“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

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Day 87 - Back Soon!

Spring Break is upon us.  Time for our somewhat annual trip to Death Valley.  Look for the next post in a few days.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Day 86 - Lake Los Carneros

Today the weather forecast was for continued heat wave.  I wanted to avoid the worst of that so I got an early start and was home before the mercury broke 80 degrees.

I headed out to Lake Los Carneros, hoping to catch up with some spring migrants.  Specifically I had Black-headed Grosbeak and Western Tanager in mind.  These are both species that I typically see every spring at this site.  It's a bit early for both species but they have been reported in the general area already.

There was a good deal of bird activity there this morning.  I ended up tallying 43 species, but neither of my target species were to be found.  At one point I thought I heard a Tanager, but upon closer examination it turned out to be a Mockingbird messing with my audio bird ID skills.

It was especially fun to see that the nesting Bushtits now have youngsters to feed.  Their sock-shaped woven nest is well hidden in a small oak tree and does not allow for photos.

I am getting anxious to cross the 200 species milestone.  Patience grasshopper ....

Just one photo from today:

Red-tailed Hawk

After today the year's total still stands at 197. 

Today I rode a total of 23.4 miles

More later,

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Day 83 - 1,000 Mile Mark and 3 New Birds!

First, the big news.  With the addition of today's 32.4 miles I have crossed the 1,000 mile mark for the Santa Barbara Big Green Year!  1,000 down and who knows how many to go.

Well, after yesterday's little rant about ebird, today I followed up on a reliable ebird report with 4 potential additions to the year's list.  The report was from Farren Road in western Goleta.  Frankly I had forgotten about Farren Road, but I am glad to have been reminded.  The four target species for today were Greater Roadrunner, Western Kingbird, Common Raven, and Phainopepla.

Shortly after climbing the first hill on Farren Road I saw a Kingbird on the power lines.  It turned out to be a Western Kingbird - paler gray head than a Cassin's Kingbird, no high contrast white cheek patch, white edges to outer tail feathers, and a different vocabulary.  As I was getting my camera out it flew to a distant barbed wire fence where it stayed safely out of camera range for the remainder of my visit.  I am certain I will be seeing more of these in the future.  One bird down!

Next up was a black bird soaring above me.  Too small for a hawk or vulture.  Crow or Raven?  They can be somewhat difficult to tell apart.  Ravens are larger, but size can be difficult to gauge in the field - rarely do Crows and Ravens sit next to each other for that definitive comparison.  In my experience Ravens soar but Crows do not.  Last but not least, the shape of the tail can be diagnostic.  When in flight Crows have a fan-shaped tail, and Ravens have a diamond-shaped tail.  This bird definitely had diamond-shaped tail - Raven.  Two birds down!

After searching around awhile farther up the road I thought I heard the distinctive call of the Phainopepla.  I have seen their call described as a rising "wurp" - as if it is asking you a question.  I looked in the direction of the call and saw a male Phainopepla (black) sitting on top of a distant pepper tree.  I took a couple of photos which look sort of like the Loch Ness Monster from this distance.  Later I saw a female Phainopepla (gray) in the same tree.  Three birds down!

I searched for a Roadrunner without success.  I think this bird will be a hard one to find this year.  Even with a couple hundred people looking one did not turn up on the day of the Christmas Bird Count.  I feel a bit like Wile E Coyote searching for the elusive Roadrunner ....  Beep Beep!

A couple photos from today:

Savannah Sparrow

Trust me, the black blob is a Phainopepla

After the addition of today's 3 species, the year's total stands at 197. 

Today I rode a total of 32.4 miles

More later,

Monday, March 23, 2015

Day 82 - Chasing Ghosts

During the course of this year I have spent a good deal of time following local ebird reports.  For those unfamiliar with this, ebird is a project out of Cornell University that allows users to submit bird sightings to a global database.  This database can then be searched, mapped, and examined 12 ways form Sunday.  I can also get it to send me an email whenever anyone reports a bird in Santa Barbara County that I have not yet seen this year.

