Thursday, June 15, 2017

Imperial Bellow, Old World Bellow, Imitation Rail Mellow

Of course, it wasn't always all about yardbirding for Seagull Steve. Believe it or not, he used to venture forth to look at birds outside of the friendly confines of his yard all the time. On this occasion, he walked by a flock of Snowy Plovers, a local and beloved species. Pilarcitos Creek Mouth, Half Moon Bay, CA.

Some color band combinations are easier to read than others. Spending time with the soothing plover flock here is always a nice consolation when walking back to your car after dipping on rare gulls, at least for Seagull Steve.

When Seagull Steve is birding here, it is typically a lowly, disgusting, gull-oriented endeavor. Here is a Herring Gull with Pillar Point in the background, which makes this image slightly less lowly and disgusting. Steve excels at not seeing rare gulls here; usually Slaty-backed, though Kelp also comes to mind.

Seagull Steve has to keep posting Thayer's Gulls while he still can! This might become an Iceland Gull next month.

After mild success at Pilarcitos, Seagull Steve ventured north to once again see the Emperor Goose wintering on the golf course at Sharp Park in Pacifica. The Emperor was still crippling and still seemed to be doing typical goose things, but not for long. "Rise, my friend," he bellowed to his dark and powerful protege, a nearby Common Raven.

Answering The Emperor's bellow, a Common Raven flew in to attack a nearby Canada Goose, much to The Emperor's delight. "Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen," said The Emperor, cackling with glee. "Your work here is finished, my friend. Go out to the municipal pier and await my orders."

However, not everything was going according to The Emperor's plan...the solemn leader of the Canada Goose Alliance told the other geese, "The Emperor has made a critical error and the time for our attack has come." With the raven distracted, the geese turned on The Emperor, sending him reeling.

And much like when Vader betrayed The Emperor in Return of the Jedi, the imposing Common Raven then joined the fray, taking wing to put an end to The Emperor once and for all.

The Emperor was unwise to lower his defenses.

But this is not Return of The Jedi, and The Emperor escaped unscathed. "Young fool...only now, at the end, do you understand." Fuck you Common Raven, and fuck you Canada Goose.

While it is appropriate to nurse grudges against the giant resident CANGs, there is no place for such feelings when CACGs are involved. Seagull Steve crushed this enthusiastically loafing Cackling Goose at Miller-Knox Regional Shoreline, in Richmond, CA.

This is also a dependable location for Eurasian Wigeons in winter. Female Eurasian Wigeons (right, with the head that does not contrast with the upperparts) are one of those birds those birds that can hide right in plain sight, if there are enough American Wigeon around. And if you are scanning through wigeon in bad light, you can forget about finding one of these (though it is a great time to string one!). It's just something you have to accept. Seagull Steve has accepted it, and he is the Global Birder Ranking System's #7 birder in the country. You would be wise to do the same.

Seagull Steve would not want to be on the receiving end of this mighty Old World bellow!

Bald Eagles are pretty sick. Seagull Steve had a pair of adults fly over at Benicia State Recreation Area, in Benicia, CA. Why was he there? For Black Rails, obvi. He heard three of them, and there are few things more comforting than the sounds of Black Rails...but one even more comforting sound does come to mind: a Northern Mockingbird imitating a Black Rail! Incredible! Yes, he heard a mockingbird imitating a Black Rail that morning. Unbelievable.

And no, I don't write in the third person now, I'm just filling in for Seagull today. He may or may have not overdosed on something last, shhhhhhhhh. - Felonious Jive

Thursday, June 8, 2017

I Am Yardbirder

Google. Facebook. Netflix. Apple. Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds. What do all these entities have in common? Well, yes...we are all on the internet, that is true. But what you are supposed to deduce is that we are all giants of Silicon Valley. That's right...BB&B pulled up stakes from Albany and Alameda County and moved right into the dark heart of the future of the world, which is in San Jose, California. I'm not endorsing this future, but it's here and people seem to love it.

