“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

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Day 242 - Northern Waterthrush!

Yesterday after I returned from my birding outing I received a report that a Northern Waterthrush had been found by Dave Compton in Carpinteria.  By that time it was just too hot to hop on the bike and try and track it down.  This would be a great bird to see.  The only ones I have seen have been in Costa Rica and Panama.

This morning I got an early start and at 7:30 was at the spot where the bird was seen yesterday.  I really had no idea how good the chances would be that it was still around.  As I was making my way through the Poison Oak Thicket towards the creek I could see the Waterthrush picking through the plants in the creek bottom and vigorously pumping its tail - as Waterthrushes do.  Well, that was certainly easier than I expected!  The uniformly colored and light yellow undersides as well as "eyebrow" differentiate this from the similar Louisiana Waterthrush.  Another one I was not expecting to catch up with this year.  Let's hope this is a trend for the fall migration.

I watched the bird work through the creek bed for awhile and got some rather crappy photos.  The light level was low, and also I discovered later my camera lens was pretty grubby so I do not think that helped.  I was ready to go so I submitted my ebird checklist and put the camera away.  Much to my surprise at that moment a second Waterthrush came out of the bushes and joined the first one in the creek!  I am thinking I need to get my eyes checked as I keep seeing things I find hard to believe.

Northern Waterthrush (note tail is in motion)

Northern Waterthrush

Also from Carpinteria Creek:

Wilson's Warbler

Next I went down to the creek mouth.  Among the usual birds here I found a Sora which was unusually cooperative for the camera.  This means I was able to get any pictures at all - these birds generally stay back in the foliage and do not show themselves too much.

A great little outing made even sweeter by the tailwind that helped push me home!



After the addition of this 1 species, the year's total stands at 242.

Today I rode a total of 32.2 miles

More later,

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Day 241 - A Quiet Morning

Nothing to see here - move along, move along.  That seemed to be the theme this morning as I visited coastal sites near and west of UCSB.

Although I got and early start there was little bird activity wherever I went.  It almost seemed that the birds had seen the weather report calling for a scorching day and were already hunkered down trying to stay cool.

Frankly, I was happy to be heading home by 9:30, it was already quite warm!

A few photos from this morning:

Ruddy Duck - male

Western Bluebird - not so blue from this angle!

Black-crowned Night Heron - Immature

After today the year's total still stands at 241. 

Today I rode a total of 26.5 miles

More later,

Friday, August 28, 2015

Day 240 - Black-throated Sparrow!

I headed out to Goleta this morning hoping to find some migrants.  My first stop was the "Coronado Seep" at the end of Coronado Drive.  This is an area where drainage collects from the Coronado Drive neighborhood and has historically been a good spot for fall migrants, especially warblers.  Unfortunately given the present drought situation there is not a drop of water to be found, and therefore not too many birds around either.  I am really feeling sorry for the birds out there right about now.

I continued to Lake Los Carneros hoping for better luck.  I arrived at the park to a chorus of lawn mowers and leaf blowers.  Was this any better than the garbage truck brigade I encountered at Coronado Drive?  The morning was not off to a tranquil start.

I got away from the noise ASAP and made my way around the lake.  The first interesting thing I encountered was a Willow Flycatcher, a fall migrant.  I tried mightily to get a photo of this bird but it simply would not cooperate!

Do you ever have a dream where you are with people you know at places you know but in real life these people and places are from different periods in your life and they would never overlap?  Well, this was the sort of situation I found myself in as I walked down towards the lake and put my binoculars on a sparrow.

I could see immediately this was a sparrow I was familiar with.  It had a pale gray head with two white stripes on the face, one above and one below the eye.  The adults of this species have bold black throats and chests - this bird did not, indicating an immature individual.  This is a bird species I see nearly every day in my yard - IN UTAH.  As I was presently in Goleta, this created no small amount of confusion in my mind.  Did I really just see a Black-throated Sparrow?  I checked my Field Guide to see if there were any other possibilities but I could find nothing that matched the distinct facial pattern of the Black-throated Sparrow.  The bird flew off before I could get my camera on it.  It would be really great to get a photo of a sighting like this.  I searched around for about 20 minutes trying to locate it again, but no luck.

Here is a photo of an immature Black-throated Sparrow I took last year in SE Utah:

Black-throated Sparrow, Immature. SE Utah 2014

I immediately posted this sighting to the local Bird List, questioning my sanity in the matter.  I got a couple replies that assured me this is indeed a rare migrant to this area.

When I got home I checked ebird, here is the map of sightings in the local area:  No sightings!

Black-throated Sparrow, all years, Santa Barbara

OK, not everybody posts their sightings to ebird, so I checked "The Birds of Santa Barbra County" by Paul Lehman.  He lists a total of 14 fall migration sightings in the local area.  So not totally unheard of but a huge unexpected surprise for me this morning.  As you can guess this bird was not on my radar but I am happy to add it as #241 for the year's list!  It just goes to show (once again) you never know what you'll find out there!

