Weird and Wonderful Warbler

Yesterday I posted some “photo clips” from video footage that I took of a unique and interesting warbler that we found on one of my local bird walks at Point Reyes, Marin, California on November 12th 2014. Here is the complete video. Check it out and please feel free to comment on it if you have any ideas or thoughts as to what it might be.

Marin County Bird Walks with Keith Hansen

Marin View

Immerse yourself in the incredible diversity of habitats that exist within the borders of Marin County. Join me on my Bird Walk forays to seek out and behold the avian magic that adorns this rich and varied landscape. Below is the schedule for some up coming trips. I hope you can come along!


Our first few Bird Walks have been a blast and have found us enjoying a wide array of bird life in West Marin. Whether it was a Peregrine Falcon stooping on and catching a California Gull over the Olema Valley and tumbling to the ground with it, or the Tropical Kingbird catching wasps at Agate Beach or the hybrid Hermit X Townsend’s Warbler at Five Brooks Pond, this unique county always seems to inspire and thrill the birder naturalist.

Half Day Walks end around 12:30 to 1:00 PM

Full Day Walks end around 4:00 PM

Wed. Nov. 12th. Point Reyes Peninsula. Full Day $40.00 Bring Lunch

Meet: 7:00 AM @ the Bovine Bakery, Point Reyes Station.

We will proceed to the outer point where we will search the various farms and tree patches looking for late fall migrants and winter birds.


Sat. Nov. 15th. Bolinas. 1/2 Day $25.00

Meet: 7:30 @ The Coast Café, Bolinas.

We will search the Alder and Willow forest of Pine Gulch Creek as well as scoping for seabirds from Agate Beach.

Wed. Nov 26th. Stafford Lake, Rush Creek and Las Gallinas Ponds. Full Day $40.00 Bring Lunch

Meet: 7:30 @ Entrance to Stafford Lake, (3 miles west of Novato on Novato Blvd.)

We will scan the lake for winter waterfowl and bird the surrounding environs for interesting songbirds. Heading east we will partake in the riches of Rush Creek’s mudflats and the Las Gallinas Water Treatment Ponds.


Sat. Nov. 29th. Five Brooks and Bear Valley. ½ Day $25.00

Meet: 7:30 @ Five Brooks Parking lot, located 3 miles south of Olema on Hwy. 1

We will bird the Five Brooks pond area for the start of the stay with songbirds. Next, it’s to Bear Valley Headquarters and Olema Marsh for a change of birds and habitats.


Wed. Dec.10th. Stinson Beach and Bolinas, 100 Species in a Day!

Full Day, $40.00 Bring a lunch.

Meet: 7:30 AM @ The Stinson Beach Post Office.

This will be winter round up with an attempt to see 100 species in a day. Starting in Stinson Beach for sea watching and species along the beach we will continue to Stinson Gulch, the Bolinas Lagoon and with time permitting, Pine Gulch Creek or Agate Beach.


While we will sometimes be walking on uneven terrain, most walks are quite easy and at a comfortable pace. As is always the case, dress appropriately for changing weather especially if rain is in the forecast. Wear proper footwear. If a walk is canceled due to rain, I will make every effort to contact you ahead of time, otherwise the walk goes. Bring liquids, munchies, sunscreen, a hat, cameras, lens cloth, and of course, binoculars. If you wish to bring a scope, feel free. I will always have mine.


Trips are typically limited to 12 participants.


PLEASE reserve your spot by calling or emailing KEITH HANSEN using the form below: When you do, leave me your contact info, phone or email. To pay, you may do so with a check (made out to Keith Hansen), cash or credit card.

Keith Hansen

415 868 0402

Oaxaca Tour, Space still available!

From Feb.26th to Mar. 9th 2010, Peter Pyle and I will be leading a birding “plus” tour to the beautiful Oaxaca Mexico. The reason I say PLUS, is that while this tour will be primarily a birding tour, we will have additional activities that will enhance the trip. So, for more information including the who, what, when and where regarding this tropical American trip, click on the link below.


