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06-28-05

We've finalized our itinerary for the Costa Rica trip next month! I've been dreaming of visiting this birder's paradise for more than a decade, and now finally it is happening! Cricket and I will be accompanied by her parents, Kaz and Aiko, for a full 2-weeks of birding in several famous naturalist-oriented lodges, nature preserves and national parks. The birding areas and lodges are listed below. It is, unfortunatley, the "green season" which is a euphamisim for rain, rain and more rain. But it is also a time for fewer tourists and corporate bird groups, so lodges are reduced in price and guides are easy to book.

Finding lodging was actually a breeze, each night we will be positioned for great birding the following morning and with luck, we will get between 100-200 lifers during our visit. Resplendant Quetzal, and iridescent emerald green and red bird with a 3-foot long tail, is of course the target species. I've been hoping to see onc since I was a child. A long time, in other words...

If all goes well, we may visit this area again with a few friends from our class, say 2007? Local guides are plenitful through the Costa Rica Gateway birding tour agency and arrangements were straightforward for ground transport and meals. It seems like the perfect thing four our group and though this will be our first trip to Central America, I am confident our experiences combined with those of experienced guides will make for a successful group trip in the future.

In the course of arranging this trip, I also corresponded with Exploring Costa Rica and may do so again in the future, but I found Gateway to be a little more helpful and easy to communciate with. The arrangement process began by finding out from other tour groups where they usually go during the "green season". Then I looked for lodging in each of those areas and kept bumping into the Gateway site. After I decided the basic destinations I contacted them for help and asked if they could book the lodges, arrange a driver and a guide. Here's our basic plan, which I expect will be wonderful. Perhaps this is premature, but after this experience, I feel I could arrange a birding trip just about anywhere... we shall see, I guess:

Hotel Bougainvillea, San Jose (1 night)
Rancho Naturalista (2 nights)

Savegre Mountain Lodge Tapanti National Park is on the way (2 nights)
Tarcol Lodge, near Carara National Park(3 nights)
Trapp Family Lodge, near Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve (3 nights)
Selva Verde Lodge, near La Selva OTS (3 nights)
Hotel Bougainvillea, San Jose (1 night) |

Just for fun, I'm including a link to some checklists for Rancho Naturalista, Savegre Mountain Lodge, Tarcol Lodge (Carara), and La Selva OTS: http://www.costaricagateway.com/checklist/index.php





06-21-05

Yuba Pass and Sierra Valley 06-17-05 to 06-20-05

Introduction:
Cricket and I made our second annual campaign to Yuba Pass this weekend in search of a few Sierra specialties, most anticipated of which was of course the rare Black-backed Woodpecker. That was our quest!

I suppose there is no good way to leave the bay area on a Friday afternoon, but we made the particularly bad choice of driving Hwy 680 over the Benicia/Martinez bridge during construction. The project underway was horribly disruptive to traffic and we quickly wished we had taken another route. The one benefit of going the way we did was we were driving slow enough for so long that we were able to identify a male Great-tailed Grackle flying south over the 680/80 interchange. Alright, maybe not so bad after all… As we passed through the valley of course we also saw numerous Swainson’s Hawks over the fields.

Anyway, armed with good intelligence on the Yuba Pass area and the lessons of last years unsuccessful Woodpecker mission, we took Hwy 80 out of Sacramento, turned north on Hwy 89 and then west on Hwy 49 to Sierra City, where we stayed in the wonderful Buttes Resort. (We have already booked next June’s trip for the same weekend and the owners were quite happy to give us the same room, which includes a fireplace and beautiful view of the river. Highly recommended. Other lodges can be found by visiting the Sierra City site.)

Drive up:
After about 6 hours, we rolled past the Yuba Pass Campground on our way in and stopped to locate the tree that had been publicized on CALBIRDS “…about 75 yards east of the summit on Hwy 49 (toward Sierra Valley). There is a yellow 25 MPH sign and arrow indicating a sharp right hand turn. Approximately 20-30 feet past the sign is a pine near the road which has the nest cavity. It’s about 8 feet above the ground. The nest cavity hole can’t be seen from the road, so you have to walk off the road and look on the back side of the tree. It is a live tree and the bark has been peeled and removed from around the hole.”

