Saturday, September 29, 2012

Back from Cali...

Whew! What a trip! Holly and I returned from our northern California trek (mostly business, with a little pleasure thrown in for good measure) with over three dozen new year birds! The highlight of the journey was our very first pelagic trip. We set out with Debi Shearwater and her crew from Half Moon Bay on Sunday, 23 September and had a stellar day. First... we saw a ton of lifers! Second... no one got sick! That's a win-win in our book. While we dipped on any mega-rarities, like the recently seen Hawaiian Petrel, we had a wonderful assortment of seabirds. Now... I was fully aware that taking photos on a idling boat rolling in the swells of the Pacific Ocean would be challenging... but man - I have some new found respect for any one that takes his/her rig out on the ocean and gets good captures. I struggled... mightily. This fact, plus the fact that it was a gray day on the gray water looking for gray birds, and well... you get the idea. In the end, I only 'missed' three species seen on the trip. So while we saw Tufted Puffin, Red Pharalope and Ashy Storm-Petrel - no pic equals no tick on the year counter. Here are a few birds we DID get...

Black-footed Albatross

Sabine's Gull

South Polar Skua
We also had a chance to hit the beaches north of Santa Cruz for a few new shorebirds - Black Oystercatcher, Wandering Tattler, Black Turnstone, among others. A Bodega Bay pitstop also rewarded us with a few new birds. A late-week dash over to the Sacramento area netted us a Yellow-billed Magpie, Ring-necked Pheasant and a handful of others. In all, we return from the west coast with 37 new year birds, vaulting us past 400 for the year! Check out the Flickr stream for the complete haul. 
Now... we catch our breath and try to figure out if there is any good fall migrant traffic to look into in south-east Texas!

Monday, September 17, 2012


Hi ho everyone. We made a quick trip down to Quintana (near Freeport, TX) after a report of at least a pair of Red-necked Pharalopes carousing with a horde of Wilson's. We arrived at the spoils area just off the Intracoastal Waterway bridge and within about three minutes had our mark. It was not the best photo circumstances - early light, good distance and a ton of movement - but you can clearly see that one of these birds is not like the others!

Right in the middle... note the thick, dark eye stripe.
It was a good 'get' ahead of our West Coast trip next week. We also managed to snap pics of a Lesser Black-backed Gull, Merlin and a Boat-tailed Grackle... putting us ever closer to the 400 mark. We expect to reach that... and then some on the California trip. Stay tuned!