Total ABA Species Recorded During 2010 - 731

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Few Rarities

Saturday was a pretty day for our MD visit and Joyce and I got to watch our granddaughter Bre play soccer (photo).  However, still nothing new on the bird rarity scene as we left the playing field and headed toward Baltimore.  Our hotel right on the harbor front was a few notches up in quality from my usual overnight digs on the birding highway.   We arrived with enough time before the wedding to rest up.  With our wedding duds on, we took the shuttle bus running between the hotel and the wedding venue, the American Visionary Art Museum, with its sculptures modeled after a hot air balloon and an early airplane hanging aloft (photo).  The bride and groom were not teenagers, but were still a lot younger than we are.  And the vows spoken and the readings given were very young, quite spirited, and clever.  There were many young children in attendance who were asked to participate from time to time. I like that. The dinner reception which followed was upstairs in the museum, two floors up.  It was great seeing and chatting with all of Joyce's cousins.  As usual the music was too loud, but it was a young people's night.  We did get in a dance (slow) before we called it a night and returned to the hotel.  I checked the email and saw that a Pink-footed Goose had been found in New Brunswick.  I went to bed wondering what I would do about it.
On Sunday we went to a lovely brunch in a restaurant nearby and I continued to wonder if I should chase the goose.  I began the drive home.  But after we got into Virginia, Joyce drove, giving me a chance to make a couple of phone calls and try a few northeastern itineraries using my wireless router and laptop.  In the end I decided to stay on course with my upcoming trip to Louisiana and go for the closer Pink-foot that will make an appearance before the end of the year.  It was also good to see that several other rarities popped up over the weekend, but none that I needed for the yearlist.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Home and No Rarity Reports

Tuesday I flew back to Norfolk from San Francisco.  You'll recall that was the day of the storm in the north midwest.  As you might guess that storm produced airport delays primarily in the Chicago area, but those trickled down through the system and affected many flights later in the day.  My flight to Las Vegas was on time, but the flight from there to Norfolk was delayed due to "mechanical problems."  As a note of interest to those who make note of obscure facts, I think this particular flight on Southwest is the longest direct flight from or to Norfolk.  Anyone know of a longer one?  My flight took off over an hour late, but because of the huge tailwind (>120mph!), I arrived in Norfolk only 20 minutes late.  The flight time was less than four hours.  See image at left for an illustration of a tailwind (web photo).
Yesterday and today have been errand days and watching the birds in the backyard where nothing particularly exciting has flown in.  Tomorrow Joyce and I will head for Baltimore for a wedding of the daughter of one of Joyce's cousins.  It should be a fun weekend.  Meanwhile I'll keep my ear to the ground for the arrival of a rarity anywhere in the ABA area.  They certainly haven't been plentiful this last week; I guess that's why they're called rarities, eh?

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Lazy Day in California

After finding that it would cost too much to fly home a day early, I decided to do some local birding.  It was fun.  No, I didn't go to Big Sur and look for Condors.  I went to a local park near Petaluma where there were ten joggers and dog walkers for every birder.  The park is an area associated with a set of sewage lagoons for the city of Petaluma.  There were lots of water birds including hundreds of Long-billed Dowitchers, American Avocets, and Black-necked Stilts.  Near the beginning of the trail around the impoundments a nice group of Tri-colored Blackbirds were croaking away (photo) [After re-examining my notes and checking in the literature, I think these were the "Bi-colored Blackbirds" which occur in Central California].  Their vocalization is quite different from that of the usually more common Red-winged Blackbirds.  There were no Red-wings at the park.  Overhead a Red-shouldered Hawk was screaming (photo).
The second place I visited was the Benicia State Recreation Area which was on the edge of the bay, so there were some Western and Clark's Grebes there.  A pair of Clark's Grebes were interacting and vocalizing (photo).  Around the edges were White-crowned Sparrows, many Song Sparrows, and a few Western Scrub-Jays and California Towhees.
During the day there was a rumor of a Smew in British Columbia and news that a few White-winged Crossbills have been seen in Maine.  So far the Smew is not firm enough to chase, and I'll get the crossbills when I go north in December, but it was nice to get the news.  Tomorrow I fly home via Las Vegas which is a much better route than going back through Minneapolis or Detroit given that a perfect storm will lash the north midwest tomorrow.Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Not so Sunny California

