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