“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

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Day 302 - Mute Swan Begone!

Yesterday I was reminded (twice!) that Mute Swan is not a countable species in California.

Sure enough, Mute Swan is hiding there on the year's list: January 1, Bird #23.  It must be removed!

So that I do not need to go back through the last 150 posts and update all the numbers, here is what I will do:  Henceforth I will report the total birds - 1.

Thus, as of today the year's total = 269 - 1, or 268.

Also, here is an announcement from the Vermont Center for Ecostudies regarding our little contest:

After today the year's total stands at 268

The Score: Vermont 264, Green Big Year 268

More later,

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Day 301 - Lake Los Carneros

Today is Wednesday, and that means Bird Class.  There was a Pine Warbler reported yesterday in Carpinteria, but I figured it was likely to be gone so I stuck with the plan and headed out to Lake Los Carneros where class was.

It was a strange weather morning.  When I awoke early and checked the weather it was 84 degrees at the Santa Barbara Airport.  At 6AM!  Downslope winds were heating things up at the coast.  Luckily the wind died down and overcast skies kept the temperature pretty comfortable.

At the start of class things were pretty quiet bird-wise.  There simply were not many birds to be found, perhaps due in part to the strange overnight weather.

As we made our way around the lake things began to get a bit livelier.  A couple of Greater Yellowlegs were racing about in the shallows, bills in the water, chasing some small fish or something.  There were some newly arriving ducks on the lake, including Bufflehead, Ring-necked Ducks, and Northern Pintails.

The class ended with a flurry of activity.  A Merlin was sweeping across the lake hunting Dragonflies, and on occasion being hassled by crows.  At one point the Merlin was perched in a tree above a juvenile Cooper's Hawk.  We had a flyover of 4 White-faced Ibis.  They circled a few times, decided they did not like the looks of us, and continued on.

Another entertaining morning with the birds.

I will be taking a break for a few days.  See you next week!

Some photos form this morning:

Mute Swan (and Mallard)

Northern Pintail (male)

Merlin being hassled by a Crow


After today the year's total still stands at 269

The Score: Vermont 264, Green Big Year 269

Today I rode a total of 22.7 miles

More later,

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Day 300 - Return From Figueroa Mountain

This morning Wes and I were sitting at the picnic table chatting.  The campground was quiet, there was no bird activity.

The quiet was broken by a bird approaching overhead, with a buzzy "Cheer" flight call.  Wes jumped up "That's your bird!"  and overhead was a large finch with a yellow belly, black wings with white wing patches - Evening Grosbeak!  During a visit to the area earlier in the week Wes had heard some in the distance but not seen them.  Seeing one this morning was a great surprise as they appear in our mountains infrequently, during "irruption" years (years when they leave their normal home range).  Evening Grosbeak joins the list at #268!

We searched around a bit more but could find nothing else unusual.  There were no other finches around this morning.  It is interesting how the birds seen in a particular location can change so dramatically from one day to the next.

I headed down the mountain so that I could spend some time searching along the flat portion of Figueroa Mountain Road for Lewis' Woodpecker, Prairie Falcon, and Golden Eagle.  I can report there were no Zombie Dancers at the gate to Neverland this morning.  Nor did I find any Lewis' Woodpeckers or Prairie Falcons.  Wes caught up to me and we did see not one but two Golden Eagles.  Both far away, one in a tree and one on the ground eating a squirrel.  Golden Eagle for #269!

After watching the eagles for a bit I headed for home.  The weather was pleasant and I arrived home in the late afternoon without incident.  My right knee would have been happier if the riding had been over by noon.  So ends a grand trip to Figueroa Mountain.  Some great birds and a highlight of the year.

Thanks Wes!

Some photos from today:

Savannah Sparrow

Steller's Jay

Golden Eagle
IPhone handheld to spotting scope.  Better than nothing.

After the addition of these 2 species, the year's total stands at 269

The Score: Vermont 264, Green Big Year 269

Today I rode a total of 67.4 miles

More later,

Day 299 - Figueroa Mountain and Ranger Peak. Santa Barbara Takes The Lead!