Yesterday went more or less as planned, but unfortunately the rain and wind showed up as predicted.  Ahead of the adverse weather I was able to do some roadside birding on my way to Point Reyes.  At Rigdon Currie's house his wife and a friend were putting up fruit jams , while over lunch Rig and I caught up on what's been happening in our respective lives.  From there I birded north along the coast where I photographed the Wrentit shown here.  Other interesting birds were White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows, California Thrasher and Towhee, and a big flock of Marbled Godwits and Willets.  The house that Kate Sutherland had rented for a group of pelagikers including me was lovely.  As a group we watched a screening of "The Birds," the Hitchcock movie filmed in Bodega Bay, after which a pork chop dinner was prepared and served.  Yum! 
We all had hoped we could get offshore the following day.  But it was not to be.  Even though the final decision was postponed until 9am, the answer was the same.  We didn't go out on the ocean.  We waited for that final decision while having a full breakfast in The Tides, the restaurant right on the water.  Outside the rain was pounding and the wind was howling.  Now I have to decide what to do.  I could go back to Norfolk early.  I could bird somewhere south of here where there's better weather.  What shall I do?

Friday, October 22, 2010

In California

This was a travel day and indeed it was again "One of those days!"  All went well until I got to LA where I was to change planes for the flight to San Francisco.  That flight was moved to a new plane which delayed the arrival into San Fran by nearly two hours.  Obama had been there earlier in the day and had probably slowed things down a bit anyway.  In the exchange of planes, my bag came up missing.  I used the same car rental agency I did last time and that worked out very well again.  When I arrived at the motel, the receptionist recognized me, and when I told her I again was awaiting the delivery of an errant bag, she asked if I was carrying something I shouldn't be.  Not that I know of, I replied.  My cheapie motel didn't carry the TV channel doing the baseball playoffs, so I listened on the clock radio in the room to Joe and John on ESPN radio which turned out to be just right.  Dinner at the IHOP next door followed and the wait for the bag ended with its delivery around 11pm.  Kinda a looooong day.  Tomorrow I'm working my way north with a little birding at Point Reyes.  I'm dropping in to see Rig Currie who  is Dick Peake's cousin and with whom I traveled to Papua New Guinea some years ago.  I'm hoping the boat gets out on Sunday.  Ned Brinkley, Brian Patteson, and Kate Sutherland as well as many of the west coast pelagickers will be aboard.  I'm looking forward to spending time with all of them.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thanks for the Scope Offers

Nothing new on the bird front, but it is certainly heartwarming to know that there are some really nice people out there.  I have been offered the use of a scope with no strings attached by three different people.  At present I'm just hanging in there and using my larger Leica scope when I can work out of the car (and not leave it behind!).  I have contacted our insurance company and under our homeowners policy it looks as if I'll be able to recover some funds which can be used toward the purchase of a replacement scope, probably next year.  In the meantime I'm enjoying being home and checking out the birds in the backyard with a cup of coffee, of course.  I'm trying to get over to Kiptopeke, but I haven't made it yet, because I've been getting some chores done and preparing for the West Coast pelagic trip this coming weekend.  I've also kept my eye on the Rare Bird Alerts and have seen Jack Snipe (AK) and Wood Sandpiper (BC) be recent one-day wonders, so no chase has been  possible.  Several other sightings around the country were of birds whose identity could not be corroborated, so I rejected them.  Right now there's an unconfirmed sighting from NV posted on ebird of a Fork-tailed Flycatcher.  I could stop on the way to CA and have a go at it IF it turns out to be genuine and stays put long enough to be seen again.  Meanwhile there are the baseball playoff games.  Yahoo!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Exotic Waterfowl

