It has been quite a while since I added a new post to my blog but the birds have still been coming. Back on Aug. 8th, I received a call from a friend regarding a Lesser Yellowlegs that he had seen at his pond. After missing a Red-necked Phalarope that he had spotted a day or two before, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss out on this one. I was there in minutes and was rightly rewarded with this fine shorebird. The bird in fact stayed for several days and was enjoyed by several other “carbon free birders”. That was species # 210.
WELL, I was about to have my mind blown. Steve Howell wanted to photograph Hummingbirds at my gallery. Specifically he wanted to get great shots of Anna’s Hummingbirds molting their 8th and 9th primaries. So, he came by late in the afternoon of Aug. 10th and began to fire away. I happened to look out the door at what he was doing. His shutter was clicking away at a slow, irregular and lazy pace, “ziiit-chik, …ziit-chik………….ziiit-chik”. I glanced at the hummer feeder that was right next to him, but not the one that had his attention. A very whitish hummingbird came zipping in and landed on the feeder that was next to Steve and I casually mentioned, “Hey Steve, what’s that white hummingbird”? Steve swung his “Cannon” around and all I could hear was like something from a presidential press conference! His camera buzzed rapid fire, “ziit-chik, ziit-chik, ziit-chik, ziit-chik, Ziit-Chik, ZIIT,CHIK…”! The bird flew off, Steve paused, and started “Chimping”, a term used by Brit bird photographers. When the shooting stops, a photographer will often turn their camera into the shadow to see the screen while they either erase images, or in Steve’s case, enlarge the images. When doing this the camera handler looks like a chimp as they manipulate the body, pushing buttons with their thumbs, hence the title. Anyway, Steve said, “Wow, looks like you have a Black-chinned here”. A Black-chinned Hummingbird would be only the fourth one for my gallery and quite a nice find for west Marin in general. However, after zooming WAY into the images that Steve had just taken, he quickly realized that the birds crown was too green for a typical Black-chinned Hummer. So he scrolled down to the tip of the wing to have a closer look at P 10, (the 10th primary flight feather). That might sound like an impossible feat but within seconds we were looking at the telltale and slender shape of P 10. These new cameras afford us the opportunity to really look deeper into the details and intricacies of birds. There it was ,the proof to identify our new arrival as California’s 12th ever record of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird! #211!!! Here are some photos taken by Steve Howell at the moment of discovery. Note on the third photo the layout of the wing feathers. Check the thinness of the longest feather (primary 10) and how there is also a difference in thickness between the 6th and 7th. These are key features for the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
This amazing occurrence would in fact be the third record for my gallery. I have had a Ruby-throated Hummer every year now for the last three years. The Farallon Islands has 4 records, and so just between my gallery and the Farallon Islands, over half of the entire states Ruby-throated Hummingbirds has been at just these two locations. The first bird was a very white thoated, juvenile male. The second, was a juv. male as well but actually showed a few ruby red throat feathers to liven things up. This bird was an adult female and so could not have been a returning bird. I got on the phone and started making calls to locals, not so locals and the Northern California Rare Bird Alert. Much footage was taken, many people enjoyed it while the bird ended up staying at the feeders until exactly 12:15 PM on the 13th of August. I say exactly because for the duration of this birds stay, the weather was overcast cloudy and calm. NOBODY who came looking for the bird missed it as it would frequent the feeders every 10 to 20 minutes. At 12:15 on the 13th the long awaited sun made an appearance, the wind picked up a few miles an hour and it got warm. That was all she needed! She was outta there without a moments hesitation, never to be seen again. Unfortunately several people continued to make the pilgrimage to the gallery but to no avail.
My next addition was a “gift”, in that the bird that I saw wasn’t the one that I was actually questing for. Peter Pyle had walked up Sea Drift Spit at Stinson Beach a day or two before and had seen no less than 6 Snowy Plovers hanging out in the dry sand. On Aug. 14th, I slid into our canoe and rowed across the mouth of the Bolinas Lagoon, ditching the orange boat high in the dunes. I walked down the coast for about 10 minutes when I just happened to glance off shore, noticing a disturbance. Far out to sea, I could see a near life and death struggle going on as a Parasitic Jaeger, #212, harassed the lunch out of an Elegant Tern. Only after the bedraggled tern up-chucked its anchovy was the high speed chase called off, luckily for the tern. Continuing my search for the Plover took me further down Seadrift. I wasn’t having much luck in the plover department, but just when I was about to give up I heard and saw another gift in the bird world, in the form of a juvenile Baird’s Sandpiper! # 213. Yes! Who cares if I don’t see a Snowy Plover, (which I in fact did not see) I couldn’t believe my luck! I ended walking all the way to the Parkside Cafe in the town of Stinson Beach and then back which was about a 7 mile round trip.