This morning birder and bird guide extraordinaire Wes Fritz joined me to search for birds around Figueroa Mountain.  I was hoping to see species common to the area: Mountain Chickadee, Pygmy Nuthatch, Northern Pygmy Owl.  Also there were recent reports of Golden-crowned Kinglets in the area.  If we were lucky we might find something rarer, such as White-headed Woodpecker, Cassin's Finch or Townsend's Solitaire. 

Shortly after leaving the campground we encountered a mixed flock of birds that included a few Pygmy Nuthatches.  One down.  Pygmy Nuthatch for #264!

We also began hearing the call of a Cassin's Finch.  Sure enough a female (or 1st year male) finch appeared before us and we got good looks to differentiate it from the very similar Purple Finch.  These included very crisp streaking on a white breast and streaking under the tail.  This was a really good find, as I have only seen this species once before in Santa Barbara County.  Cassin's Finch for #265!

We moved to nearby Catway Road hoping to find a Northern Pygmy Owl.  We eventually heard one calling in the distance but could not see it.  The next stop was Ranger Peak, which entailed a 1000 foot climb over 3 miles.  Here we were rewarded with at least 2 calling Northern Pygmy Owls, but once again they were too shy to show themselves.  The "heard-only" Northern Pygmy Owl joins the list at #266!  I include below the only photo I ever took of this species, which was taken in this area in early 2014.

Northern Pygmy Owl

There was a good level of bird activity around Ranger Peak.  Lots of Pygmy, Red-breasted, and White-breasted Nuthatches.  Joining their party were a number of Mountain Chickadees.  Mountain Chickadee for #267!

We spent the afternoon looking for more unusual species, but were unable to locate anything.  In the evening a couple of Western Screech Owls were present in the campground and we managed a few photos, which was fun.

After a full day of searching for birds in the mountains I slept under a full moon and was serenaded by Great Horned Owls most of the night.

With today's additions I have pulled ahead of Vermont in the species race!

Some photos from today:

Nuttall's Woodpecker - Female
Northern Pygmy Owl (Ranger Peak Feb 2014)

 Western Screech Owl

After the addition of these 4 species, the year's total stands at 267

The Score: Vermont 264, Green Big Year 267

Today I rode a total of 9.7 miles

More later,

Day 298 - Santa Barbara to Figueroa Mountain

I departed around 7AM for my journey to Figueroa Mountain.  Without detours the journey would be about 63 miles so I wanted to get an early start.  The first portion of the journey went smoothly, and I arrived at the Gaviota rest stop a little after 9AM.  By milage this is halfway.  Based on reports that would come in later I rode by 2 birds that I would like to see: American White Pelican at Refugio State Park, and Cattle Egret at Gaviota State Park.  Luckily at the time I was blissfully unaware of this.

I climbed up and over the Nojoqui Grade (about 1000 foot climb) and turned towards Solvang passing by Nojoqui Park.  I passed the park and noticed something in the large pasture that abuts the park.  I could not make out what it was, but I had seen a Coyote in that field before so I was thinking that was it when I got closer and noticed it had a long skinny neck.  I got out my binoculars and was quite astonished to be looking at a young Sandhill Crane.  Very rare for our county and certainly out of place in this location.  I took some photos and sent out an email detailing this crazy bird.  Although folks arrived within 45 minutes, the bird had disappeared by then.  If I did not have photos I might not even believe it myself.

Sandhill Crane (Juvenile)

Sandhill Crane (Juvenile)

I continued on towards Solvang and was rewarded with the first new bird of the trip near the entrance to the Alisal Guest Ranch - Yellow-billed Magpie.  This California endemic species is not difficult to find within its range.  This trip was my first foray into their normal range for the year.  I was happy to catch up with this sporty-looking species.  Yellow-billed Magpie for #262!