The preview:

Not expecting to succeed, but merely hoping to scout the area so we would be better prepared for the next morning’s search, we parked in the lot and strolled down hill. The tree was easily found and sticking its head out of the hole was the male Black-backed Woodpecker. YES! We admired it for several minutes as it eyed the surrounding area, ducking back in once or twice, presumably to warm the eggs contained within the cavity. Both Cricket and I were impressed with the length and substance of the bird’s bill. It appeared even longer than that of a Hairy Woodpecker, and of course the facial pattern is much darker than a Hairy’s. The crown is also topped with bright yellow, which immediately separates it from anything else. It’s a beautiful bird indeed, and was a lifer for both of us. We left the campground, feeling a great sense of relief. This was THE bird of the mission and the pressure to find it was now off for the rest of our stay.

First evening:
We turned in early for the night and enjoyed the gas fireplace as the lodge grew more and more silent.

First morning:
At about 0-500 hours Cricket and I awoke to the sound of a MacGillivray’s Warbler just off the balcony. I rushed to put on some clothes and shoes, and stumbled out the sliding door to find the bird. In the pine just outside it sang its rich, liquid song, moving slowly through the branches and then finally rushing off as another male drove it away. I continued to hear it downslope for a while, but the sounds of Black-headed Grosbeaks, Western Tanager, Spotted Towhee, Wilson’s Warbler and other birds soon overpowered it.

My beautiful wife was meanwhile in the kitchen assembling turkey, cheese and avocado sandwiches for our lunch. The weather was cool and overcast, but did not appear to threaten rain. With luck, the weather would hold long enough to work the campground thoroughly without getting wet. That’s what we hoped at least.

I heard our neighbor walking around as well. Tom Gray, the photographer from Stanford, greeted me and seemed happy to share information about birds he had seen the previous day. He had managed to get a great shot at the Black-backed Woodpecker, as well as a Red-breasted Sapsucker pair and a Green-tailed Towhee. We talked about our respective plans for the day and I made a note to myself to ask him some more questions at the end of the day. He seemed to be a wealth of information. I hurried to finish my coffee while admiring the view from the balcony.

This was indeed the chosen weekend for tours. No fewer than 4 groups were encountered while we were in the campgound area, and perhaps 6 over the course of the weekend. SCVAS, Monterey Bay Audubon, Albany Adult School, Sacramento… It was definitely busy and might seemed uncomfortably crowded, but the information flowed so freely between everyone that it was quite helpful, and we have the Albany group to thank for our Gray Flycatcher at Lower Sardine Lake.

We refind the Woodpecker:

Relocating the Black-backed Woodpecker was not so difficult, but required almost saint-like patience. Evidently, the male was sitting on eggs while the female foraged widely. When left alone, he had little choice but to remain in the nest, waiting quietly and only occasionally poking his head out to investigate interesting sounds around the tree. We kept our distance, trying NOT to make any interesting sounds and were thus rewarded with only brief and infrequent looks at the bird. From all I could tell, the bird we were looking at could have had a red, white or even YELLOW back… All we saw was its head.

From there we decided to search the area north of the campground. Along the road however, we managed to find dozens of Cassin’s Finches, a few Purple Finches and a female Pine Grosbeak. Chipping Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos and Pine Siskin were positively everywhere and especially with the first two, provided for interesting comparative song study. With some effort we were able to log White-headed Woodpecker and Red-breasted Sapsucker along the trail. Red-breasted Nuthatches were also present. As in the previous year, Fox Sparrows sang stridently and while their voices confused us at first, we eventually became re-accustomed to the sound. The taunting “kip-kip, kip-kip-kip” of nearby Red Crossbills could be heard, but was never seen well. Another bird, a House Wren, avoided visual contact, but could be heard at the trail head.

Farther down the trail we crossed a small patch of snow and a Quail rushed in front of us and dashed into the undergrowth. Could it be a Mountain Quail? The loud “quark!” in the distance confirmed it. Too bad we never got another look at the species, but the sound quickly became familiar to us and we heard it again along the main road, above the campground and at Lower Sardine Lake. The iPod helped us sharpen their ears to the sound.

