27 June 2008

A load of bullocks

Another quiet mornings fieldwork, very little of note out on the grasslands, the 'highlight' was almost getting trampled by a couple of randy bullocks. This isn't making getting out of the post-holiday slump any easier. Will spend the weekend writing up the trip methinks.

26 June 2008

Not a lot

Very little of interest at a breezy Goldcliff this morning (no sign of yesterday's Spoonbill); just the first hint of autumn passage in the form of a few common waders and gulls.

25 June 2008

Two large white creatures

A, presumably 'the', adult Spoonbill flew north over the Uskmouth Lagoons this morning before appearing to head east, so I'd guess it was back at Goldcliff not long after. On returning home I found two monkeys in a dog suit watching the tennis.

22 June 2008

After the briefest of 16 year interludes...

Last time I saw My Bloody Valentine it was at the Town & Country Club, they were absolutely fantastic and we got caught out by the extended version of 'You Made Me Realise' and ended up walking halfway across London for want of a train/bus. I'm not quite sure what has happened to the last 16 years but, if last night was anything to go on, the kings of shoegaze have lost nothing during the interval (if anything they've just gone and got louder). The crowd on the other hand were definitely showing signs of the passage of time; thirty-something balding/greying pates littered the venue, some people were actually in seats, thirty-something plus prostates meant the queue to the gents was longer and slower moving and an awful lot of people were collecting the ear-plugs at the door (me included). But, Wow! Shields et al. are still as good as ever, 'Soon' and the 20+ minute 'You Made Me Realise' were flawless. In fact, the volume achieved during the latter was ever so slightly scary, the primary sensual experience being the pressure waves reverberating in your chest cavity as opposed to the wall of sound infiltrating the ear-drums, ab-so-lute-ly awesome.

21 June 2008


Have 'retro-fitted' the highlights of each day's birding in California. The highlights are not the ticks or scarce species just the more memorable ones. I will attempt to add photos and audio as and when I can be arsed. At some point I'll write up the whole shaboodle in some form but don't hold your breath.

19 June 2008


Highlights: Hooded Oriole and the Clark's Nutcracker dip.

18 June 2008

Bodega, PRBO and Lake Lagunitas

Highlights: Marbled Godwit, Black Oystercatcher, Black Turnstone and Rhinoceros Auklet.

17 June 2008

Prairie Creek, Redwood National Park & Trinidad

Highlights: Marbled Murrelets, Varied and Swainson's Thrush dawn chorus, Gray (sic, again) Jay, Banana Slug, Heerman's Gull, Tufted Puffin and the huuuuuuge Redwoods. Probably the single best moment of the trip was 03:30-09:30 at Prairie Creek Redwoods, absolutely flipping fantastic.

You'll have to take my word for it but these are murrelets, honest.

16 June 2008

Burney Falls & Arcata Bottoms

Highlights: Black Swift, Black-throated Gray (sic) Warbler and White-tailed Kite. I do believe Black-throated Gray is the best looking of the parulidae.

15 June 2008

Bestest friends

Hey look! An owl and a duckling playing together, how sweet.

Modoc NWR, Devil's Garden and Tulelake

Highlights: dark morph Swainson's Hawk, Mountain Bluebird, Clark's Grebe, Bufflehead, Tricolored Blackbird, Killdeer performing its anti-predator distraction display, huge numbers of wildfowl and Coyote. Tulelake in the Klamath Basin was very impressive, absolutely rammed with waterfowl.

What you looking at?

14 June 2008

Back in the land of the living

A week without the interweb or mobile, lovely. Probably won't get a mobile signal for days yet, so if it ain't an email I ain't gonna get it.

Woodpeckers and flycatchers were the highlight of the week just gone, will update properly when I get a mo, suffice to say Lewis' and Black-backed Woodies are sweeeeeeet.

North to Alturas

Highlights: Lark Sparrow, Loggerhead Shrike, Golden Eagle and Pronghorn Antelope.

13 June 2008

Antelope Valley & Yuba Pass

Highlights: displaying Common Nighthawk and Common Poorwill. A nocturnal foray to Yuba Pass produced excellent views of Common Poorwill.

12 June 2008

Chapman Saddle, Bear Trap Meadow and Snag Lake

Highlights: Pine Grosbeak, MacGillivray's Warbler and Black-backed Woodpecker. The Pine Grosbeak was a rather nice singing male.

11 June 2008

Antelope Valley & Snag Lake

Highlights: Lewis' Woodpecker, Black-backed Woodpecker and Rock Wren. The two woodpeckers were absolutely superb, both gave very close and prolonged views around nest sites. [edit: by the end of the trip I'd managed 11 woodpeckers, out of a possible 12; only Red-naped Sapsucker in the Warner Mountains eluded me,... bastard.]