Yellow-billed Magpie

I took a little detour on the way to visit Armour Ranch Road.  This is generally a good spot to find Horned Larks, although it can be helpful to have a spotting scope as sometimes they are quite a distance from the road.  I did not have a scope and it took about 45 minutes to finally locate a few Horned Larks.  It was fun to watch them methodically turning over bits of bark and cow dung looking for lunch.  Horned Lark for #263!

The ride out Figueroa Mountain Road to the base of the climb was pleasant.  I kept my eyes out for Lewis' Woodpecker, Golden Eagle, and Prairie Falcon but did not see any.  What I did see was far stranger.  As I passed the gates of "Neverland", the ranch that used to be owned by the late Michael Jackson, there was a group of people dressed as zombies dancing to Michael's "Thriller".  Now there's something you don't see every day!

The last seven miles to Figueroa Camp was not so pleasant.  After riding 65 miles with my gear, that 2500 foot climb was quite a grind.  I am not afraid to admit there was some walking along the way. 

My wife joined me for a pleasant dinner and a campout under the nearly full moon.

After the addition of these 2 species, the year's total stands at 263

The Score: Vermont 264, Green Big Year 263

Today I rode a total of 72.7 miles

More later,

Friday, October 23, 2015

Day 296 - Preparing for Figueroa Mountain

After yesterday's big climb I was happy to take a day off the bike.  I am getting ready for my trip to Figueroa Mountain.  This will be my first foray into this portion of the Santa Ynez Valley and nearby mountains for the year.  Depending on how it goes and what birds show up there later in the year I may make another trip there.  Time will tell.

From home it is approximately 65 miles to the Figueroa Campground.  The map below shows the final stretch from Los Olivos, and the climb up to 3600 feet.  It is another 1000 feet to Ranger Peak and the top of Figueroa Mountain.  I am planning on 1 day to ride there, 1 day of looking for birds, and 1 day to return.  Right now the weather is looking fine, all systems go!

Route from Los Olivos to Figueroa Campground

The target species for this trip include Yellow-billed Magpie, Horned Lark, Mountain Chickadee, Pygmy Nuthatch, and Northern Pygmy Owl.  I also have the chance for other species, such as Golden and Bald Eagles, Prairie Falcon, Lewis' Woodpecker, and Golden-crowned Kinglet, among others.

I am hoping that by the time I return I will be tied with Vermont, or better!

The Score: Vermont 264, Green Big Year 261

More later,

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Day 295 - La Cumbre Peak

This morning I set out to do something I had never done before - ride my bike to the top of La Cumbre Peak, which is just a few feet shy of 4,000 feet in elevation.  This is the highest point in the front range of mountains just above Santa Barbara and can attract some good birds especially in the winter.

The primary purpose of this journey was to get some training in for my upcoming ride to Figueroa Mountain.  Second, look for birds.  There was a recent and reliable report of a Golden-crowned Kinglet up there.  This would be a great bird to see, as I have not yet come across one in Santa Barbara County.  Although a bit early for wintering montane birds there is always a possibility for something interesting to show up.

As you might imagine, this is a pretty challenging ride.  You pretty much cover all the elevation gain in about 14 miles.  I got an early start and just kept grinding away and pretty soon up I went.  I stopped at Painted Cave to visit the excellent Chumash rock art there.  It was a pleasant morning with great views all around.

When I was about 1.5 miles from the peak I crossed a little drainage that had some bird activity so I stopped to check it out.  A sparrow in a bush with a large white eye-ring caught my eye.  I managed a couple of photos before it disappeared.  I was not exactly sure what type of sparrow it was given the limited views I had.  When I got home and pulled out the field guides I determined it was a Rufous-crowned Sparrow, and later got confirmation on this.  I had seen this species back in the summer but I was happy to get a photo this time around.

There was very little bird activity at the peak, but the views more than made up for the lack of birds.

No new birds today but a feeling of accomplishment nonetheless!

