pick out a little group of three ROSSíS GEESE, in the middle of all the Snow Geese.† Iím sure there were a lot more of them, scattered throughout the flock, but I saw three for sure.† The two species are quite similar, but Rossís Goose is a little smaller and the bill is different.† With the scope, it was easy to see that these three were Rossís Geese.† Success!† That was the one I wanted, as Rossís Geese donít spend the winter in Washington.† Nearby I spotted a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, too, another one for my year list.†
As I drove back to Willows, I saw a GREAT EGRET perched on the top of a small evergreen tree, right along the road.† Iíll see lots of them on this trip, but it seemed unusual to see one at the top of a tree, so I went back to try for a picture.† As I pulled off the highway onto the shoulder, it spooked the bird, though, and it flew away.† So, no pictures today at all.
My Motel 6 is great.† It has been completely remodeled recently, it is a large room with a king sized bed, it has a nice little refrigerator with a freezer compartment, and it has a microwave, so I can prepare my dinner and heat up my breakfast.† It smells fresh and is on the ground floor, with a parking place right in front.† Everything I need, and for less than 50 bucks.† Score!† I was expecting it to be good, as I had checked out reviews online on the TripAdvisor website, which I have been using more and more lately.
So, my total of five species today brings me to 98 species for the year so far.† Tomorrow is again mostly a driving day, but I do have plans to stop and look for two rare species along the way, at two different places.† There are recent reports, and Iím hopeful, but either one would be an excellent one to get, and neither is a certainty.† I hope to end up on the coast, just north of Monterey tomorrow night, God Willing And The Creeks Donít Rise.† Maybe Iíll get some pictures tomorrow, but maybe not, with the kind of birding I expect to do.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
I was away this morning by about 8:45.† It was to be mostly a traveling day, but I had two rare species I was planning to look for.
My first stop was at the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, where a rare duck has been seen recently.† I found the place it was most commonly reported seen from, along the busy highway, and there were a couple of birders with scopes already there.† Unfortunately, they hadnít been able to find the rare duck among the many hundreds of ducks, geese, and shorebirds there.† I joined them in the search, but none of us found it while I was there.† The light was terrible, since we were looking south, and it was a just a little hazy besides.† I gave up after half an hour or more and headed back to the freeway.† I did add WHITE-FACED IBIS, BLACK-NECKED STILT, and LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER to my year list Ė all birds I was bound to see on this trip somewhere.† I saw the rarity, Falcated Duck, here in 2012, the first year it wintered here.† At that time, it was only the third record of it in California, which gives you an idea how rare it is in the US.† It is an Asian duck, and it should be wintering somewhere in southeast Asia, I guess.† I presume it is the same bird, returning here each winter.† I missed it today, but I might be able to try again on my way home, or when Iím staying in Sacramento.
After a stop in Dixon for a burger and fries, as I pulled out of the Jack-in-the-Box parking lot, I saw a raptor fly up to a streetlight post across the street.† I was able to get one picture of it before it flew away, a lovely Cooperís Hawk.† Not one I needed for my year list, but a nice bird.† I always like getting pictures of raptors.
It flew to another light post near by, and I was able to get another picture, showing its front.† The vertical streaking on the underside indicates it is a juvenile bird.
I cruised the gravel roads south of Dixon where Mountain Plovers, a very uncommon species, have been seen recently.† I spent at least an hour driving around, but never saw any.† Iíve only seen them once before, I think.† I ran into one other birder who was looking for them, and she hadnít seen them either.† There are a few dozen of them in the flock, evidently, but they could be anywhere in a few square mile area, and today they werenít where they could be seen from any of the roads, it seems.† I could try for them again, too, maybe on my way to Sacramento on Sunday, especially if there are further reports of them being seen.† There were a lot of SAVANNAH SPARROWS around, and also a lot of WESTERN MEADOWLARKS.† Here is a picture of a meadlowlark.
I saw a lot of American Kestrels today, usually sitting on wires.† They usually flew when I approached, but I got a distant picture of this male American Kestrel.
I found four BURROWING OWLS where I had read they have been seen.† Here is a picture of two of them, pretty distant, Iím sorry to say.
I saw MOURNING DOVES two or three times.† Here is a picture of some Mourning Doves.
I also saw 3 or 4 LOGGERHEAD SHRIKES at various points.† Here is the best picture I could get.† They kept flying off before I could get close enough for a good picture.
The last year-bird I got for the day was a distant SAYíS PHOEBE.† By that time I had used up my time, and I had to hit the road.