A few photos from today:

A distant Western Tanager

Brewer's Blackbird

 Double-crested Cormorant

Ring-necked Duck

After the addition of this 1 species, the year's total stands at 241.

Today I rode a total of 29.3 miles

More later,

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Day 238 - Back To The Bird Refuge

This morning I had time for a brief outing so I headed back towards the Andree Clark Bird Refuge.  If nothing else I was hoping to get better looks at the Blue-winged/Cinnamon Teal I saw there the other day.  Well, I could not find those but in their place there were 5 Green-winged Teal, another species starting to arrive from their migration.  Over the coming weeks I will be seeing more and more species returning from their summer vacations.

They were a ways away but you can definitely see from this photo how they got their name.

Green-winged Teal

This morning I found no new species for the year but I did enjoy seeing a Peregrine Falcon make a few passes over the ducks and waders, causing the expected panic.

Some photos from today:

Black Phoebe

Great Blue Heron


After today the year's total still stands at 240. 

Today I rode a total of 13 miles

More later,

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Day 237 - MacGillivray's Warbler!

Foe the past week or so there has been a MacGillivray's Warbler reported in Isla Vista just West of the UCSB Campus.  It was originally found by Tom Turner - he's been finding all sorts of birds this year.  The bird has been seen in the late afternoon, around 5PM.  Today was the first day that my schedule fit the bird's schedule, so I headed out this afternoon to try and find it.  This is a species I have seen before but never in Santa Barbara County.  It was not on my list of expected birds for the year.

I arrived at the park around 4:30 and started waiting in the area that the bird has been seen.  I figured I would stay until 6 or so.  There was a bit of bird activity but overall it was quiet for the next hour, then things started picking up a bit.

It was around 6 and still no sign of the warbler.  I was contemplating leaving when a flock of Bushtits arrived at the park with a Wilson's Warbler in tow.  Sometimes warblers will mix in with a flock of Bushtits, so I followed them around for awhile.  When they flew between trees one of the birds I saw was clearly larger than a Bushtit.  I chased after them and scanned the trees until I saw the MacGillivray's Warbler working its way through a nearby Willow.  I could clearly see the gray head, broken white eye ring, yellow belly and vent - all important ID features for this bird.  Yes!  Another Bonus Bird for the year - one I had not expected to find.

Lesson for the day - perseverance pays off!

Sorry, no photos today.

After the addition of this 1 species, the year's total stands at 240.

Today I rode a total of 23.0 miles

More later,

Monday, August 24, 2015

Day 236 - An Unusually Early Fall Migrant

I had a brief window this morning to go look for birds so I headed down to the Santa Barbara waterfront.  First I checked the Mission Creek Outflow, where surprisingly there were no sandpipers to be found.  There were no fewer than 4 immature Black-crowned Night Herons hanging around.  They nest near the harbor (not far away) and it seems the youngsters are beginning to leave their nests.

I continued on to the Andree Clark Bird Refuge.  For the most part I found only the expected birds.  I did notice a number of young Ruddy Ducks which have either arrived recently or avoided my attention previously.

When I got all the way to the end of the path I could see a couple of interesting looking ducks way back in the far reaches of the refuge.  They were smaller than nearby Mallards, had relatively large dark bills, and one had a fairly weak crescent behind the bill.  The one with the white patch definitely looked like a Blue-winged Teal, though not in the normal breeding or non-breeding plumages.  I thought it might be in eclipse plumage (aka: confusing plumage).  When I entered Blue-winged Teal in my ebird report it came up as rare.

When I got home I checked my field guides and did some internet searching regarding Blue-winged Teal in eclipse plumage.  There was very little information to be found.  According to Paul Lehman's book "The Birds Of Santa Barbara County" it would be very unusual to find a Blue-winged Teal here this time of year, and ones that are found would be in eclipse plumage.

I posted the top photo below to the local birding list hoping to shed some light on the ID of these birds.  I sent the 2nd photo to the folks who commented on it.  Some local bird gurus have put forth their opinions.  It seems unanimous that the bird with the weak white crescent is a male Blue-winged Teal.  There is some disagreement about the other bird, it could be a Blue-winged or Cinnamon Teal.  Since these birds in this plumage can be difficult to positively ID, I include some comments below.  I have left the ID of the 2nd bird as Blue-winged/Cinnamon.  This has turned into a good educational experience for me!


For Cinnamon Teal:

The bird looks a bit more robust and with a more spatulate bill. Since male ducks have bigger bills than females, to me it suggests the front bird may in fact be a Cinnamon. At least I don’t think the “crescent-faced” bird can be a BW and this bird also be a BW, unless there is some photographic effect going on making the closer bird (in the 1st photo) appear bigger-billed than it really is.