Rufous-crowned Sparrow

Common Raven

Painted Cave

View of Gibraltar Dam and Reservior from La Cumbre Peak

View of Goleta from La Cumbre Peak

After today the year's total still stands at 261

The Score: Vermont 264, Green Big Year 261

Today I rode a total of 35.1 miles

More later,

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Day 294 - Goleta Beach

Today was Wednesday so that means Bird Class once again.  Today we visited Goleta Beach.  There was a good level of bird activity.  I ended up with 43 species on the checklist and certainly missed a few along the way.

We saw some interesting birds, including 2 Peregrine Falcons, a Bonaparte's Gull, and a Kingbird of species that was difficult to determine.  It has the characteristics of a Tropical Kingbird but in subdued ways.  It does not look quite like other Tropical Kingbirds I have photographed in the past.  It is remarkable how variation in the appearance of individuals can make identification a challenge.  Photos were taken and circulated for opinions.  Final determination - Cassin's Kingbird!

After our class at Goleta Beach I headed out to the Coronado Seep to see if anything was happening out there.  I was also hoping to see the Rose-breasted Grosbeak again.  The water level at the seep had dropped quite a bit since my last visit.  It was pretty quiet bird-wise, and I did not see any sign of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Though no new species were seen today, it was another great morning with the birds.

In other news the folks in Vermont have added a couple to their list and are now at 264 species.  I need to make some progress and catch up!

Some photos from today:

Bonaparte's Gull

Clark's Grebe

Clark's Grebe

Cassin's Kingbird

California Towhee

After today the year's total still stands at 261

The Score: Vermont 264, Green Big Year 261

Today I rode a total of 26.9 miles

More later,

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Day 290 - Two Great Birds!

Yesterday while my bike was in the shop getting some worn out parts replaced Nick Lethaby reported a Magnolia Warbler at Refugio State Beach.  This is a bird I have only seen once, and never in Santa Barbara County.  I headed that way this morning hoping that it might still be around.

When I arrived Matt Victoria and Brad Hacker were already there looking for it.  There were hardly any birds around - it took about twenty minutes to see our first Yellow-rumped Warbler.  After about an hour Brad left, and as Matt and I were surveying the creek from the bridge the bird activity level began to pick up.  In among the Yellow-rumped Warblers and various sparrows was a Nashville Warbler which we watched forage for a few minutes.  Suddenly Matt said "Magnolia!"  and there was our bird taking a bath in the creek.  It did not stay long, but long enough to join the year's list at #260!  Matt did get some photos.  We stuck around for another 45 minutes hoping the Magnolia Warbler would return.  It did not.  In fact the bird activity dropped down to practically nothing once again.

 Magnolia Warbler - Photo By Matt Victoria

Note - this incident perfectly demonstrates one of my pet theories.  When there is an unusual bird around the chances of it showing up increase dramatically if one of the birdwatchers leaves.

I headed for home and stopped in Goleta for a bite to eat.  I figured I got my bird for the day so was not planning on looking for birds anywhere else.  As I was getting on the bike to head for home the phone rang.  It was Matt - "Have you seen a Rose-breasted Grosbeak yet this year?"  He and Peter Gaede were looking at one at Coronado Drive.  So I turned around and sprinted the 4+ miles back to Coronado Drive where I found Matt looking up near the top of a large Eucalyptus tree where he had last seen the Grosbeak.  Sure enough after a couple of minutes it appeared and began foraging in the top of the tree.  It appeared to be a young male (perhaps just a male in winter plumage) and its lovely rose-colored breast could easily be seen from below.  It slunk back into the foliage and we did not see it again.  Matt also has photos of this bird (I had not even gotten my camera out when the Grosbeak appeared).  Rose-breasted Grosbeak for #261!  Interestingly enough the only other time I have seen this species in Santa Barbara County was about 50 yards from where we were standing.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak - Photo By Matt Victoria

Thanks Matt!

Last time I checked Vermont was holding steady at 261 species.  When I looked again this afternoon Vermont had gained 1 and is now at 262 species.  The race remains very tight!