On my way to Monterey, I stopped at a large fruit stand called Casa de Fruta, on the coast side of the Pacheco Pass, mainly to use their rest room.† In the parking lot there were at least 3 peacocks wandering around.† I didnít count them for my year list, as they seemed pretty domesticated to me, and I suspect they feed them and protect them.† Here is a picture, though.† A very colorful bird, with lots of feathers.
There is a population of peacocks at Solano Lake county park, and I consider them countable, as they seem to be reproducing and living on their own.† Iíll try for the species there, next week, when Iím visiting my friend Fred in Sacramento.
So, I struck out on both of my rarities today.† I had fun looking, though, and thatís the nature of birding.† Sometimes you win and sometimes you donít.† Even though I didnít see either target species today, I still feel like I won, because I had fun and was out there birding.† I also picked up 9 easy species for my year list today, bringing me to 107 for the year.† Burrowing Owl was the ďbestĒ bird for the day, I guess.
I plan to spend the next three days here in the Monterey area, and Iíll add a lot more easy ones to my year list, Iím sure, and weíll look for some difficult ones.† Stay tuned for reports.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Before I get into todayís birding, I need to do a little housekeeping.† I updated my spreadsheet for the year last night, meaning I transferred the sightings for the last several days to my spreadsheet for the year.† I also was reviewing the spreadsheet to make a list of birds I wanted to see here I the Monterey area Ė ones I wonít have an easy time seeing elsewhere.† In the process of doing that, I discovered three species I had seen this year that I had neglected to note in my little notebook Ė PIGEON GUILLEMOT, NORTHERN FLICKER, and STELLERíS JAY.† So, I added those three to my year total, bringing me to 110 for the year when I started today.
This morning Ted and I headed north and east, after stopping to pick up Subway sandwiches.† Our first stop was the area east of Hollister, in search of raptors. Ė two particular raptors that we had seen in that area before.† We drove out John Smith Road to Santa Ana Valley Road and drove up and down that road.† We saw a number of Red-tailed Hawks of various plumages, but not the two raptors we were looking for.† When we got back to the intersection of John Smith and Santa Ana Valley Roads, we stopped because I had spotted a white spot in a distant tree.† It turned out to be a light morph FERRUGINOUS HAWK, a bird I had only seen twice before in my life, both times in this same area.† It was a very distant view, but we had one of our three targets for the day.
Oh yes, I should mention that before we even left Tedís condo on the beach, I picked up BROWN PELICAN and BLACK PHOEBE for my year list.† Along Santa Ana Valley Road, we also got onto a group of at least half a dozen LESSER GOLDFINCHES.† I also saw my first NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD of the year along there.
After getting the Ferruginous Hawk, we moved on south on Santa Ana Valley Road, and turned up Quien Sabe Road.† A couple of YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIES flew across the road, so they went onto my year list.† Then, as we neared the end of Quien Sabe Road, there was a large raptor on the ground.† A second one flew in, and they posed briefly for us.† We determined they were both young GOLDEN EAGLES with good binocular views.† The light was wrong, but I still would have liked to have tried for pictures, but they took off before I could get ready to shoot, and we watched them in the air as we drove down the road.† One flew over the hills and out of our sight, but the other one circled around overhead for a while, and I got some pictures of it in the air.† It is always hard to focus on a flying bird, but I got this picture of a young (first or second year, I think) Golden Eagle.
I wish I had been able to get pictures of them on the ground because they were very impressive.
So, having seen the second of our two main targets for the day, we headed south to the East entrance to Pinnacles National Monument.† I was hungry by then, and we were pushing on to eat our sandwiches at Pinnacles.† On our way into the park we had to stop, though, for a flock of BAND-TAILED PIGEONS, another good one for my year list.† I think it is the first time Iíve seen Band-tailed Pigeon in California.† I didnít get a picture then, but later in the afternoon we saw more of them, and I got this picture of one on the ground.
At that same stop, I got this picture of a Western Scrub-Jay that I especially like.
We found our way to the Bear Gulch picnic area and had our sandwiches at a table there, with a view of some of the cliffs of Pinnacles.† Here is a picture of the cliffs we had a view of.
We were watching the sky above the cliffs, looking for our third main target of the day, but only saw a couple of Turkey Vultures.† On the hill behind us CALIFORNIA QUAIL were calling, and I got this picture of a male.
Across the road I picked up my first OAK TITMOUSE of the year and got this picture, which I really like.† I think it is the best picture of an Oak Titmouse I have ever gotten.
I like the way the branch it is sitting on is so sharply in focus, but the background is so nicely blurred.