This is all fantastic, believe me. Ebird is easily the biggest advance in birding technology in a long time.  However, if there is one thing I have learned this year - do not believe everything you read on ebird.  Since I have been paying close attention, I have been quite surprised at the number of reports I see that are suspect - generally mis-identification of species.

For example, a couple of days ago there was an ebird report of 1 Red-breasted Merganser and 2 Common Mergansers in the Santa Barbara Harbor.  This seemed rather sketchy to me - Red-breasted Mergansers are fairly common along the coast here, and despite their name the Common Mergansers are definitely not common along the coast.  They are pretty easy to come by away from the coast in the the Santa Ynez River and associated reservoirs.  The males of these species are easily distinguished, but the females look more similar and can be confused.  Of course birds do not read the rules so anything is possible.

Well, since the harbor is pretty close to home I could not resist heading down there this afternoon to check it out.  To make a long story short, I found 1 male Red-breasted Merganser and 2 female Red-breasted Mergansers.  No Common Mergansers.

I did see a spiffy-looking Surfbird getting its breeding plumage, and it was another beautiful Santa Barbara day so I have no complaints whatsoever.

Some photos from today:

Common Loon

Marbled Godwit

Red-throated Loon


After today the year's total still stands at 194. 

Today I rode a total of 10.1 miles

More later,

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Day 81 - Carpinteria

Today I had a lunch engagement in Carpinteria so this morning I headed that way on my bike looking for birds.  I had low expectations for finding any new species for the year's list.  These expectations were not exceeded.

I visited the Carpinteria Salt Marsh, the Caprinteria Bluffs, and lots of bottlebrush trees in the area looking for my Rufous Hummingbird.  I was not successful in finding one.

My one bit of education for the day was hearing for the first time the "quack" of a Red-breasted Merganser.  Surprisingly it sounded more like a barking frog than a duck.

After a lovely lunch with friends I headed home into a chilly head wind.  This was not a pleasant finish to the outing, and had me questioning just a little bit the sanity of this adventure.

One thing for certain, tomorrow is another day.

A couple of photos from today:

Anna's Hummingbird

Pied-billed Grebe

After today the year's total still stands at 194. 

Today I rode a total of 34.7 miles

More later,

Friday, March 20, 2015

Day 79 - Three New Birds!

OK, forgive my rambling here, it is midnight and I have to get up at 5AM to take my friend Chris to the airport!

This morning I headed out to Goleta, I was hoping to catch up with a Surfbird and an Elegant Tern.  I headed to Coal Oil Point, where both of these species had been spotted in recent days.  Like an idiot I arrived at high tide - the worst time to find birds on the shore.  There were absolutely no shorebirds to be found - which begs the question: Where do the shorebirds go when the tide is high?

Having some time to kill while the tide subsided I headed over to Devereux Slough, hoping perhaps to find a Rufous Hummingbird.  Well, once again I looked at quite a few hummingbirds but could not find any of the Rufous type.  There were a good variety of birds around, including a couple of interesting raptors - a Merlin, and an immature Sharp-shinned Hawk.

While looking around I heard a familiar call of the Chestnut-backed Chickadee.  This was in an area I had seen this species before.  Every time I pass through here I keep an eye out for one.  The bird appeared in a tree in front of me, but it moved on before I could get a photo.  Hello Chickadee!  This is one of the few species in our area that has been expanding its area in recent years.  1 species added to the year's list!

Eventually I began heading for home.  Along the way I decided to stop at Campus Point, one last chance to find a Surfbird.  These birds like rocky areas, and in this area Coal Oil Point and Campus Point are pretty much the only options.  The tide was high but I could see a few birds moving around on the rocks.  Sure enough, 5 Surfbirds were foraging just above the breaking waves.  The Surfbird is one of my favorite sandpipers.  They are stout - kind of the linebackers of the sandpiper family.  I managed some rather poor photos in the midday sun, and also include a better photo from a couple years ago.  2 birds today for the year's list!