After examining 2nd photo:

I am even more in the Cinnamon Teal camp on the righthand bird (in 2nd photo) now! I would think we have one of both species.

I'd call the bird on the right a Cinnamon. Bill looks perfect. And young Cinnamons--if that's what it is--can show more of a face pattern than do adults, and thus look

For Blue-winged Teal:

I lean towards BwTe for that front bird because the color tone of the breast is exactly the same as that of the bird behind it (in 1st photo), the facial marking are of equal strength, and the pale feathers toward the bill are extensive and not confined in a spot (I hope I'm not imagining a plumage character state here that doesn't exist). Seeing the spatulateness of the bills is very difficult in these photos, and being certain of it in any situation is a challenge.

It seems to me that the closest bird has too patterned a face for Cinnamon, with that darkish line back from the eye. It was my impression that Cinnamons do not have this, although of course they do have spatulate bills. I’m wondering if this bill just appears bigger because it’s closer? I think this is a BW Teal pair.


I had seen both these species earlier in the year but it is still interesting to me to see new birds arriving from their summer breeding grounds.

Just goes to show, even on a quick jaunt close to home you never know what may turn up!

1st Photo: Blue-winged Teal (left) and Blue-winged or Cinnamon Teal (right)

2nd Photo: Blue-winged Teal (left) and Blue-winged or Cinnamon Teal (right)

A couple more photos from this morning:

Cassin's Kingbird

Spotted Sandpiper - with spots!

After today the year's total still stands at 239. 

Today I rode a total of 13 miles

More later,

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Day 234 - Least Terns!

It has been bugging me that I keep missing out on Least Terns - especially since they seem to be relatively abundant this year.  After reading a report by Hugh Ranson of 8 Least Terns at Coal Oil Point yesterday (Eight, for god's sake!) I decided to get out there again this morning and see If I could once and for all catch up with these little devils!

I arrived about 7:30 as the fog was lifting.  The beach was quiet human-wise, but active bird-wise with many Snowy Plovers working among the kelp piles all along the beach.  Down over the mouth of Devereux Slough I could see some small white birds flying - this was a very encouraging sign.  I made my way down the beach scanning among the various Plovers and Sandpipers for the Terns.  Sure enough as I approached the mouth of the slough I could see 4 Least Terns, an adult and 3 immature birds.  Finally!  I think I have put in more miles chasing this species than any other this year.  Also a first for me to see these birds in Santa Barbara County.

I watched them for awhile then headed back to my bike.  As I was climbing back up the bluff the Least Terns were flying nearby over the water.  I thanked them profusely and headed on my way.

Least Tern - Adult

Least Tern - Immature

Least Terns - Immature (Left) and Adult (Right)

On the way home I stopped by Goleta Beach to see if I could scare up something interesting - perhaps a Common Tern or unusual Sandpiper.  The most unusual bird I could scare up was this mutant duck, perhaps a cross between a Mallard and some domestic breed.  Maybe just a domestic duck.

 Duck - I suspect Mallard x Domestic

There was a flock of Terns on the beach.  Mostly Elegant Terns with a couple of Royal Terns.  No Common Terns around.  It seems anything named "Common" tends to be rather uncommon in these parts.

Elegant Tern

Elegant Terns - Adult (Top) and Immature (Bottom)

Elegant Tern (Lower Left) and Royal Tern (Upper Right)
A nice comparison of these sometimes confusing species.

After the addition of this 1 species, the year's total stands at 239.

Today I rode a total of 26.8 miles

More later,

Friday, August 21, 2015

Day 233 - Baird's Sandpiper

I had not planned on looking for birds today.  This afternoon a report came in from Peter Gaede - Baird's and Semipalmated Sandpipers at the Mission Creek Outflow.  (Thanks Peter!)  I am highly unlikely to find a Baird's Sandpiper closer to home than this.

In less than 20 minutes I had dropped whatever I was doing and was at the Outflow looking at the shorebirds.  They were a bit skittish and it took awhile to locate the interesting ones.  The first one I found was the Semipalmated Sandpiper, very similar to the common Western Sandpipers, but with a shorter straight bill. (See photos)

Shortly thereafter I found the Baird's Sandpiper - larger and chunkier than a Western Sandpiper, streaked breast without white shoulders, straight bill.  It had what looked like damaged feathers on the right side but seemed to fly normally.  Bird #238 for the year!

There were many other birds around but I needed to head back home to start cooking dinner.  A quick and successful outing!

A few photos from today:

Baird's Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Western Sandpiper

After the addition of this 1 species, the year's total stands at 238.

