“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

Friday, January 30, 2015

Day 30 - Canyon Wren Again

After yesterday's strikeout on the Canyon Wren I sent an email off to local birder and Santa Barbara Christmas Bird Count maestro Rebecca Coulter asking her if she knew any secret spots at Rocky Nook where they might be hiding.  She replied back that there was one singing at the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum "all day yesterday".  This is basically just down the street from Rocky Nook park, so perhaps that explains why I could not find one at the park!

This morning I pedaled up to the museum, where Rebecca met me and pointed out where the Canyon Wren had been yesterday.  She had even made recordings of its songs on her phone.

Well, for two hours I walked around the museum grounds and sat near the area where the Wren was all over the place yesterday - no luck.  There were quite a few birds around, the usual suspects and nothing out of the ordinary.  I practiced identifying the birds by sound and took a few photos to pass the time while waiting to hear the distinctive buzzy call of the Canyon Wren.

Hermit Thrush

Dark-eyed Junco

After two hours my patience had been consumed.  I decided since the Canyon Wren was not at the museum, perhaps it was up the street at Rocky Nook Park.  I headed over there for one last try before heading home.  I spent about 30 minutes looking and listening along the rocky creek bed at the bottom of the park - no luck.  I had given up on the Canyon Wren and was taking some photos of an Acorn Woodpecker when Rebecca came by with a small group of people - lunchtime birders.  She asked if I had any luck, to which I replied with a thumbs down.  The group continued into the park, which was upstream on the creek.  A moment later Rebecca was waving to me, indicating she was hearing a Canyon Wren!

Acorn Woodpecker - note acorns stored in holes.

I went in the upstream direction and heard the distinctive song of the Canyon Wren in the creek bottom.  In fact there were two!  I watched them scurry about among the rocks and managed a couple lousy photos.  This may be most satisfying bird for me so far this year, given the amount of time I invested in it.  Of course a huge thanks to Rebecca for actually finding it!

Canyon Wren!

After the addition of today's 1 species, the year's total stands at 161. 

Today I rode 7.2 miles

More later,

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Day 29 - Searching for a Canyon Wren

This morning I had about an hour for a quick outing, so I headed up to Rocky Nook Park hoping to add Canyon Wren to the year's list.  There have been recent reports of this species at this location, and in fact I have seen them there in the past.

I must say the Canyon Wren is one of my all-time favorite bird species.  It has a beautiful song.  It lives in nice places - usually when I see or hear one it is in an area I really enjoy visiting.  Also, they are fun to watch as they scurry in and around rocks, cliffs, and crevices.

Shortly after we built our house in 1991, we had a Canyon Wren that would come inside through a little hole, wander around the place, and then leave.  We eventually filled up the hole, but there is still a little stain on the railing that the bird left behind.

Below is the only decent photo I have ever taken of a Canyon Wren.

Canyon Wren, Santa Barbara May 2012

This morning I looked up and down the rocky creek bed in the park, but was not successful in finding my target bird.  Overall bird activity was good so there were other things to look at.  My best bird of the morning was a male Varied Thrush.  In any other year this would be a really good find.  This year, since they are everywhere, it is just another Varied Thrush.

After today, the year's total still stands at 160. 

Today I rode 8.9 miles

More later,

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Day 28 - Back In The Saddle

After being away it was really nice to get on my bike this morning and go looking for birds.  It would be especially nice as I would be joining Birding Class.  This class is offered by SBCC Center for Lifelong Learning, and I have been attending for at least 3 years now.  Our instructor Joan Lentz has a great collection of local bird knowledge and is very enthusiastic in her efforts to help us all become better birders.  That many of the students are returning over and over is a great testament to her skills.  It was nice to see lots of familiar faces.

Today we would be looking for birds in the area just west UCSB and Isla Vista - West Campus Bluffs, Coal Oil Point, and Devereux Lagoon.  There have been a number of recent sightings in this area that would be nice to add to the year's list.  I was hoping to see Dunlin and Western Sandpiper, which are pretty common this time of year.  Also possible would be Ruddy Turnstone and Eurasian Wigeon.  These two were more of a long shot, but hey anything is possible!