First lunch:
A brief run through the campground proper produced unsatisfying looks at Golden-crowned Kinglets foraging high in the conifers and little else. MacGillivray’s Warbler was heard, but still eluded our binoculars until much later. Up the dirt road we went, finding Hammond’s Flycatcher in the understory but little else. By now the forest was quieting down considerably and we were getting hungry. The sky began to clear and we ate our lunch back in the lot before moving on to Bassett’s.

Then another birder rushed toward us from the campground. He said there was a Varied Thrush singing in the woods. We listened and heard what he was referring to. We marched back a few steps into the forest and gave a closer listen. Yes, it was indeed a Varied Thrush and the three discordant trills were unmistakable proof. Upon posting my short list to CALBIRDS Joe Morlan reminded me that this was indeed an extraordinary find, and perhaps the first record of the species for this time of year. I only wish I knew the name of the birder who alerted us to the Thrush's presence. It was really his sharp ears that found the bird.

First afternoon:
At Bassett’s Station a pair of Evening Grosbeaks crowded the feeders and squabbled with both Steller’s Jays and Brewer’s Blackbirds. A lone Brown-headed Cowbird appeared as well. The real attraction of the area however was the line of Hummingbird feeders on the balcony above the store. There a frenetic back and forth of Hummingbirds that just could not seem to share took place in front of us. We watched eagerly for any Selasphorus species, but it was the Calliope we really wanted. Eventually were able to see both male and female Calliope Hummingbirds, as well as the much larger Anna’s Hummingbird. A short tour of the riparian area across the street produced nothing new, but was still very beautiful and worth a shot. Wilson’s Warblers prevailed in the willows and Tree Swallows nested overhead in a dead snag.

By this time, it was getting to be late-mid afternoon. After rising early, it seemed like a short rest before dinner would be good. So back to the lodge we went for a little wine and a listen from the balcony. Just as we arrived, a pair of Evening Grosbeaks flew out of the fishpond by the mailbox. How cool is that?

First dinner:
Dinner at Harrington’s was delicious and filling. I ordered pork chops, of which there were two huge slabs, and Cricket ordered the lamb chops. Needless to say we left with a sizeable doggy-box for later consumption. After eating, we went to the nearby Plumb campground where we had heard an American Dipper was setting up nest. Sure enough, beneath the second bridge as the road leads into the campsites, a pair was seen dashing in and out of a small muddy nest. We clambered among the rocks to get a better look at the birds as they bobbed up and down in the stream. What a magical day!

First night:
Back to the lodge for an early night. We watched the hills and the declining light while we sipped wine and reviewed the day. Overhead a strange long-winged bird, a Common Nighthawk wandered moth-like across the darkening sky. Within a few moments, more appeared with perhaps as many as six or eight individuals total. To be honest, I never expected this species, but of course it’s on the checklist, so I guess I didn’t do my homework…

I was so excited about the day when we turned in for bed. I could hardly sleep, but sleep was necessary because a big day was to follow. Cricket and I flipped on the fireplace and made a few loose plans for the next day. Plans hardly seemed necessary though, because everywhere we went seemed to offer new and beautiful birds. I will say however, that as useful as the Kemper book is at highlighting areas of interest, there is no substitute for the immediate information of other birders in the area. Our neighbor, Tom, was very helpful and generous with his discoveries, and in exchange, we suggested he visit the Dippers at Andy’s campground. He did and was very grateful for the tip.

Second morning:
Up early again, and a brief conversation with Tom about the Sierra Valley area. Some more coffee on the balcony and more good looks at the MacGillivray’s Warbler. Everything is nicer in the mountains, even the coffee I think, but most especially the lack of radios, telephones and traffic sounds. The peacefulness is profound, and I firmly believe one morning of such a place can normalize a whole month of peninsula life. I wish we could live up here… truly, I do.