Joyce and I got started toward Pea Island NWR on the Outer Banks of NC at a pretty reasonable time.  There was very little traffic.  As we were crossing the Albemarle Sound bridge, I called Audrey Whitlock, who has been keeping track of the White-cheeked Pintail to see if she could join us.  She was in the midst of packing up for a fishing tournament at Hatteras, but would try to meet up with us later.  When we got to the refuge visitor's center and got out of the car, we discovered how strong the wind was.  It was probably blowing about 25mph and became a real nuisance in our search for the duck.  Chris Hitt, he of the lower-48 big year, was already there and reported that he hadn't found it yet.  We looked together from the platforms where it had been seen this week, but in two hours of careful scanning, we didn't find it.  Audrey called and said she was heading down to help us search.  She scanned from the road which had a better sun angle, but didn't find the duck either.  We were all getting a little hungry, so we adjourned to Whalebone Junction for lunch at Sugar Creek and Audrey continued looking.  We had no more than ordered when Audrey called to say the bird was in sight.  Chris and I left Joyce at the table and hurried back to glimpse the bird.  Audrey had left, but on the platform was Fred Alsop, a long-time friend, and his class from East Tennessee State University who were keeping track of the duck.  They also were viewing a Eurasian Wigeon.  Then it was back to meet up with Joyce who had gotten our meals as takeouts.  We dined in the comfort of our cars and Chris headed back home and Joyce and I went back to Pea Island where I tried to get a photo of the pintail (photo).  The sun angle was terrible, so I only modestly succeeded.  Whether I count this duck on my year's list depends on whether the NC bird record committee votes to accept the record as being of a wild bird and not an escape (exotic).  That vote probably won't be for awhile.  In the meantime I won't hold my breath.

Friday, October 15, 2010

No Scope and I Take a Bump

Today was spent entirely in airports and in the air.  I flew back to Norfolk from Manchester NH leaving Denny and Terry Abbott to keep things going until I returned later in the year.  There has been no word about my lost scope, so I am presuming it is not going to return.  I'll file an insurance claim and get some funds to use toward a replacement.  I also took a bump on the flight from Baltimore to Norfolk meaning I gave up my seat and gained a chit worth $457 toward a future Southwest flight.  I view that as scope money too.  Tomorrow Joyce and I will go to Pea Island NWR in NC to look for the White-cheeked Pintail.  Whether it will count as a yearbird is out of my hands.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

That's Not a Canada Goose!

The drive from New Hampshire to Connecticut went smoothly.  We arrived at MacKenzie Reservoir in Wallingford CT and found no geese at all present.  So we canvassed the surrounding fields and found lots of Canada Geese, but not the one we sought.  After a couple of hours we went back to the reservoir where amazingly there were now over 500 geese.  After a rather brief scan, I found the Barnacle Goose along the near shore.  The goose was yearbird #712.  I took some pictures of the goose and his friends and we drove off to get some coffee.  The new bird, however, came at some cost.  When we got as far north as Worcester MA, we refilled the gas tank and I repacked my stuff for the airport.  At that point I realized I had left my scope at the reservoir.  Denny called a friend of his in CT and asked if he could get someone to go to the spot and see if the scope was still there.  It seemed to me the best course of action would be to turn around and go back to CT which we did.  In route I revised my airline reservations since I wouldn't get back to Manchester NH in time to fly out today.  To make story short after a long drive (560 miles today), the scope was not there.  Several birders had in fact driven over to check the spot before we got there and also didn't find it.  So it's probably history although a minuscule chance remains.  I know what you're saying: Expensive bird, eh?  and I would agree.  If any of you knows someone interested in selling a small, quality scope, have them get in touch with me.  We stopped at a Cracker Barrel for dinner (lemon pepper trout) on the way back north and arrived at Denny and Terry's about 9pm where I'm writing this blog.  Tomorrow I fly home (via Tampa, believe it or not!).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Plum of a Bird

The two flights on Southwest Air to Manchester NH went without a hitch and my friend, Denny Abbott, was there to pick me up at the airport.  We took off for Plum Island refuge, formally known as Parker River NWR.  Actually the bird we were seeking, Curlew Sandpiper, was on the state property adjoining the NWR on the south side.  When I got off the plane, I had a phone message from Chris Hitt who is doing a lower forty-eight big year.  We had talked last night and I learned he was taking a red-eye to Boston to also look for the sandpiper.  I called him and he had already been looking for the sandpiper, had not found it, and was getting some lunch.  We made plans to meet at the park after lunch and look for the bird together.  Denny and I stopped and had a sandwich and then drove on to Plum Island.  We drove to the parking lot at the south end, parked, and walked south to the are where the bird had been seen.  There were a total of about a dozen birders also looking for the bird.  We were waiting for high tide when the shorebirds would be pushed up onto the wrack where they could be easily scoped.  We certainly looked at a lot of Dunlin, but they were all Dunlin.  There were plovers, gulls, and a few Caspian Terns around.  Finally we noticed that there were a bunch of birds on the higher areas, so we turned our attention to those.  After a false alarm with a Dunlin, we finally found the bird and everyone breathed a sigh of relief and enjoyed watching it feed for quite a while.  It was so tame that it wasn't hard to get photos of it which I did.  In one you can see the white rump.  This bird raised the list total to 711.  Tomorrow Denny and I are gong to try to find a Barnacle Goose which arrived in a reservoir in Connectictut a couple of days ago.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Homer and No Crossbill