Some photos from today:

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Nashville Warbler

Black Phoebe

A rather distant Hairy Woodpecker

After the addition of these 2 species, the year's total stands at 261

The Score: Vermont 262, Green Big Year 261

Today I rode a total of 54.7 miles

More later,

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Day 288 - The Case Of The Curious Vireo

A couple of days ago Peter Schneekloth reported a very bright-looking Cassin's Vireo at the Bella Vista Open Space in Goleta.  This bird can be hard to find but not super rare.  Yesterday a number of people went and found the bird again.  Due to its unique appearance someone suggested it may actually be a Blue-headed Vireo - this would be a super rare bird for our area.

Photos of the bird were distributed to the local experts in an attempt to determine which species this bird is.  Sometimes even the experts aren't sure, so these experts sent the photos along to the uber-experts - the people who write bird identification books.  At least one of these uber-experts gave the opinion that the bird was indeed a Blue-headed Vireo.  (I looked at some photos and leaned towards Cassin's Vireo, but what the hell do I know?)

Last night an email was sent out noting that the experts were thinking it may be a Blue-headed Vireo, so this morning I headed out to Bella Vista Open Space to try and find it.  Shortly after I arrived Dave Compton showed up, then later Florence Sanchez joined us in trying to relocate this mysterious Vireo.  There was very little bird activity in the park, and we were unsuccessful in our quest and departed after an hour.

Since the bird had previously been seen in the afternoons I decided to visit a few spots around Goleta and return around noon.  The Coronado Seep area got hit by a thunderstorm yesterday and there was water all over the place - no bird magnet there today.  I continued to the UCSB lagoon where the wintering duck population is growing - there were a good number of recently arrived American Wigeon and also a few Redheads.  I also had a nice visit with a rather cooperative Marsh Wren.

I headed back to Bella Vista Open Space around noon.  There were a number of excellent and very experienced birders there searching for the mysterious Vireo, but it was not present.  I put in another hour of searching to no avail then headed home.

Some photos from today:

Marsh Wren

Snowy Egret

Black-crowned Night-heron

Greater Yellowlegs

After today the year's total still stands at 259.

The Score: Vermont 261, Green Big Year 259

Today I rode a total of 41.2 miles

More later,

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Day 287 - Virginia's Warbler!

Today is Wednesday, so time again for Bird Class.  Today we explored the shore to the west of UCSB and Isla Vista, Coal Oil Point, and Devereux Slough.  It was quite foggy early on which made the birding challenging.  Visibility was limited and we relied mostly on the shape and behavior of the birds for identification, as very little color could be seen.  It was actually a good exercise in bird identification.  Also it was high tide which cut back on the shorebird numbers, but we did get a decent variety of those along the way.

Right about now I find Devereux Slough pretty depressing - far more dried mudflats than water, and not nearly as many birds around as normally would be.  Hopefully it will rain soon!  Nothing wildly unusual during today's class, but as always an enjoyable and educational morning out.

After class I made my way over to the Coronado Seep.  There have been reports of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the area, and this would be a really great bird to see.  Along the way I ran into local birders Gage and George, who reported nothing out of the ordinary birdwise in the area.

I arrived at the seep and began my vigil.  There was a good burst of bird activity with a number of birds visiting the water.  Gage and George stopped by for awhile.  While they were they we had an unexpected visit from a Virginia's Warbler.  It did not stay long, certainly not long enough for photos, but long enough to join the year's list at #259!

I sent out a message that this bird had been seen and then settled in, hoping it would return.  For the next half an hour it was pretty quiet.  A couple of other birders arrived, and soon enough the next wave of birds began coming down to the water.  Among them were 2 Fox Sparrows, the first I have seen this season.  Sure enough the Virginia's Warbler returned.  This time it stuck around long enough for two extended baths, giving us really nice views of all the pertinent ID marks.  A great way to end the morning!

