“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, September 30, 2015

Day 273 - Tennessee Warbler!

Today being Wednesday it was time for Bird Class.  Today's class was at Refugio State Beach.  I started riding in the dark as it is about 22 miles from home and class starts at 8AM.  Also the weather forecast was for some wind.  The wind did not materialize until about a mile from my destination so I arrived early.

Having some time to spare I headed down to the creek.  The little bit of water here can attract a steady stream of birds.  Numerous sightings of unusual migrants have been made from this spot over the years.  The wind seemed to be putting a damper on the number of birds coming to visit the water.  I did see a yellow flash out of the corner of my eye and was surprised to find a Tropical Kingbird sitting in a tree overlooking the water.  This species is unusual for our area but there is often 1 or 2 around during the winter months.  I managed a few photos before it flew away with the wind.  I was hoping it would stick around for the class to see but sadly that was the last I saw of it.

The wind really cut down on our birding success for the morning.  We sought out some sheltered spots but the numbers and diversity of species were well below what we typically find at this park.  It seems the birds were smartly hunkered down out of the wind.  After class officially ended some of us continued up Refugio road to a spot known to attract sapsuckers and other interesting birds.  We found a Red-breasted Sapsucker there, the first one I have seen this fall.

The wind provided a welcome boost on the way home.  I stopped by UCSB where the past several days a Tennessee Warbler has been sighted in a particular Ficus tree.  I visited there a couple days ago but was unsuccessful in finding it.  Shortly after I arrived Tom Turner showed up - he had seen this warbler there yesterday.  After a bit of searching I managed to find the Tennessee Warbler up near the top of the tree.  The bird stayed up there out of photo range but we were able to see the bird well enough to make a positive identification.  I like to get a photo in this case, but if that's not possible a witness will do just fine.  We could see a Grayish head, slight white eye-arcs, light yellow chest, white vent and dark undertail.  We never did get a look at the back of the bird which is usually a nice bright olive green.  So Tennessee Warbler joins the list at #254!

Just before I arrived home one of the spokes on my rear wheel broke.  I took it in to the shop and they fixed it straight away so I am once again good to go!

Some photos from today:

Tropical Kingbird

Tropical Kingbird

Tropical Kingbird

Common Yellowthroat.  A first year female, I believe.

After the addition of this 1 species, the year's total stands at 254

Today I rode a total of 49.8 miles

More later,

Monday, September 28, 2015

Day 271 - Reruns

I set out this morning without a particular plan.  I like these days when I am not chasing anything specific.  It is nice not to be looking for that ONE BIRD, just look and see what's around.

I started at Goleta Beach.  In the slough there was a pair of American Avocets.  Though not rare, they are not common here either so it is always nice to see them.  On the beach I found a Common Tern, and for a change it was very cooperative and posed for photos.  This is a bird I have seen a couple times this year but not this well.

I made my way towards the old Ocean Meadows Golf Course.  I thought this might be a good place to find some sparrows.  I still need to find Brewer's and Clay-colored Sparrows.  When I first arrived there was a pair of American Kestrels putting on quite an airshow, zooming all over the place.  They were fun to watch.  Their behavior may have contributed to the lack of sparrows I was finding.  I did finally come across a small group of White-crowned Sparrows.  These birds are just arriving for their winter stay.  Soon they will be all over the place.  I got a brief glimpse of a sparrow in a tree that had the potential for a Brewer's Sparrow, but it disappeared before I could get a good long look at it.  After that I could not find it again.  So close - or maybe just my imagination?

I headed to the Coronado Seep again hoping for an unusual warbler.  I was surprised to see that the water level in the puddle had risen again since my last visit.  Shortly after arriving the warbler parade started and a MacGillivray's Warbler appeared and took a rather extended bath.  This is another species I had seen before in the year but not this well.  It did however manage to avoid the camera lens.

Though no new species today another enjoyable morning with the birds.