I spent Sunday around the Sonneborn's house in Anchorage.  After Dave got off hospital call duty, we did a little birding around Anchorage, with some Barrow's Goldeneyes being the best bird.  Andy prepared a great feast for that night for their sons and families and I happened to be there to join in on the fun.  It was a lovely evening.
Yesterday Dave and I drove to Homer where we hunted for White-winged Crossbills on the way to and around Homer itself.  We did see birds like Spruce Grouse, Northern Shrike, and Boreal Chickadee, which would all be great for someone from Norfolk, Virginia, but since I wanted those crossbills badly and we couldn't seem to find any, both of us were greatly disappointed.  This year has been a bad year for White-winged Crossbills in Alaska, once again not something I really wanted to hear and not the palliative I needed.  So with daylight about gone, I boarded an ERA commuter plane in Homer for the half-hour flight back to Anchorage.  Once in the Anchorage airport I changed clothes for my red-eye home and checked my luggage.  Recall that I had used frequent flier miles to get back to Alaska.  For the return flight on that ticket they put me in first class to which I raised no objection.  That boost would really help with my trying to get some quality sleep on the way home.  And indeed it did.  So for the next few hours I'll be in Norfolk.  But tomorrow (Wednesday) morning, I'll jump a Southwest Airlines plane for Manchester NH where my friend Denny Abbott will pick me up and we'll try to find the Curlew Sandpiper that's been at Plum Island in Massachusetts for several days, waiting for me to show up and see it. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Around Barrow

I'm having trouble loading pictures.  It says my browser isn't able to handle cookies.  Never happened before.  Tried to correct it as they suggested, but it didn't help.  So.... for pics....too bad.  I rode around Barrow today trying to find photographable Ross's Gulls.  Not much luck.  At one point the snowing was thick so I left the camera in the car, and you guessed it.  The snow stopped, the sun came out, and a flock of Ross's flew by.  I did take a lot of pics of Glaucous Gulls feeding on the whale carving scraps.  Every plumage was present so it made a nice collection.  However, it's not likely that I'll see a Glaucous Gull in early October in Virginia, so these plumage pics will only be suggestive.  The big dark gull from yesterday has been called a Great Black-backed Gull which is pretty neat, except I didn't give it an early stamp of approval.  Pretty bad when an East-coaster can't definitively ID a GBBG!  It's only Alaska's second record and appears to have come around the Arctic route.  The first was on Kodiak Island.  I also took a couple of pics of Arctic Foxes trying to help themselves to the whale scraps.  One was dark and the other was nearly white.  Late in the day John Pushock and his group found Spectacled Eiders in a flock of King Eiders.  Then it was time to gas up the rental car, turn it in, repack, and get to the airport for the flight to Anchorage where I took a cab to Dave and Andy Sonneborn's house and waited for them to return from the opera.  We then had a nice late dinner at TGIFs and returned to their house and went to bed.  Tomorrow I'll watch some baseball and get ready to go to the Kenai on Monday with Dave to look for White-winged Crossbills.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Gull Day at Barrow