One more stop on the way home at Goleta Beach, perhaps an Elegant Tern to be found there.  I could see one group of gulls resting on the beach.  Often the terns are to be found amongst the gulls.  Upon closer examination, there were about 10 terns in with the gulls.  Right now most of the terns around here are Royal Terns.  An Elegant Tern will be smaller than the Royal, with a narrower bill and a slightly pinkish breast.  Sure enough, one of the terns fit the Elegant description - 3 birds today for the year's list!

A nice outing this morning.  It has been a month since I have added 3 birds in one day.  With more spring migrants arriving I hope to continue this trend!

Some photos from today:

Great Egret


Sharp-shinned Hawk (Immature)



Surfbird, Goleta Ca April 2013

Elegant Tern (center) and Royal Terns

After the addition of today's 3 species, the year's total stands at 194. 

Today I rode a total of 30.5 miles

More later,

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Day 78 - Barn Swallow

Yesterday my friend Chris and I went out on the Condor Express to see some of the Gray Whales that are migrating past Santa Barbara right now.  We had a fine afternoon and saw 6 Gray Whales.  After driving to the harbor we spent a little time walking around before getting on the boat.  We saw Barn Swallows and Elegant Terns, both birds I would like to add to the Green Big Year List.

So this morning I hopped on my bike and headed back there to track down these two species.  I arrived at the Sea Landing and quickly found the Barn Swallows very close to where we had seen them yesterday.

I headed out to the breakwater where we had seen the Elegant Terns, but there were no terns of any sort to be found.  I checked the nearby beaches without success in this regard either.  On the way home I did find few a few Royal Terns lounging with the gulls at Leadbetter Beach, but their Elegant friends were not with them.  Soon there will be good numbers of Elegant Terns on the beaches here so I am sure I will catch up with some.

A few photos form this morning:

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

Belted Kingfisher

Bufflehead (Male)

Cinnamon Teal (Male)

After the addition of today's 1 species, the year's total stands at 191. 

Today I rode a total of 9.2 miles

More later,

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Day 76 - A Couple of Migrants

After a breezy and warm 50 mile ride on Saturday in the Solvang Century I took a couple of days off from the bike.  This morning I got back on and rode up to Mission Canyon in hopes of collecting some spring migrants; specifically Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Wilson's Warbler, and Warbling Vireo.

I started out at Rocky Nook Park where a Pacific-slope Flycatcher was reported yesterday.  I made my way up the creek bed until I heard the distinctive "chu-wee" call of the this flycatcher.  It took a little while to get a visual on the vocalizer, which I eventually found in the trees over the creek.  Though overcast and a bit far away, I managed a decent ID photo.  Note how the eye-ring is thicker behind the eye, a good visual ID for this species.

I left Rocky Nook Park and headed for the Botanic Garden with 1 down and 2 to go!  At the Botanic Garden I met my wife and our friend Chris who is visiting from Minnesota.  We had a pleasant walk around the garden watching the birds doing their spring thing.  We heard another Pacific-slope Flycatcher up in a Sycamore Tree but could not get a visual on it.

While walking down the trail Chris pointed out a little yellow bird in a bush in front of us, which turned out to have a nice black cap - Wilson's Warbler!  Unfortunately this handsome little fellow did not stick around to get his photo taken.

We were unable to locate a Warbling Vireo, so I had to settle for 2 of 3 target birds for the morning.  Not a bad outing at all, and I am looking forward to catching up with some more spring migrants soon!

Some photos from today:

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

Underside of an Orange-crowned Warbler

Northern Flicker

After the addition of today's 2 species, the year's total stands at 190. 

Today I rode a total of 9.4 miles

More later,

Friday, March 13, 2015

Day 72 - Cliff Swallow

I set out this morning on a tour of Goleta hoping to catch up with some migrating birds - either those who are passing through on the way to their breeding grounds, or those that are arriving here for the summer.  The target birds included: Rufous Hummingbird, Western Tanager, Elegant Tern, Cliff Swallow, and Barn Swallow.

