30 September 2010

Another yankee gull pic

Another image of a gull which is probably only of interest to a very small number of people on the opposite side of the world, once again, feel free to move onto the next inconsequential ornithological blog on your regular round of interwebbery.

Colour-ringed adult California Gull (left leg - white code '366' on black darvic; right leg - federal metal band, partial code '055-10177'), Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve, 13th September 2010; this bird is in active primary moult hence the 'stubby' rear end, and had less extensive head streaking than most being fed by the Hispanic guys in the parking lot near the Lucy Evans Interpretive Center. Finally, the mantle appears paler than it was due to the angle, and strength, of the sun.

[Addendum: dead impressed with the response time of the BBL/USGS/CWS the gull had originally been caught by a bander from the Coyote Creek Field Station on 9th May 2009, so I guess it hadn't come too far and won't be breaking any longevity records.]

28 September 2010

Californian Franklin's

Just uploading these awful record shots in case they are of interest to Palo Alto and/or Santa Barbara birders. For those from elsewhere - move along please, move along, there's nothing to see here.

Franklin's Gull, 1st-winter/1st cal-year, Palo Alto Baylands (on slough between Embarcadero Road and The Lucy Evans Baylands Nature Interpretive Center), the bird was present loafing in the gull flock on the evening of 12th September 2010.

Franklin's Gull, 1st-winter/1st cal-year, Mission Creek Outfall, Santa Barbara, the bird was bathing for a short period on the evening of 23rd September 2010.

Franklin's Gull, 1st-winter/1st cal-year, Mission Creek Outfall, Santa Barbara, in flight as the bird moved off at dusk, 23rd September 2010.

27 September 2010

West coast gulls are a lotta fun

Got Burrowing Owl and a (early?) Glaucous-winged Gull on the way to the airport. At some point I'll write this trip up properly and may well 'infill' the blog with information on the post-free days, feel free to check back every now and again.

Looks like an adult Glaucous-winged Gull in active post-breeding moult to me but, given the rampant hybridization this taxa enjoys, it might be a single/double/triple backcross or a seagull.

26 September 2010


The third pelagic (fourth boat trip) proved the least successful, swell, a strengthening wind and an increasing proportion of participants 'feeding the fishes' meant we remained quite close in. We were all fine, so the lack of anything better than a close encounter with a big pod of Risso's Dolphin, was a bit of a disappointment. Did tick Mark Beaman though, must have seen him in the past, but hadn't put name to face.

A late afternoon seeking out Surfbird along Sunset Drive and Point Pinos produced four moulting adults amongst tonnes of Black Turnstone.

25 September 2010

Sea Otter

Up to a million hairs per square inch,... toastie!

From the Monterey Bay Aquarium website - "... despite decades of federal and state protection, the population of southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) which resides along the California coast, struggles to survive at a fraction of its historic numbers. No one knows why the population isn’t recovering. Pathogens and parasites, possibly linked to coastal pollution, can weaken otter immune systems. And the risk of a major oil spill remains a serious threat." More information here.

24 September 2010

On up Highway 1

Today's highlights were Tropical Kingbird at Oso Flaco Lake (just beyond the lake, off to the left of the boardwalk) and a headless Californian Sea-lion on the beach at Devereux Slough, although Sea Otter at Morro Bay this evening gave both a good run for their money, this is not a photo of any of the aforementioned,...

23 September 2010

On the waves again

Mother and baby off the ferry to Santa Cruz Island.

Black Skimmers skimming [Geddit? Ho-ho,... ohhhhhhhh] away from the Mission Creek Outfall at dusk.

21 September 2010

Kelso Creek/Valley, etc.

After a morning at the Kern River Preserve it was into the desert with Greater Roadrunner, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Cactus Wren, Sage Sparrow and the like.

A hummingbird feeder, the easiest way to make any camera toting goombah look good.

These guys are a little more tricky, not a lot, just a little.

20 September 2010

Very very dry

The road's gone all wibbly-wobbly,...

... and everything is brown (mostly burnt sienna or burnt umber), even the phoebes are joining in.

19 September 2010


Birding highlights were probably California Thrasher and Lawrence's Goldfinch. However, the day's real high point was a visit to Jerry's Diner, Hollister,... they really know their milkshakes.

Aphonopelma sp. or tarantula, a male off in search of a female I do believe; and very nice, docile and approachable he was too.

18 September 2010

Pelagic number 2

Once again, tiredness begets brevity, species list and images as follows,...

More of my new favouritist storm-petrel.

Much better views of Xantus' Murrelet today, these two are scrippsi but two hypoleucus were also seen (future armchair tickage?).