Today convinced me that I made the right decision to come to Barrow.  It was my biggest yearbird day in two months.  This morning I was more than ready to go when Bob Dittrick and Dave Porter came around at 9:00am to pick me up at my hotel, the King Eider.  Outside it really wasn't light enough to see until then.  We drove out to the spot where the whales had been brought in for carving.  That process was pretty much finished and the scraps and pieces were being picked up by machines and put into dumpsters for disposal at The Point, where if bears came, they would be far away from where the people are.  We scanned for a while until Dave spotted a female Snowy Owl  sitting on a little mound.  Shortly thereafter a couple of arctic foxes came by and harrassed her, but she held her ground and eventually they went away.  Then I spotted the bird I really came to Barrow to see, a Ross's Gull.  Not just one, but a flock of a dozen.  Wow!  Things were going well.  Then the Glaucous Gulls, which up to that point had been rather scarce, began to come in to the whale scraps.  Yesterday Bob and Dave had seen about two dozen.  Today I figure we saw about a thousand.  Big change!  Then more Ross's Gulls went by.  For the day I thought we saw about a hundred total.  At one point we looked over at the Glaucous Gulls roosting on the ice and there was a Ross's Gull (photo) standing on the ice.  It's not hard to see the pink.  This was my only photo op today, but I hope to improve on it tomorrow.  We were moving away from the area when John Pushock called to say they had an adult Thayer's Gull.  We quickly returned and scoped it, and  later saw another. As it began to snow, two birders from Ketchikan, Andy Piston and Steve Heinl, came back to tell us they had just found an adult Ivory Gull (photo).  At that point word came in that two more bowhead whales had been harpooned and were being towed in for carving.  We watched the process for quite a while then went to dinner, after which Bob and Dave went to the airport for their flight back to Anchorage.  I took over their rental car and went to the Airport Inn, my new hotel.  When I got on the internet, I got the final new yearbird of the day.  The small white-rumped storm-petrel that we saw on the Grande trip out of San Diego has been re-evaluated and determined to be a Wedge-rumped Storm-petrel.  That's what I thought it was during my initial reaction, but I didn't push the case then.  I'm glad the photographers did a good job; their good work is the reason I picked up an additional yearbird.  So for the day I picked up four new ones, bringing the total for the year to 710.Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I Made it to Barrow

It was a long day of air travel that went with no hitches.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I even arrived in Anchorage early enough to change to an earlier flight to Barrow that would get me in before it got dark.  When I arrived in Barrow, it was 25F and there was some new snow on the ground.  Bob Dittrick and Dave Porter picked me up at the airport and we went out to the spit to scan for Ross's Gulls, but didn't see any in the waning light.  We did pass the native group that was carving up three Bowhead Whales that had been harpooned today.  It was a pretty efficient operation.  It had to be since any leftover whale would attract polar bears.  Maybe I'll get to see my first one in the next couple of days.  However, it does make birding on the spit a little dicey, requiring vigilance.  We had a nice Japanese dinner at the Osaka Restaurant, topped off by a slice of apple pie.  I picked up my bag which came in on the plane I was originally to arrive on, and went to the King Eider Hotel where I checked in and met a couple of birders new to Barrow.  Tomorrow we'll all be out looking for pink gulls.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Revisiting Southern California Locations

After breakfast, I chose to drive to San Diego with stops at a couple of birding spots John and I visited in March on our first California trip.  The first, Jacumba, is an historic town sandwiched between the interstate and the Mexican border fence.  I liked it when we were there earlier and I still got a kick out of this visit. Since I was between meals, I didn't stop at the quaint restaurant, not even for a cup of coffee. This is the location where we saw our Tricolored Blackbirds (web photo) and they were still here, in even larger numbers than earlier.  I spent some time listening to their croaking calls, very different from those of the ordinary Red-winged Blackbirds.  Further west I left the interstate to drive north on Kitchen Creek road up to the campground where I had hoped there would be some migrants in the oaks.  But it was pretty quiet.  Just phoebes and House Wrens plus Wrentits bouncing their balls and scrub-jays yelling up on the hill.  I drove into San Diego and found my motel where I repacked for the trip tomorrow and watched post-season baseball games.  The Phillies look to be hard to beat.  Tomorrow I fly to Barrow, Alaska to seek the Ross's Gull(s).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Yellow-Green Vireo