Western Meadowlark, UCSB West Campus Bluffs

As we began examining the shore from the bluffs, a single Western Meadowlark perched nearby offering us some fine views.  We made our way along the shore towards Coal Oil Point.  A number of shorebirds were taking advantage of the receding tide.  Among them we found a single Black Turnstone, but its Ruddy cousin was not to be found by us today.

At Coal Oil Point there were a large number of shorebirds, among them 3 Dunlin pointed out to me by Dennis Ringer (he knew I was looking for them).  Dunlin, check!

After a brief look at the nearby Snowy Plovers we continued to Devereux Lagoon.  There was plenty of water there for a change, and many ducks.  We tried examining all the female Wigeon looking for the single female Eurasian Wigeon recently reported there.  This exercise was not unlike finding the proverbial needle in a haystack, and we left without finding it.  On the way back to the starting point we heard the distinctive call of a Hutton's Vireo, so this species was also added to the year's list.  Although we did not find the rare species we had hoped to it was a very nice morning of birding with a total of 57 species identified.

On the way home I decided to stop by the UCSB lagoon.  Among other things I was hoping to find the Loggerhead Shrike that frequents the area.  As I approached the lagoon I spied a duck with a white side dive under the water.  When it resurfaced I was pleasantly surprised to see it was the Tufted Duck that has been seen here on and off for the last month or so.  I did see this rare bird earlier in the month, but it was nice to get some closer views and see it in action.  It also posed for photos.

Tufted Duck, UCSB Lagoon

After spending some time with "Tuftie" I headed up to the area where the Shrike is known to frequent.  As I approached I was encouraged to see a bird sitting on top of a bush - the classic Shrike position.  Alas, it was "only" a Northern Mockingbird, and I imagined it was mocking me.

I made my way around this area, and passed by a Eucalyptus tree laden with pinkish red blooms.  A songbird landed in it nearby.  I looked up expecting to see a Yellow-rumped Warbler, but was very surprised to see an Oriole.  Greenish yellow, two thin white wing bars, relatively short bill, and a black throat.  A young male Orchard Oriole!  A very good find, and a species I did not expect to get this year.  I watched it working through the tree, hoping it would come out for a photo.  No luck with the photo.  At one point I refound the bird in my binoculars, but it seemed duller in color than it had just moments before.  Just then another, brighter Oriole hopped into the view - not one but two Orchard Orioles!  I watched for a few more minutes, then headed out looking for the Shrike.  No luck finding the Shrike, but I was so pleased having found the Orioles I did not care one bit.

With the addition of today's 3 species, the year's total stands at 160. 

Today I rode 30.7 miles

More later,

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Day 24 - Home Soon

I am still away, presently in Florida for the World Digiscoper Meeting.  A great experience with amazingly talented people.  The birds here are good too!  I have added 8 birds to my life list and spent time with many species I have not seen very often.

During this time I have missed out on some good birds in Santa Barbara County.  I hope some of them stick around long enough for me to catch up with them.  I am eager to get back on my bike and continue the chase.  Stay tuned, I will be reporting progress on the Green Big Year soon!

I will leave you with some Digiscoped images from this week.


Wood Stork

Reddish Egret

Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs.
Very nice to see them together for a side by side comparison.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Day 19 - Some Thoughts on Green Birding

I have been away this week.  I am presently in New Orleans, Louisiana.  I have come here to visit with friends, experience the unique culture and music of the area, and eat way too much.  I have also snuck in a little birding, managing to add 2 birds to my life list (Barred Owl and Monk Parakeet).

In driving around the area, I came to the realization that this would be a very challenging place for Green Birding.  There are actually a good number of birds within a reasonable distance, however being a large urban area the traffic is horrible.  Also, the roads are in awful condition – lots of massive potholes. 

