Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bridges to Lakes

The last two days have been a hurried run up the coast to get to Crater Lake in Oregon.  After the quick stop at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and dinner with a former college friend, we hurriedly called the hotel to let them know we would be checking in late, only to find out that our reservation was somehow lost.  So, after two hours of frantic calls with the hotel and with we finally got a room in Sausalito at an amazing spot all for the price of a crap hotel.  Thank you Americas Best Inns for the mess up.  We had an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge from our hotel room and had breakfast next to a celebrity!

Golden Gate Bridge fromthe hotel room

Also, the hotel had an amazing little field in the behind our room where an early morning hike yielded some great birds.  Western Scrub Jay, Steller’s Jay and Song Sparrows were all noisily watching an American Kestrel perched on a fence post.  White-crowned Sparrow, Downy Woodpecker, California Towhee, and a new life bird, Spotted Towhee all fed in and around the shrubs.  Amazing way to start the morning.  A quick drive to the GG Bridge overlook and we found a hawkwatch in progress.  The girls manning the station didn’t seem too knowledgeable but while there, Red-tailed Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk flew by. 
Spotted Towhee
Gray Jay
We made the long trek up toward Crater Lake and by 10:30 we were in the park and I was birding.  I know I should go through and list everything that I saw but I’ll keep it to the minimum (aka. Good stuff).  The first stop at an overlook I took off toward a picnic area and if as on queue two Gray Jays flitted around the little clearing I was in looking to see if I had anything interesting.
Mountain Chickadee
Another stop at a higher elevation was almost over run with Red-breasted Nuthatches and another life bird, the Mountain Chickadee.  These birds were both perching in a stand of trees and flying out flycatching above the road.  It was really a fantastic sight.  Once we got rolling almost every overlook we stopped at had at least one Clarks Nutcracker looking to see what the tourists might have dropped.  The Clark’s Nutcracker isn’t a legitimate life bird but these were the first I’d seen since I started to actually bird.

Clark's Nutcracker

Golden-crowned Sparrow
Other spectacular views included Peregrine Falcons flying over the lake, two immature Northern Harriers performing some areal skirmishes, and my first Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warbler.  While sitting on a bench on a path down to the lakes shore I saw a sparrow pop out of a low shrub real quick and my quick glance was backed up by the photos of a Golden-crowned Sparrow.  Not a bad way to round out the day. 
Winter Wren
Crater Lake

Sunday, September 26, 2010

simple equation

golden gate park equals pygmy nuthatches.  maybe i should count lifers one of these days.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Long Drive off a Tall Cliff

Today was Pacific Coast Highway Day, maybe not a national holiday but I think that this drive up route 1 along California's coastline could garner such a recognition.  The idea was to drive close to San Francisco from Santa Barbara and we made it even with taking a few longer stops along the way.

Julia Pfeiffer State Park

While the views can speak for themselves the birds can not and neither can my pictures.  I didn't have a great bird day but I did manage to add a few species to my life list.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Steller's Jay- Pacific variety

Western Bluebird- female
Black Turnstone

And of course there was a mammal or two around as well.  Besides the crazy ground squirrels eating out of peoples laps, litterally.  We also saw harbor seal, elephant seal, california sea lion, and sea otter!

Juvenile Elephant Seals

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Santa Barbara

My trip out west has really barely begun and with very little effort I has added a bunch of birds I have never 'seen' before.  Of course the quotes are there to clarify that while I may have glanced at these birds in trip gone by I haven't actually been birding and tried to identify them.  The plane touched down in LA in a hazy Saturday afternoon, and we quickly headed to the water to get our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.  Grabbing a bite to eat on the shore  I added two life birds while munching on my first California hamburger, both Western Gull and California Gull were sitting on the beach.  But our first few days weren't for birding they were for having fun with a mouse so off to Disneyland we went.

