What can I say, I’ve been BUSY, but simply HAVE to get some new birds on my carbon free bird list. Here goes.
WAAAAAAY back on October 20th I saw a flock, wait a sec! Is three considered a flock? Well when it comes to Palm Warblers, perhaps. I was biking around the Sewage Ponds when I had a “flock-let” of 3 of these great birds suddenly surround me flitting up and onto Coyote Bush all the while doing their classic tail pumping action. # 230
Now this bird may not seem like such a rare addition to my list but the “way” that I added it might make some people say “Hey, hold on a second”! On October 22nd, Patricia and I were doing our evening beach walk when I saw one of the local beach dogs writhing in complete pleasure on the carcass of some pathetic remains of some poor creature. Shooing the dog off the sandier pastures I bent down and picked up the sad remains of departed glory. The very dead Northern Fulmar, # 231, was just the first of what has turned out to be a very large die off of that species this winter. Why do I count a dead bird on my Carbon Free Big Year list? Well, because country, state and county “bird list keepers” do the same. If the creature arrived naturally to that location in a way that was not “helped” by humans, (as mentioned, this was part of a large die off), then I will put it on my list as well. I have a mammal or two that I have on this years list that were dead.
The next two birds were both added on November 6th and were seen within 20 minutes of each other! We had had a great storm with very high tides the day before. I got out early to hit Pine Gulch hoping for some poor storm swept bird to be forced out of their habitat in the flooded march that borders the Bolinas Lagoon. As I passed the western edge of the large Alder forest I was just about bolled over as high, thin, piercing sound seemingly split the air. WHAM, right over my head a Red-throated Pipit poured out it high frequency “SPEEEEEEeeeeeeee” call. #232. At my age that type of sound can go unheard at any distance but this was really quite surprising, not only because of the extreme rarity of the species, (from Siberia) but the fact that I was able to hear it so well. I watched the bird, that was perhaps 30 feet off the deck. as it flew way out over the flooded lagoon. At the point when the bird was almost lost from sight, it dropped into the grass that was immersed in about 3 feet of salt water. Well, I was already wet and thought “what the heck”. Before long I had moved to where the bird had plunged and in a very real way I had plunged in as well. Up to, almost my chest, found me slogging around in the high tide, but to no avail. The bird had slipped my grasp.
I headed back to “dry” ground. Just as I had emerged from the fish habitat, I heard a very unusual call and looked up once again to see a new year bird as it passed overhead! Calling only twice and moving at an impressive speed a Lapland Longspur cranked against the wind like a hot knife through… I had only ever seen one of these super gifts from the north anywhere around the Bolinas Lagoon area. #233. I locked onto the bird with my bins and never broke THAT bond for as long as the bird was in view. Well I had it in view for perhaps two minutes which doesn’t sound like much time but that meant that the bird flew in a great circle and move north west and back over the Pine Gulch delta, finally turning into a glittering speck that disappeared into the rain and mist. I was elated!
The next day when everything had settled down and peace befell the land, I headed back to Pine Gulch where I was thrilled to find, another Palm Warbler working the edge of the organic farm field. Bringing my binoculars to bare I savored this little fella as it snatched up tiny winged tidbits. As sometime will happen, a bird popped into my field of view. As almost never happens, this one was even rarer than the “rare” bird that I was already looking at. Imagine my warm smile when this cute Clay-colored Sparrow presented itself. #234. This odd couple hung out together for about 10 minutes affording me much pleasure.
Now I am nearly caught up. Last but not least. A woman stopped into the gallery yesterday and mentioned to me that she had seen “some type of hawk” come out of a burrow near Commonwheal. Well that hawk could be only one thing and that is why I blasted out there today. As I approached the great pile of telephone poles that were discarded long ago by the military, up jumped #235 a Burrowing Owl. This spot has been the one and only reliable place to see this bird in west Marin and while I haven’t heard about, or seen on there for a couple of years, it IS the Burrowing Owl hang out.