This then made me realize what a great place Santa Barbara is for Green Birding.  First, of course, there are plenty of birds.  Given that Santa Barbara is bounded by both the ocean and the mountains, we have a wide range of habitats that attract a great variety of species.  Second, getting around by bike is far less challenging than in many areas of the United States (but not as good as some others).  Traffic is not too bad, there are bike lanes and bike paths, and the roads are in pretty good condition. 

Also, the drivers are accustomed to bike traffic.  This is hugely important.  Most days that I am riding around the Santa Barbara area the instances of courtesy shown to me by automobile drivers far far outnumber rude or dangerous maneuvers.

I am looking forward to returning to my Green Big Year outings.  In the meantime, for your entertainment,  here is a photo of a Buff-bellied Hummingbird from New Orleans.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Day 15 - The Big Question

The big question – how many species can I expect to find on my Green Big Year? 

The overall list of species for Santa Barbara County that I am working from has 486 entries.  Many of these species are rarely seen here, or are only found on the ocean away from the coast, so I am not likely to find them this year.  As far as I know the Santa Barbara County Big Year record is held by Wes Fritz, with 357 species.  I am unlikely to come anywhere near this milestone.

I have done a little analysis in order to make a prediction about how many species I might find this year.  If you recall from our geography lesson about Santa Barbara County (Blog post Day 12), the county can be organized into 4 regions: Coastal (C), Mountain (M), Interior (I), and Cuyama Valley (V).

So far this year I have seen 157 species during my Green Birding outings.  I have examined the remaining species on the County list and identified which species I believe I have a chance at seeing.  For each of these species, I have assigned a probability of finding: Likely, Possible, or Unlikely.  I have also identified the region where each of these species is expected to be found.  The results of this exercise show 118 species (beyond the 157 already found), organized as follows:

Region C:                              Region M:      
Likely             57                   Likely              4         
Possible          28                 Possible           3         
Unlikely          7                    Unlikely           2         

Region I:                                Region V:
Likely             5                      Likely             5
Possible          7                    Possible          0
Unlikely          0                     Unlikely          0

If I assign a probability of finding as: Likely = 90%, Possible = 50%, Unlikely = 10% and apply these percentages to the list of species I think I may find, this results in the following: (# of species to be found, by region)

Region C:        66 species
Region M:       8 species
Region I:         5 species
Region V:        5 species

This gives a total of 84 additional species, which added to the existing 157 species, gives a prediction (guess really) of 241 species.   Perhaps I can squeeze out a few more, for a nice round target of 250 species.

One interesting thing to note – if I do not undertake any excursions into regions M, I, or V (which tend to require multi-day efforts), the predicted total is 223 species.   Those additional species in regions M, I and V will require a great deal of effort!

Of course there are many factors that will impact the final total.  I have tried to be very conservative in selecting which species I have a chance to see.  This means I am almost certain to see some species which are not on the list of expected species (I have already seen 6 species this year that I did not originally expect to see).  I am hoping these unpredicted “bonus” species will offset some of the misses that will inevitably occur during the year.

This prediction also assumes I remain healthy, motivated, and available (fingers crossed this is the case!).  I am planning on being away from the county at times during the year, with any luck this will not detract from my ability to catch up with the species I hope to see. 

Only time will tell.

More later,

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Day 14 - A Pause For The Cause

I will be taking a brief pause from the Green Big Year.  I am headed to Louisiana and Florida for some visiting (and some birds, of course).

I'll be back at it before you know it.


Day 13 - Steady Progress In Goleta

Today I set out for Goleta, there are still a bunch of birds out there waiting to be found.  After I spent a good part of the day there, there remain a bunch of birds out there waiting to be found.  I did make a bit of progress though.

The first addition to the year's list was a small flock of Pine Siskins I saw while pedaling through Goleta.  These Finch-like birds are quite plentiful this winter - some years it can be hard to find a single one.

My first stop was a house in Goleta where a Harris's Sparrow has been visiting the feeder.  Eventually the bird appeared - the first time i have seen this species anywhere!