Black-footed Albatross, Northern Fulmar (dark and pale phase), Buller's Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Pink-footed Shearwater, Wilson's Storm-petrel (2-3), Black Storm-petrel, Ashy Storm-petrel, Leach's Storm-petrel (1), Fork-tailed Storm-petrel (1), Brown Pelican, Pelagic Cormorant, Black Turnstone, Red Phalarope, Red-necked Phalarope, South Polar Skua (1), Pomarine Jaeger, Parasitic Jaeger, Long-tailed Jaeger, Sabine's Gull (4), Western Gull, Heerman's Gull, Elegant Tern, Arctic Tern (1), Common Murre, Xantus' Murrelet (2 scrippsi, 2 hypoleucus), Cassin's Auklet, Rhinoceros Auklet, Tufted Puffin (3).
Humpback Whale (including breaching), Risso's Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise, Harbour Seal, Californian Sea-lion.
Sunfish (2), Blue Shark (1).

Dark adult Pomarine Jaeger with semi-spoons.

17 September 2010

Pretty wobblers

Given this is mainly a seabird trip, with a little relaxed migranting in between, we are doing OK on the parulid front, so far Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Townsend's, Black-throated Gray, Yellow-rumped (Audubon's), Blackpoll, Black-and-White, Common Yellowthroat and Wilson's have all graced the bins. Somehow Orange-crowned remains unfound, I'm sure it will fall soon.

Blackpoll in the fog at the Point Reyes lighthouse, a California/Marin County/Point Reyes tick,... yay.

15 September 2010

Pelagic number 1

Have been a bit lax on the blogging front recently, and will update properly soon, but yesterday we got (all counts approximate, no counts for 'common muck'):

Common Loon, Black-footed Albatross, Northern Fulmar (dark phase), Cook's Petrel (1), Buller's Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Pink-footed Shearwater, Wilson's Petrel (2), Black Storm-petrel, Ashy Storm-petrel, Fork-tailed Storm-petrel (3), Brandt's Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Black Oystercatcher, Whimbrel, Marbled Godwit, Willet, Ruddy Turnstone, Black Turnstone, Red Phalarope, South Polar Skua (2), Pomarine Jaeger, Parasitic Jaeger, Long-tailed Jaeger (biggest 'flock' c.35), Sabine's Gull (4), Herring Gull, Western Gull, Heerman's Gull, Elegant Tern (5), Common Tern (1), Arctic Tern (1), Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, Xantus' Murrelet (2), Cassin's Auklet, Rhinoceros Auklet, Tufted Puffin (2), Belted Kingfisher (2).
Killer Whale (1 transient male), Blue Whale (1), Grey Whale (4), Humpback Whale (including breaching), Pacific White-sided Dolphin (7), Northern Right Whale Dolphin (3), Harbour Seal, Californian Sea-lion.
Sunfish (1), Salmon Shark (1).

Nice start, and now,... birding.

And one more, just for good measure,...

14 September 2010

Cetacean tick number one

Didn't really expect to see Grey Whale on this trip but ended up bumping into long-staying animals off both Point Reyes and Bodega Head.

13 September 2010

No time,... a few pics

Snowy on the boardwalk at 'Rail Alley', waiting his turn.

Common and approachable, like shooting babies in a barrel.

12 September 2010

The Baylands

Landed under the cloudless, sun-bleached, Californian sky and blundered straight into the Department of Homeland Paranoia who still seem unable to accept people have haircuts in the years after posing for passport photos. Picked up the car and joined a multi-vehicle pile-up inspired southbound tailback on Highway 101 which afforded an excellent opportunity to listen to local radio and study my fellow road users.

An easy evening's birding at the Palo Alto Baylands produced the hoped for California Clapper Rail Rallus longirostris obsoletus plus a good supporting cast of waders and other waterbirds including a single 1st-winter Franklin's Gull (how scarce are they round here?). The rail was easier than anticipated, with one individual calling and then showing at very close range. Stupidly, I'd left the SLR in the car but did get this shot with the Coolpix (no digiscoping, just the Coolpix),...

09 September 2010

Somebody owes me a pair of sea-legs

Three days on the boat, 12 hours incapacitated, it ain't pretty when swell, wind and tide are all pushing in different directions. To those who choose the boats and draw straight lines on maps (with apologies to Mr. Sassoon)...
"Good-morning; good-morning!" the manager said
When we met him last week on our way to the boats.
Now the sailors he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent goats.
"He’s a cheery old card," grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Swansea with night-sight and pack.

But he did for them both by his plan of attack.
Amongst everything else, we did get varying numbers of Common Dolphins (with ickle babies), Harbour Porpoise, Common Scoter, Storm Petrel, Great and Arctic Skua, Mediterranean Gull and Black Tern (plus Firecrest and Lapland Bunting during two hours of respite from the wobbly element).

06 September 2010

What is this weather even called!

Should have been bobbing about in a boat today, got 'weathered off'. Is this officially the monsoon season or just shitey?

Another one from the weekend,... it's a seagull.

05 September 2010

Unexpected rewards

The full story of yesterday's heroics,...

Up at 00:00, out by 00:30, rendezvous with Team Gwent at 01:00 and chug-chugging out of St. Ives by 05:00. Christmassy morning feeling inside, slapping black oily-slickness below, murk to the west, glimmering anti-gloam to the east and, overhead, the grinding procession of Orion and Jupiter intermittently shot through by the unseemly spin of a satellite.