I was really hoping to see a Rufous Hummingbird so I spent a good deal of the morning scouting around flowering trees.  The migrant Rufous Hummingbirds are very similar to the Allen's Hummingbirds, which have become more resident in our area over the past years.  Only the males can be readily separated from each other in the field.  To do this with certainty you need a good look at the tail feathers.  However a general rule of thumb is that a male that is certainly a Rufous will be entirely rufous colored on the head and back - no green allowed; the Allen's (and some Rufous ones) will have some green.  These two species make a distinct buzzing sound when they fly, so I would listen for this sound, locate the bird, and try to see if it had any green.  I examined quite a few hummingbirds this morning and I am sorry to say I was not able to find any that were completely free of green.

One interesting note from this morning - after all the excitement about the Hooded Oriole yesterday, I found no fewer than 5 Hooded Orioles around Goleta today.  I also saw numerous Northern Rough-winged Swallows.  The migrants are starting to arrive.

I also saw lots of nesting activity: a Crow and a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on their nests, and Cassin's Kingbirds, Juncos, Allen's Hummingbirds and Scaly-breasted Munias collecting nesting material.

Well, I struck out on the Rufous Hummingbird, Western Tanager, Elegant Tern and Barn Swallow.  During the last stop of the day I did see a lone Cliff Swallow cruising over the slough at Goleta Beach.  The Cliff Swallow is easily identified by its chestnut colored cheek and white forehead.  In a few weeks there will be large flocks of them building their nests under bridges and under eaves of buildings.

Slowly but surely the year's total creeps towards 200 species.

Some photos from today:

American Wigeon (Female)


Northern Shoveler (Male)

Snowy Egret

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Red-tailed Hawk

After the addition of today's 1 species, the year's total stands at 188. 

Today I rode a total of 30.3 miles

More later,

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Day 71 - Yard Bird!

Early this afternoon I stepped outside the house and heard the "wheep" call of a Hooded Oriole.  It was coming from waaaay up in the Redwood Tree.  After a little searching I was able to locate the handsome bird, and obtain a couple of horrible photos, pretty much directly into the sunlight.  It flew away, and as it turns out there was another one way up there too.

So I rode all over Goleta for two days hoping to see one of the early arriving Hooded Orioles, only to find one right in my own front yard!  It has been a long time since I added a yard bird to the year's list.  I would not be opposed to a few more of those!

A photo from today, and a nice one taken last spring.

World's worst Hooded Oriole Photo?

Hooded Oriole, Santa Barbara March 2014

After the addition of today's 1 species, the year's total stands at 187. 

Today I rode a total of 0 miles!

More later,

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Day 70 - One, Maybe Two New Birds!

Today was our last Bird Class of the winter season.  It was held at the old Ocean Meadows Golf Course, home (allegedly) of the infamous Grace's Warbler.  Since I was along for the class you can guess how that turned out.

The day started off well.  I left in the dark hoping to have enough time to stop at Coal Oil Point prior to meeting up with class.  I got there around 7:30 just as it was getting light.  Sunrise was at 7:15 but there were low clouds threatening rain so it was still rather dark.

Over the past couple of days there have been 3 interesting birds seen at Coal Oil Point - Ancient Murrelet (seen for just 10 minutes), an Elegant Tern and a Surfbird.  I figured the Murrelet was a long shot, and the latter two are early migrants and I am most certain to find them at some point in the year.

While scanning over the water I noticed an interesting bird off the point.  It was low to the water and smaller than a loon, black on top (no white on the wings) with a white breast, and a long thin bill.  When it sat up in the water and flapped its wings, they were white underneath as was its belly.  A Common Murre, new bird for the year!  This is a very nice bird to see, as it was not on the list of ones I was expecting to find this year.  I watched it dive for a few minutes before starting to scan the shorebirds.

I found nothing really unusual among the shorebirds.  Some of them are starting to obtain their breeding plumage.  For Santa Barbara that means they are about to disappear to their nesting grounds.