One reason we are here in San Jose is because of the house we are renting. The house is a very typical suburban home, ideal for the familial situation I am currently in. But the house is ideal in another has a yard...right next to a couple of ponds and Guadalupe Creek, meaning the yardbirding potential is very good. Despite my total lack of interest regarding living in San Jose I couldn't say no to this house. I work from home now, so what better way to stay sane than to yardbird like a fiend?

Our neighbors have a large pepper tree that attracts quite a few birds. A flock of Cedar Waxwings were in this tree every day earlier in the spring.

I knew this place could be interesting, but the yardbirding has totally exceeded expectations so far. As you can see above, in the month of May, Rancho del Bastardos recorded the highest yard list in all of California. Amazing! I've recorded a number of semi-rarities that were flagged in eBird, and one very popular rarity that was chased by a large number of people...luckily they could get to it from the other side of the ponds, instead of rampaging through my yard. I'm still missing a lot of locally common birds though, so when fall rolls around I think I'll be adding a great number of species. 80 species is the current grand total for Rancho del Bastardos, which I am chuffed with since we've only lived here since late April. The water level for one of the ponds behind the house is currently dropping, so if I'm lucky I can get a shorebird or three in July when the migrants return (so far I only have Killdeer and Spotted Sandpiper). Ideally, a violetear or something like that will show up at the hummingbird feeders in the meantime (hey, it happened in Berkeley), but I ain't holding my breath.

Of course, this isn't the first time I've had good yardbirding...field housing can be very rewarding, particularly in places like Veracruz, Mexico, the Aleutian Islands, Midway Atoll, southeast Arizona, etc. Lots of great birds in those yards. However, I was only at those places a few months each...Rancho del Bastardos is my real home, where bastards roam free and I can actually put up 10,000 feeders if I wanted to.

Power lines are unsightly, but they provide great perches! Northern Rough-winged Swallows perch over the yard regularly, since they are often out foraging over the ponds. So far, 5 species of swallows seen from the backyard and 2 species of swift, all of which are here on the reg. I did look for Black Swift last month but it looks like I will have to try again next year.

This Budgerigar was not an expected bird at all. It was here for two or three days and vanished.

Mourning Doves are pleasantly common in the yard. Even more pleasantly, there are not many Eurasian Collared-Doves around here - I have only seen one so far from the Rancho. That's a good dove ratio. Now if only the cowbirds and House Sparrows would stay the fuck away...

Some people, namely Flycatcher Jen, think it's just hilarious that I've apparently gone full Geri and gotten so into yardbirding. I think it is perfectly normal...I just haven't had a suitably birdy yard (not counting field housing) since 2005 or something like that. My last "yard" in Albany was a thin strip of cement, and before that in Oakland it was a cat-ridden hell...attracting birds would have been a bad idea. At any rate, yardbirding is just a natural extension of my birdfiend tendencies, you see?

Any serious yardbirder in this day and age of digital crushing needs to put up more than feeders to optimize their yard...they need to put up some fake perches! This one can support the weight of a couple Band-tailed Pigeons. The Band-taileds are still pretty wary, I had to shoot through the sliding glass door while rolling around on the living room floor all ninja style to get this. Not too bad though eh? That is the power of the fake perch. In fact, I'm considering quitting my day job to become a fake perch consultant.

BB&B has been in the blogosphere since 2008. We are ancient, in blog years. Since then we have told many stories, featured many birds, made fun of many birders. What we have never done in all that time is post a picture of an Oak Titmouse. Let me put your titmouse worries to rest; they are, indeed, still extant. Luckily, titmice are frequent visitors to our feeders and this one decided to use one of my fake crush-perches to work on a sunflower seed.

I've been using a squirrel-proof tube feeder and a hummingbird feeder so far, and just added a nyjer feeder and another hummingbird feeder. Nobody has discovered the nyjer feeder yet, but hopefully the goldfinch hordes will descend upon us soon. A substantial amount of the yard vegetation that was here when we moved in has been removed and replaced...we've planted a grip of salvias and some other stuff too (a coffeeberry is our pride and joy) but none of it has really taken off yet to the point that it is bloggable. We will get there soon...maybe too soon.