While we were eating our lunch, a ranger came by and we chatted with him.† He gave us some tips on where to look for the target bird we wanted so much.† When we finished lunch, we moved back down the valley to the Visitor Center and talked to another ranger there, getting further information on our target species.† While we were looking for it, we noticed a huge group of maybe 50 WILD TURKEYS across the road.† They all were females, it seemed, and we read later that in the winter, Wild Turkeys often form same-sex flocks.† Here is a picture of a female Wild Turkey.
Later we saw a smaller group of male Wild Turkeys, and here is a picture of one of them.
Note the red neck, the more colorful hindquarters, and the little tuft of feathers hanging down from its breast.† All of those indicate it is a male.
We drove through the campground and stopped where we could watch the ridge to the south, where our target species was supposed to show up in the late afternoon.† It was early, but we were still hopeful.† While we looked, we noticed a large number of Varied Thrushes in the area.† I donít think Iíve seen Varied Thrush in California before, at least not in this kind of number.† I tried for pictures, but none did the species justice.† Here are my three best efforts, none of them very good.
I just couldnít ever get very good light on one of them, so this was the best I could do.
I picked up WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH there, too, and got this picture of an Acorn Woodpecker, one I had seen the other day in Oregon.
It was getting late by then, after 3 oíclock, and we had over an hour of driving to get back to Tedís house, so we prepared to head out.† But, before we left, Ted needed to use a rest room, so we took care of that.† While he was doing that, I wandered around and saw more Varied Thrushes and Acorn Woodpeckers, but then it was time to head for home.† But, as we approached the car, at the last possible minute, I noticed a group of about 6 or 8 large black birds in the distance, over the ridge, so I put my binoculars on them.† By golly, most of them were Turkey Vultures, but two were the last of our three main targets for the day, CALIFORNIA CONDORS.† Here is a distant picture that shows a size comparison between a couple of Turkey Vultures and much larger condor.
Turkey Vultures are very large birds, but condors are huge.† Here is my best picture showing the white pattern on the underside of the wings of California Condor.
Those birds might have been a mile away, so Iím quite pleased to get any picture of them at all.†
So, we had the Trifecta Ė three for three for our target species Ė Ferruginous Hawk, Golden Eagle, and California Condor.† It was an amazing day of birding.
On our way home, coming into Hollister, there was a hawk on a light pole, and it was my first RED-SHOULDERED HAWK of the year.† Here is a picture of that guy.
For the day, I added 14 species to my year list, bringing me to 124 for the year.† Tomorrow Ted and his wife have other duties to tend to, so Iíll be on my own to bird around the Monterey area.† I plan to concentrate on the species I donít expect to see anywhere else this year.† There are 24 species on my area target list, and I got 4 of them today.† Tomorrow will be much more productive in terms of numbers, as I concentrate on shorebirds and gulls, but I wonít see any birds as ďgoodĒ as our three main targets from today.† Saturday will be our ďcleanupĒ day, when we try to get as many of the remaining species as possible.
Friday, January 30, 2015
As I mentioned yesterday, I was on my own today.† I started the day by going out on the beach and looking for Snowy Plovers.† No joy.† I got this picture of some Sanderlings who were roosting, waiting for the tide to go out again, though.
Here is a close up of a Sanderling that I like.
So, giving up on the Snowy Plovers for the time being, I headed out to Moss Landing harbor.† My first stop was at the roost for BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS that has been there for a couple of years.† They are night feeders and roost in these trees in the daytime.† Here is a picture of one of them.
When I got out of the car there, though, there was a guy with a camera taking pictures of a hawk on a wire.† It was a Red-tailed Hawk, and I took some pictures, too.† I like this first one because the hawk is showing off its red tail.
I like this second picture because it shows one of the blackbirds that were harassing the hawk.
Finally, the hawk flew off to a pole and I got this picture of it from the front.
Meanwhile, the guy with a camera told me there was a Merlin down the way on a wire.† I could see it was a small falcon, so went down there, but it turned out to be an American Kestrel, not a Merlin, and I got this poor picture of it.† The backlighting defeated me this time, but you can see it is a male American Kestrel, anyway.
My next stop was the Moonglow Dairy.† It is a well known birding spot in the area, and my go-to place for a particular blackbird species.† As expected, I picked up TRICOLORED BLACKBIRD for my year list there.† I also saw some FORSTERíS TERNS out over the Elkhorn Slough.
