When I got a call from Steve Howell, he informed me that the Pectoral Sandpiper had departed but in its place were 3 Wilson’s Phalaropes. Closing down the gallery a bit early, I headed up to the pond where these two juveniles and one adult male, (or very drab/worn female) were spinning in their unique and typical fashion. #207. It was curious and interesting as Steve pointed out that the young birds showed very mustard yellow legs as the adult possessed blackish olive legs. It has been quite a nice run of shorebirds these last few days!
Just a quickie to mention that I popped an adult Red Knot, #206 from the deck today. The colorful shorebird was well out on the mud flat with about a dozen Black-bellied Plovers, a handful of Least Sandpipers, 20+ Black Turnstones, a breeding plumage Dowiticher and an American Avocet. After a few moments, the Plovers, Dowiticher and Knot picked up, and blasted off and over Seadrift Spit and headed down the coast for points south.
Today I received a rather excited phone call from Steve Howell when he reported that he had found an adult Pectoral Sandpiper, (only the third time he had seen one in that age class for California). Needless to say, I grabbed Burr Heneman and we blasted up in short order. With a beautiful spangled adult Greater Yellowlegs as well as a Western Sandpiper the “Pec” fit nicely as the”in-between” size of these two extremes. The Pectoral, #205, fed calmly and displayed its plumage nicely. Being much whiter than a juvenile, this somewhat worn bird exhibited the fine dark streaks on the breast and showed beautiful white “checked board” spangles on its scapular feathers. The flanks showed subtle streaks that extended to the rear portion of those feathers but not the the area located at the side of the tail. The very rare and similar looking Sharp-tailed Sandpiper shows pencil-thin fine streaks, that adorn the edges of the under tail coverts. The bill was flesh tipped with horn color. With species coming more slowly, one has to get whatever one can! ￼￼
Well, once I heard that the White-eyed Vireo was still being seen in Muir Beach, I figured that I would give it the ol’ Carbon Free try. So, I sprang outta bed at 5:30 AM and hit the old lonesome highway. I had not done this run before and was a little nervous about some of the hills especially the one that comes out of Muir Beach if one is north bound on highway 1. Everything turned out fine as there was very little traffic. I really enjoyed being out alone and just slowly taking in the scenery that I have whizzed past at high speeds, for so many years. I made the “several hundred foot” descent into Muir Beach and coasted past the Pelican Inn and along the Willow and Alder lined stream toward the beach parking lot. Well, let me tell you that I was thrilled when the White-eyed Vireo sang before my bike even came to rest. It popped right out into the open and showed itself once or twice before heading off to the neighbors yard. #204! This was such a thrill to go for a bird of this quality and to have success in seeing it! As I had mentioned on a previous post this is only the second one that I have ever seen in the state.
It has been a while since I have added any posts to my Carbon Free Big Year but as of late there have been some new sightings. Back on June 30th, I thought that I would give the ocean a once over and I was well rewarded, however not by birds. I no sooner set up my scope and began to scan the large swells that had piled up that day and much to my delight produced a beautiful Sea Otter!!! This is only the 4th Sea Otter that I have seen in Marin County. This large adult was perhaps a half of a mile out and was swimming quickly to the north. Interestingly, the animal would rise as high as it could out of the water as each large swell peaked and it would take a quick look around from its momentary “lofty view”. It would the swim on and reappear as each large swell lifted it up again and again. Not five minutes later I was again thrilled as a Gray Whale passed by also heading north. These were both new mammals for my big year, bringing me to 21 species.
Yesterday I got a call from Jim White over there in Muir Beach to report that he had heard and seen a White-eyed Vireo! Well, with the day near the end I wasn’t able to ride my bike there but did drive over and got to see this very rare species. this was only the second one that I have ever seen in California. Upon my return I needed to do some house work and before I got started I scanned the mud flat on the Bolinas Lagoon and just about flipped when low and behold, there was a striking bird standing there with all of the Caspian Terns. It was a Black Skimmer, (#203) in all its ill-proportioned beauty. Not a bad day!