Anyway. We decided to drive up to the Sardine Lake area and hike up as far as we could toward Upper Lake. Osprey was seen as we walked above the lake by no hoped for Bald Eagle. We managed to go almost the full length of Lower Lake, but then turned around. Highlights of this area included good looks at MacGillivray’s Warbler, as well as Yellow and Orange-crowned Warblers. Fleetinging glimpses were had of Nashville Warbler as well. The star of the morning however was a Green-tailed Towhee. We suspected they might be present in this alpine scrub, but had not yet heard or seen one. I pulled out the iPod and broadcast a short sample of the bird’s song. Within a minute a medium sized bird was seen flying down slope toward us. Another short broadcast and we had it in full view. A spectacular male, with brilliant rufous crown and greenish back/tail stood up to reclaim his territory. Well, that worked pretty well we thought! I put the pod back in my pocket and wondered whether I had overstepped the boundaries of responsible birding. We watched the bird for quite some time as it sang and eventually appeared to relax completely. Way on top of the ridge, a few small birds flew into the top of a tree. Scope views revealed they were Red Crossbills, but they got a way before we had a chance to observe them well. We were perhaps unprepared for the Flycatcher challenge, and totally missed a decisive Dusky. We did manage however a very good look at Gray Flycather in the mountain scrub that demonstrated its characteristic slow tail bobbing, rounded head, relatively long tail and uniformly pale gray plumage. Hammond’s Flycatcher was seen among the conifers and Western Wood Pewee near the lot. Again Mountain Quail was heard in the distance.

We decided to forego Sand Pond trail, which might have been productive for Warblers and other Passerines, in favor of more time in the Sierra Valley. I learned later that Northern Saw-whet Owl had been heard here, but that was of course at 9:30 pm.

Down hill from the Woodpecker’s nest tree, we followed Hwy 49 east to the Calpine turnoff (north). Once in Calpine, we turned right (east) to the intersection with Westside Road (A-23). There is a wide turnoff here and much low-lying sagey scrub. Here we looked and listened for Vesper Sparrow. The buzzy, Canary-like Brewer’s Sparrow song was heard almost immediately and we quickly saw one in the distance. We knew we had that bird, but Vesper had not yet shown itself so I pulled out my iPod and played a brief section of the Versper’s song. Immediately, and I do mean immediately, a drab Sparrow, somewhat bulkier and heavier-headed popped out of the bushes and landed nearby. It was a Vesper Sparrow. It began to sing an awkward version of the song I had just broadcast. Perhaps it was young, or frightened, but its song seemed hesitant and lacked confidence. As it sang more, it grew bolder and quickly refined its voice so that it sounded every bit as powerful as the one from my speakers. It was a good thing too, because both of these Sparrows are decidedly plain and their songs are crucial to good identification. The Vesper perched long enough for us to get in our scope, review the bold eye ring, the chestnut tertials and shoulder patch and as it flew, we also got a good views of the white outer tail feathers. The larger bird showed very different proportions than the Brewer’s which was slighter, longer-tailed and smaller-headed.

After that excitement, we drove north toward Marble Hot Springs Road where we expected to find a few Sierra Valley Specialties. Almost immediately after turning east onto the dirt road located near the small power station were greeted by numerous White-faced Ibis and breeding-plumaged Willet crisscrossing the marsh. Sandhill Cranes attending newborn chicks were seen in the distance, something bay area people just don't get to see too often... As well a few more Brewer’s Sparrows allowed close inspection. Western Meadowlark made their first appearance and a moment later we heard the strangled love songs of Yellow-headed Blackbirds. The marsh was quite literally crowded with birds and the activity was almost exhausting to watch. So much sound, so many tortured Yellow-headed sounds and an occasional Virginia Rail pumping in the reeds. A short broadcast produced a first class look at this latter species as it swam across the channel to investigate and then walked across the road to the other side. As a weird consolation, a Sora also called in response to the recorded Virginia Rail, but never appeared in the open.

Second lunch:

We ate lunch near the first small channel, taking time to absorb all the wonderful scenary and uncommon birds.

Second afternoon:
We continued along the dirt road toward the famed steel bridge that crosses the marsh. Before we reached the bridge however, we passed through some dramatically different habitat that featured a large sagey patch. There we made s sudden stop because I spotted a medium sized grayish bird atop one of the shrubs. It was in fact a Sage Thrasher, which became obvious when the white outer corners of the tail showed as the bird flew. Once again, I pulled out the iPod, growing more confident with each use that I was behaving conscienciously and demonstrating good field practices for our group. A quick and focused broadcast of Sage Thrasher song brought the bird back within a moment or two and it perched at close range and sang difiantly for the electronic intruder.