I did see a group of 6 Dowitchers.  I did not spend much effort trying to determine if they were Short-billed or Long-billed Dowitchers.  The light was not great, and I was a bit lazy about it.  The most common type here is the Long-billed, and the two can be quite difficult to tell apart.  The only sure-fire way to tell them apart is by their call (Short billed has a 3 note call, Long-billed is a single note).  They usually call when they are startled and fly away.  This particular group did not fly before I had to leave for class, so I did not have the benefit of this clue.

I left Coal Oil Point around 7:50AM.  About 1 hour later Tom Turner arrived and saw 6 Dowitchers.  He got some photos of them.  He stayed until they flew away - calling with 3 notes.  Short-billed Dowitchers.  He sent his photos to local Dowitcher Guru Nick Lethaby, who said by their location and plumage alone they were almost certain to the Short-billed Dowitchers.

Now I find myself in a bit of a dilemma - should I count the ones I saw as Short-billed Dowitchers?  On the one hand, I did not identify them at the time, so I do not think I should count them.  On the other hand, the ones I saw were almost certainly the ones Tom saw.  Sometimes sightings do get revised after the fact - just last week during Bird Class we reported a female Bullock's Oriole.  After getting home and posting the photo it was pointed out that it really looked more like a Baltimore Oriole, so the sighting was revised.  At the moment I will leave it off the list, but would like to hear opinions of you've got them.

During Bird Class we of course did not find the Grace's Warbler.  We did see a pair of Cooper's Hawks (the ones I saw mating yesterday) working on building their nest, which was nice.

Afterwards I visited a couple of spots around Goleta looking for spring birds but did not find any.  That part was a bit frustrating, but I did get a nice bird for the day.

A single photo from today:

Cedar Waxwing

After the addition of today's 1 species, the year's total stands at 186. 

Today I rode a total of 34.4 miles

More later,

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Day 69 - Another Beautiful Day (the drought continues)

Today was another beautiful day of birding in the Goleta area.  I will not bore you with the details of all the birds I missed.  Let's focus on the positive things, shall we?

First, standing in one spot I was able to see an Orchard Oriole AND a Tropical Kingbird.  In Santa Barbara County that's a pretty neat trick, I think!

Second, from Coal Oil Point I saw Gray Whales breaching.  This was very cool!

Third, I saw Cooper's Hawks mating!

Fourth, by chance I met local birder Tom Turner.  I have been chasing his bird sightings all over the place this year.  By coincidence we exchanged our first email yesterday.  Today I meet him in person.  Small world when you are looking for birds, I guess.

The chase continues tomorrow.  Although things have been a bit slow in regards to adding species to the year's list I must say the outings this week have been very nice.  Spring is in the air here, and I am confident I will be seeing some new birds soon.

UPDATE:  I took the photo below of the interesting looking Wigeon at Devereux Slough, not sure if it fell within the normal variation for American Wigeon, or perhaps was the male hybrid American x Eurasian Wigeon that has been reported from there.  Note the complete lack of green eye patch, and grayish coloring on the back.  I sent the photo to local Bird Guru Nick Lethaby, who confirms it looks like the hybrid he has been seeing there.  An "odd duck" for sure.  Sadly, hybrids do not count as species.

American x Eurasian Wigeon Hybrid

A couple of photos from today:

 Cooper's Hawk

 Great Blue Heron

After today, the year's total still stands at 185. 

Today I rode 29.1 miles

More later,

Monday, March 9, 2015

Day 68 - Spring Without Migrants (Yet)

After taking a break this weekend I had time for a quick outing this morning.  I decided to head to Rocky Nook park - perhaps I could track down some newly arrived spring migrants there.  Maybe a Western Tanager, Wilson's Warbler, Warbling Vireo or the like.

Well, that was not to be, but there was quite a bit of spring-like activity.  I heard birds singing like crazy, saw birds collecting nesting material, and even this cute Anna's Hummingbird sitting on her nest.  I do not know if it is for camouflage purposes or what, but every hummingbird nest I have seen has bits of green lichen (or similar) on the outside.  Maybe they are simply excellent decorators.