Some photos from today:

Common Tern

Forster's Tern

American Avocet

Great Blue Heron

Scaly-breasted Munia

After today the year's total still stands at 253. 

Today I rode a total of 31.5 miles

More later,

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Day 270 - A Quick One

Yesterday morning while I was out in Goleta I got a message from Peter Gaede that there was a Vesper Sparrow at Elings Park - about a mile from my house.  This is a bird I have yet to find this year.  Arrgh!

I went there this morning to see if perhaps it was still around.  Heading up to the top of the park where Peter found the sparrow I saw a dozen or more Western Meadowlarks.  These seem to be coming back to the park for the winter season.  A couple of weeks ago there were few, if any, around.

I arrived at the spot and began looking.  I saw a bird with some white on the tail walking through the fennel.  I assumed it was another Meadowlark.  But when I looked closely I saw it was actually a sparrow with a white eye-ring.  The Vesper Sparrow!  Quite literally the first bird I saw after beginning the search.  I followed it around for awhile hoping for a photo opportunity but it did not cooperate.

I arrived back home shortly after 8AM.  One of the shortest hunts this year.

No photos from today.

After the addition of this 1 species, the year's total stands at 253

Today I rode a total of 2.6 miles

More later,

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Day 269 - Around Goleta

I spent this morning visiting various places around Goleta: Evergreen Open Space, Bella Vista Open Space, Coronado Drive, Devereux Slough, UCSB Lagoon, and Goleta Beach.  How's that for a collection?  

The day started off fairly slowly.  Both Evergreen and Bella Vista Open Spaces were relatively quiet.  Things picked up at the seep at the end of Coronado Drive.  A steady stream of warblers and Western Tanagers came to the water to drink and bathe.  There were no unusual warblers seen.  Best birds there were a Cassin's Vireo and a Red-breasted Nuthatch (perhaps the one we saw a couple of days ago), both of which came down to drink.  They evaded having their photos taken.

I am still hoping to catch up with some more migrants before the season is over!

Some photos from today:

Once was a dove

Western Tanager

Willow Flycatcher

Willow Flycatcher

After today the year's total still stands at 252. 

Today I rode a total of 34.2 miles

More later,

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Day 257 - Carpinteria Bluffs

This morning I headed down to the Carpinteria Bluffs.  Yesterday afternoon Peter Gaede reported a juvenile Black Oystercatcher there.  This is a bird I have not caught up with on the "mainland" of Santa Barbara County.  They are pretty easy to come by on the Channel Islands, but obviously that is beyond the capability of my bicycle.  I have chased after a few sightings of this bird this year without success so I figured the probability of this one still being there was low.

This time I actually timed my arrival with a low tide.  As I arrived I was pleased to see there were a number or shorebirds around.  I began scanning the shore and rocks in the area of the seal preserve.  No Oystercatchers to be seen, but I did spy an encouraging black blob on a rock to the west of me.  I made my way over there to get a closer look.  It was a black shorebird, but the wrong one - Black Turnstone.

I made my way back to the east and went down to the beach.  In the distance I saw a dark bird on the rocks with a long straight bill - very encouraging.  I trotted down the beach to find it was indeed a juvenile Black Oystercatcher!  The adults have dark black feathers, bright orange bill all the way down to the tip, and an orange ring around the eye.  Black Oystercatcher for #252!  This is another bird I did not expect to find this year, so I was quite pleased to finally track it down.

Black Oystercatcher - Juvenile

Black Oystercatcher - Juvenile

Black Oystercatcher - Juvenile

Other photos form today:

Cormorants - Brandt's and Pelagic (far right)

Marbled Godwit

Turkey Vulture

 Turkey Vulture

After the addition of this 1 species, the year's total stands at 252

Today I rode a total of 35.9 miles

More later,

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Day 266 - An Unexpected Mountain Visitor

This morning's outing started off with Bird Class.  Today class was held at the Bird Refuge followed by a visit to the Mission Creek Outflow along the Santa Barbara Waterfront.  Since I had to ride right by the Mission Creek Outflow to get to the Bird Refuge I stopped there to scout it out.  I found very few birds, but one of them was a Pectoral Sandpiper.  While not super rare this is a bird that shows up only during migration.  I hoped it would stick around until the class arrived here later.