How about some of the pond birds? This Mallard family sneaks under the fence to come to our feeder. Black-crowned Night-Herons are always lurking around, but unless I set out a tub of crawfish I don't think I will be feeding any.

This drain is a popular feature among the local pond-lurkers. There are a couple pairs of Green Herons around, presumably nesting in the riparian along the creek on the other side of the ponds. This is a very nice bird to see from your yard on the reg.

Here it is, the star rarity I've found so far...I present to you, in all its irony, a Common Loon. The ponds behind my house are not the sort of place you would expect a loon, and certainly not one arriving in late May. I knew it was a good bird, but I couldn't believe how many people chased it! I would sit here at my desk, look out the window and see birders coming to chase it day after day. Hilarious. Other eBird-flagged birds recorded here so far are Cackling Goose, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Myrtle Warbler, all of which were unseasonally late.

This is the second loon species I've seen in Santa Clara County...the first was Yellow-billed!

Despite daily disturbance from off-leash dogs that go running by about 10 feet away (who go swimming in the pond) and trespassing fishermen, the Pied-billed Grebe nest below the yard managed to hatch chicks! There are six chicks, all of which have survived their first couple weeks of life. I'm not sure if this grebe pair is super smart for nesting where they did or just super lucky, but they are good parents, dutifully covering up the eggs (which were large and bright white) with algae whenever a dog or person was too close and slinking away inconspicuously. Now they can't slink away as well because of the train of stripey baby grebes that follow the adults around.

Moonrises are crushable from the yard too. Good times at Rancho del Bastardos.

What will the next addition to the Rancho list be? Hell, it's June, it could be anything...the only birds still migrating through the area are eastern vague runts, and I'm not expecting a Rose-breasted Grosbeak on the feeder (though obviously I am constantly hoping for one). Let's face it, Brewer's Blackbird is probably next.

I'll keep you posted on the avian events at Rancho del Bastardos as time goes on...after all, this is where I do most of my birding.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Human Birdwatcher Project Presents: Big Year Fatigue

This Buller's Shearwater was photographed in 2012, off Half Moon Bay, CA. We had a great many of them that day, which I don't think has happened in a few years here. My YOHOMBSLBFTINFOLF is currently without this species.

For some reason, rabid county listing in all 58 of California counties sounds inane and empty to me. No offense, just being honest. Why anyone would want to drive hours to chase a locally uncommon bird in Amador instead of putting that time and money towards a trip to a Nome or a Oaxaca or a Cuba or a Ecuador is beyond me. I do not care if you have seen Surf Scoter in 20 inland counties, especially if none of those birds were self-found.

I have never been one to really bash county listing or any other kind of listing though. As far as I know, no one appreciates day birds and trip birds more than me. I list the hell out of things, but year birds...I can really get behind year birds. Doesn't it seem like a good idea to try and see a species once a year? It is, I assure you. I love yearbirding, even though the last time I did any sort of big year was almost 20 years ago. I set the Ventura County big year record back when I was still a minor (which was subsequently demolished the next year), so I've got a little bit of history with this.

Yearbirding, of course, goes hand in hand with full-fledged big years, and in the U.S. you can't talk about big years without bringing up ABA big years. The Great Ornithologist Felonious Jive and I were talking about this very thing the other day, and Felonious had some interesting thoughts on the subject. I suggested that he put a post up, and this is what he had to say. Remember, if you finish this post fuming and butthurt, please direct all animosity toward Felonious. - Seagull Steve

With 2016 now well in the rearview, what has also passed in birding circles is the constant chatter of what the 4 ABA big year birders were doing last year. To cut to the is somehow a relief to not be hearing about so and so flying from Alaska to Florida and back to Alaska to get a few ticks, and to not read some sort of rubbish about it being some mystical, spiritual journey. I know that I'm not the only one who has lost my appetite for this sort of thing. I've never been one to get very excited about ABA big years, but they always seemed interesting to some degree. However, by the end of 2016, I was over it entirely. I had Big Year Fatigue.