Next I stopped at the Moss Landing Wildlife Area, across the highway from the harbor.† I got my first MARBLED GODWIT of the year there.† After that, I went across the road to Jetty Road, which gives views of the north end of the harbor.† The tide was going out, but pretty high still, when I got there.† There were some shorebirds, but over the hour or two I was there, many more came in.† I added AMERICAN AVOCET, WILLET, LONG-BILLED CURLEW, LEAST SANDPIPER, WESTERN SANDPIPER, and SNOWY EGRET without leaving my car.† I didnít bother with pictures as I was mostly looking south, into the sun.† I moved on down to the gull roost and got out with my scope to look at the gulls.† I added CALIFORNIA GULL and HEERMANNíS GULL right away, and eventually was able to identify several THAYERíS GULLS as well.† I was pleased to be able to add Thayerís Gull to my year list, as I doubt I will see them anywhere else this year.† The gulls were too far away for good pictures, to I didnít bother there, either.
Moving on down to the end of the road, I again scanned the water and was finally able to positively identify EARED GREBE, after a lot of looking and consulting my field guide.† Back at the north end of the harbor, the tide had gone out some and there were many hundreds of birds, busily feeding.† I was looking for Red Knot, as people had reported one or two of them there, but I never found one.† I did get SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, though, and that was good.† Then I spotted what might have been my best bird of the day, a single RED-THROATED LOON.
So, it was coming on lunch time by then, and I had almost all of my target species.† I had forgotten my phone this morning, so I stopped by Tedís condo and picked it up, and then gassed up the car and got a gut bomb at Burger King.
For my afternoon adventure, I went down to Pacific Grove and drove around the point from Asilomar State Beach to Monterey.† I had two or three possible species I could see there, although none of them was very likely.† I managed to see a WHIMBREL, though, almost right away, so that was one down.† I didnít get any more for my year list on that drive, but I stopped a number of times and tried.† One of the ones I was looking for was Surfbird.† They arenít very common at all, but they often associate with the more common Black Turnstone.† I saw a couple of groups of Black Turnstones, but never could pick out a Surfbird.† Here is a poorish picture of a couple of Black Turnstones.
Here is a Black-bellied Plover.
Here is a picture of a Great Egret.
The egret caught a little fish, and here is a picture of the bird with the small fish.
It would take a lot of fish that size to keep a big bird like this going, it seems to me.† I guess a snack is better than nothing, though.
Here is a picture of the rocky coast along there.
Hereís a picture of a flycatcher that was hunting flying insects on the beach, a Sayís Phoebe, one I had added to my year list a couple of days ago while I was looking for the Mountain Plovers.
At one point I had good views of a Black Oystercatcher, and I got this picture.
Hereís a view looking down the coast toward downtown Monterey.
So, eventually I gave up on the Surfbird and headed back to Tedís place.† When I got there, I went out onto the beach again, to look for the plover again.† I walked north along the beach, and just as I was about to turn back, I spotted a couple of them hunkered down in depressions on the beach.† Here is a picture of a couple of SNOWY PLOVERS.
Snowy Plovers are endangered and protected, and they band them with the colored bands you can see on the legs of the bird in this picture.† The colors indicated the date and place the bird was caught and banded.† The second bird wasnít banded, which probably means it was hatched last year and hasnít yet been caught and banded.† You can see the second one in this next picture, and see there arenít any bands on its spindly little legs.
So, that was it for my birding today.† I ended up adding 18 to my total for the year, today, to bring me to 142 for the year.† Iíve pretty well cleaned up my target list here, now.† There are a couple Iíll look for tomorrow, and a few others that arenít targets in particular because I can see them other places, so I should add something to my year list tomorrow, but it wonít be very many.† We shall see.† Ted and I plan to head north to some different places, and weíll see what we can find.
Saturday, January 31, 2015
So, today was cleanup day in Monterey.† The idea today was to try for a couple of species I hadnít seen here yet, and see some other easy ones.
We started late because we went out to breakfast first, and our first stop was the Strawberry Road pond in the Elkhorn Slough area.† As had been reported, we saw three BLUE-WINGED TEAL there, so I was off to a good start.† As we were looking at the pond, we heard some loud birdsong from behind us, and I actually recognized it.† It was a CALIFORNIA THRASHER, singing away.† I played the song on my phone, and it responded, but kept out of sight in the bushes.† Eventually I got a brief look at it, but I would have counted it anyway, because Iím counting ďheard onlyĒ birds this year, as I did last year.
We stopped briefly at Kirby Park, but didnít see anything new there.† Next we went up into Santa Cruz county and went to the end of Lee Road, where you could see the confluence of Struve Slough and Watsonville Slough.† Ted had been there before, but I never had.† As soon as we got there, we saw about 18 or 20 AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS, the one I wanted there.† They were too far away for a picture, but I got a picture of a couple of them at the end of the day, and Iíll show it later in this report.† The habitat looked good for it, so I played the song and got a response from a SORA, a reclusive rail species that is hard to see, but is usually quite vocal in response ot playing its song.