At the Bird Refuge we found the water a kind of maroon color.  Last week it was bright pink, due to some sort of algae bloom.  Luckily the odor level was way down so it was a pleasant place to be.  There were a decent number of birds around, but nothing terribly unusual.  The most interesting bird we saw here was a White-faced Ibis.  Another migrant that will not linger long.

We headed on to the Mission Creek Outflow where thankfully the Pectoral Sandpiper was still around, and the class all got good looks at it.  The diversity of birds was fairly low for this spot  but we did get to see some interesting behavior - a crow was chasing a Belted Kingfisher around and around the area.  The crow simply would not give up!  There is always something new to see when you are out birding.

After class I headed out towards Coronado Drive in Goleta to try and catch up with some more migrating warblers.  In the last couple of days there have been reports of Blackpoll, Tennessee, and Virginia Warblers in this area.  All would be good to see.  When I arrived I noticed that the water level in the puddle had dropped considerably.  There were no warblers to be seen for the first 15 minutes - not a good start.  Eventually they started showing up but my hoped-for species were not among them.

I was watching with Matt Victoria and Bill Murdoch when Matt said "Red-breasted Nuthatch" and sure enough way in the distance we could hear the distinct nasal call.  These birds are usually found only in the mountains but do sometimes come down to the coastal plain.  In some years there are quite a few that come down in the winter.  I was expecting to have to ride into the mountains to find one this year.  Red-breasted Nuthatch for bird #251!

As he was departing Matt heard the bird in a nearby pine tree.  Sure enough it eventually became visible as it actively worked its way through the top of the tree.  I even managed to get the world's worst Red-breasted Nuthatch photo.

Red-breasted Nuthatch.  Really!
It's that tan looking blob under the pine cones.

Some other photos from today:

Pectoral Sandpiper

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Yellow Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

After the addition of this 1 species, the year's total stands at 251

Today I rode a total of 35.2 miles

More later,

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Day 265 - Close To Home

This morning I had time for a quick outing so I headed over to Elings Park.  It was cool and overcast for a change - a welcome relief from our recent hot days.

Elings Park was pretty quiet, bird-wise.  Last year we had good success with some warblers here when the fennel was blooming.  There is not so much of a bloom this year and the warblers seem to be going elsewhere.

After Elings Park I headed over to La Mesa Park, where there were actually a bunch of warblers.  They were mostly waaay up in the Eucalyptus trees.  Try as I might I could not find anything remotely unusual up in those trees.

I hear there are still interesting warblers being seen out in Goleta.  Looks like Goleta is in my future - again.

Some photos from this morning:

California Thrasher

California Thrashers
Unusual to see 2 of these together

Northern Mockingbird

After today the year's total still stands at 250. 

Today I rode a total of 4.6 miles

More later,

Monday, September 21, 2015

Day 264 - Milestone: 250 Species!

After a bit of a lull at the beginning of the month the species have been adding up nicely and I have been approaching the 250 species milestone faster than I imagined I would.  Fall migration has been very good to me.  Today I reached the 250 species mark with a Solitary Sandpiper!  

Peter Schneekloth found the bird today at Lake Los Carneros during his lunch break.  The email report arrived and the routine began.  1) Tell my wife "there's a bird in Goleta."  2) Get dressed, pull the binocs and camera together, make sure the bike is ready.  3) Ride off towards the bird.

When I arrived at the lake the only wader I could find was a Greater Yellowlegs.  Similar in appearance to the Solitary Sandpiper yes, but not the bird I was after.  I saw local bird-chasing enthusiasts Marge and Don Thornton on the far shore of the lake looking intently at something so I headed over there.  Sure enough in addition to the Yellowlegs there was a Black-necked Stilt, a Dowitcher, and the star of today's show - Solitary Sandpiper!  Its speckled back, strong eye ring and straight bill distinguish it from the other waders.