As I had mentioned on a resent post that I try to peek off of our deck every day. I indulge in this behavior, not only to enjoy the beautiful view of the Bolinas Lagoon, framed by sky, ocean and Inverness Ridge, but to see if there is anything fun poking around on, flying over or sleeping on the mudflat. I was not the least bit surprised to see two adult Heerman’s Gulls, (#202) sleeping amongst the Western Gulls. These, “Boys of Summer” typically arrive at about this time of year, each year, along with the Elegant Terns and the ever growing numbers of Brown Pelicans, to “spend the summer at the beach” and feed on the large numbers of Anchovies that pulse in and out of the lagoon. This annual event is one of the must exciting and noteworthy phenomenon for those of us who enjoy birds, nature, or a simple walk on a warm beach.
In addition I added a new mammal, it being a road killed House Mouse. Click on the “2010 Carbon Free Species List”, to see the complete tally of all the birds and mammals that I have encountered on my Carbon Free Big Year.
While I have been away from my blog entries for a while, I do have some cool, memorable and interesting things to add. Way back on May 25th, I thought that I would give the area “beyond Palomarin” a going over as I figured that I might have a chance and get lucky with a MacGillivray’s Warbler, a Grasshopper Sparrow or for that matter a Rufous-crowned Sparrow. I rode the 4 miles to and past the Point Reyes Bird Observatorys Palomarin Field Station. Here is where the trail head to Bass Lake, takes off. Arriving, I was disappointed as no bikes are allowed onto the trail. Not wanting to be deprived of any potential firsts, I figured I’d hoof it in the 4 miles to Bass Lake, on foot. Well, luck would be kind to me but not in an avian sort of way. This was to be a feline blessing with a brief but exciting view of a mid sized, “teenage” Bobcat! Yes indeed, this surprised, super spry young kitten-cat, caught me in those slit pupil eyes and flashed a bob of cotton tail, air born flail and passed on, “or” the trail. I took a powerfully brisk walk to and from the calm waters of Bass Lake but saw only the most beautiful morning that I had noticed in quite some time! I thought to myself, “hmmm, no new target birds” as the parking lot was nearly in view. All of a sudden, I caught a whiff of a sweet and melodic song coming just over a small rise, crowned with a layer of Sticky Monkey Flowers. I straightened up, slowed WAY down and kinda stood up on the ol’ tip toes, and there, JUST over the rise was a stunning male Lazuli Bunting, singing its head off. This bird was so filled with joy, lust, testosterone and his good looks that it simply didn’t notice me. Well, the instant that it took a breath into its cinnamon breast, it caught me in its “seed-bead” black eye and exploded into flight. It didn’t stop flying until I couldn’t see it and who knows where it ended up. “Probably a migrant on the move”, I thought to myself, feeling the gladness that comes with a gift from above or at least from where Lazuli Buntings come from! It was species # 199.
The big Milestone came uneventfully enough when I headed home from the gallery for dinner. It was May 29th and I have gotten WAY into the habit of scoping off of the deck as I know how that can pay off with an unexpected treat. This particular scan dang near popped my cork when I zoomed past the “sea” of Gulls and slammed right into a black, white and red “cartoon character”! #200 I said out loud as I tweaked the focus knob on the old Bushnell Spacemaster. A Black-necked Stilt was the form that filled my glad eyes as I smiled to myself. SUDDENLY, before I was able to soak up this resting wader into its well earned slot at the double century point, there was a great tumult! Every bird was airborne. Herons, belched out loud raucous protests as they shoved off and out of their safe nests. Every Gull sprang into the sky, forming a great wheeling mass of hysteria as I said under my breath, “The Land Lord has come for the rent”. Sure enough, there it was, like a cross between some Nat. Geo. nature program and a Bank of America ad, someone could have yelled, “National Emblem, enter stage RIGHT”. Of course the big bad bird had to grocery shop RIGHT where the Stilt was, and so when it did, my long legged friend did what any life loving creature would do and that was to leave the meat “isle”. After this Eagle took his apatite elsewhere, the stilt settled in on the Eagle-free mud flat in front of our deck.
A bird that has shaken my confidence as to how well I thought I was covering “my patch”, has finally been caught up with. It has made me feel like a TURKEY!!! I have had to listen to so many well meaning people who have created bountiful images of ALL of the Turkeys that they have seen here and there! I have been a little less than pleased to have witnessed them only from the confines of my (non-carbon free) auto! Until NOW! I finally stuffed this bird onto my list at #201.
Last but not least, I jumped a Black-tailed Hare (new name for Jackrabbit) this morning up on the Bolinas Mesa and once again, smiled to see an old friend, anew.