Monday, 30 March 2015

California 15th February 2015

I started the day in the Golden Gate Park where a Rustic Bunting had been wintering for much of the winter. I managed to find the right spot and was joined by half a dozen other birders later on. There were plenty of sparrows and juncos feeding in the bunting spot but despite waiting for an hour and a half it was a no show during that whole time. I would have seen it had I stuck it out but I really didn't have enough time to be wasting on a single species even if they are very rare in the States. Lots of other birds and places to see.

I headed north from here, thankfully the traffic wasn't too bad as I was leaving San Francisco. It was a bit surreal driving over the Golden Gate bridge having seen so many pictures of it and seeing it in numerous films. Point Reyes National Seashore was my next destination. This is a huge area encompassing a large range of different habitats. I had a short walk around the visitor centre. It was very busy here which wasn't surprising considering it was a Sunday. Parking was a bit of an issue which wasn't helped by a few snarky folk with horse boxes. "Horsey" people only just come second to golfers in my distain league! I had my two ticks of the day here - Pacific Wren and California Quail.

I then headed out towards the headland of Point Reyes but had to get hop onto a big shuttle bus out to the Chimney Rock. I didn't bother with the Lighthouse on the way along the way as most on the tourists hopped off here. There was a Northern Elephant Seal colony viewpoint near the Lifeboat Station which gave good but distant views of about two hundred seals on the pebble beach included several dead pups which may have been accidently crushed by the enormous battling bulls. A few of the "beachmasters" looked like they had been branded with identifying marker numbers. I had four Brown Boobies out on Chimney Rock itself in with a few cormorants and gulls. There was also a Great Horned Owl calling from the Lifeboat Station but I didn't have time to look for it as the last bus of the day was due to leave around the same time. On the way back to the car park a few calving Friesian cows seemed to be a big novelty for most on the bus. Probably not a common sight in suburban California in fairness!

Two Brown Boobies

Four Brown Boobies

Female California Quail

Male California Quail

American Robin

Black Phoebe,

Black Phoebe

Fox Sparrow (Slate-coloured?)

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Hermit Thrush

Pacific Wren

Savannah Sparrow

Male Townsend's Warbler

Male Western Bluebird
White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

Tule Elk

Bull Northern Elephant Seal

Mother and pup Northern Elephant Seal

Northern Elephant Seals
 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

California 14th February 2015

Most of today didn't quite go to plan but it did have it good parts.
At least two Nelson's Sparrows had been reported from Elkhorn Slough recently so that was my destination first thing in the morning. They were reported from a series of ponds adjacent to the south side of the slough/estuary but trying to assess them proved to be impossible. One track which came near to them lead down to a dairy farmyard which looked like private property so I promptly left before being shot. Another track way down to the estuary came to an end shortly after leaving the main road so the Nelson's Sparrows were a no go.
I tried the reserve centre a few miles away to see if there was much there but this was closed and wouldn't open for another two hours.
I drove further around the estuary to try and get close enough to have a look. A little further on up the way the road passed right by a section of the estuary. There was a handy pull-in spot on the left hand side of the road which I parked in. I had look from here seeing Cinnamon Teal, Blue-winged Teal and American White Pelicans along with lots of other waterbirds. I headed back to the car and was messing with the Sat Nav for a few minutes when there was a knock on the window. There was a County Sherriff standing beside the window who looked like he was going on patrol in Sangin, Helmand rather than rural California! I had apparently parked on the wrong side of the road, facing oncoming traffic even though I was completely pulled off the road. I wasn't going to argue with him and after asking if there were any outstanding warrants out for me (!) and checking my details he was quite friendly and let me off on my way. He also said I shouldn't be driving without an International driving license which I also didn't quite understand - why would a car hire company give me a car for a week if I didn't have the proper license? Anyway drama over and onto the next spot which was the beach on the north side of Moss Landing. A flock of gulls sitting inside of the channel entrance held one first-winter and an adult Thayer's Gull although they weren't particularly close. There were a lot of typical California surfers making good use a big swell off the sand dunes. One Red-necked Grebe and at least one male White-winged Scoter were in with the numerous Surf Scoters offshore.

My main plan today was to get one of the Whale watching trips out from Monterey in the afternoon. I dropped into Laguna Grande Regional Park which was only a short distance away. This was a great little site with lots of passerine action. Big numbers of Audubon's Warblers which contained my only tick of the day in the form of Townsend's Warbler. There were several of these very bright warblers present.

I left here and made my to the Fisherman's Wharf. Even though it was only 3 miles away it took a good half an hour to drive there thanks to very heavy traffic. On arriving at the large car park I discovered that there were completely full and had been closed to incoming traffic. I hadn't counted on the fact that it was a Saturday and Valentines Day on top of that so it was exceptionally busy. The whale watching trip would have to wait.

I eventually managed to escape from the town and made my way along the coast towards Point Pinos. I made several stops along here and it proved to be a very productive stretch of rocky coastline. Most of the birds here were accustomed to people as it was a popular tourist area. I really enjoyed the Surfbirds in particular. There were good numbers of Black-vented Shearwaters and Pacific Divers passing offshore but there was no sign of the hoped for auklets or murrelets. I also had a nice close first-winter Thayer's Gull here on the rocks with a small gull flock. The Thayer's shots are slightly ruined by a brown wash that has been added when I uploaded them here. This brown wash is apparent on a lot of the shots and it's not something I've noticed in the past but it is very annoying.

To top of the day my accommodation for the night was a bit of an nightmare. To top of the fact that it was a weekend on Valentines day I quickly discovered that some stupid Pro Am Golf tournament was taking place locally so there was zero accommodation to be had in Monterey, as if I needed another reason to completely detest golf and everything that comes with it! I left Monterey and tried Salinas, 20 miles away and everything there was also completely full. I think I tried another town even further away (it was getting rather late at this stage) and it was the same story. I eventually ended up all the way back in San Jose just south of San Francisco. I normally don't book motels when on trips like this and it obviously didn't end well on this occasion. Richard Bonser and co were in the same area on the same day and they had the exact same problem. I didn't have any disasters with accommodation after this on the trip thankfully, things could only improve after today!

Adult Brandt's Cormorant

Immature Brandt's Cormorant
 
Pied-billed Grebe

Male Bufflehead

Male Bufflehead

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk
Black Oystercatcher

Black Oystercatcher

Black Turnstone

Black Turnstone

Grey Plover

Grey Plover

Hudsonian Whimbrel

Hudsonian Whimbrel

Hudsonian Whimbrel

Hudsonian Whimbrel

Hudsonian Whimbrels

Hudsonian Whimbrel and Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Surfbird and Black Turnstone

Surfbird

Surfbird
First-winter American Herring Gull

First-winter Glaucous-winged Gull

First-winter Glaucous-winged Gull

First-winter Glaucous-winged Gull

First-winter Glaucous-winged Gull with a first-winter Thayer's Gull


First-winter Thayer's Gull

First-winter Thayer's Gull

First-winter Thayer's Gull

First-winter Thayer's Gull

First-winter Thayer's Gull

First-winter Thayer's Gull
Adult Thayer's Gull

First-winter Heermann's Gull

Adult Heermann's Gulls

Adult winter Herrmann's Gull


Second-winter Heermann's Gull

American Bushtit

Male Brewer's Blackbird

California Scrub Jay

Townsend's Warbler

Townsend's Warbler

California Ground Squirrel

California Ground Squirrel

California Ground Squirrel