Harris's Sparrow

My next stop was the old Ocean Meadows golf course.  My primary goal was to find the Loggerhead Shrike that keeps being seen here.  No luck with that (or the Grace's Warbler, which has not been reported in some time) but I did see some Lark Sparrows, which were added to the year's list.  I think these are some of the sportier looking sparrows around, and they were kind enough to pose for photos.

 Lark Sparrow, Ocean Meadows Golf Course

I continued past the Devereux slough, but failed to find anything there to add to the list.  The Allen's Hummingbirds were out in force.  I love hummingbirds!

Allen's Hummingbird, Devereux

After this it was on to Coal Oil Point, where I was hoping to see some shorebirds.  Though the tide was out, there were very few shorebirds to be found, so I continued on to the airport side of the university cammpus to look over the Goleta Slough's "Area K" where a Cinnamon Teal had been seen.  Frustratingly, no luck with the Teal, but I did see a Bewick's Wren.  Somehow this common species had thus far escaped my notice this year.

Next stop, Goleta Beach to follow up on a recent report of a Common Merganser.  These handsome ducks can be rather hard to come by along the coast.  No luck with the Common Merganser, but there was one Red-breasted Merganser there, which ironically are much more common in these parts than the Common Merganser.

Red-breasted Merganser, Goleta Beach

I was lucky enough to find a Clark's Grebe hanging out with the Western Grebes - another new species for the year.  The Clark's and the Westerns are very similar in appearance, but can be distinguished from one another by their bill color and extent of black on their heads (provided that they wake up and lift their heads!)

Western Grebe, Goleta Beach

After lunch, I decided to make one last stop on the way home.  There have been reports of interesting Warblers (Lucy's, Palm) near some agricultural fields near the Goleta Valley Hospital.  I arrived and began checking out a fenced-in drainage catchment.  There was some water in there that was attracting some birds, but all the ones I could see were sparrows.  

A car arrived, and out stepped the inimitable Wes Fritz, who is a fountain of knowledge of all things Santa Barbara Bird.  I asked him where he was hiding the Warblers.  He suggested we check the nearby fennel patch, which we did without success.

We returned to the catchment and were chatting away.  A group of birds flew in and landed, including a small gray warbler with a rusty rump - hello Lucy's Warbler!  It stayed around for a bit, and a couple minutes later came back for a return visit.  I had seen this species previously in Arizona (where they are expected), but never before in Santa Barbara County.  This made a very satisfying ending to the day!

With the addition of today's 7 species, the year's total stands at 157. 

Today I rode 33.6 miles

More later,

Monday, January 12, 2015

Day 12 - Rest Day, Geography lesson

Although the weather was nice today I decided to take the day off from birding.  It has been 12 days straight of birding for me, so I think a little break is in order.  Also, there are a million things I have been neglecting that could use some attention.

So instead of a birding report, I bring you a little presentation on the geography of Santa Barbara County, and a little on how it plays into my Green Big Year.  In the future I will discuss how this will impact the number of species I may be able to find during the year.

I had a local 6 year old draw the figure below showing the major birding regions of Santa Barbara County.  Actually, I did it myself, but wish I had a 6 year old to do it, for it would look so much better!

This figure is a very crude adaptation from a figure in Paul Lehman's essential work "The Birds Of Santa Barbara County, California".  An updated online version of this work can be found here:

For our purposes, Mr Lehman has organized the county bird habitat into 4 regions: Coastal (C), Mountain (M), Interior (I), and Cuyama Valley (V) (I have subdivided the Coastal region into North Coast and South Coast).  Each of the 4 regions contains differing habitat, and therefore supports a different set of bird species.

The South Coast runs from Carpinteria in the east to Gaviota in the west, and also contains the population centers of Goleta and Santa Barbara (where I live).  Due to the proximity to home, this is where I will spend the vast majority of my time birding this year.  I can reasonably expect to make a round trip biking journey to any spot on the South Coast in a single day.

