Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sept 26 (Day 269) - Mellow day to add Tricolored blackbird and Pacific loon, chasing 600 update!

This north-central part of the California coast is just beautiful. Great scenery, relatively few people, and lots of bird combine to make birding here a really relaxing and therapeutic experience. Great weather had combined with great company to make the last few days of birding really special. I decided to focus on seabirds this morning. Mark K and I headed down to Pigeon Point lighthouse. We arrived at 7:45am to find the sea fairly quiet from a bird standpoint. Over the next 3.5 hours, by meticulous scanning the ocean beneath us, we were able tint find some nice birds on this beautiful morning. Sooty shearwaters were ever-present, albeit not in the same numbers as off of Pescadero beach yesterday, and we were able to pick out a number of Black-vented shearwaters was well. I was finally able to tick Pacific loon for #562. This was not long after the appearance of the apparently resident Tricolored blackbirds in the parking lot for #561. However, the birding highlight of the morning for me was culling through the ~15 Parasitic jaegers we saw looking for a Pomarine. We did have one larger juvenile bird with more white in the wings that we both felt was a Pomarine, but neither of us was certain enough to place the official title on it. 

Pigeon Point Lighthouse today

Queen Sonia joined us for the second part of the morning. She spent the time basking in the sun, and hearing way more than she ever wanted to know about shearwater and jaeger identification. She and I did make a number of videos answering many of the reader-generated questions that we solicited from you. I will be posting these in the next few days once I have access to the really fast internet that video posting requires. In other Sonia-related news, she and I have joked that we want to open a bed and breakfast on the California coast that caters specifically to birders, photographers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. If we ever did this, we have decided we would call it "The Wandering Tattler"! Maybe in a few years, maybe......

Sonia scopes!


Another Wandering tattler from yesterday.
I didn't get him/her dead center, and I had to crop it 
kinda funny. The bird needs to have more space into 
which to look on the right (and more rock below!)

The afternoon was spent dealing with some logistics and relaxing. I even managed to take a rare nap late in the day. Since I have hit the coast and been able to take my foot of the gas, I really feel good at the moment. Between the 16 miles I rode to Pigeon Point and back, and the 10 miles I rode to Pescadero Beach+Marsh later in the afternoon, I only biked a marathon today - whew! Hopefully, there will be many more sub-40-mile days in the next week or so. Tomorrow I will ride to Santa Cruz with a morning stop at Pigeon Point. There is a really strong NW wind right now that should continue through the night. Sonia has hypothesized are hoping that this will help turn over some of the seabirds and perhaps push them a bit closer to shore for us tomorrow morning. Maybe I'll be able to get my Pomarine jaeger.....

Looking ahead, here is a list of bird that I hope to find in California between now and the end of October. What you will immediately notice is that is is very short considering that I have exactly a month to get these birds before I start the sprint back through AZ and NM to TX. I am hoping to bird very slowly during this month with the hopes that rarities will pop up around wherever I find myself. This is EXACTLY what happened with Red-throated pipit yesterday! 

Group 1 - Land-based birds. The plover is the only bird for which regular spots might be tough to find. With enough searching, I should get 12/13 or 13/13 of these.

Snow goose - Missed in Northeast since everything was frozen! Will get at Salton Sea, if not then TX
Yellow-footed gull  - Salton Sea
Pacific golden-plover - Very few specific spots for this though Ventura sod farms could be good.
Spotted dove - LA area. Need specific, reliable spots for this. Closer to coast better than inland.
Allen's hummingbird - Palos Verde Peninsula if I don't have it by the time I get there.
Yellow-billed magpie - Lompoc/Santa Barbara. Again specific spots and help always welcome.
California gnatcatcher - Palos Verde Peninsula
California thrasher - Will get along road in next few days
Le Conte's thrasher - Need spots for this. Mealworm feeders somewhere, right?
Bell's sparrow - Open to any and all ideas
Lawrence's goldfinch - Likely to find along the road, but good spots would be helpful
Purple finch - 562 and no Purple finch, right? Should get this in next few days
Scaly-breasted munia (aka Nutmeg mannakin, now countable) - Huntington Beach, among others

Group 2 - Pelagic birds. Pomarine Jaeger is the only one of these I expect to see. Any of the others would be a high quality find indeed. Seawatching for one of these is the same as seawatching for all of them; This is why I have included so many long-shot possibilities. I will do much seawatching in the next week around Monterey Bay. I will also do some from the Palos Verde Peninsula when I reach it.

Brown booby - Lots of sightings in offshore waters this year. Maybe 1 will come inshore.
Black-footed albatross - Highly unlikely, but easy to identify from miles away!
Northern fulmar - Late arriving this year, totally within realm of the possible though
Buller's shearwater - Few this year, would require lots of luck. Maybe in a week they'll be a few more
Manx shearwater - More around this year. One seen at Moss beach today. Very, very, long shot.
Red phalarope - Maybe one gets blown into land, but they're surely out there. Another long shot
Pomarine jaeger - Will get in next week
Cassin's auklet - Stranger things have happened

Right now I am at 562. If I get all 13 land-based birds and Pomarine Jaeger that would put me at 576 - exactly where I want to be leaving California (575) to have an outside shot at 600. If I could add any of the other pelagics, or huge bonus birds like Yellow-green vireo, Sharp-tailed sandpiper, or Speckled hatchback I'd be in really good shape.

A few other notes:
- I am not expecting to get Rock Sandpiper, Thayer's gull, or Ancient murrelet. I am too early and too far south for these.
- I missed Black-legged kittiwake in the Northeast. As above, these will fill in north of me as I move south so I do not expect to see this bird without Divine intervention. 
- California condor is not a countable bird; The population is not self-sustaining. It would be sweet to see this, but I probably won't make too big of a detour to do so.

OK, enough. Goodnight......


  1. Hi Dorian, what about the Condor? You may be able to see one in CA north of Ventura, no? Best wishes from Lori and Eric

  2. Dorian - If you have not already seen Yellow-Billed Magpie, Scaly-Breasted Munia, and Allen's Hummingbird along the road by the time you get to Santa Barbara County, these birds are all easy to find in the area. Note the Magpies are found farther north and inland than Santa Barbara proper.

  3. The journey sounds very good and relaxing now. That's great! I like the idea of the bed and breakfast. We have seen yellow-billed magpies every time we've stopped at the Camp Roberts rest area just north of Paso Robles on highway 101.

  4. Hey Dorian,
    I think Arctic Tern should fit into your California wish list somewhere. Good luck, -- Dave

  5. Waller Park in Santa Maria has a sedative, but countable, Snow Goose. I agree with Glenn regarding Yellow-billed Magpie: you should get that before you get to Santa Barbara.

  6. Apparently there is quite a bit of debate occurring regarding recent revisions to the ABA recording rules and the implications for species like California Condor but my understanding is that they might be countable now? Hopefully there will be some clarity before you have to make a route decision.

  7. CA Condors are now countable! Also Aplomado Falcons and eastern Whooping Cranes, if you saw those.