Anna's Hummingbird

I easily found and was distracted for some time by the park's resident rare bird, the Painted Redstart.  This little beauty has been hanging around for over two months.   I managed some better, though not fantastic, photos of this little color-bomb.  I imagine soon it will head back to Arizona or wherever it came from.

Painted Redstart

Painted Redstart

All in all a very pleasant outing.  Even the Nuthatches were cooperative.  With spring getting into swing, the migrants cannot be far behind!

White-breasted Nuthatch

After today, the year's total still stands at 185. 

Today I rode 7.7 miles

More later,

Friday, March 6, 2015

Day 65 - A Bird Without Birding

I did not go birding today, but did see a new bird for the year!

As my son and I are signed up to ride in the Solvang Metric Century (67 miles, lots of hills) next weekend I thought today would be a good day to go for a training ride.  I intentionally left my binoculars at home - when I bring them along I tend to do more watching and less pedaling.

While I was on Foothill Road riding on the bridge that passes over Stevens Park I could not help but notice the 3 White-throated Swifts flying overhead.  Swifts can be distinguished from swallows by their shorter tail, and their shallower and more erratic wingbeat - their flight appears more clumsy and not as graceful as a swallow.  Even without binoculars I could clearly see their white undersides and flanks.  Their chattering calls were easily heard.  New bird for the year!

Sorry no photos today.

After the addition of today's 1 species, the year's total stands at 185. 

Today I rode a total of 51.1 miles

More later,

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Day 64 - Lack of Grace

I had given up in the Grace's Warbler out at the old Ocean Meadows Golf Course.  But yesterday there were not one but 2 reports of the bird in it's usual spot.  This was too much for me to resist so today I headed back there for my 4th attempt to find this bird.

On the way I stopped by More Mesa in search of a Northern Harrier.  These hawks winter here, and there have been a couple recent reports from More Mesa.  This is a logical spot for them, a large open space with mostly grass and relatively few trees and shrubs.  The Harriers like open space such as this and they cruise low over the grass looking for prey.  This makes them relatively easy to spot - if they are present - which none were this morning at More Mesa.  It was a pleasant detour nonetheless.

I arrived at the Grace's Warbler spot a little after 10AM, and met Gage and George who were also eager to see the bird.  We searched for about an hour without success.  Not only am I cursed by this bird, those who are around me when I am searching for it become cursed as well!

Taking a little break form the warbler hunt I headed over to nearby Ellwood Mesa hoping I might come across a Northern Harrier there.  No luck on that either.

I returned to look once again for the Grace's Warbler.  I spent another half hour searching without success.

This bird is really starting to bug me.

A couple photos from today:

Canada Geese

Cassin's Kingbird

After today, the year's total still stands at 184. 

Today I rode 28.7 miles

More later,

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Day 63 - Lake Los Carneros

Today was Bird Class at Lake Los Carneros.  Recently I have heard talk of a hybrid sapsucker here, and there was recently an ebird report of a Red-naped Sapsucker as well (This report contained no description, which tends to make me a bit skeptical).   I was hoping to see a sapsucker or two today.

When I left the house this morning it was rather cold, and I was freezing by the time I got to Goleta.  I had time, and stopped to get a cup of coffee but the line was long so I continued on to the lake.  This gave me a few minutes to look around before class.

When I arrived, one of the first things I saw flying over the lake was a pair of Violet-green Swallows, a new addition to the year's list.  A good start!  The key field mark here for me to distinguish from a Tree Swallow is the white that extends up on the sides of the rump.  If the light is good the violet and green colors are easy to see, and also the Violet-greens have white coming up the side of the face but this can sometimes be hard to see.  Later during class we saw at least a dozen Tree Swallows, some going into nest boxes around the lake.  Also a Northern Rough-winged Swallow

On the way to the class gathering point I stopped by the area where the sapsuckers are typically seen, but I could not find any.  We also did not see any in class when we passed through the area.