It was getting late in the afternoon so we headed back toward the lodge through Beckworth, hoping to see a Black-billed Magpie along the way. We had one near the bridge on A-23, just after turning south off of Hwy 70. and stopped to investigate, but failed to relocate the bird.

The only other stop along A-23 was at a rocky pine pullout where we hoped to log Red Crossbill. None appeared, however our only Spotted Towhee sang for us among the shrubbery and then finally appeared when treated to a short broadcast. We were pretty tired at this point.

A momentary stop at the Woodpecker nest hole near the Yuba Pass campground was not rewarded with any additional looks. A watched pot, I guess…

Second dinner:
A quick rest and freshen up at the lodge before reporting to Harrington’s. Dinner was just as delicious, this time it was bacon wrapped filet mignon and trout. After dinner, we made a mad rush to the Woodpecker site to try our luck. Maybe we would see them change places. Cricket and I stayed in position for about 30 minutes with nothing more than a few momentary looks at the female’s head.

Second night:
To be early again. We were very tired by now, but not too tired to enjoy a spectacular display of more Common Nighthawks from the balcony. Fireplace on again...

Last morning:

With some sadness we said goodbye to Mike and Lindy at the lodge and promised to return next year. We should have made the arrangements right then without delay, but it wasn’t long before Cricket phoned them to reserve the same room for the same weekend next year. By the sounds of it, we did the right thing. Lodging is scarce up there and each year it seems more and more birders visit the week AFTER the Black-back’s nest is located. I sure hope the location is posted BEFORE we arrive a year from now or we’ll be kind of in the dark… Up the creek, so to speak.

We decided to bird a little before returning to the yuckiness of the bay area so we stopped a couple of places before getting on our way. First, a 20 minute tour of the Research area east of Bassett's Station. Nothing new was located here, but our newfound familiarity with Evening Grosbeak songs allowed us to identify the birds before they appeared. Yet another Hammond's Flycatcher was seen as well as Wilson's, Orange-crowned and Yellow Warblers. Then we made our way to the campground to work the south road, leading up into the hills. Clay Kempf had recommended driving up the road for a mile or so to an area beyond a gate. There we stopped in an obvious trail head and wandered among the trees, hoping for a Dusky Flycatcher or a better look at Williamson’s Sapsucker. Neither bird appeared, but we did hear Mountain Quail in the distance and Red-breasted Sapsucker drummed on a nearby tree. A lone Flycatcher puzzled us for a while, but we finally decided it was yet another Hammond’s because of its short bill and tail and occasional sneezy vocalization. Red Crossbills taunted us again with their “kip-kip” call, but never appeared. On the far ridge, we could hear Clark’s Nutcracker making its long raspy call. Again, no visual, but an unmistakable voice. You get the picture… not much to see, but our ears were getting a work out.

Finally, we followed Hwy 49 to Sierraville, turned south on Hwy 89 and a quick right on the road that points toward “Rodeo Grounds”, then another right on Cemetery Road. This dirt road passes through a short sagey scrub area where Mountain Bluebird had been reported. We did not find this species, but we did add Western Bluebird on the powerlines as well as two young Great Horned Owls and an adult in the cemetery proper. Black-billed Magpie made an appearance in the meadow and once again, Red Crossbill were heard, but not seen.

Heading home:
The drive home after that seemed a bit shorter and rather quiet. We listened to music rather vacantly. I guess it just works that way. Not much we could add to a weekend like that. It was just perfect.