As we disturbed the first few Gannets from their surface slumbers, the girl's face opposite drained to a sea-haunted pallor. The semi-attendant birding boyfriend did his best but soon it was, "Excuse me, is there a bucket?", and then began the knock-kneed, nose-down, blind eyeing of the void between this life of pain and the bottom of the clanking-handled pail. The natty, Tibetan refugee knitted, soft woollen, ear-flapped, plait-tasselled hat did not seem to help. Neither did the lack of eyes-to-the-horizon, acupressure wrist-banded, stem ginger nibblery. No, distasteful hiccoughs became heroically fought gags became plunging fluid-filled, phosgenic, full-belly retches. To leeward, an ecstasy of scattering, rapidly vacated benches, discarded glove and rucksack; the invisible lung-corrupting vaporised pall of bile and chyme leaving a floundering wake of writhing sclerotic faces. Finally, convulsions of bitter cud subsided and gradually gave way to the tragicomic bleary-eyed, shaky ceremony of the acidic spittle spitting, nose-blowing, water sipping aftermath.

I remained largely immune to the effects of the first bout but, on her second hag-coughing limp trudge through the valley of gargle, I found my gaze trapped on the confluence of chin and rim, mesmerized by the choking image of gag and spew I was nigh instantly felled by a lung of acrid, cheesy Quaver infused, malevolence. Slumping to the engine block, my gaze raced the three miles to the distant division of sea and sky and I narrowly averted an involuntary 'sympathy emesis'.

Luckily, as the puking was by far the most dynamic part of the trip, I missed nothing from my seated (sometimes prone) viewpoint. Over the course of the five hours pottering out, chumming, pottering in, chumming again and pootling back to port we only managed: 1 Arctic Skua, 5 Great Skua, 5+ Storm Petrel, 1 Manx Shearwater, 2-3 Kittiwake, 25 Common Tern, 1 Guillemot and 2 Common Dolphin. We added Sandwich Tern and Mediterranean Gull back at St. Ives but the 'stand-out' sighting was probably an offshore Collared Dove heading west with a purposeful look in its eye.

Mackerel fishing in a more-or-less sustainable fashion, a stark contrast to the Icelandic and Faroese approach.

This is the expression a Herring Gull moulting from juvenile to first-winter plumage makes when offered a Welsh cake.

After waterproof removal, snack and coffee, we headed to Nanquidno for the Citrine Wagtail. Parking at the top end, we wandered southwards with Tree Pipit, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat, Stonechat and Wheatear dotting the scrub, fences and path. Just before Tregiffian Farm is a large, recently ploughed field, ripe for the scanning. Wagtails and Wheatears were present in decent numbers and, within minutes, Nathan found an Ortolan, then Tom chipped in with a couple and, whilst I peered at the pair, another appeared in my field of view before we finally arrived at a total of five,… kerr-hortulana-ching! Dragging ourselves from the field we sauntered round to the puddle behind the farm and, after a short wait, the Citrine appeared and showed well before being flushed by a couple of oblivious ramblers. Then it was back to scan the opposite end of the field. More wagtails and Wheatears, a brief Redstart and then a Wryneck flew up as I scanned the edge, which was nice. Back at the Ortolan zone we quickly refound four of the five birds before news of an Icterine Warbler in Nanquidno proper drew us away. As ever, Nanquidno felt as birdy as Matthew Modine circa 1984 and, despite the Icky avoiding us, produced the goods when Craig, not wanting to be left out, turned up our sixth Ortolan of the day. However, by now we were flagging and didn't really do the valley justice; by mid-afternoon we were headed homewards, if some eastern mega is found over the next couple of days I'll be slightly gutted.

Just your run-of-the-mill puddle,... and the rarest bird of the day.

But wait dear reader, the discovery of the day was yet to come. The standard strategy for bettering fatigue on turning for home is, of course, a quick nap followed by Coke and a Cadbury's Boost but, care of the Okehampton Waitrose, I can now offer an alternative. The aforementioned quick nap is, once again, followed by a Coke but, wait for it,... accompanied by Divine Fair Trade 70% cocoa dark chocolate and Waitrose soft dates! Now that's a simple carbohydrate, caffeine infused, power snack if ever there was one.

PS. Plenty of these, and Beautiful Demoiselles, in Nanquidno plus a regular trickle of Red Admiral's.

04 September 2010

Ortolan invasion

Today we went looking for seabirds and saw somebody else's Citrine Wagtail and found six Ortolan Buntings (at two sites in and around Nanquidno) and one Wryneck (also near Nanquidno) all of our own,... details to follow,...

02 September 2010


According to the GOS sightings page, there appears to be either one, rather mobile, or two, quite probably equally mobile (albeit whose mobility is, as yet, unproven), large white birds with yellow bills pottering about Gwent at the moment. This is not it,... probably,...