“People often ask me how it is that I seem to be so much at peace. There is a primary reason — and it is available to all who wish to have it. Here’s a simple prerequisite to attaining peace at that level. I invite you to observe the beasts, birds and fish and let them teach you. Let this be a daily routine and life, as you know it, will never be the same.”
– Eddie Bo

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Final Wrap Up

Greetings all and Happy New Year!  This will be the final blog post for my Green Big Year.  Thanks for following along, it has been a great experience and I appreciate all the support that has been directed my way through the year.

Thanks also to Tom Berriman, Santa Barbara Audubon, and the Vermont Center for Ecostudies for fostering the friendly contest between my Green Big Year and the state of Vermont.  To Vermont, thanks for the motivation and better luck next time!

Some statistics:

As part of the Green Big Year I went birding 160 days.  I spent 10 nights away from home.

I saw new birds on 89 of these days, about 56% of the time.

Final species total was 285.  I posted photos of 239 species, or 83% of those seen.

I rode 4409 miles, and walked 2.5 miles for a total of 4411.5 miles.
      (Even in a very efficient car that's 100 gallons of gas!)

That works out to 15.48 miles per bird species.

Some thoughts:

When I hastily decided to pursue this project at the end of last year I did so with few expectations and little planning.  I really had no idea what I was getting into.  I was not even sure if this concept had been done in Santa Barbara County before.  As it turns out it had not, so that made it fairly easy to set the record.

At the beginning of the year I was thinking that the most optimistic result would be in the range of 270-275 species.  Although I did miss a few of the expected birds I got pretty lucky and managed to add 33 species that I had not planned to find, which propelled me well past the original expectations.

In terms of the species total, could I have done better?  Certainly!  There were reports of 51 species throughout the year that I figured I had a chance to see but did not.

You'll note I actually went birding less than half the days of the year.  More time in the field equals more birds.  I was away from the county several times during the year and missed some species that only appeared briefly.  My aborted trip to Big Pine Mountain certainly cost me some species.  I had planned on getting out to Cuyama but never made it there, which likely cost me a couple of species also.

I learned late in the year that the Green Birding record for a single county in the USA is 301 or 302 species.  Had I put more focus on this project I think I very well could have matched or passed this total, but we'll never know for sure.

And what next?  I do not have any major projects planned for the upcoming year (yet).  I have come to quite enjoy Green Birding and plan on continuing.  It is so nice to be able to hear the birds as I ride along, and stop instantly to investigate an interesting sight or sound.  I am also certain I will get in the car to go find birds also - maybe even today!

Thanks, and see you out there!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Day 365 - A Happy Ending!

Let's get right to the point - Does anyone know what this is?

Yes ladies and gentlemen, this is a Grace's Warbler.

This final morning there was really only one bird I felt up to chasing, the dreaded Grace's Warbler.  This bird had managed to escape my gaze for all this year.  I have actually lost count of the number of times I went looking for this bird.  I would guess around 15.

I left early to maximize the amount of time I had to search.  Let me tell you it was a COLD 38 degrees riding out through Goleta.  I decided to take a little detour to try and get a look at a Burrowing Owl that had been reported recently.  I spent 20-30 minutes at this, eventually finding it.  Owls are cool.

I then continued one last time this year to the old Ocean Meadows Golf Course.  Here I met Barb Millett who was doing her scouting for the upcoming Santa Barbara Christmas Bird Count.  She was talking to some other birders, and I heard her say "Grace's" and "8:41".  It was now 9:00.  I asked and she confirmed that 8:41 was the last time she had seen the Grace's Warbler.  I was within 20 minutes of my nemesis bird!  At this point I was thinking that searching for that Burrowing Owl was perhaps not such a great idea.

I hustled up to the spot where the Grace's Warbler was last seen.  Within a few minutes I had the bird in my sight.  I must admit there were generous feelings of joy and relief.  I stalked the bird around for awhile, watching it forage and trying to get any sort of decent photo.  Eventually the two other birders came by and we all enjoyed views of this little beauty.

A great ending to a great adventure!  

I took a casual victory lap around Goleta checking a few spots for anything unusual.  None were found.  It had turned into a beautiful calm and almost warm morning.  I savored the ride home knowing I had finally vanquished my nemesis bird for the year.