It is a bit more difficult to access the coastal mountains (directly north of Santa Barbara), but with a long day of riding I could also reach a good part of this area and return home in a single day - I am hoping with all the cycling I will be doing my fitness level will improve and this will be more easily possible later in the year.

Pretty much anything else is the county will require a multi-day excursion.  For example, it is about a 75 mile ride from Santa Barbara up the coast to Santa Maria.  From Santa Maria to Cuyama would be an additional 55 miles.

I do hope to make some multi-day journeys this year to the North Coast, Interior, and Cuyama Valley areas.  There are some species in these areas that are rarely, if ever found in the South Coast. Plus, who can pass up a night in Cuyama!  

I am presently sifting through "The Birds Of Santa Barbara County, California" and various ebird reports  to come up with a plan of attack for these jaunts.

Stay tuned, more birding tomorrow!


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Day 11 - Seawatch, Gray Hawk, and More

This morning began in an unusual way for Santa Barbara recently: it was raining.  Certainly not enough to put a dent in the epic drought, but every little bit helps.

By the time I had finished mounting the new panniers (saddle bags) on my bike the rain had pretty much stopped, so loaded up and took my scope down to Shoreline Park for a little seawatch.

Seawatch, Shoreline Park

It was somewhat quiet out over the water.  There were the usual Pelicans, Loons, and Cormorants, etc out there.  I did find a Parasitic Jaeger, which breaks yesterday's drought on new species.  I actually could have found it with just binoculars, but it was fun to watch through the scope as it chased after terns and gulls to try and steal their food.  I rode back up the hill to home, the extra weight of the scope was not too bothersome.  I do not plan on hauling the scope every day, but it is nice to know I can when needed.

Having some spare time, and seeing reports that the Gray Hawk had been seen again in Carpinteria, I set out to see if I could find it.  The Gray Hawk was first found by Eric Culberston on October 25, 2012.  At that time it was an immature bird (see photo below I took around that time).  It was the first recorded sighting of this species in California - it's normal range is from Southern Arizona down into South America.  Birders came from all over the state to see it (and still do).

It has returned to winter for the seasons of 2013-14 (with adult plumage) and now 2014-15.  It is interesting how certain birds migrate to the "wrong" place their first year, then continue to return to the same spot in subsequent years.  There have been, and are, a number of these instances in the Santa Barbara area.  These birds are referred to in the singular, as in "the Gray Hawk".  There is also "the Vermillion Flycatcher", "the Grace's Warbler", and I am sure others that are not coming to mind at the moment.  Apparently years back there was "the Zone-tailed Hawk" but that was before I started paying attention.

 Gray Hawk (Immature), Carpinteria Ca Nov 2012

I was about 1/4 of a mile from the most usual spot to see the Gray Hawk, when a bird dropped off a telephone pole into the grass below.  I stopped and waited.  The bird rose up and landed nearby on the wire - hello Gray Hawk!  It stuck around long enough for a few photos, then flew off.  Well, that was easy!

Gray Hawk on a gray day. 

Gray Hawk, underside.

Now with unexpected time on my hands, I decided to head to nearby Toro Canyon Park in search of a Brown Creeper or two.  Now, distance-wise the park was close, but it requires an unpleasant climb of 800+ feet in about 2 miles.  I just love to push my bike up those 14% grades!

I did make it to the park, and it only took about 10 minutes to find a tree with not 1 but 2 Brown Creepers in it (I confess, I was here last month and found 3, so I did have some inside info).

I love these little birds.  I think they are rather cute as they climb around the trunks and branches of trees looking for insects and insect-like creatures to eat.

I did manage some unspectacular photos (it was really dark in there).  As you can see they have some pretty good camouflage going on.  Note in the lower photo the bird's feet out to the side gripping the bark of the tree.

I was very happy to find this species as they can be somewhat difficult to track down, especially in the lower elevations near the coast.  Since I did find them I should not have to drag myself up the hill to Toro Canyon Park again this year.  Yay!

Brown Creeper, Toro Canyon Park

Brown Creeper, Toro Canyon Park

Today was a nice rebound from yesterday's shutout!