Pied-billed Grebe (SV)
American White Pelican (SV)
Great Blue Heron (SV)
Black-crowned Night Heron (SV)
White-faced Ibis (SV)
Canada Goose (SV)
Mallard (SV)
Cinnamon Teal (SV)
Gadwall (SV)
Redhead (SV)
Common Merganser
Ruddy Duck (SV)
Turkey Vulture (SV)
Osprey
Northern Harrier (SV)
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Golden Eagle
American Kestrel
Blue Grouse (heard only)
Mountain Quail
Virginia Rail (SV)
Sora (heard only) (SV)
American Coot (SV)
Sandhill Crane (SV)
Killdeer (SV)
Black-necked Stilt (SV)
American Avocet (SV)
Willet (SV)
Long-billed Curlew (SV)
Marbled Godwit (?) (SV)
Dowitcher species (Long-billed?) (SV)
Ring-billed Gull (SV)
California Gull (SV)
Rock Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl (SV)
Common Nighthawk
Anna’s Hummingbird
Calliope Hummingbird
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Williamson’s Sapsucker
Hairy Woodpecker
White-headed Woodpecker
Black-backed Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Olive-sided Flycatcher (heard only)
Western Wood Pewee
Hammond’s Flycatcher
Gray Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Western Kingbird (SV)
Horned Lark (SV)
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (SV)
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Steller’s Jay
Black-billed Magpie (SV)
American Crow (SV)
Common Raven
Mountain Chickadee
Bushtit
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
House Wren
American Dipper
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird (SV)
Swainson’s Thrush (heard only)
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Varied Thrush (heard only)
Sage Thrasher (SV)
European Starling
Hutton’s Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Hermit Warbler
MacGillivray’s Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler
Western Tanager
Black-headed Grosbeak
Green-tailed Towhee
Spotted Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Brewer’s Sparrow (SV)
Vesper Sparrow (SV)
Savannah Sparrow (SV)
Fox Sparrow “large-billed”
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark (SV)
Yellow-headed Blackbird (SV)
Brewer’s Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Pine Grosbeak
Purple Finch
Cassin’s Finch
Red Crossbill
Pine Siskin
Evening Grosbeak
House Sparrow (SV)




06-12-05

Cricket and I relocated one of the American Dippers along Steven Creek Road this afternoon about 50 yards up from the third bridge. This is of course, another "P-10" bird, a two-pointer. To locate the area, continue up on the road past Stevens Creek Park and stop when the road crosses a third bridge which is wooden and has a lot of peeling white paint. The large rock on the left side of the road provides a wide turnout where you can park your car and look up and down the creek a few yards. We saw the bird up stream from the rock however, which involved walking along the road past the "Alcohol Restriction" sign. Cars and bikes zoom past this area and the turns are often blind, so please be careful.




06-11-05

Cricket and I drove to Turlock yesterday for her nephew William's third birthday. He and his younger brother are adorable and it was a very fun party.

On the way there, we passed through a large farming area on Hwy 132 where the a tractor was working. I guess the activity was exposing a lot of small animals and grasshoppers because overhead there were twelve Swainson's Hawks (2 points) foraging. The species really enjoys the valley and is quite hard to find on the peninsula. Most appearances of SWHA occur farther south in the farming areas of Gilroy. I had actually never seen such a large turn out of the species in one place. It was quite exciting. We saw two more during the day, for a total of 14 birds. Elsewhere in the area a White-faced Ibis and a Cattle Egret flew over the road, but generally birds seemed scarce, save for numerous American Crows and Yellow-billed Magpies.

In the late afternoon when it was time to head home, we made a quick stop outside of Paterson to look for Grasshopper Sparrow. We got brief glimpses in exactly the same place our group located them a few weeks ago. Our looks were not as satisfying though, but the birds were identified. I mistakenly thought this was one of the "P-10" birds, but realized later that it had no bearing on the summer challenge... Oh, well. We could not find any Blue Grosbeak, but did see a Western Kingbird along the barbed wire fence.

Before returning home, we made a stop at Redwood Shores to look for Black Skimmers (1 point) in the dimming light. They were present on the island, four birds that we could count, mixed in were numerous Forster's Terns and a few Caspian Terns (1 point, already seen in Monterey).

Today we may search for American Dipper, but we have managed to get 10 points to date, so everything else will be extra credit... I wonder how many points we can collect before the beginning of class. Perhaps I should work on Leonie's suggestion and intensify the assignment by locating all 10 points within a single county...




