The first target bird was a Varied Thrush. This bird has been described by a friend of mine as the "Sport Model" of Thrushes. Here is a photo of a Varied Thrush I took last month in Santa Maria, California.
One reason I was eager to see the local Varied Thrush is that they typically are not very abundant in our area. For some reason this year we have been invaded by them, and they seem to be everywhere!
To illustrate this, here are a couple of images showing Varied Thrush sighting report from ebird. ebird allows birders to report and keep track of their sightings, and search the database for sightings. This is perhaps the most significant development in birding in recent history. Throughout the year there will no doubt be more from me about ebird. Anyway, the top image shows Varied Thrush sightings around Santa Barbara for the years 2008-2013 (5 years of sightings). The second image shows the sightings from 2014. Quite a difference!
Varied Thrush Sightings 2008-2013
Varied Thrush Sightings 2014
With transient species such as this, it is best to "get while the getting's good" which is exactly what I did. I left around sunrise, pedaled the mile or so to Mesa Park, and within 10 minutes had my Green Big Year Varied Thrush sighting. Perhaps there will be more Varied Thrushes this year.
I proceeded downhill towards the beach. As I dropped in elevation, the air got colder and colder. When I hit the beach to look for my next targets, there was frost on the grass. Now folks from another part of the world may think this is no big deal, but it is rather unusual to get frost at the beach in Santa Barbara. This did not seem to bother my next targets, a group of geese that have been reported for a few days - 4 Greater White-fronted Geese and a Cackling Goose. They were eagerly nibbling away at the frosty grass.
A look over at the beach yielded one of my favorite species, the Black Skimmer, there were about 40 of them. When I get a chance I'll post a photo of these interesting birds.
Scanning over the harbor from the pier, there was a large group if Surf Scoters. These are sea ducks that dive for mollusks, such as mussels and clams. The cool part is that they eat them whole. Here is a photo of an immature male Surf Scoter I took last fall in Goleta. I searched through the group, looking for a rarer White-winged Scoter, but could not find one.
Immature Male Surf Scoter
I returned home by 9AM and had added 9 species to the year list.
I biked 8.5 miles.
Tomorrow is the Santa Barbara Christmas Bird Count. I have been assigned an area in the mountains. There will be some biking, but I will drive to the trailhead, so this will not be included in my Green Big Year Tally.