Well, it has been some time since I have added anything to my blog. It is not because I haven’t been trying, I have, but the species just come much more slowly. Here are the most recent additions.
On Sep. 25th I FINALLY caught up to one of those dang, (yet well tailored) Black-throated Gray Warblers #225. Seems that everyone and their dog had been seeing them but I just couldn’t find one of these fine fowl. When I did see it, it was actually with another one, so it suddenly seemed that they were everywhere. Since that day, I have found them to be numerous.
My next addition came in the form of a truly rare bird. I got a call from Steve Howell when he was helping some PRBO, (Point Reyes Bird Observatory) folk on their “Bird-a-Thon”. He had located an Orchard Oriole and a Philadelphia Vireo at the Stinson Beach Parking Lot. This now well-known birding spot has played host to numerous rare birds and these were two more fine finds for the “patch”. The next day, (Sep. 30th), I decided that I would give them a try and see what I could come up with. I rode over at about 9:00 AM and was delighted to see not only David Wimpheimer, (who was doing his Bird-a-Thon by bike), but Jim White and Dave McKinsey as well. The cool thing about this scene was that each of us had come there in hopes of finding these birds AND we had all come long distances BY BIKE, carbon free. That was a first for me! David from Inverness, Jim and Dave from Muir Beach and myself from Bolinas. When I pulled into the parking lot they were already there and were grinning from ear to ear as they “high fived” and gave me the thumbs up! I thought to myself, I’ve got it locked up, they must have seen one or perhaps both of the rare birds. As it turned out they were looking at the Philadelphia Vireo just as I pulled into the parking lot. I went to work scouring the willows, pishing every bird in as well as I could and filtering through every single movement and sound that presented itself. No luck, seconds turned to minutes. Minutes turned to an hour and nothing. The others were getting anxious and wanted to continue on with their day, but I decided to keep at it. I was just about to give up when a Vireo flew across the road and lit on an Alder twig near me and I jerked the binoculars up quickly. It was a Warbling Vireo, the nearly identical cousin of the “Phili”. Right then a second bird flew in to join the first and once again… a Warbling! I climbed onto my bike and was saying my goodbyes to the gang when a THIRD bird came blasting in and that was the magic that I had been waiting for. Philadelphia Vireo! # 226. None of us were able to locate the Orchard Oriole but we all felt immensely satisfied.
My next addition came the next day, (Oct. 1st), at Pine Gulch Creek when Steve and I decided to give the spot a thorough going over. We found ourselves in a rather large feeding flock when Steve spotted a goodie. I looked up to see, realize, identify and enjoy a Nashville Warbler! #227.
Ten days later would find me adding my next species. Check this out! It was late in the day on Oct. 11th and I was getting ready to close up the gallery when I heard an odd “chip” note coming from the neighbors yard. It was a loud, incessant note that really was unusual to me. If I was to describe it, I would say that it was a flat “SHACK” note with a dry front, ending with a hard smacking end. I was intrigued, grabbed the video camera, my “binz”, (short for binoculars) and went into the back yard for a look see. I stood there for a moment not really knowing what to expect and began my repertoire of “squeaks”, “hoots” and “pishes”. Nothing popped up, stirred or responded to my wall of sound. After perhaps 5 minutes of these ridiculous sounds, I was about to give up when a large warbler flew past me of the genus “Oporornis”! I was stunned because this could have several ramifications. The only typically occurring Oporornis we have here in the western US is the MacGillivray’s Warbler and this bird, (assuming the odd sound that I heard was the same bird that I now found flying past my eyes) didn’t sound like any MacGillivray’s Warbler that I had ever heard! Typical of this genus, the bird made a headlong dive into the deepest, darkest patch of impenetrable, thorn shrouded blackberries. I froze solid, continuing to squeak, pish and pray to any GOD that would listen. Well, twas not to be. Knowing that this was in fact an Oporornis and realizing that I have yet to see any species of that genus this year, it will have to go officially onto the Carbon Free Big Year list as an “Oporornis sp.” (species) unknown. #228. My gut feeling is that this bird was a Mourning Warbler, a species that is on the California Bird Record Committee’s review list and is a heck of a rare bird. Oh well, ya can’t win them all!
My last addition was one for the books, that is if the book was entitled “Serendipity Birding”. On the morning of October 12th, I was on my way to hit Pine Gulch Creek with a vengeance peddling past the row crops that border the road out of town. Suddenly, I spotted my friend and fellow Carbon Free Birding pal Burr Heneman, coming toward me on his bike. We stopped and found that the spot that we crossed paths was the exact spot that we typically meet in the morning when we DO set up plans to meet. Today, however was just fate and I asked if he was going birding or what? He was actually on his way to a breakfast engagement and had to keep moving. Right at that moment I happened to do a quick scan. Way off, (perhaps 300 meters away) I spotted an odd sized bird alone and out on a bit of brush. At that moment a loose flock of Western Meadowlarks sprinkled down around this bird affording me a size relation to this unknown bird. It was larger than any sparrow but not as large as the meadowlarks. I don’t know what came over me but I blurted out “That’s a BOBOLINK”! Burr kind of uttered something along the line of “Come on Keith”! I mean that this bird was quite a long ways away, the lighting was really bad and it is such a rare bird that I was kind of pushing the realm of reason. Burr was just kind of quiet after that. Without warning the mystery bird took wing and began to tower up, up and away. I thought this is not good, as migrants will sometimes stop for a moment or so and then continue on their journey. I noticed that this bird had very ling pointy wings with a short pointy tail to go along with its attenuated “look”. Thankfully, the bird momentarily lost its wanderlust and dropped back down, but another 100 meters further out in the field, landing on a tall piece of weed. I said “Let’s BLAST over there and get a closer look”! There was some ground to cover and I think I saw Burr look at his watch as he was already late for pancakes and OJ at his friends house. I started moving as fast as I could in hopes that it would stick to its weed. We covered pavement, then dirt, had to slip through a large fence and run about 200 meters. The bird had moved and I was crestfallen. With unbelievable luck I spotted it again, only this time from much closer. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! It was in fact a Bobolink dressed in juvenile plumage! #229. Only a few moments later the need to move on sent this vagrant into the air and I never took my eyes off of it. It climbed up, Up, UP and away as it finally leveled off at around 100 meters and proceeded south-east toward San Francisco and points WELL beyond. Bobolinks don’t stop migrating until they reach southern South America. Burr and I “high fived” and laughed out loud at our luck. He had an appointment to keep and I had more birds to find.