The next day meanderingly dropped us into Santa Barbara, where I pulled up a chair in the fading afternoon sun to see what types of birds were frequenting the yard.  Amazingly, a good group of birds pushed through the yard adding to my lists (* are lifers).  Mourning Dove, House Finch, Eurasian Collared Dove, Banded-tail Pigeon*, Anna's Hummingbird*, Western Scrub Jay*, Oak Titmouse*, American Crow, European Starling, Black Phoebe*, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Bushtit*, Townsend's Warbler*. 


Acorn Woodpecker

The now infamous marine layer was proving an impenetrable sight along the coast and the next day encouraged us to head to the hills.  We took a quick 3 mile ride up a mountain and bumped our way to Oak Flat for a quick stop and an impressive view.  Although, the birds didn't end up panning out like I had hoped the trip was still worth it and luckily some Acorn Woodpeckers were willing to pose for the camera.

Clear skies pushed through the next morning as I met up with a local birder who was nice enough to show me some of the hotspots in the area.  Not only was the company great but the birds were pretty amazing tallying up a nice amount of life birds.  The first stop of the morning was Lake Los Carneros in Goleta.  We had a great group of birds, most likely because I left the camera in the car!  A quick loop around the park resulted in this list (*lifers): California Towhee*, California Thrasher*, Hutton's Vireo (only heard doesn't count), Bewick's Wren*, Bushtit, Orange-crowned Warbler*, Townsend's Warbler, White-tailed Kite, Red-tailed Hawk, Coopers Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Kestrel, Wrentit*, Oak Titmouse, American Crow, Red-winged Balckbird, Turkey Vulture, Black-crowned Night Heron, Nutmeg Mannakin*, Acorn Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Nuttall's Woodpecker*, Black Phoebe, Western Wood-Peewee*, Western Tanager*, Western Scrub Jay, Clapper Rail and Sora Rail (amazing views of both!), American Coot, Mallard Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Anna's Hummingbird, Ruddy Duck, White-faced Ibis* (flyover), and Pacific-slope Flycatcher*.  I'm sure I forgot something but I'll let the list stands for now.

Black-necked Stilt

Anna's Hummingbird

We made another couple of stops closer to the water and added a few more species.  One stop was at a salt marsh which looked NOTHING like those back home.  This area isn't tidally influenced but instead is a low area that becomes damned by sand and has a backup of brackish water.  Then when the water becomes too high the damn breaks and only the river is left.  This specific salt marsh had broken through a couple of years before and was mostly dry.  The wet areas however did hold some gems.  Black-necked Stilt*, Western Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Killdeer, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Canada Goose, White-fronted Goose, Brant, Belted Kingfisher, Say's Phoebe*, Cassin's Kingbird*, Semi-palmated Plover, and Forster's Tern*.

Forster's Tern

Red-tailed Hawk

Other miscellaneous species I've seen while travelling to the beach or going out for a drive include; Heermann's Gull*, Northern Mockingbird, Willet, Brown Pelican, Whimbrel, Black Skimmer, Ring-billed Gull, Mute Swan (imm.), Turkey Vulture, Blue-winged Teal, and Brewer's Blackbird*.

Heermann's Gull

Ground Squirrel hanging at the beach

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Be Prepared- California Here I Come!

In just two days time I will be off on another adventure for both fun and birding. I will be heading out to the West Coast to enjoy the man-made attractions of Disneyland, the Golden Gate Bridge, and VooDoo Donuts, while making some stops at places in Santa Barbara and Crater Lake, Or. With two weeks of off time ahead I am hoping to really be able to relax and spend some quality time learning some of the birds out west.

I've already made a connection with a local birder in Santa Barbara to spend a morning with and hopefully give me a couple of other sites to visit before heading North. I've also been checking out eBird and using their maps and data section to scope out some places to maximize my time. I've hopped onto one of the local birding listservs to see what rarities are in town right now.

Although, I have been out West before it wasn't while I was interested in birding so I'm practically starting from scratch! If you have any advice for a must see stop along the way (Los Angeles to Seattle) please share it! I was originally planning on leaving the laptop at home but going through my pictures and blogging about the birds I've seen along the way really heightens the experience so look out over the next couple of weeks to see what I come across! All in all I think I'm prepared to find some great new birds for my list and you should be prepared to see them too!