I birded Radio Road in Redwood Shores today before visiting my parents in Foster City. they've just moved and their new townhouse is floor-to-ceiling boxes... Anyway, between the two small islands in the control pond a Red Phalarope was foraging. I watched him for a few minutes and he kept working the same small area. I saw a man with a scope and two small girls. He asked me if I'd seen anything interesting. "Looks like a Red Phalarope," I said. I was expecting him to correct me and say it was a Red-necked. But he took one quick look and confirmed my identification. "Nice spot," he said. "What's your name?" I asked. "Steve Rottenborn" was the answer. I told him my name and he said he recognized me from my webiste... I certainly recognized him too, and was very glad to have his confirmation, for such an uncommon inland bird. Strangely, this was the only Phalorope I saw here, but Steve later reported both Wilson's and Red-necked. Anyway, Elegant Terns were present in small numbers, as were two Black Skimmers. The Marbled Godwit flock was enormous.... I wonder if there's something hiding in there... like maybe a Bar-tailed. We both joked about that for a moment and scanned the huge group. Nothing unexpected, however.
At Coyote Point Marina I saw a Black Turnstone, and both Wilson's and Red-necked Phalaropes as well as many more Elegant Terns .
I visited Alviso this morning, looking for the Baird's Sandpiper. After some time, I was able to find it on the entrance road to the EEC. It was in the last pond on the left side of the road (just before the large sign and where the road bends sharply to the left). It's a very elegant looking bird, with long primaries that extend noticeably beyond the tail, and this combined with its larger size and elongated shape made it identifiable even without the telescope. It was foraging among Least, Western Sandpipers and Semipalmated Plovers . As well, 2 Lesser Yellowlegs were in the area.
Earlier in the day, I bumped into Anne Verdi, who was kind enough to point out the Pectoral Sandpiper she had been watching along the board walk. That bird was sleeping when she called my attention to it, but it later woke up and walked about, making obvious its different shape and size.
Thursday's ruling by federal judge Anna Diggs Taylor that the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping/ eavesdropping program (euphemistically called the "domestic surveillence program) is unconstituional could not be more thrilling to me. Her ruling in support of the ACLU must have taken great courage since George Bush, in his typically monarchical style, angrily insists the program is necessary, and that he has the right to work outside of established law, (ie. the 1978 law requiring warrants for any and all wiretapping operations). Judge Taylor argued, "It was never the intent of the framers [of the Constitution] to give the president such unfettered control, particularly when his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights. The three separate branches of government were developed as a check and balance for one another."
No one argues that terrorism is a dangerous reality in today's world, but we must not give up our constitutional freedoms to combat this threat when lawful methods of doing so are already in place. Bush's comment on the ruling was that he was "confident that a federal court ruling against his administration’s electronic surveillance program will be overturned, and those who hailed the ruling are naïve."
I guess that means I'm naïve... Thank you very much for clearing that up, Mr. Bush. I thought I was just recalling my history lessons.
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
-- Ben Franklin, 1775
Cricket and I boarded Roger Wolfe's Monterey Seabirds tour today. This was the first time we'd been on one of his trips, and I highly recommend it. His crew was friendly, knowledgeable and sharp eyed. Besides Roger, other notable birders Tim Amaral, Dan Singer, Todd Easterla and Richard Ternullo were acting as spotters. Photographer Pete LaTourette was also present, shooting great shot after great shot. The weather was overcast, with generally calm seas and good conditions for viewing. We had taken our dramimine, stocked up on crackers and dried ginger slices and Canada Dry, but none of this prevented her from getting sick. I was fine, however.
Immediately out of the harbor we had Red-necked Phalarope along the jetty. As well there were at least two Red Phalaropes mixed in, which was slightly surprising since this species is usually seen farther from shore. Elegant and Caspian Terns crossed overhead as we passed Lover's Point. We continued south toward warmer waters and eventually the edge of deeper water. Arctic Tern, as well as Common Tern passed briefly, but I was only confident with the Arctic. Sooty Shearwaters were numerous in many places, and smaller numbers of Pink-footed Shearwaters were occasionally mixed in with these. They were obvious, even at a distance because of their larger size and more relaxed flight. Buller's Shearwaters were seen as well, occasionally in small segregated groups. Eventually someone called out a Black-footed Albatross, and before long, there were as many as 12 in view at a time. Sabine's Gulls were more common than anyone could remember for August, with upwards of 20 at a time. Pomarine Jaegers were conspicuous, but one or two Parasitic and Long-tails showed up also. I spotted the only Storm Petrel of the day, and Roger confirmed it was Ashy Storm Petrel. Cassin's Auklet and Rhinoceros Auklets were seen individually, as well as Common Murre and Pigeon Guillemot. No Loons or Grebes were seen, but they weren't expected because it is really too early. One surprise were a couple of Northern Fulmar.
The annual San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory Fall Challenge raises money for the organization's ongoing research and conservation programs. SFBBO is asking for a $50 donation per person (which goes directly to the SFBBO and is of course, tax deductible). I hope many of you will decide to attend, especially since we will be visiting several Santa Clara County birding locations not covered in the Fall term itinerary. Sign ups must be made in advance through SFBBO. Several guided walks are available but here is my particular plan:
My team, the "DeDucktions" hopes to log more than 100 species and will have an all-day experience in a variety of habitats within a roughly 10-mile radius of the Bird Observatory headquarters. We will bird local parks including: Alum Rock Park in San Jose (entrance fee), Ed Levin Park (entrance fee) in Milpitas, and various bay front locations in Alviso, Sunnyvale Control Ponds and Shoreline Park. We will also head into the hills, visiting Stevens Creek Park (entrance fee) and the Audbon headquarters at McClellan Ranch if time allows.
We will rendez vous at Alum Rock Park: Drive south on Hwy 101, exiting on Alum Rock Drive. Cross over the highway and go northwest toward the Mount Hamilton. Turn left on White Rd. and follow it north until you arrive at Penitencia. Turn right on Penitencia and follow the road up into the park. An entrance fee may be collected at the entrance. Continue driving until you reach the last parking lot and picnic area at the top of the park. We will begin our day by exploring the creek for possible American Dipper and the chaparral for Californai Thrasher and Rufous-cronwed Sparrow. Who knows what else we'll find.
The plan may change as we near the date. For updates, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Somehow I missed this article earlier, but John Fitzpatrick and other members of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker research team have responded to the fierce criticism from J.A. Jackson regarding the validity of their findings. A long "clarification" was published by The Auk in April and addresses Jackson's questions and concerns.
No new evidence has been submitted, but the thoroughness of their research and the thought process behind their statements is very convincing. Their defense illustrates how critical our keen attention to detail is, and significant the subtle differences in behavior and "GISS" can be. (Consider for example, the approaching wave of confusing Shorebirds, and how we need to examine the different ways they carry themselves...) The entire article can be viewed at: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/ivory/latest/auk06april/document_view
We all hope that new evidence will be discovered soon so we can put the arguments behind and concentrate on how to help the species survive. Well, perhaps the arguments would continue, since conservation takes many forms... In any case, let's hope for a photograph at least.