12-22-02

I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather today and went to the Ravenswood area at the base of the Dumbarton Bridge. Driving toward the East Bay, there is a turn off just before the incline that leads along side the road and eventually leads under the bridge and back toward East Palo Alto. Just after the underpass there were 9 swimming Red Phalaropes feeding at scope distance among a group of Bonaparte's Gulls. There were vast numbers of Dunlin in this general area too, although they kept to the shores instead of the open water. From there I travelled to the EEC in Alviso where great multitudes of Bonaparte's Gulls were also encountered as well as a single Prairie Falcon that struggled in the high wind to gain footing on one of the power towers.



12-02-02

Today, once again on my lunch hour walk along the San Francisquito Creek, I encountered an interesting avian event. This time I was accompanied by my friends Duane Reimer and Mehdi Anvarian who are not birders (at least not yet...) As we strolled after lunch and chatted about the dismal economy a pair of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, both males, were engaged in some kind of territorial dispute. They issued their loud "jid-it!" call and sang aggressively to eachother. They flashed their brilliant red crowns repeatedly in angry display and actually struck eachother several times. These tiny birds seemed completely absorbed in whatever patch of branch (or perhaps a disputed female) they sought to win from the other. As we watched each flew at the other over and over again just a few feet from where we stood, tumbling in mid-air, even seeming to summersault in flight a few times seeking to chase off the other. Finally, they exhausted themselves and had to leave the struggle. When it was all done the birds were fatigued to the point that neither one could fly very well, resorting to short weak bursts that barely cleared the ground. It was such a memorable display of animal behavior that even my non-birder companions were impressed. They may yet show an interest in watching birds...



12-01-02

Lot's of news... to begin with, Kelly Hayashi and Jesse Conklin (my good friend from Humboldt) and I decided to rollerblade at Shoreline Lake today and had a wonderful day of "skate-birding". We began by finding the rare Barrow's Goldeneye at the boathouse end of the lake. It was feeding actively among a group of Common Goldeneye and Surf Scoters. (There is also a hybrid Common x Barrow's Goldeneye present, so care must be taken to ensure you've got all the necessary fieldmarks to identify the bird as "full-blooded" Barrow's.) Later, we skated the paved trail beside salt pond 1A and found a Sharp-shinned Hawk circling overhead, several Ring-necked Ducks, a single Redhead foraging quite far out on the water. A few minutes later we bumped into Bill Bousman and Bob Reiling, both of whom had scopes. I asked if they had had any luck locating the Long-tailed Duck that had been reported the day before. They said they had already relocated the bird and had it in their scopes. We managed to view the bird quite well (while we struggled to maintain balance on our skates). The wonderful thing was that while we were watching the first bird, a second Long-tailed Duck surfaced right next to it! Quite an extraordinary bird for the county already, but two in one day... that was really special. We also bumped into Stephanie Barkey and husband, and later my good friend Brian Christman, who was armed with scope, but no skates. I hope he was able to find the birds after we left.

All of this on the tail of Kelly's and my experience yesterday cutting down a Christmas tree on Skyline Blvd. We had decided to first go all the way over the hill to see if we could find the Long-tailed Duck reported at Princeton Harbor a few days earlier. We found it within two minutes while scanning the water from the trail head. It was a lifer for her! After that little victory, choosing one tree out of the many thousands of beautiful ones seemed like no challenge at all. There were also many dozens of Cedar Waxwings present in the area.

On our way to Kelly's parents' home in Lodi for Thanksgiving dinner, we saw many raptors in the Central Valley. My mother identified a Golden Eagle as we drove over the Altamont Pass and later, when we had almost arrived at the Hayashi's home we saw a Rough-legged Hawk sitting on a post quite close to the road. The bird was baffling, but identifiable once were stopped and had time to consult several books. Another valley bird we saw included Yellow-billed Magpie of which there were many on the levy trail behind their home.

Last weekend had its thrills too. Brian Christman, Kelly and I visited Calero Reservoir and easily found the four Ross' Goose and single "Cackling" Canada Goose reported there. This small, dark subspecies of the Canada Goose superspecies is almost Mallard-sized and more common to the north. We also encountered a good-sized flock of Common Mergansers, a group of about 10 Wild Turkeys and some snorting Wild Boar.

In other news, a disturbing develpment in the President's "clean air policy". The Bush administration recently eased clean air rules to allow utilities, refineries and manufacturers to avoid having to install expensive new anti-pollution equipment when they modernize their plants. The complete story can be viewed by looking here: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/news/a/2002/11/22/national1151EST0598.DTL Between this and the possiblity of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Area, I just don't know how we're going to save the environment...

Finally, kind of ironic for the season, Marin County reports an overpopulation of Wild Turkey. There are so many birds infact (100,000 individuals), that they are considering thinning the population, perhaps in time to help needy families for Thanksgiving... The full story can be viewed by looking here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2002/11/27/MN237724.DTL