To get the day moving quickly, I ate leftover snack food from the pelagic trip, but of course washing it down with a cup of coffee from the urn in the Motel 6 lobby.  And then I was on my way east on I-10 to Desert Center CA, a small oasis community just off the interstate with a pond and golf course.  The water keeps the vegetation green and attracts migrants creating what is known to birders as a migrant trap.  I had good specific directions from Curtis Marantz who had found the bird and they worked to perfection.  I parked the car and walked to the corner where he had suggested I begin.  He had also said that if the group of Yellow and Orange-crowned Warblers weren't around, the vireo had probably also departed.  But there they were, the Yellow and Orange-crowned Warblers in a tall tree on the corner.  And into this group popped the Yellow-green Vireo (web photo by Tom Benson is of the bird I saw today).  But as with the previous two days the bird was seen, it disappeared behind some leaves and didn't reappear.  I never saw it fly, but after waiting and waiting, I can only conclude that it must have flown unseen by me.  I birded the area for a couple of hours and had fun doing it, but the vireo never came back.  Did have some Sandhill Cranes fly over as well as have a Prairie Falcon lift off from a palm tree with a prey item.  And did I mention the barking dogs?
I decided to spend the rest of the day at the Salton Sea looking for a Blue-footed Booby.  I know!  I know!  There's been no report of one, but I thought I'd get a jump on it.  Well, it was a lot of fun seeing hundreds of American White Pelicans, Caspian Terns, and Black-necked Stilts, plus Marbled Godwits, Long-billed Curlews, and a thousand Cattle Egrets and White-faced Ibis feeding in one field.  I could have looked for the Brown Booby which has been seen recently on the east side of the lake, but since I'd just seen two yesterday, that didn't really excite me enough to get it done.
So tomorrow I'll either bird some more around the Salton Sea area or check out some wooded areas in the Laguna Mountains for landbird migrants.  The vireo raises the year's total to 706.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Three-Day Pelagic Trip on the Grande

I'm writing this a day later than I had planned because my internet connectivity last night was acting up.
On Saturday morning, October 2, at 7:00am our party left the dock in San Diego aboard the good ship Grande and headed out into the Pacific Ocean, passing over several significant underwater features, like the nine-mile bank and the thirty-mile bank, that tend to have birds.  A highlight was a multi-part flock of storm-petrels that was about 2/3 Least and 1/3 Black and totalled about 5,000 birds (photo).  In the flock was one small white-rumped individual that was thought to be the Townsend's race of Leach's Storm-Petrel.  As the sun was setting, we were passing San Clemente Island.  For the day we had a good shearwater show, too, with a lot of good looks at Pink-footeds, Black-vented, and a few Buller's and Sootys.  After dark, a Leach's Storm-Petrel collided with one of the birders who grabbed it, checked it over for injuries, and released it after all had gotten a close-up look.  On Sunday morning while it was still dark, we all got up to see what passerines had been attracted to the ship's lights.  There were Yellow, Wilson's, and Townsend's Warblers, a pipit, Red Phalaropes, Arctic Terns, a Burrowing Owl and a Lesser Nighthawk.  For all the daylight hours on Sunday, we were over very deep water in the hopes of finding a mega-rarity, but none turned up.  We did get some good looks at the hypoleucus race of Xantu's Murrelet, which is a candidate for a split.  Monday's pre-dawn watch produced no birds in the ship's lights.  During the day we saw the same birds as on the previous days except we had a great jaeger show and the big storm-petrel flock didn't appear.  But a couple of Brown Boobies did put in an appearance.  Over the three days we did see many marine mammals including Blue (photo), Fin, Sperm, and Minke whales as well as Guadelupe Fur Seals, Elephant Seals, Harbor Seals and California Sea Lions.
The Grande is a nice ship although it is a bit slow.  The sleeping accomodations were adequate and the food served was very nice especially since it meant you got a series of tasty hot meals without having to make them youself or having to bring your own food aboard.  The leadership was excellent with everyone kept informed about what was being seen and where, plus helpful information on the birds and mammals we did see.
The big disappointement was that I didn't get a single new bird.  Although I knew that Craveri's Murrelet was a long shot since none had been seen this year, I thought we'd see at least one Red-billed Tropicbird.  But I got skunked.  And I don't have an opportunity to try again for the missed birds.
When I got back into cellphone country, I checked my messages and found out from Ned that there was a new Yellow-Green Vireo in California, this one in Riverside County about a two-and-a-half hour drive away.  So after dropping a couple of the passengers off at the airport so they could catch their plane and going to Paul Lehman's place to pick up my stuff, I took off for Indio where I got a motel room and started a good night's sleep, so I could get to the vireo spot at dawn.
So no new species leaves me at 705.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Black-capped Gnatcatcher, but Not the First Day