The New Year's Eve dinner guests will be arriving soon.  Look for a post with more reflection, statistics, and other boring stuff in a couple of days.

In the meantime I would like to show some appreciation and gratitude for the tremendous amount of help I have received in my year long adventure.  I will no doubt have forgotten someone, so apologies in advance for that.  First and foremost, I would like to thank my family for putting up with this crazy behavior!  Next, anyone who shared their bird sightings via ebird or the local SBcobirding group.  This information was invaluable all year long.  Also, the blog readers who have made this whole thing so much more interesting for me.  And finally these individuals that provided advice, bird location info, ID help, and so much more:

Jamie Chavez, Dave Compton, Joan Cotich, Rebecca Coulter, Jared Dawson, Wes Fritz, Peter Gaede, Noah Gaines, Mark Holmgren, Nick Lethaby, Joan Lentz, Kate McCurdy, Barbara Millett, Liz Muraoka, Bill and Joan Murdoch, Adrien O’Loghlen, Libby Patten, George Roland, Peter Schneekloth, Maggie Sheriffs, Jenny Slaughter, Guy Tingos, Tom Turner, Wim Van Dam, Matt Victoria

After the addition of this 1 species the final total for the Green Big Year is 285!

The Score: Vermont 279, Green Big Year 285

Today I rode a total of 27.9 miles, for a total of 4409.0 miles for the year.

More soon,

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Day 364 - Penultimate Day, Adjustments to the Total

After being away over Christmas and taking two days to participate in the Cachuma Christmas Bird Count, I got back on the bike this morning for the penultimate day of the Green Big Year.  Let me tell you, the first half hour was reeeealy cold.

I set out on an unlikely outing.  Just as we were leaving town for Christmas I got a report the Rebecca Coulter had found a Swamp Sparrow in Carpinteria.  This was 11 days ago.  As I needed this bird and had not ridden to Carpinteria in some time I decided to give it a shot.  I had no idea if the bird would still be in the vicinity.  

I rolled up to the address.  The first thing I could not help but notice was the road crew with the chainsaw about 40 feet away, and moving in my direction - not encouraging.  The next thing I noticed was a Swamp Sparrow!  Literally the first bird I saw after stopping.  Having had difficulty on the ID of this bird before, I got some long looks, checked my references, and looked again to verify the field marks.  The bird was even kind enough to pose for photos.  Sure enough, Swamp Sparrow for #286!

I was so pleased with this rapid sighting that I hopped on the bike and raced to Montecito for a breakfast engagement that I had assumed I would not be able to make.

Swamp Sparrow (Really!)

Now a bit of administrative business.  You may recall my somewhat truncated adventure to Big Pine Mountain back in June:

The net result of this adventure was the addition of two species, Lawrence's Goldfinch and Mountain Quail.  You may also recall I got a ride part of the way back home after running out of food and nearly running out of water.  The bit about getting a ride home has been nagging me ever since.  I have decided to remove these species from my total, as they were not gotten with solely human power.  It's a bit disappointing as I worked far harder for these birds than any other during the year, but this way I can end with a clean total and no asterisks next to these species.

After the addition of this 1 species, and the subtraction of 2, the year's total stands at 284.

Vermont has recently added 2 species to bring their total to 279.

The Score: Vermont 279, Green Big Year 284

Today I rode a total of 26.7 miles

More later,

Monday, December 28, 2015

Day 362 - The End Is Near

I am back from Christmas.  It was a nice stay in the Phoenix area, and I got to spend a little time with the desert birds.  It is a little strange to have been away from my bike for so long.

I will be doing the Cachuma Christmas Bird Count for the next couple of days.  This will not be done by bicycle.  This leaves me just 2 days at the end of the year to try and snag another species or two.  There are some potential opportunities out there, so stay tuned!

Cactus Wren, Peoria Arizona

After today the year's total still stands at 285

The Score: Vermont 277, Green Big Year 285

More later,

Friday, December 18, 2015

Day 352 - Counting Down

I did make it out and about today to look for some birds.  Last opportunity before Christmas Vacation, and only perhaps 3 days left in the year after that.  It is really beginning to feel like the end is near!