Johnny Quest, Charlie’s Angels, M.A.S.H. and Blood Diamond

What do these movies and TV programs have in common? BAD BIRDS! What’s a bad bird? In popular culture, it’s a bird that is shown or heard, usually on a movie or TV program that simply “couldn’t be”. Beware! Or better yet. BE AWARE! It’s all about bird truth. It’s about the “thrill” (however questionable) of finding avian mistakes! Sound like fun? Join me for just a few of my favorites.
While this is probably not high on any list of your concerns, or something that has ever crossed your mind, it’s something wacky and fun to be aware of. It is for me! We bird nerds will often notice that Hollywood and most media in general is notoriously inaccurate when it comes to birds.
This crossed my mind today when I saw an interview with Leonardo DiCaprio talking about his latest film, Blood Diamond. At one point he mentioned that, and I’m paraphrasing here, “there wasn’t anything depicted in this film that was beyond what actually happened and that the events were very real”. I beg to differ! As much as I like him as an actor and am with him on the thrust and politics of the film, I beg to differ. One thing that never happened, were the BAD BIRDS! If the background bird sounds were actually recorded from that region, country, continent or even hemisphere, then by watching this film, I’d just recorded several new bird species. Let’s see there was Downy Woodpecker, Cactus Wren and what I believe was an Eastern Screech-Owl and the ever-present Red-tailed Hawk “screeeech”! That screech has been on more macho truck commercials, opening shots of sweeping vistas (from any number of countries where Red-tails have never screeched as in “The Syrian Bride”) and any film where the filmmaker wants to instill a touch of danger. I don’t remember hearing a single African bird in Blood Diamond.
I first became aware of “Bad Birds” in the late 60’s. I was a little kid growing up in Maryland. Watching my favorite cartoon, probably dipping Oreo cookies into a big glass of cold milk, I laid sprawled out on the living room floor. “Johnny Quest” was on TV and I really liked it. It always bothered me though that in the opening scenes of the cartoon, they show an Andean Condor stooping down, nailing and carrying off Johnny’s faithful pooch “Bandit”. No problem, except that it is in a Peregrine-esque stoop! Well, Condors eat only carrion, (dead animals) and have no need for “a stoop”! In addition, they can’t carry off their prey with their feet, but hey, it’s a cartoon for Christ’s sake.

Most of you who watched Hawkeye Pierce and Radar O’Reilly on the TV show M.A.S.H., probably weren’t annoyed by the Western Scrub-Jays, Ash-throated Flycatchers, California Quail and Wrentits that were “filling the skies of Korea with sound”, but I was! The microphones actually recorded the natural sounds of the bird species; it’s just that they are the birds that one finds in the hills around Hollywood California.
Sometimes they get the birds name correct but the actual bird is WAY off. Case in point, the movie Charlie’s Angels. At one point in the film one of the Angels mentions that a Pygmy Nuthatch comes to visit her at her windowsill at her home in Monterey. So far so good as Pygmy Nuthatches are very common there. However, when the bird actually comes into view and lands there for all to see, they have used a bird called a Troupial, a gaudy and well-patterned type of Oriole that I’ve seen in the upper Amazon of Ecuador! My first thought is “WOW, first record of a Troupial for California” or “Wow, the San Diego Zoo is missing its Troupial”!
How about the new Mel Gibson film “Apocalypto”.  Meant to have taken place in pre-Spanish Yucatan, Veracruz or Chiapas, I found it strange that the rulers at the beheading ceremony were all wearing Pheasant feathers from Asia. Perhaps there was a bird feather trade route from tropical Asia over the Bering Straits through Alaska and down to Central America, but, probably not. Did the non-migratory American Crows, calling in the jungle, actually fly all that way down to the land of the pyramids? Probably not. Or, my personal favorite was the moment where the main character was laying on a stream bank, exhausted after a long chase, and a Cattle Egret walked by. NOT! You have all seen the white Cattle Egrets in life or on nature programs standing around on the backs of Elephants in Africa. Well, they were blown across the Atlantic Ocean and were first recorded in northeastern South America in 1877 and then in North America in 1941. OOPS!
I mentioned before how different birds are used to instill various emotions, “macho truck, add screeching Red-tailed Hawk”. Here are some classics. You have a weird demented, kinda warped, psycho killer scene in the middle of nowhere, insert Cactus Wrens low-pitched monotone “jer jer jer jer jer…”. Any film with nighttime or late evening “lost in the woods” scene, insert Common Loon’s haunting cry (no matter how far they are from Canadian breeding lakes).  Hoss, from Bonanza says, “Sure is quiet out here Lil’ Joe… yeah… too quiet”. Insert “eerie yodel” of Loon here! From the land down under comes the Kookaburra, a non-migratory Kingfisher whose loud, deranged, hysterical and human-like laughter echoes in “Hollywood tropical jungles” worldwide. Want a jungle? Insert Kookaburra here!
Sometimes we will find mistakes even in “real live” nature programs. Take “Winged Migration” for example. They mistakenly call a Clark’s Grebe a Western Grebe (easy to do) but when they show immature plumage Snow Geese flying north on their harrowing journey to the arctic, NOT! Snow Geese would have already molted into their adult plumage as they head north.
So, the next time you sit down with your hot bowl of popcorn, ready to watch a movie, keep in mind the birds. As a naturalist I love hearing and seeing the accurate species in their true home, but a little part of me also enjoys finding the mistakes, then I laugh at the bad birds!
Beware, and be aware!

