“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

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Day 49 - Gulls and Parking Lot Birds

Today started out with Bird Class down at the Santa Barbara waterfront - today's subject, Gulls.  Many birders, myself included until just recently, get a pale and distant look when the subject of gulls comes up.

Gulls are are messy and confusing.  They have strange body parts such as "gonys" and "gonydeal expansion."  They take 3 or 4 years (cycles in Gullspeak) to reach adult state, and their appearance changes every year.  If this is not confusing enough, they go out of bounds and mate with other gull species, producing hybrids.

Although no new species were added to the year's list during class, we (at least some of us) had an excellent time sorting through the gulls and identifying which species and cycle they were.  We saw Western, Heermann's, Glaucus-winged, Herring, California, Ring-billed, and Mew Gulls.  There was only one Gull that had us all (even the teacher) stumped.  As is typical with gulls, we declared it to be a hybrid and took photos which will be sent to the experts to sort out.  See photo below "Mystery Gull"

Here are some photos from class today:

Horned Grebe (a rather pale one)

 California Gull (adult)

 Glaucous-winged Gull (2nd Cycle)

 Herring Gull (1st Cycle)

Hybrid (likely Glaucous-winged x Western) Gull

Ring-billed Gull (adult)

Western Gull (adult)

Pelagic Cormorant

After class I headed down to Carpinteria, where yesterday local birder Rob Denholz reported a Hermit Warbler in Tipu trees in a downtown parking lot (You may remember warblers, Tipu trees and parking lots from Day 9).  Anyway, Hermit Warbler would be a good bird to get as I have it down as just "possible" for the year. 

I arrived at the Vons grocery store and began searching the Tipu trees.  As expected, there were many Yellow-rumped Warblers.  After examining all trees in the parking lot I moved down the sidewalk to the next Tipu tree, where I found my first non-Yellow-rumped Warbler, a handsome male Towsend's Warbler.  OK, I thought, we are moving in the right direction.  Shortly thereafter I saw another non-Yellow-rumped Warbler, this one a Black-throated Gray Warbler.  Score one for the year's list!  I had previously missed out on this one in the Tipu trees in downtown Santa Barbara.  I was happy, for even if I did not find the Hermit Warbler, I would not go home empty-handed (so to speak).

I managed a decent photo of the Black-throated Gray, though I must say taking photos of warblers hopping around up in the trees is above my pay scale.

I continued searching the trees in the adjacent parking lot, finding a few more Townsend's Warblers.  When I arrived I gave myself about an hour for the warbler search.  It was getting past 50 minutes, and there was one tree left to search.  It was located directly behind the Rincon Brewing Company (which was beginning to look quite appealing).  I saw a couple more Townsend's Warblers, then  another warbler high in the tree - white underside and all yellow face - Hermit Warbler!!  Unfortunately too far up the tree for any decent photo, but I was very happy to have tracked it down.  Plus I had the bonus Black-throated Gray Warbler as well.  Another excellent day! 

Black-throated Gray Warbler

After the addition of today's 2 species, the year's total stands at 176. 

Today I rode 31.9 miles

More later,

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