Today I rode a total of 7.9 miles

More later,

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Day 231 - Not the Least of Terns

I had planned to take the off from birding today, for various reasons.  When the report of Least Terns at Coal Oil Point came in, those plans changed.  I left the house about 11AM and aided by a nice tailwind made the 12 miles to Coal Oil Point in 42 minutes.  I spent 90 minutes searching the beach and this was the only Tern I could find:


Two problems here: 1) This is clearly too large for a Least Tern and 2) Obviously the bird is well and truly dead.  It turns out the Least Terns were seen as late as 11AM, so I just missed them.  I will definitely try again!

The consolation here was a pleasant visit with the Snowy Plovers.  I counted 62 at one time.  I love these birds.  They have the cute factor and a serenity about them.  There were also some other shorebirds around so I gave my camera a workout.

 Black-bellied Plover

Snowy Plover - Immature



On the way home I kept an eye on the sky and the shoreline looking for Terns.  There was a pair out in Goleta Bay that looked to me like Forster's but they were too far away to be certain - definitely too large for Least Terns.  

I stopped at Goleta Beach, where there was a good selection of birds around.  Among those were two Caspian Terns, an adult and a begging youngster.  I do not believe I have seen a Caspian Tern this young before.  Caspian Terns are the largest Terns in North America - definitely not the Least of Terns!

Caspian Terns - Adult (left) and Immature (Right)

Short-Billed Dowitcher. Thanks Nick for the confirmation!

Brown-headed Cowbird

After today the year's total still stands at 237. 

Today I rode a total of 25 miles

More later,

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Day 230 - Santa Barbara Shorebirds and More

On this foggy morning I got a late start so stayed close to home, hitting a few spots along the Santa Barbara shore.  It was still foggy and the tide was getting up - not ideal conditions for shorebirds or photography.  I was not expecting to find any new species on this quick jaunt - but you never know what will turn up!

First stop, the breakwater at the harbor.  Very quiet here, few birds at all.  Most notable was possibly the most ragged-looking Pacific Loon I have ever seen.

Pacific Loon

My next stop was the Mission Creek Outflow.  There was a good variety of birds in the area, including a Pectoral Sandpiper that has been hanging around for a few days.  Many of the shorebirds are in some stage of molting.  This makes for some strange-looking birds that do not look anything like their representations in the Field Guides.  Good ID practice!

Sanderlings, molting

Black-bellied Plovers, molting

Next and last stop for the morning was the Andree Clark Bird Refuge.  There was a good variety of birds here also.  Some were very cooperative for the camera.  In addition to trying to find as many bird species as possible this year I am trying to present you with photographs of as many different species as possible.  As of today these blog posts have included photos of 160 species, or 68% of the species I have come across.

No new birds today, but another nice morning out and about.

Western (above) and Least (below) Sandpipers.  Still in breeding plumage.

Green Heron

Green Heron

Spiffy looking male House Finch

Cassin's Kingbird

After today the year's total still stands at 237. 

Today I rode a total of 13.5 miles

More later,

Monday, August 17, 2015

Day 229 - Goleta

I took a couple days off the bike after my trip up to Lompoc.  That was a long ride and the weather has been quite warm.  Today I set off in a welcomed fog bank and headed for Goleta.

Last night Tom Turner reported a MacGillivray's Warbler in Isla Vista.  This is a species I have yet to catch up with this year.  I figured it would likely be gone but it was the only known thing I had to chase.  When I arrived at Fortuna Park, Tom was already there and getting ready to head off to work.  The Warbler, however, was not there.

My next stop was Lake Los Carneros.  Like at all local bodies of water, the lake level is dropping.  In this case it means some reasonable habitat for shorebirds - and it is shorebird migration time.  I was hoping something interesting would turn up, perhaps a Solitary Sandpiper or a Stilt Sandpiper.

When I arrived at the park the first thing I noticed was the blooming Locust tree near the caretakers house.  It had attracted Wilson's, Yellow, and Orange-crowned Warblers.  I was hoping for a more interesting migrant warbler, but it is still a bit early for that.  There was also a family of 4 Hooded Orioles nearby.  This was a nice start to my visit here.

As I made my way around the lake I did see a number of shorebirds - Western, Least, and Spotted Sandpipers, and a Greater Yellowlegs.  But nothing out of the ordinary.

I also saw a pair of White-tailed Kites but the youngster I saw here back in June was not to be found.  The drought makes it very difficult for Kites to find enough rodents to successfully raise a family.

No new species added today, but overall a very pleasant morning.  At this point in the year I am guessing there will be more days without new birds than those with new birds.

Some photos from Lake Los Carneros this morning:

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron.  
Compare with Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron, day 223.

Double-crested Cormorant.  Light color indicates juvenile.

Female Lesser Scaup.  Unusual for this bird to stay over the summer.

Red-tailed Hawk

Male Ring-necked Duck.  Unusual for this bird to stay over the summer.

White-tailed Kite.

After today the year's total still stands at 237. 

Today I rode a total of 25.5 miles

More later,