In 2013 I found myself crushing this Black-capped Flycatcher in Costa Rica's Talamancas. I can rest assured that I will not see one of these for my YOHOMBSLBFTINFOLF that I'm doing this year.

I don't care what anyone's ABA list is, be it one put together in a year or within a lifetime. Those who have really high ABA lists generally have access to wealth, or are tour guides, or both. Sure, if you have 800+ species I am going to be envious of some of your experiences, but it's not like I equate one's list size with happiness. I could actually argue that the inverse of this is true...but that is for another time.

In 2016 I found myself going back to the same topics repeatedly whenever big years came up in conversation, and Seagull Steve thought it was time I shared them with a wider audience. I present them to you now, not as birding gospel but merely birding food for birding thought.

Conservation: Birding in all its forms is great, but conservation is more important. Without conservation, there is no birding, only evil and Rock Pigeons. Personally, if I was going to spend a whole year and a great deal of money birding and burning gas, I couldn't do it without some kind of conservation tie-in. Most big year birders don't do this, though I know at least one ABA yearbirder put his money where his mouth was last year. I respect that. In other cases, it seems like conservation was given lip service and nothing more. Conversation is great, but it's not the same thing as conservation.

Time: A Big Year on an ABA level, or in a big birdy state like California, requires you to be birding constantly. There are very few stretches that are not conducive to adding birds that you might not see again for the rest of the year. It's essentially a full-time job when you figure in the absurd amount of travel time it is necessary to put in, so you have to be in the envious position of being retired or unemployed, or have a job that will let you take a lot of leave for an entire year yet somehow pays well enough to finance this absurd pursuit. Most of us aren't lucky enough to have this kind of time, which is one reason why I find really ambitious big years somewhat difficult to relate to.

White-tailed Hawks were nice to see on the regular back in 2014. Though my YOHOMBSLBFTINFOLF features a modest number of hawks, this hawk is not included. Photographed in McCook, Hidalgo County, Texas.

$$$: Money is a huge factor in big years. It's a lot like politics...the more money you have to spend, the more likely it is you will have success. Think about it...for the typical ABA Big Year, you are taking dozens of flights, with destinations from Gambell to Miami, St. Johns to San Diego. The costs of flights, lodging, tours, gas, rentals must be astronomical. Even if you are doing a Big Year on a state level, you are putting a great number of miles on your car...the costs of constant frantic birding can add up in a big way, no matter what the scale. A large pool of disposal income, another thing most of us do not have access to, is highly conducive to the kind of success you can achieve, though obviously not everyone who does a big year drops in on a rarity with a golden parachute and silver spoon in hand.

Social constraints: Some birders exist in a sick relative to help, no significant other, no close friends nearby that would be missed. No children to raise, or they are already grown and out of the house. Some people never find themselves in a position to do a big year, even if they have the time and money. The big year birder is either very fortunate in this regard, or they have little regard for other people (a common trait in birders).

In 2015, I picked up this nice male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker early in the year. No such luck for my ongoing YOHOMBSLBFTINFOLF. Photographed at Casto Valley Regional Park, Castro Valley, CA.

Reputation: If you are going to do a serious big year, whether it be in a single county or for the entire planet, you want to have the respect of your peers. You are probably trying to set some kind of record, after all. If that is the case, you should be a good birder. I don't think that is a controversial thing to say, but there are not many people out there saying it in public...but hey, that's what BB&B is here for, right? Right. There are records and all involved here that a lot of folks actually take seriously and for this reason, stringers should not be doing big years. However, with the Dunning-Kruger effect in play, we can't exactly expect birders to be policing themselves in this matter. It is also preferable that when you are using tour guides (inevitable in a ABA big year) that you can actually identify the birds that the guides are showing you. Just because your guide saw that Willow Warbler well doesn't mean you can automatically count it. Well you totally can, but in case no one has told you yet, that is really lame.