We made our way to a part of Watsonville Slough we had been to before, near the Nature Center there, and looked around.† Not much there, but I did pick up my first GREAT TAILED GRACKLES of the year.† Great-tailed Grackle is a Southwestern species that has been moving into California in recent years.
Next we got sandwiches at Subway in Watsonville and went up to Pinto Lake county park.† We walked out on to one of the trails and found a bench to sit on while we ate our lunch.† It turned out that it was at the third ďholeĒ of a Frisbee golf course, and while we were there, about half a dozen parties came through, playing Frisbee or disc golf.† You throw a disc down a course and have to get it into a basket at the ďholeĒ, counting the number of throws you make.† It was interesting to see so many people playing the game, and the course was really interesting because it was through trees and ravines and along trails.† People were walking and biking on the trails, so they had to play around them as well.
It turned out to be pretty birdy there, which is why we were there Ė I had read about all the birds people had seen there.† We had birds I didnít need, but we also got TOWNSENDíS WARBLER while we were eating, and then a HERMIT THRUSH showed up and I got this ďsoftĒ picture of it before it flew on.
When we finished eating, we walked a while and I added CALIFORNIA TOWHEE to my year list.† Here is a picture of my first of many California Towhees for the year, I expect.
It is a plain gray-brown, ground-feeding bird, but with that cinnamon color under the tail.† We saw several Ruby-crowned Kinglets and other birds, and then I got my final year-bird of the day, a HOUSE WREN.
The day had turned out beautiful.† It was 70 degrees and sunny when we left the park.† On our way home we stopped at Jetty Road at Moss Landing harbor, to look for a couple of unlikely species I still needed.† Here is a picture of the harbor with the tide out.† There were many hundreds of shorebirds feeding on the muddy edges of the water in this view.
One of the species I still need is Short-billed Dowitcher.† They look very much Long-billed Dowitcher, and the best way to tell them apart is supposed to be by their voice.† We saw a group of them feeding right next to the road, and we listened to the little sounds they were making as they fed.† I played the calls on my phone for both the Short-billed and Long-billed Dowitcher, and we had a hard time deciding which we were hearing.† We were both leaning toward the Short-billed, which was the one I still needed.† (I had picked up the Long-billed at a location where the Short-billed donít appear, but both show up where we were today.)† But then, some of the birds flew off, and they made what we both agreed was the Long-billed sound.† Also, when I played the Long-billed call on my phone, the birds in front of us all stopped feeding and stood at attention, making us think they might be Long-billed.† I took some pictures, and here are two of them.
The differences between the species are very small and very subtle, but one difference is that the wings on the subspecies of Short-billed Dowitcher that is a West Coast bird usually extend just beyond the tail.† In the birds today, the wings are no longer than the tails, and maybe a little shorter in fact.† You can see that in the pictures above.† So, my conclusion when all the evidence was in was that they were Long-billed Dowitchers, the one I had already counted.† Too bad.† Okay, that is far, far more than you wanted to hear about dowitchers, but these reports are for my own records as much as for sharing with other people, and I wanted to record my observations and logic for my future self.
There were a lot of Brown Pelicans roosting there in the harbor, and I got this picture of one of them.† The red neck and yellow crown are colors they get in the breeding season, which is coming up soon, I think.
Most of the pelicans were either sleeping, with their heads tucked in, or preening.† It must be hard to preen with such a huge awkward bill.† Here is a picture of some of them preening.
To our surprise, there were also two of the American White Pelicans there at Jetty Road, and here is a picture of them.
You canít tell in that picture, of course, but they are quite a bit larger than the Brown Pelicans.
There were also some Brant there.† Brant are an attractive little goose.
The little duck behind them is a female Bufflehead.
So, that was it for our day.† I added 9 species to my year list today, bringing me to a total of 151 for the year.
Tomorrow I plan to head up to Sacramento to my friend Fredís house, to watch the Seahawks win their second Super Bowl in a row.† On Tuesday our old friend from high school and college days (Chris) comes into town for four days of card playing and reminiscing.† I plan to stop off tomorrow on the way to Fredís house to try again for the Mountain Plovers I missed on my way south earlier in the week.† They were seen today, and I have the exact location, so maybe Iíll get lucky tomorrow.† They are very uncommon, but they have been seen in that general area a lot in the last month, so it is just a matter of being lucky.† Iím sure they move around the area each day, but maybe I can find the flock tomorrow.† It being a Sunday, I expect there will be other birders out there looking for them, and maybe that will help me, too.† We shall see.