I made a circuit of Goleta, visiting Lake Los Carneros, Bella Vista Open Space, and the old Ocean Meadows Golf Course.  It was not too warm but calm and sunny, so overall a very nice day to be out and about.

At Lake Los Carneros the lake was full of Canada Geese, I counted over 120.  I did not cross paths with the Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker that has been hanging around here.

At Bella Vista Open Space I was hoping to find the recently reported Red Fox Sparrow.  I did get a very brief glimpse of a Fox Sparrow, bit not enough to say whether it was a Sooty or a Red.  Interestingly there were a good number of Purple Finches around.

At Ocean Meadows, well you know the story there with regards to the Grace's Warbler.  It has not been reported in some time.  Maybe it is still around, maybe not.

As expected, no new birds today.  As Christmas Bird Count is approaching, more and more folks will be out scouting.  Hopefully they will find an interesting bird or two I can catch up with before the end of the year!

Merry Christmas!

Some Photos From Today:

Glaucous-winged Gull

Purple Finch

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Savannah Sparrow

After today the year's total still stands at 285

The Score: Vermont 277, Green Big Year 285

Today I rode a total of 26.1 miles

More later,

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Day 350 - Another Chilly Morning!

I had some time this morning to get out and look for some birds.  I left later than usual as the temperature was near freezing when the sun came up.  No need to get too frosty out there!

Once again the only known possibility for finding a new species nearby was the Grace's Warbler out at the old Ocean Meadows Golf Course.  Instead of wasting more time not finding it, I decided to head back to the lagoon at UCSB.  I cannot say I have given up on the Grace's Warbler yet, but ....

The lagoon now has lots of ducks and other bird activity.  In addition, school is out for the Christmas break so it is actually quite a peaceful time to be out there.

Nothing too far out of the ordinary in terms of the birds this morning.  I did once again see the Loon trifecta, and there were some Northern Shovelers in the lagoon.  I do not recall seeing that species there previously.

Just a couple of days before I depart for Christmas, then only 3 birding days after I return.  This little project is rapidly coming to a close!

No new birds today but definitely a nice morning to be out looking.

Some photos from this morning:

American Wigeon (male)

Pacific Loon

Pied-billed Grebe

Red-throated Loon

After today the year's total still stands at 285

The Score: Vermont 277, Green Big Year 285

Today I rode a total of 25.3 miles

More later,

Monday, December 14, 2015

Day 348 - A Chilly Morning

This morning I set out with no particular agenda.  Somebody needs to find some new birds, so it might as well be me.  At this point I am not expecting to find any new species, and today I was not disappointed in that regard.  The most notable thing about this morning was the chilly temperature, which was amplified by the brisk breeze.  It never really warm up.

I made a circuit past the UCSB Lagoon, Devereux Slough, and the old Ocean Meadows Golf course.  I did see a few interesting birds along the way.  Inside the UCSB lagoon I saw an unusual Loon Trifecta - Red-throated, Pacific, and Common Loons.

At Devereux Slough the female (un)Common Merganser was still around.  Also there was a group of at least a dozen Savannah Sparrows of the Belding's subspecies that were actively foraging on a pan of dried algae.  I had not seen this behavior before.

The most interesting bird of the morning was at the old Ocean Meadows Golf Course.  (And no it was of course NOT the Grace's Warbler)  A Northern Flicker that I believe to be of the Yellow-shafted flavor, though it may be an intergrade (a mix of the Yellow-shafted and Red-shafted flavors).  The head and face markings match those of a Yellow-shafted, thought I thought the actual color of the shafts was a bit on the orange side.  Yellow-shafted Flickers are quite unusual in this area, though there do seem to be more around this winter than I recall in the past.  UPDATE:  Consensus is this is an Intergrade (Yellow Shafted x Red Shafted) individual.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

I enjoyed a nice tailwind on the ride home.

Some more photos from this morning:

Surf Scoter

Pacific Loon and Red-breasted Mergansers

Common Merganser (female)

Belted Kingfisher

Belding's Savannah Sparrow

Cooper's Hawk

After today the year's total still stands at 285

The Score: Vermont 277, Green Big Year 285

Today I rode a total of 30.0 miles

More later,