I'm writing this blog early today because firstly I fell asleep last night without realizing I hadn't written the blog; and secondly because I have the time now and there probably won't be any further birding done today.  Yesterday, although I was awake very early, I had trouble getting going.  I finally got my stuff together and headed for the local McDonald's which is open at 5:00am.  I got a quickie breakfast and headed for Montosa Canyon.  The drive is only about twenty miles and takes you past the Whipple Observatory where you're asked to dim your lights so they won't interfere with the astronomy going on there.  Along the road I was treated to a great morning show of Lesser Nighthawks doing their best to get themselves killed by the car.  But no thumps were heard.  I arrived at the area where the gnatcatchers are seen about 6am.  The elevation here is about 5000 feet and the temperature was a cool but very pleasant 66F.  I birded until after 9am when the temp had risen to 90F and the bird activity had quieted.  Although I saw and heard many nice Arizona birds, I got nary a nibble from any gnatcatchers.  Wilson's and Townsend's Warblers, many Bell's Vireos as well as a couple of Hutton's and a Warbling, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Western Tanagers, woodpeckers, wrens, and Northern Cardinals.  For those who haven't seen the Arizona cardinals with their longer crests and a somewhat different red color, you need to make the effort.  I drove to Proctor Road at the base of Madera Canyon, but it was very quiet.  Madera Canyon had some road construction, but since Mexican Jays were the only birds I saw, I went back down and drove over the Greaterville Road to Sonoita.  I had lunch in a mercantile store at the main intersection, but I saved the piece of pie I bought, that one that looked too good to pass up, for later.  Even though the temp was close to 100F, I decided to see what was happening at the Paton's feeders in Patagonia.  There were four species of hummers (Anna's, Black-chinned, Rufous, and Broad-billed) and the total numbers of hummers increased after a lovely red-head appeared and refilled the feeders.  While there, I chatted with a lady from Boise who was visiting her family in Phoenix and had broken away for a couple of days to visit SE AZ.  Midafternoon I left to drive back to Green Valley where I cleaned up and had dinner at a family restaurant which turned out to be just right.  Back at the motel I watched "Men in Black" again and as noted earlier failed to post a blog.
This morning was virtually a carbon-copy of yesterday except I made it to Montosa Canyon about 15 minutes earlier and there were fewer nighthawks along the road getting there.  I had to wait a bit since it was a little too dim to see anything well.  I had decided just to walk the road twice in both directions, feeling that getting down into the bottom of the dry watercourse didn't do much yesterday, and half the walk would be on pavement without the attending gravel crunch with every step.  The temp was the same as yesterday but a little breeze made it feel cooler.  Not surprisingly on the first pass the mix of birds was similar to that yesterday.  I spent much of the time pishing and whistling owl calls to try to stir things up.  By the time I started the second circuit, the sun was warming the road and the hillsides.  I was doing the owl whistles and I picked up a few species I didn't get yesterday or earlier today including Dusky Flycatcher, Northern Beardless Tyrranulet, and Black-throated Gray Warbler.  The warbler put on quite a show within twenty feet of me in the bright sun.  And then there they were!  Right in front of me.  Twelve feet away below eye level.  I assumed it was a pair.  Neither bird had a black cap (as shown in the web photos) and the male shouldn't at this time of year.  So at first glance they looked a lot like Blue-gray Gnatcatchers,.  But their bills were clearly bigger and their tails were indeed nicely tapered, a field mark that was very clear when they cocked and fanned them.  The call notes they were giving were somewhat harsher than calls from Blue-grays.  They were in no hurry to disappear since I watched them for five or six minutes never more than twenty feet away and always in full sun. guessed camera.  This sighting was at 7:45am so I decided to drive back to the motel and write this blog and still have plenty of time to get to the airport, turn in the rental car, and check in for my flight to San Diego.
Tomorrow I head out to sea on the Grande, a boat which will be my home for two nights.  My targets will be Red-billed Tropcibird and Craveri's Murrelet.  I don't expect to have connectivity so I won't take my computer.  You'll just have to wait until Monday night to find out what we saw.
The gnatcatcher was yearbird #705 and a great catchup.  This was the third trip to AZ and John and I had looked for it multiple times on the two previous trips.  It provided yet another success for going back and back and back, even immediately after a day of not seeing it.