With the addition of today's 3 species, the year's total stands at 150. 

Today I rode 34 miles

More later,

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Day 10 - Shutout at the Bird Refuge

I had time for a brief outing this morning, so I decided to head to the Andree Clark Bird Refuge (how can I miss with a name like that?).  There have been at least two species reported there recently that would be useful to add to the year's list: Sora, and Virginia Rail.

I did see a Sora in this very spot last month.  The Virginia Rail is a different story.  These birds are very secretive and more often heard than seen.  I did see one once, near Flagstaff Az.  For some reason around Santa Barbara I have a difficult time connecting with this species.

I arrived at the Bird Refuge, and there were good numbers of birds around, but the diversity of species was well below what I usually encounter here.  For example, there were hundreds of birds on the water, but I could only see 3 species: American Coot, and 2 types of duck: Ruddy Duck and Northern Shoveler.

I was there for over an hour.  Things picked up a bit and I ended up seeing 32 different species, but nothing that could be added to the year's list.  Unfortunately I cannot count the California Condors that I could see in the Santa Barbara Zoo enclosure across the water.

On the way home I tried to find something list-worthy along the waterfront, but no luck.  This is the first day out I have not added any species to the list.  I knew things would slow down as the year went on, but I was hoping for a more gradual reduction in the action and later in the year as well.

But wait, there is more!  During the time I was striking out at the Bird Refuge, there were 3 desirable species reported from Shoreline Park.  I rode by Shoreline Park on the way to and from the Bird Refuge.  No doubt these folks were equipped with spotting scopes.  The good news is that I am now set up to carry my spotting scope short distances, and this park is a short distance from the house.  If the weather is decent tomorrow (showers predicted) I may give it a go.

At least the birds are out there.  They can run, but they cannot hide all year.

So to close out this rather uninspiring report, I leave you as a consolation prize a photo of an Orange-crowned Warbler taken at home last month.

Orange-crowned Warbler, Dec 2014

The year's total still stands at 147. 

Today I rode 12.2 miles

More later,

Friday, January 9, 2015

Day 9 - Slim Pickings Locally

Today I did not have time for an extended birding outing, but managed to fit in a couple jaunts close to home.  I was hoping to find some interesting birds reported last week during the Christmas Bird Count.  Since that was nearly a week ago, it may be wishful thinking on my part to assume the birds may still be around.

This morning I headed up to Campanil Hill, hoping to find a Red-breasted Nuthatch or Brown Creeper - both of which were reported last week.  These would be good birds to find as they are  uncommon in coastal areas.  They are more easily found in the foothills or mountains (this requires riding up big hills).  If I could find them close to home, that would be a score.  In short, there was no score to be had today.  After pushing my bike up the 14% grade, I scoured the area for about an hour.  No luck with the desired species.  I was able to add California Quail to the year's list so the outing was not a complete shutout.  I also got some nice looks at a Peregrine Falcon, which is always enjoyable.

This afternoon I headed downtown to the Smart & Final parking lot, where a Black-throated Gray Warbler was seen last week.  This species should not be difficult to find during the spring or fall, but if I could find one close to home today then I would not need to chase it later.  The attraction of this and several other parking lots in the area is the collection of Tipu trees.  These trees seem to be popular with parking lot developers.  It seems they tend to get infested with insects, so they are popular with Warblers too.

Let me just say that birding in the Smart & Final parking lot is not an experience likely to get anyone interested in taking up the hobby.  The traffic noise, car alarms, and general urban hum really take the shine off the experience.  It also makes it difficult to hear that special little "chip" from the one Black-throated Gray Warbler among the dozens, if not hundreds, of Yellow-rumped Warblers present.  After an hour of looking I left without sighting the target bird, and saw no other species I had not already seen this year.  So it goes.

As the year continues and the number of species not already seen dwindles there will be many more days such as this, so I had best get used to it.

As there is not much to report today I will leave you with a few raptor photos from the last couple of days.