Class started off on a good note with a female type Baltimore Oriole seen within the first few minutes.  At first the conclusion was Bullock's Oriole, but upon review of the photo the judges have decided Baltimore. I did not think I got any photos, but was surprised to find one in the camera when I got home.  A lousy photo, but ....

Baltimore Oriole (Female)

Through the course of the 2 hour class we saw 48 species, which I thought was a pretty good total, though nothing new for the year's list.  For me the nicest thing was to see a pair of White-tailed Kites looking cozy together.  The past couple years have been very tough for the Kites due to the drought. In addition to this, the Monterey Pine trees they have been nesting in recently have pretty much all died.  Hopefully this year they can successfully nest.

White-tailed Kites

Anna's Hummingbird (male)

After class I headed back to the sapsucker area.  Pretty quickly I saw a sapsucker in a nearby Pepper Tree.  This bird found looked like a Red-breasted to me, though may seem to have some red-naped characteristics, namely a relatively short projection of the red onto the breast and the darker band on the lower edge of this red.  I have posted photos and asked for feedback on this.  Update:  Consensus seems to be this is a hybrid Red-breasted x Red-naped Sapsucker.

Red-breasted x Red-naped Sapsucker

Red-breasted x Red-naped Sapsucker

I was following this sapsucker around trying to study the markings.  It had moved to a large Oak tree when it was joined by another sapsucker.  This second bird had the classic look of a male red-naped sapsucker.  Red nape, red forehead, extensive red on the chin, black bib, and white on the back more organized into two stripes.  Sapsucker score!  This is a very nice bird to get, as they are only around in the winter and can be hard to find.  The two birds briefly interacted, the Red-breasted seemed to be chasing off the red-naped.  I was unable to get photos of the red-naped, and waited around for it to return but did not see it again.

Also, ho hum (this is 2015), there was a Varied Thrush on the ground in this area.

By this time I had spent about 90 minutes chasing the sapsuckers around, so it was time to head for home.

After the addition of today's 2 species, the year's total stands at 184. 

Today I rode a total of 22.1 miles

More later,

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Day 62 - Scott's Oriole

Since spring is coming and the wintering birds will be departing any minute, so I decided it was time to go get my Green Big Year Scott's Oriole.  You may recall from Day 3 that at least one of these Orioles likes to spend the winter in the neighborhood I lived for many years.

Unfortunately for someone on a bike, this entails a steep climb up Old San Marcos Road.  This stretch is well known to avid cyclists in the area who use it for training.  The profile for the 3 mile stretch is shown below.

Old San Marcos Road - 1200 feet climb in 3 miles

In my experience the best time to catch the Oriole(s) is around 7AM.  As I have not ridden up this stretch in some time, I thought it best to ride up the evening before, spend the night, and not have to attempt the climb at 6AM.  I did this, and it turned out the climb was not as bad as expected.  I made it from the bottom to the top in what I thought was a respectable 32 minutes.

After a restful night, I awoke to the sound of a pair of Great Horned Owls calling.  After a little coffee and something to eat, I made my way over to the favored Oriole viewing point.  Promptly at 7:03 an immature male Scott's Oriole appeared, stayed for about two minutes, sang a little song and departed.  I managed a couple rather poor photos to document the event.  For reference I also include a better photo of an adult male, which is quite stunning and has a beautiful song to match.

Scott's Oriole (Immature Male)

Scott's Oriole, Adult Male from March 2014

Having some time on my hands, I scouted the neighborhood in the hopes that something else interesting might turn up, like perhaps a Steller's Jay.  This is about the bottom edge of their elevation range.  Though not always present they are around from time to time.  Luckily, nearing the end of my circuit I heard the boisterous call of the Steller's Jay, and saw the subject working through the top of a nearby oak tree.  A nice little bonus to add to the year's list!

More photos from today:

Band-tailed Pigeons 

Lesser Goldfinch 

Oak Titmouse

After the addition of today's 2 species, the year's total stands at 182. 

Yesterday and today I rode a total of 24.0 miles

More later,