So I have made it to 250 species with 100 days left in the year.  I will be away for a bit of that, but otherwise I plan to keep chasing the birds until the calendar runs out.  It will be interesting to see how many more species I can add to the year's list!

Solitary Sandpiper - #250!

Solitary Sandpiper

This morning I spent some time at La Mesa Park.  It was a very warm and steamy morning.  There was plenty of warbler and tanager activity in the Eucalyptus trees but I could not find anything unusual.  A couple of photos:

Cooper's Hawk

White-crowned Sparrow, first of the season.

After the addition of this 1 species, the year's total stands at 250!

Today I rode a total of 24 miles

More later,

Day 263 Part 2 - Night Shift

This morning after leaving the warblerfest, Tom Turner and his wife Maggie scared up a Lesser Nighthawk near the former Ocean Meadows Golf Course.  This bird is pretty unusual for the area and would be good to see.  Since these birds are essentially nocturnal it was suggested to me an outing in the area at dusk may a good way to see it.

So about an hour before sunset I left home and headed back to Goleta.  I arrived at the spot where the Nighthawk had been seen.  There was a Lincoln's Sparrow in the area, which was nice as I had not yet gotten a photo of one this year.

I headed out to the more open areas of the golf course.  My experience with Nighthawks is that they like to forage over open areas.  As I approached a group of pine trees I could hear some alarm calls from Scrub Jays.  It seemed to me I was too far away from them to be prompting this so I looked around - and saw a Bobcat sitting in the weeds not far from the tree.  Cool!  Then I saw another and yet another - 3 Bobcats!  A mother and 2 youngsters.  They were not terribly upset by me nor the jogger and cyclist that came by and got a big surprise as they passed the cats.  Eventually a Coyote arrived and had a bit of a faceoff with the mama cat.  She took a rather aggressive posture and the Coyote headed on its way.

As for the Nighthawk, I searched around the area until the light faded without any luck.  There were a number of bats working the area which was fun to see.  From a birding point of view I was rewarded with good looks at a Barn Owl hunting over the open spaces - bird # 249 for the year!  I was beginning to wonder if I would catch up with one of these this year.

I had a pleasant ride home in the dark.

Lincoln's Sparrow



After the addition of this 1 species, the year's total stands at 249.

This evening I rode another 27.2 miles

More later,

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Day 263 - Warblers!

After all the warbler reports coming in yesterday, this morning I was ready to go!  I headed out in the dark and arrived at the puddle at the end of Coronado Drive in Goleta shortly after 7AM.  This was the spot where 3 interesting warblers were seen yesterday - Prothonotary, Tennessee, and Blackpoll.  Of these, the rarest by far in our area is the Prothonotary.  In reality I did not think it was a huge advantage to be there so early but after missing out yesterday I just felt the need to be out looking.  I was also willing to stand there all day of that's what it took to see something interesting.

I parked myself in front of the puddle and began to watch the steady though irregular parade of birds, mostly warblers, as they came down to drink and on occasion bathe.  The most numerous warbler was Wilson's, followed by Yellow and Orange-crowned.  The odd Townsend's and Black-throated Gray were thrown in for good measure.

After awhile other birders began to show up and I caught up with old friends and met a couple new ones.  Some of them went off to explore the nearby area.  I stayed near the puddle.  

Around 10AM someone reported that Nick Lethaby had found a Blackpoll Warbler a couple hundred yards to the east of where we were.  I left Rebecca Coulter, Bill and Joan Murdoch to watch the seep.  In less than a minute I had a call from Rebecca - the Prothonotary Warbler was there!  I hurried back in time to get a brief glimpse of it flying away.  It was a glimpse nonetheless and so Prothonotary Warbler goes down as bird #248 for the year!  

