Spring has SPRUNG! Carbon Free Big Year Update, April 6th 2010

Since my last blog entry, I have added 3 species to my year list. With each passing day it seems that spring has brought some little treasure and bit of magic along with it. On March 29th while working on my list and helping a friend with his, we found ourselves at the Bolinas Water Treatment Plant where we were happy, although not surprised to see a pair of Northern Rough-winged Swallows coursing low over the ponds, harvesting insects from the sky. That was #159. This species arrives around the time when the Barn, Cliff and Violet-green Swallows get here from their southern haunts. Bank Swallows and Purple Martins will take longer to grace our skies arriving later this spring. The next evening, while walking the Bolinas Beach, my wife and I came upon an abandoned (or somehow separated from its mother) Elephant Seal pup. Some folks called the Marine Mammal Center to come and pick it up. That would turn out to be my 10th species of mammal for the year. Perhaps the most unusual species to date for this year occurred early in the morning on April 3rd. It was during a let up, spaced between downpours when I arrived at my gallery. I was parking my bike when I happened to glance up and see three shorebirds CRANKING over. I jerked the binoculars and was shocked, stunned and thrilled to see that they were Golden-Plovers. Well, a determination would have to be made. WHICH type of Golden-Plover were they? Here in Marin County both the Pacific and the American Golden-Plovers occur although neither are what you might call common. They’re not even uncommon. I would have to put them into the rare category, and since they weren’t calling, identification would have to be determined by seasonality. While the Pacific Golden-Plover typically winters in places like Hawaii and the tropical Pacific, there are VERY small numbers that winter in coastal California. A few (1 or 2) have been found on the Point Reyes Christmas Bird Counts in years past. The American Golden-Plover however winters in southern South America and hits Central America on it’s way north by about Apr. 1st, so the likely-hood would then be that these three incredibly fast flying Golden-Plovers were the Pacific! Not only were they a new carbon free bird for me, (#160) they were a new bird for my gallery list bringing my total there, (since 1991) to 214 species!!! They headed toward the “Pumpkin Field” or perhaps toward the mouth of Pine Gulch Creek, so I jumped on my “horse”, (my bike) and galloped over there. I was not lucky enough to find them but when I arrived at the creek mouth, I was so happy to find an adult Short-billed Dowiticher with a flock of 5 Long-billed Dowitichers. That was #161 for the year. On I go!

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