Today's photos:  A bit distant and dark but better than nothing:

Virginia's Warbler

Virginia's Warbler

Virginia's Warbler

Black-throated Gray (front) and Virginia's Warblers

Purple Finch

Fox Sparrow (Slate-colored, I believe)

After the addition of this 1 species, the year's total stands at 259

The Score: Vermont 261, Green Big Year 259

Today I rode a total of 27.2 miles

More later,

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Day 286 Part 2 - Crossing The Sewage Line

Shortly after putting up my post contemplating the endgame for the year I got a message from Wim Van Dam that there was a Bobolink at the Goleta Sewage Treatment Plant.  This is a bird I have not ever seen in Santa Barbara County, or anywhere else for that matter.

Now all over the world sewage treatment plants tend to be bird magnets and often draw lots of unusual birds.  This makes them popular places for birders to visit.  In spite of the draw of great birds I have not yet been able to bring myself to visit our local one.  That changed today.  I crossed the line so to speak.

When I arrived at the ponds inside the plant I found Wim still there and Tom Turner as well, but no Bobolink.  I stayed around for two hours hoping it would return, but no luck.  There were a number of other birds in the area to keep me entertained, but nothing too unusual.  I left the plant, got some lunch, checked out the Kingfishers at nearby Atascadero Creek, and headed home.

By the time I arrived home the Bobolink (and possibly another one) had been seen again.  Oh well, perhaps they will stick around until tomorrow.  Now that I know the sewage treatment plant is actually not a bad place to visit I imagine I'll be back.  Soon.

Some photos from today:

Goleta Sewage Treatment Plant

Western Sandpiper (Left) and Dunlin (Right)

Black-necked Stilt (juvenile)

Long-billed Dowitcher

After today the year's total still stands at 258.

Today I rode a total of 21.2 miles

More later,

Day 286 - Updated End Of Year Prediction

With the end of year approaching I thought it might be fun to revisit the prediction for total number of species I might find on this adventure.

Way back in January I made a guess as to how many species I might be able to find this year. I took the results and rounded up to 250 species. Things seem to be going quite wall since I am presently at 258 species, already well past the original estimate. In addition to doing well on the species I expected to see I have picked up a total of 23 species I had not counted on finding.  So, with about 2 and a half months remaining here is an updated guess as to how things might end up.

Along the South Coast I have seen most everything I can expect to see but there are still a few species I could pick up. These include Brewer’s Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, a warbler such as Chestnut-sided, and Grace’s Warbler. Assuming something unexpected also is found, that is 5 species.

Moving into the Santa Ynez Valley and Figueroa Mtn area (which I plan on visiting soon) there are a number of common species I have yet to find such as: Yellow-billed Magpie, Horned Lark, Northern Pygmy Owl, Mountain Chickadee, and Pygmy Nuthatch. If I can return again near the end of the year I should be able to add Lewis’ Woodpecker, Common Merganser, and Common Goldeneye. That is 8 more species.

Going farther afield to the Cuyama Valley, which I hope to do, I could add Ferruginous Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Tri-colored Blackbird, and Mountain Bluebird. That is 4 more species.

So total that all up and I could add 17 more species, which would put the total for the year at 275. That would be a really great result, as at the beginning of the year I figured the best possible result would be about 270.

Of course there are many factors that will impact the final total. This prediction also assumes I remain healthy, motivated, and available (fingers crossed this is the case!). Also predictions of a wet winter may reduce my ability to get farther afield.

Only time will tell.

More later,

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Day 284 - Blackburnian Warbler!

I took yesterday off to do a little "Non-green" Birding.  I went on a boat trip out of Ventura and had a great day on the ocean watching some great seabirds.  An added bonus was that it was not quite so hot out on the water.

I went out for a quick jaunt this morning before the heat cranked up again.  I met up with a couple of birders and we were lucky to find a Blackburnian Warbler, which joins the year list at #258.  The only other time I had seen this bird was in Ecuador.  Although the bird was not in its spiffy breeding plumage it was still a nice-looking specimen, so it was too bad I was unable to get a photo.  I did have witnesses, which is the next best thing.

After that I went home and took a nap in the heat of the day.