There continued to be a good flow of birds coming to the water.  I figured if I waited long enough the Prothonotary would return.  Sure enough it did, giving those of us gathered there some "crippling" views of this gorgeous bird.  Let me tell you it was well worth the wait.  This is definitely one of the most handsome birds I have caught up with this year!

While waiting this morning I managed to collect photos of a few new species.  I have now posted photos of 75% of the species seen this year. The puddle is a tough spot for photography so the results are not award-winning, but you get the picture (so to speak).

Some photos from this morning:

Prothonotary Warbler - star of the show this morning!

Yellow Warbler

Townsend's Warbler

Townsend's Warbler

Black-throated Gray and Yellow Warblers

Willow Flycatcher

After the addition of this 1 species, the year's total stands at 248.

Today I rode a total of 24.4 miles

More later,

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Day 262 - Missed Opportunities

Today I had a commitment that ran form 830AM to 2PM.  This was bad timing.  It is a Saturday during fall migration.  Lots of talented and experienced birders are combing the local hotspots for unusual migrants.  They found some.  

It was quite agonizing to watch the email reports come in.  Blackpoll Warbler.  Tennessee Warbler.  Chestnut-sided Warbler.  Prothonatory Warbler (awe-inspiring looks).  Ouch.

By the time I arrived home it was mid afternoon and 90 degrees.  And I had to change out a tire.  I was going nowhere.

Hopefully I can catch up with some of these migrants tomorrow.  I'll be at it bright and early!

More later,

Friday, September 18, 2015

Day 261 - Scoring Locally

I was not planning on going birding today.  You've all heard me say that before!  Then, of course, the report came in.  This time it was a Virginia's Warbler seen by Dave Compton in La Mesa Park.  Well La Mesa Park is just over a mile from home so how could I resist that?

I popped down there and started looking in the Lerp-infested Eucalyptus trees.  Sure enough there were plenty of warblers and Western Tanagers working through the treetops.  I looked for about an hour but could not find the small gray warbler.  I did realize that I should be paying closer attention to these spots closer to home.

Sometimes when you are looking for one thing you find something else.  As I was on the way out of the park a sparrow flew down from a tree and began poking around in the grass.  Without binoculars I assumed it was a young White-crowned Sparrow - the first one I have seen this fall.  Since this was a species I have yet to photograph this year I pulled out the camera and started taking photos.  I quickly realized it was not a White-crowned Sparrow.  I checked the field guide.  I thought it might be a young Chipping Sparrow.  This would be really great as I had not yet seen one this year, but there were a couple of things about it that did not seem quite right to me.  First of all, the breast was not fully streaked as was shown in the guide.  Also, the bill seemed a little large.

After getting home I studied the field guides some more but could not completely convince myself about the ID.  Young sparrows can be confusing.  I sent photos to some local bird gurus.  Mark Holmgren responded with a nice summary of the features shown in the photos that in fact make this a Chipping Sparrow. (Dark line both in front of and behind the eye.  Slight bit of exposed gray rump showing beneath the wing.  Slight central crown stripe and no strong eyering.  No strong gray collar, and the crown streaking continues down the nape.)   Thanks Mark!

Chipping Sparrow comes in for bird #247!

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

There have been reports lately of Coyotes frequenting this park.  They were not kidding - this one was walking casually around at noon and did not seem upset at all by the activity at the park.


After the addition of this 1 species, the year's total stands at 247.

Today I rode a total of 2.9 miles

More later,

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Day 260 - Tsunamis and Other Distractions

Just to keep things interesting this morning there was a Tsunami Warning in effect due to a large earthquake yesterday in Chile.  The impact was not predicted to be large here in Santa Barbara.  I decided not to go swimming in the ocean.

Instead I headed out to Lake Los Carneros, where there was a report last evening of a Cattle Egret.  This is a bird that I have had trouble catching up with in Santa Barbara County.  The first thing I noticed when I left the house was it was actually chilly - it has been quite some time since that has happened!  