Keith Hansen
Jan. 27th 2007

Yellow-billed Loon and Common Black-Hawk in the same day!

Today, (March 26th 2009) I visited a friend in Sebastopol, Sonoma County California and we went birding at Laguna Santa Rosa. This large wetland, due west of the city of Santa Rosa has become the home of a very lost, incredibly rare, (I believe the second record for California) and stunningly beautiful Common Black-Hawk. We were blessed by this vocal and not particularly shy bird of prey not three minutes after we stepped out of the car. Because of the delicate nature of private land and such, I wont give the exact location, but will say that it was at the western most part of the Laguna, (west of Santa Rosa). Landing several times as well as slowly circling over the water, this bird put on a nice display. At times it would do something that I have never seen this species of Hawk do, (or any other for that matter) where it would lean forward and open its mouth as if it was vocalizing. We could see the movement of its bill the slight extension of the tongue and the heaving of its chest but NO sound. I think that it was quietly calling but we simply couldn’t hear anything coming from the bird. The bird was being slightly harassed by Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks but it didn’t seem to care.

Later I headed home, south down Hwy. 1, where I stopped to see if the Yellow-billed Loon was still floating around at Nick’s Cove.  (6 miles north of the town of Marshall)  and sure enough, there it was in all of its glory. This bird was originally discovered by David Wimpheimer back in Jan. and was actually joined by a second Yellow-billed Loon, (found by Rich Stallcup) a few weeks ago! I think that these are the 3rd and 4th records for this wonderful bird in Marin County. It was nice as there were also a few Common Loons there as well as a single Red-throated Loon for comparison.

After that, as I tooled down the Hwy. it struck me odd that, within a matter of hours, one could actually see these two rare birds that originate from very different neighborhoods. The Hawk ranges from no closer than south east Arizona and the Loon from Alaska.

Keith Hansen

Two new Yucatan birds

Two new birds for the Yucatan Peninsula. The images (video grabs) depict the Western Kingbird, Dec. 25th 2008 and the Song Sparrow, Dec. 31st 2008,that I discovered while birding there.

Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird, Dec. 25 th 2008, Oxkutzcab, Yucatan, aprox, 100 kms. south east of Merida, Yucatan. While birding the dump located aprox. 6km south of the town, Oxkutzcab, I located this Western Kingbird. The bird was in view for about 15 minutes from as close as 40 feet. It foraged actively hawking for insects from exposed perches. In this photo one can see the contrastingly black tail with the bold, crisp and completely white outer tail feather.

Western Kingbird

This photo also shows the above mentioned marks.

Western Kingbird

This photo of the Western Kingbird shows the smaller bill and the longer primary extension,compared to either a Tropical or Couch’s Kingbird.

Western Kingbird in flight

This image shows the Western Kingbirds unforked black tail that contrasts sharply with the grey upper rump and lower back.

Western kingbird in flight

This image shows the white outer tail feather on a black unforked tail.

Western Kingbird in flight

Although blurry, this image shows the white outer tail feather.


This image shows both white outer tail feathers.

Description of Western Kingbird, from notes after the sighting.

After having walked for about 6 km’s from the town of Oxkutzcab, (pronounced OSH COOTS COB) I had finally arrived at the town dump. A few days before, my wife and I had driven past the dump where I noticed a rather large flock of “Rough-winged Swallows” perched on the power lines that ran next to the road. I wanted to go back, video tape them and determine as to weather they were Northern or Ridgeway’s Rough-winged Swallows. Once there, I was glad to see them still hanging out and in fact their black tipped undertail coverts clued me in that they were in fact Ridgeway’s. After getting some footage I then ventured into the dump where I was greeted by far too many feral dogs. There must have literally been over 100 dogs there and their sad state of health was breathtaking. Some pathetic ones fled quickly, some starving ones did nothing and some of the puppies came over for a visit. I began to film the swallows, trying to get shots in flight when a Kingbird got my attention. Upon looking at it I immediately recognized it as a Western Kingbird, a bird that I am intimately familiar with. Not knowing the status of it in the Yucatan but knowing that it was a new bird for me on the peninsula, I began to film it. After I got home (to Patricias folks house in Oxkutzcab), I looked at Barbara MacKinnon’s checklist to the birds of the Yucatan and was shocked to see that it had never been recorded. I then took notes while the bird was fresh in my mind.