After the addition of this 1 species, the year's total stands at 258

The Score: Vermont 261, Green Big Year 258

Today I rode a total of 15.1 miles

More later,

Friday, October 9, 2015

Day 282 - WarblerFest Returns And A Bet With Vermont

After yesterday's Swamp Sparrow debacle I was ready to head out and make some progress today.  There have been a number of reports of a Blackpoll Warbler in the same area that we saw the Prothonotary Warbler a couple days ago so that's where I headed.

When I arrived the trees in this area were once again very active with what seemed like a million Yellow-rumped Warblers.  The puddles in the creekbed have dried up considerably in the past couple of days.  In fact there was only one puddle that seemed to be attracting the vast majority of the warblers.

There was a constant flow of almost exclusively Yellow-rumped Warblers coming to the water.  Over time a number of other birders showed up, most of them hoping to see the Prothonotary Warbler.  It did not disappoint, coming in to the puddle 3 or 4 times while I was there.  It was nice to see some old and make some new friends.

In addition to the typical warbler species (Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned, Yellow, Wilson's, Black-throated Gray, Townsend's) I also saw a Nashville Warbler.  Unfortunately when I was looking at the Nashville Warbler the Blackpoll Warbler made an appearance and I missed it!

Well persistence paid off once again, as about half an hour later the Blackpoll Warbler returned and a number of us got nice views as it visited the puddle.  No photos, but witnesses are just as good.  Blackpoll Warbler joins the list at #257!

By the time I made it home it was a balmy 97 degrees.

In other big news, the Santa Barbara Green Big Year is now officially in competition with the state of Vermont!  When I put out the news that I had reached 250 species my friend Tom Berriman, who lives in Vermont, pointed out that this was almost the same number of species that had been reported by all birders in the state of Vermont this year.  One thing led to another and Tom and I have agreed to a friendly wager.  If my species list for the Green Big Year surpasses all species reported in Vermont, Tom will donate $100 to the Santa Barbara Audubon Society.  If Vermont comes out on top I will donate $100 to Vermont Center For Ecostudies.  Presently I am at 257 species and Vermont is at 261 species.  I will keep the tally updated as it progresses.

Some distant photos from today:

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

A rather distant Nashville Warbler

After the addition of this 1 species, the year's total stands at 257

Today I rode a total of 24.7 miles

More later,

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Day 281 - Swamp Sparrow - Not!

Yesterday while I was chasing the Prothonotary Warbler around, Rob Denholz was reporting not one but 2 Swamp Sparrows at the Carpinteria Salt Marsh.  This is a bird I have yet to see this year, and in fact I have yet to catch up with in Santa Barbara County.

So this morning I pedaled down to the Salt Marsh in Carpinteria.  I headed to the spot where the birds were seen, but did not find them.  So I took a stroll around the area.  On the way back I saw Rob at that spot looking around with this binoculars.  I stopped along the way to get some photos of the local Savannah Sparrows.

When I arrived where Rob was I asked if he had seen any Swamp Sparrows.  "Yes, they were here."  "Just now?"  I asked.  "Yes, they just flew away."  Now, it is one thing to go looking for a bird and not find it.  It is an entirely different level of disappointment to miss a bird that was JUST there.  I was definitely regretting those Savannah Sparrow photos.

However, I did have some time and was hoping the Swamp Sparrows had not gone far and I might come across them yet.  After entertaining myself with the antics of a Kingfisher and Green Heron I noticed some nearby sparrow activity and went to investigate.  Bingo - Swamp Sparrows!  I managed a couple distant photos before the birds flew off.

UPDATE: At least I was convinced they were Swamp Sparrows.  Upon review of the photos by an expert with a more critical eye, it was pointed out that these are in fact Lincoln's Sparrows.  You can see in the lower photo the most common ID feature of a Lincoln's Sparrow, the finely streaked breast with a buffy band across the upper breast.  This is why it is always good to have photo evidence.  Embarrassed to make a bad ID call, but my education continues ...

A few photos from today:

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln's Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow - Belding's

Belted Kingfisher - Juvenile Female

Belted Kingfisher - Juvenile Female

Green Heron

After today the year's total still stands at 256.

Today I rode a total of 31.3 miles

More later,