I arrived at the lake around 7:30, there were no egrets, Cattle or otherwise, to be seen.  I was not terribly surprised.  In the past Cattle Egrets have tended to move through the area pretty quickly.

To add to the morning's entertainment I got a flat tire shortly after arriving at the lake.  I made my way around the lake and checked out the birds before stopping to fix it.  There were a good number of birds around but nothing unusual.

I decided to stop by a couple of egret-likely spots on the way home.  At both the UCSB Lagoon and Goleta Beach there were plenty of white egrets.  None of them were Cattle Egrets.

I stopped to watch a Belted Kingfisher at Atascadero Creek.  It was successful in catching two fish while I watched.  I enjoyed seeing it whack each fish on a branch before consuming them.  Seems like there is always something interesting happening when watching the birds.

A couple photos from today:

Double-crested Cormorant

Forster's Tern

After today the year's total still stands at 246. 

Today I rode a total of 26.7 miles

More later,

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Day 259 - Unexpected Additions!

It has been a busy couple of days for the Green Big Year.

This morning started with a brief visit to the Bird Refuge.  I was thinking that the bit of rain yesterday may have convinced some unusual birds to make a stopover there.  It did not.  The most interesting thing I saw was a Red Fox crossing the road heading into the Clark Estate.

Next stop was the first Bird Class of the season.  If you have been reading this blog for awhile you may remember Bird Class from the spring.  I am happy it is starting again.  We get to learn more about the local birds, go birding every week during the fall migration season, catch up with old friends and make new ones.

Today's class turned out to be productive for the year's list.  Before class started one of the participants, Linda Frazier, was checking out the birds near the meeting room at the Natural History Museum.  She reported that she had found a Black-and-White Warbler.  This would be a really unusual (though not unheard of) find.  The more common Black-throated Gray Warbler is pretty similar.  Joan Lentz, our class teacher, seemed a bit skeptical but decided the class should go back to this area and have a look.  

One of the first bird we saw was a Black-throated Gray Warbler.  We continued on and about 10 minutes later we did in fact find a Black-and-White Warbler up in the Oak trees.  Since we had just been looking at the Black-throated Gray Warbler, the difference in appearance between the two species was quite apparent.  Linda managed a single photo which clearly shows the streaking on the sides and undertail pattern of a Black-and-White Warbler.  A few of us got good looks at it and we were quite happy about that - none happier than Linda because we all now believed her!  This unexpected addition brings the year's total to 245.

Some photos from this morning:

Bewick's Wren
Not the greatest, but the best one I have of this species this year.

Black-and-white Warbler - photo by Linda Frazier

The big bird news yesterday was the discovery of an Eastern Kingbird by David Leavasheff.  
Apparently in years past this bird has been more frequently found in our area.  A search of ebird records shows only 1 other visit in the past 10 years.

We were scheduled for dinner guests, so when the notice of this bird came in I had 2 choices: wait until tomorrow, or drive to try and see the bird.  Since this was a bird I would really like to see in Santa Barbara County and it might not stick around, I drove.

When I arrived at the park where the Kingbird had been reported I found Tom Turner already searching for it.  We looked around for 15-20 minutes before Tom suddenly found it in a tree I was standing under.  We were both quite happy to see it!  I stuck around and kept an eye on the bird until Wim Van Dam, Peter and Lucas Gaede arrived and had good looks at it as well.  It posed nicely for photos too!  

After Bird Class today I headed back to Bella Vista Open Space, where the Kingbird was seen yesterday.  Perhaps it stuck around and I could see it again and it could become part of the Green Big Year.  On the way to the park I got an email that the bird had been seen again this morning.  This was very encouraging.  I pulled up at the park and saw some birders milling about.  I asked about the Kingbird, yes it had been around recently.  We looked around for a few minutes and once again it suddenly appeared, landing on a fencepost across the street from the park.  Victory!  This addition brings the year's total to 246.  A two bird day!

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

After the addition of this 2 species, the year's total stands at 246.

Today I rode a total of 37.6 miles

More later,