Hype: We heard about 2016's ABA big year birders constantly from both interested folks and from some of the birders themselves, who varied in their self-promotional habits between seemingly doing none at all (a breath of fresh air) to constantly making themselves as visible as possible online. It's true that if you portray yourself as a big deal that some people will actually believe you...just look at Seagull Steve, the #7 birder in the United States. He would know.

As I said, big year birders are highly variable in the amount of attention they want to draw to would not be fair of me at all to try to make any sweeping generalizations about that. I mean, compare the press of Noah Strycker's world big year with Arjan Dwarshuis'. Do you even know who Arjan is? If not, that illustrates my point perfectly...he saw hundreds more species than Noah did in 2016, completely demolishing Noah's impressive record set the year before. Yet there was almost no buzz around what Arjan was doing, at least not in 'murica. So you can go about your business like Arjan did, or have people create buzz for you like Noah did, or you can really make it about yourself and pull some Swallowgate tactics. I think I prefer the under the radar style, but maybe relentless attempts for attention are more your thing.

The book: Many a big year birder has gone on to write a book. This is now about as predictable as Sanderlings flying north in spring and south in fall. While everyone always welcomes a Sanderling when it arrives, the same cannot be said about another big year book. It's a cliché, let's be honest. I'm not saying that all these books are terrible or even bad at all, but it seems like behind almost every big year is a book being written. How many more of these books, which by necessity have the exact same plot, will be written? Of course, many speaking engagements will be planned as well....there's no publicity for a birder like a big year.

I've seen a modest number of green birds, and Mexican Parrotlet is by far the most leaf-like. There are two of them in this photo, you know. I have not yet seen this species for the current YOHOMBSLBFTINFOLF. Photographed in 2016 at Lower Singayta, Nayarit, Mexico.

The big year modifier: Speaking of cliché a leading tastemaker in birding, I officially am announcing that the phrase "little big year" has been a tired and uninteresting cliché for a long time, a long time. Just like I put an end to the phrase "Birds have wings. They use them.", it is now time that we put little big years on the proverbial shelf for a couple decades so some of their freshness may be restored. Consider some alternatives, such as shitty big year, fake big year, regular year, modest big year, kinda large year, swollen but not uncomfortably so year, or call it what it usually is...YOHOMBSLBFTINFOLF (Year Of Hopefully Observing Many Bird Species Locally Because Frequent Travel Is Not Financially Or Logistically Feasible).

I do have one resoundingly positive thing to say about the 2016 ABA big years though - the big year deathmarch did have one unique aspect to it. It was not a well-kept secret that the big year birders were not one big happy family, which two of them acknowledged repeatedly on their respective blogs. BB&B, being who we are, fully endorses this. Fear and loathing? Allegations of stringing? Bitter birding rivalries? Where?! Point the way! While some leading birders attempt to portray birdwatchers as one big happy family, BB&B has no such illusions. That's why you are here now. So thanks, 2016 ABA yearbirders, for keeping it real.

Black-legged Kittiwake was a bird I didn't get to see last year, but luckily they were readily available to gobble up for this year's YOHOMBSLBFTINFOLF! Photographed earlier this year at the Pilarcitos Creek mouth, Half Moon Bay, CA.

No need to go on forever about this, I've said my piece. I'm not against big years, I just am not really excited about them anymore, at least on the scale of the ABA Area. Perhaps there are more interesting things to be excited about, no need to get offended. Maybe the fatigue will wear off. At least there is one thing about big years we can all agree on...despite the crazy-good cast, The Big Year was a major disappointment. It sure gave birding a lot of publicity though!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Emperor Does Not Share Your Optimistic Appraisal Of The Situation

Fuck, Vader sure had some good lines didn't he? That was from one of my favorites scenes in Return of the Jedi. I guess he can credit The Dark Side for imbuing him with a dry sense of humor, which he clearly lacked as Anakin Skywalker. Anakin was a tool.