American Kestrel, Goleta 

Cooper's Hawk, Goleta

Peregrine Falcon, Campanil Hill

Red-tailed Hawk, Campanil Hill

With the addition of today's 1 species, the year's total stands at 147. 

Today I rode 16.7 miles

More later,

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Day 8 - Goleta Rarity Hat Trick

Today's plan was to ride to Goleta and attempt to find some of the rarities that have been hanging around there - specifically Vermillion Flycatcher, Grace's Warbler, and Dusky-capped Flycatcher.

The day started with a fruitless owl search.

I continued on to the ex-Ocean Meadows Golf Course.  This property has been purchased by UCSB and will undergo some level of restoration in the future.  For the last several years it has also been the winter home of a female Vermillion Flycatcher, the most reliable "rare" bird around.  The past couple of winters there has been a Grace's Warbler present as well, but this bird is not nearly as reliable as the Flycatcher.

True to form, shortly after arriving I had spotted the Vermillion Flycatcher in the usual area.  Below are a coupe of photos of this lovely little bird I took last month.  I then made my way down to the realm of the Grace's Warbler, and true to form it was not to be seen.  I continued around the course, planning to look again for the Grace's on the way out.  Along the way I added Western Bluebird and Merlin to to the year's list.

Vermillion Flycatcher, Ocean Meadows Golf Course Dec 2014

Vermillion Flycatcher being scolded by Anna's Hummingbird
Ocean Meadows Golf Course Dec 2014

I then received an email that local birder Peter Gaede had relocated the Tufted Duck in the UCSB lagoon.  This rarity had been found last winter by local birder Nick Lethaby, who amazingly picked the young drake (with only a hint of a tuft at that time) out of a large group of Scaup.  The tufted Duck had not been seen since before Christmas, so this was exciting news.  I got in touch with Peter, who confirmed he was still there and had a scope.  He graciously said he would wait while I got over there, which I did immediately, Grace's Warbler be damned!

When I arrived Peter had the bird in the scope.  It was resting with its head tucked in, white sides and black back visible, but the diagnostic tuft was hidden.  After a little bit it began preening and the tuft was quite visible.  Score, and big thanks to Peter!  Below is my best photo of the young Tufted Duck from last winter.

Tufted Duck, Goleta Feb 2014
(Younger version, this year it has very white sides)

On my way out, I scanned the closest group of Scaup, looking for a Greater Scaup in amongst the Lesser Scaup.  This is a tricky ID, as the two look quite alike.  There are some rather subtle differences in plumage, but for me the best way to differentiate the two is the shape of the head - greaters have a flatter shape that is more wide (front to back).  (Greaters are slightly larger, but this can be hard to see) I found an individual male with a different head shape from the rest and studied it side-by-side with the others and was convinced it was a Greater.  I hope to come back with the scope to produce photographic evidence.

The last target bird of the day was the excitement-generating Dusky-capped Flycatcher, which I missed finding earlier in the week.  (I have seen this species in Arizona)  Plenty of people have been seeing it since then.  As I arrived local birder Dennis Ringer was leaving, and pointed me to the exact tree the bird was situated in.  This tree was located in a courtyard/quad type space, surrounded by apartments.  It was also full of bees, which the flycatcher has been enjoying for the last few days.  I walked into the courtyard, and sure enough the flycatcher was doing its best to have a lunch of bees.  The bird looked fairly similar to an Ash-throated Flycatcher, but with a longer bill, darker head, and less pronounced wing bars.  It called once while I was there, a call not as sharp as an Ash-throated (perhaps a drunk Ash-throated may sound this way).  I did not take any photos.  Frankly, I felt strange enough standing in these folks' back yard without pulling out my camera.  The bird has been well-photographed by others.  Also in the area was a Downy Woodpecker which was also added to the year's list.

So, another productive outing, going 3 for 4 on rarities!  

With the addition of today's 8 species, the year's total stands at 146. 

Today I rode 35.2 miles

Trivia note - as of today I have collected more miles than species, a condition that will certainly persist until the end of the year.

More later,