10 June 2008

Carman Valley

Highlights: Gray Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher and quality views of Skunk. Once again the OSF qualifies on the grounds of getting a flipping good recording including a call I hadn't heard before, given when a second bird (presumably a female) appeared close by.

09 June 2008

Yuba Pass & SFSU Campus

Highlights: Williamson's Sapsucker, Cooper's Hawk, Townsend's Solitaire, Red Crossbill, Lincoln's Sparrow and Evening Grosbeak. The Cooper's only qualifies as a highlight due to the close views and the rather good, if I do say so myself, recording of its call obtained by yours truly.

08 June 2008

Marble Hot Springs Road

Highlights: Sage Thrasher and Prairie Falcon. The Prairie Falcon flew straight over my head accompanied by an irate Willet and alarm calling Cliff Swallows; the 'chipping' Wilson's Snipe I was recording at the time decided to shut up for five minutes, wise move.

07 June 2008

Yuba Pass & SFSU Field Campus

Highlights: Calliope Hummingbird, White-headed Woodpecker, Dusky Flycatcher, Hammond's Flycatcher and American Dipper. Sooty Grouse heard but not seen [edit: never did manage to catch up with one].

06 June 2008

Gaining altitude

Spent most of today in the Crystal Basin trying to get to grips with some of the upland stuff before spending a week in the High Sierra proper. Managed to add a couple of species to my parulidae list, Hermit and MacGillivray's, very nice. Both gave good views too, considering the usual view of an oporornis, it was a nice surprise to have stonking male flick across the path and feed in the bottom of some low scrub, at times in full view. Other 'goodies', in chronological order, included: Mountain Quail (shit arse-end view), Townsend's Solitaire, White-headed Woodpecker and Pygmy Nuthatch (three species of nuthas today). All very nice, bordering on lovely.

Had some fun behind the wheel today too. Discovered an excellent way of winding up yanks, pretend not to know you can turn left at a red light, winds them up a treat (to the point where they pull a loud, but ineffective, wheel-spin as you pull off minutes later). The next motoring joy today was driving for about a quarter of a mile on the wrong side, before the appearance of a large white 4x4 snapped me back into US mode. It was only a side-road, and I was thinking about birds, I can't be expected to do everything at once.

Noises from the bushes

It is rather nice being in a country that has a reasonably diverse mammal fauna; it does have the odd downside mind. As happens on all trips to new destinations, the first few days are a steep learning curve on the songs and calls front; I tend to pair species up to aid the memory, so a party of Bushtit sounds not unlike a party of Long-tails and Wrentit song is vaguely like the 'spinning coin' bit of Wood Warbler. However, it really doesn't help when Californian Ground-squirrels chime in, or indeed Western Grey Squirrel and then, of course, the insects come to the party, jeeez. The strangest noise today though was a regular 'slap,... slap,... slap,... slap' coming from behind me, alongside a thin strip of riparian woodland near Lake Solano, very odd. Spun round and had the shock of my life,... the last thing I need is to be stalked by middle-aged women with ill-fitting bikinis on ill-fitting bodies wandering round in ill-fitting flip-flops. Urgh! Thank jumpin jim-jam wearing jehovah I'd had my lunch.

And now a couple of pics to calm the nerves,...

05 June 2008

Here we are and here we go

In total had about 24 hours in the Point Reyes area. The place is rather good, and huge, and (today anyway) flipping windy. Birding in the wind always knackers me out; one day in and I'm mentally and physically wrecked. I have spent most of today staring into wind tossed vegetation attempting to discern movement against the flow of leaves, debris, etc. As a result of the conditions I have missed one or two species I thought I'd bag, but I should get a few more bites at most of these cherries. Have managed to get a few goodies, two new hummingbirds, four new flycatchers, two new towhees, blah, blah, blah; have also had three pinniped ticks, outrageous!

Anyhoo, a few pics for those who don't like words,...

PS. Kathy Burke is working in a roadside restaurant in Vacaville, I know, I was served by her this evening.

01 June 2008

Day-flyers and high-flyers

It would appear the birding round these parts is slowing down for the summer, time to quit the country. For those of you not shooting off to chase birds elsewhere, you can always turn to moths in your desperation; you don't even need to bother with the anti-social hours of trapping at night, here are a couple of common day-flyers to keep an eye open for in the dog days of June and July.

Mother Shipton and Burnet Companion can be found in more-or-less any open grassy habitat. The Mother Shipton is named after the reputedly ugly, though largely mythical, prophetess of the same name, because a witch-like profile can be seen in the pattern on the forewing.

Personally, I'm off to chase empids, etc., for a few weeks,... bugs, nothing but bird fodder.

PS. Something to warm the cockles from the BBC online football gossip page "Liverpool are officially the best team in Europe. The Anfield club top the official Uefa rankings that are based on European performances over the last five years. AC Milan are a point behind in second, Chelsea make into third while European champions Manchester United only make it to seventh". Too bloody right.