06-05-05

Today, Cricket and I decided to look for another "Perfect 10" bird and drove to Alviso mid afternoon for Burrowing Owl. We took Hwy 237 to North First Street, turned right at the top, and followed the road toward the Jubilee Christian Center. There's a huge unoccupied building and a great grassy field on the right, and we turned in. After that we took the first left, and within seconds of passing the church Cricket yelled, "There's an Burrowing Owl on the fence!". We slowed and turned around to get a better look and just as she had said, a Burrowing Owl sat defiantly on the fence, just a few feet from the road. We managed to get a few shots, which I will post soon, and then continued to the EEC. Wind was too strong to see much and we left soon. At the intersection of State and Sprekles I spotted a second Burrowing Owl that perched abliginly atop another chain link fence. No pictures this time, though... We had hoped to find Bonaparte's Gull, or Semipalmated Plover in the salt ponds and nearby mudflats, but it wasn't meant to be, I guess. A brief side trip to Charleston Slough however, produced good looks at the two White-faced Ibis that have been reported at the Mountain View Forebay.




06-04-05

This is a belated report about our Memorial Day weekend in Monterey: Cricket and I have managed to retrieve a few birds off of the list this weekend. We were enjoying a family weekend with her parents, sister and brother-in-law and my parents (who were also celebrating their 42 anniversary!) We walked around Monterey and Cannery Row, ate out at a wonderful restaurant and drove home along Hwy 1. Here's what we have been able to find so far.:

Hooded Oriole (1 point)
has been nesting in the fan palm trees behind our apartment dumpster. A squabble between the pair and European Starlings was in progress when we refound the species.

Pigeon Guillemot (1 point)
is nesting around (and beneath) the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Caspian Tern (1 point)
was seen off shore among many Western Gulls at the timeshare on Monterey Bay

Swainson's Thrush (2 points)
was located along Gazos Creek Road south of Pescadero

Common Murre (1 point)
was spotted flying beyond the waves from Pigeon Point Lighthouse

If you are curious what else is on the table, I am including the text from the original challenge below:

Summer Challenge: Operation "Perfect 10"
The summer challenge is to earn a total of ten points by finding any combination of the target birds before class begins again in September. The point value is listed beside each target. Species with a designated value of “1” are the most easily located in the Bay Area. “2” indicates the target is slightly more difficult (possibly requiring extra travel or a more concentrated search). “3” indicates a species that is rare and/or very difficult to find. You can decide how you want to reach the goal of 10 points depending on your travel plans or available time. Work in groups or individually, but plan your operation carefully and share your progress by posting short reports to the email roster. That way, people wishing to follow up on certain birds will have your directions to guide them. Your scope of operation can be as wide as you wish. (Traveling to Santa Barbara? I might be willing to give you 2 points for a Royal Tern...) However, credit for rare or uncommon species not listed below will be at the instructor’s discretion. Sialia.com, and the NCal Birdbox (415.681.7422) will be of great use to you as will your fellow classmates. You may also wish to consult my news items for the past few summers because many of the target species were mentioned in my reports with locations and dates. Good Luck! You have 3 months...

Wood Duck 1
Common Merganser 1
Osprey 1
Swainson’s Hawk 2
Virginia Rail 2
Semipalmated Plover 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 1
Whimbrel 1
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Ruff 3
Wilson’s Phalarope 1
Red-necked Phalarope 1
Bonaparte’s Gull 1
Heerman’s Gull 1
Caspian Tern 1
Elegant Tern 1
Least Tern 2
Black Tern 3
Black Skimmer 1
Pigeon Guillemot 1
Common Murre 1
Burrowing Owl 1
Black Swift 3
Vaux’s Swift 2
Black-chinned Hummingbird 2
Cassin’s Kingbird 2
Purple Martin 3
Bank Swallow 3
Rock Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
American Dipper 2
Swainson’s Thrush 2
Nashville Warbler 2
MacGillivray’s Warbler 3
Yellow-breasted Chat 3
Rufous-crowned Sparrow 1
Chipping Sparrow 2
Sage Sparrow 2
Hooded Oriole 1
Red Crossbill 2


Not on the list, but still very interesting over the weekend was:
Sooty Shearwater. Many hundreds were criss-crossing the horizon visible from Monterey. A scope is definitely an advantage, but awareness of body shape and flight style should suffice for identification.