The Eurasian Wigeon are back...duck season is upon us, once again. Be wary of female "Common Pochards", already reported in Oregon and California this fall, that turned out to be Redheads. Crab Cove, Alameda, CA.
It's the day after Thanksgiving. You feel bloated, and being confronted with your weird family is crushing your soul. You suspect one of your uncles of being a Klan member and your other uncle keeps hitting on you...in front of everyone...which is really weird. Your cousin clearly has done too many designer drugs and you wonder how the rest of your family isn't noticing this. Your brother's hippie girlfriend is discussing the power of certain crystals on auras with your dad, who in turn is judging her mercilessly. Your mother is silently crying into the cold stuffing while Rush Limbaugh spews hatred and bullshit from the radio. These people are driving you deep into the bottle...so you better go birding before everything is totally fucked.
Fall is almost in the history books, and winter is starting to take it's gentle grip here in California. It's even rained a few times, which has been a worryingly rare event for the past few years, so fingers are crossed for more rain and rare birds. I've finally begun clawing my way out of a rare bird rut, and am looking forward to what the winter has to offer.
Right. Here is a platter of recent winter-flavored birds. Good luck with your weekend everybody.
Eurasian Wigeon are regular winter visitors to much of California, especially in the Central Valley, where you can see double digits in a day without much difficulty. It would be nice to know where these birds actually come from...how many of these birds breed in Alaska? How many are coming down from Russia? The male in front is still doing a bit of molting, and that's a female EUWI lurking in the back.
Eurasian Wigeon females don't tend to be reported nearly as often as males, which is totally understandable, considering their blandness. Note the richly-colored head compared to an American Wigeon.
Here's a standard-issue American Wigeon hen for comparison. Photographed at Crab Cove.
Spotted Sandpiper. One thing that photography makes me do is pay attention to common, taken for granted birds much more than I would otherwise...this SPSA is a prime example of that. Oyster Bay Regonal Shoreline, San Leandro, CA.
Common Sandpiper is a bird that would probably be overlooked by 99.9% of birders if one will ever (has been?) seen in California. It's just not a bird on our radar, although I don't think anyone would ever be shocked if it did occur. One thing to check for Common Sandpiper is how wide the white wing stripe is at the base of the wing...on Spotteds, as this one demonstrates well, the wing stripe narrows and fades toward the base of the wing, whereas it would look comparatively bold on a Common in this area.
There is no doubt that American Avocets are the most graceful of our shorebirds. That said, I think an Avocet bill would make for an insidious murder weapon. Photographed at Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline.
When the thought of your crazy family begins bubbling up into your consciousness, remember the serenity of the roosting avocet.
Ah, the regal Canvasback. Always a refreshing bird. Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA.
The diagnostic "seduction pose".
A female Bufflehead uses her tail to come in for a perfect and picturesque landing. Photographed at the Berkeley Fishing Pier, Berkeley, CA.
Unlike where I grew up in SoCal, Surf Scoters are both plentiful and approachable here in the bay area, which is not something I take for granted. Photographed at the Berkeley Fishing Pier.
Surf Scoter. It's not considered to be on the list of face-melting birds, but I reckon it comes pretty close. Photographed at the Berkeley Fishing Pier.
A young male Surf Scoter, perhaps frustrated that is has no aesthetic appeal to speak of, utters a deadly bellow. All nearby mollusc shells were blasted to pieces. Photographed at the Berkeley Fishing Pier.
The Horned Grebe, a flat-headed wonder of nature. If you are a beginning birder and have mastered the Horned vs. Eared Grebe ID challenge, know that you are going places. Photographed at the Berkeley Fishing Pier.
Eared Grebe, ubiquitous in California. If this bird still presents problems for you, I suggest you quit birding entirely and take up grebeing instead. They are wonderfully mellow birds; watching them for hours on end will do wonders for your mental health, if not your ID skills. Photographed at the Berkeley Fishing Pier.