The description; Western Kingbird, Dec 25th 2008, Oxkutzcab Dump, on road to Lol Tun Caverns approximately 6 km’s south of town. The bird was an obvious Kingbird being a large Flycatcher showing grayish upper parts and yellow under parts. Immediately upon looking at the bird I noted that it had bold, crisp and bright white outer webs to the outer tail feathers set on a black unforked tail that contrasted strongly with the grayish back. At times when the perched bird had its tail closed, it was difficult to see the white of the outer tail feathers. I noticed that the bill seemed far too small for that of a Tropical/Couch’s Kingbird. This feature gave it a rather “cute look”, something that I never feel when I see a Tropical/Couch’s Kingbirds “swollen” bill . The chin and throat were white and didn’t contrast greatly with the pale yellow underparts. The color of the belly seemed to be a lighter, cleaner yellow than the rich deeper yellow of the Tropical. The back was grayish with a very faint and subtle cast of olive green seen only in the best viewing conditions. The head was gray and contrasted ever so slightly with the “gray blushed” green of the back.  The wings were grayish and showed a rather long primary extension. The Kingbird was in view for about 15 minutes where it foraged for flying insects from exposed perches. It moved off to the far side of the dump where it was seen near two Tropical Kingbirds.

Note; Patricia and I returned later that afternoon at about 4:30 PM but had no luck re-finding it.

Song Sparrow, 12/31/09, On the road to the “Ol’ Garbage Dump” located 7 km’s east and south of Progreso, Yucatan, Mexico.

Song Sparrow, Progresso, Yucatan 1/1/09

This Song Sparrow was located ESE of the city of Progreso, Yucatan Mexico, aprox. 7 km's south on the road that runs from the main east-west hwy, through and past a large garbage dump. It was seen twice that day about 3 km's south of the dump. Although these are poor "video grabs" they do show some important marks. This image shows a dark, long tailed Sparrow with a white throat and malar mark that is seperated by a thin crisp dark whisker. The face is grey with a dark trans ocular line. The back is heavely streaked and contrasts with the unmarked greyish-brown rump. The tail is long.

Song Sparrow, Progresso, Yucatan

This shot shows the long tail, the dark trans ocular line, the dark crown and bill as well as the pale legs.

Song Sparrow, Progreso, Yucatan

This image shows the long tail and pale legs.

Song Sparrow, Progerso, Yucatan

This image shows the face pattern once again as well as the grey brown rump and the pale legs.

Song Sparrow, Progreso, Yucatan

This image shows the long tail and the rump-back contrast.

Song Sparrow, Progreso, Yucatan

This image shows the white throat and dark whisker mark.

Description of the Song Sparrow, from notes taken immediately taken after the sighting of the bird.

Found in thorn forest habitat on west side of dirt road, aprox. 3 km’s south of garbage dump, located east of the city of Progreso, Yucatan. While “pishing” into the thorn forest this bird immediately popped up in to full view and faced me. I identified it as a Song Sparrow the moment I looked at it. Rather stunned, I grabbed my video camera and that sudden motion made the bird turn away from me. I began to film the bird from the back. It then turned to its right and gave me a brief profile. It was in view for about 30 seconds whereby it flew off. Description; I recognised the species right off as a Song Sparrow. Overall the bird was an intricately patterned bird in the head and breast. It was a long tailed Melospiza that was brown above and light below. The back was medium brown with 4 or 5 darker brown bold streaks. The underparts were white with heavy blackish-brown streaks across the breast and then down the flanks. The streaks grouped up together to form a bold dark cluster located in the center of the breast. The face was a combination of grey, black and dark brown with a bold white malar patch that broadened near the rear. This mark stood out boldly from afar. The cheek was greyish and was outlined by the darker brown lines through the eye and the border between the malar and the cheek. The throat was white and was set off by a bold black whisker line. The crown was greyish brown. The bill was dark, conical and typical of a Sparrow. The wings were brownish and didn’t contrast with the back. However the inner tertials had black bold centers. The rump was unmarked and contrasted with the stripes on the back. The long tail was brownish. I located the bird again about two hours later on my return walk back toward the garbage dump. At that time the bird was perched against the bright sky and so I did not film it. It was in view for about 20 seconds and again flew off, this time not to be seen again.