Over the winter I read a listserv message about an Aleutian Cackling Goose being seen at a coastal golf course. This news, neither unusual nor unexpected, was not exactly on par with learning that Emperor Palpatine was going to come for a visit to potentially force-murder you for your underwhelming project management skills. In other words, I thought "cool story, bro" and moved on.

The next day a very apologetic birder wrote back to the list, saying what he had meant to say was that it was an EMPEROR GOOSE, and that he had a massive brain-shart due to sleep deprivation and wrote the wrong species in his email. Emperor Goose is an Aleutian goose, after all. As expected, the chase wagons were subsequently fired up and the bird was relocated immediately, and following this success the original observer was celebrated instead of crucified.

The Emperor's arrival coincided with the birth of my daughter, but eventually I was able to make it out to the coast to pay my respects. The bird was a lovely adult, no sign of any dark smudging on the immaculate white head. It wasn't in great light, but birders are not allowed to have any complaints when they see an Emperor Goose.

The Emperor kept the local nonnative Canadas for company, which were not impressed by their new, totally superior member of their flock. You can't really blame them...almost any bird looks like shit when it has to stand next to an Emperor Goose.

This was the southernmost Emperor I have ever seen, and the southernmost to show up in California in a long time...a long time. Talk about a quality year bird. Sharp Park, Pacifica, CA.

On the way back I made a detour to a place with nice lawns and a shitload of dead had been far too long since I had birded a cemetery. Who doesn't like birding cemeteries??? Anyways, a Vermilion Flycatcher was wintering there and it did not take long to find. While Vermilions are becoming increasingly common in southern California (a very good thing), they are still powerful rarities this far north. "Only Sleeping" indeed...Cypress Lawn Cemetery, Colma, CA.

Roosting American Avocet flocks have a mellowing effect on the soul when viewed at close range. Serenity now. Albany Mudflats, Albany, CA.

Regular Northern Pintail crushings are healthy, especially when you can catch the purple iridescence on their heads. We are balls deep in molting Mallard season now, but soon they'll be back, and in greater numbers. Albany Mudflats, Albany, CA.

California is blessed with huge numbers of Bushtits. They are practically everywhere. If you look at an ebird abundance/distribution map, the state is almost black with Bushtit. They make chickadees look like unadaptive niche-specialists in comparison. Luckily for birders, Bushtits are great. We may complain about Yellow-rumped Warblers, but no one talks shit on Bushtits. Albany Bulb, Albany, CA.

An interesting thing about Bushtits is their lack of repertoire that the human ear can pick out. It sounds as if they have a contact call and an alarm call, nothing more. They don't really have a typical song per se, but they are quite noisey birds.

Look at this diminutive little bastard. I have crushed Least Sandpipers a great many times, and I will continue to do so indefinitely. Maybe one day it will lead me to a Long-toed Stint, which I nominate for "most overlooked Sibe in the U.S.". The Lower 48 is long overdue for another LTST...will this be the year? Richmond Marina, Richmond, CA.

Greater Scaup coming in for a landing, with a bonus Red-throated Loon lurking in the background. Richmond Marina, Richmond, CA.

Such majesty, such scootsmanship, as some would say. Anthropomorphizing is a bitch, but it's hard to accept that waterfowl may not enjoy landing on water. They get to brake, skate and scoot to a stop. Then they shake their tails, and let out some kind of quack/honk/whistle, looking all cute and shit. Come on waterfowl, tone it down.

Perhaps this is where I should have said, "They'll soon be back, and in greater numbers." Eh? EH? GET IT????

Don't worry, I wasn't going to start this post with a crippling rarity then drive it into the ground with abundant brown birds, we can talk about this Peregrine Falcon instead. This very smart-looking bird was at the mouth of Pilarcitos Creek, in Half Moon Bay, CA.

I've seen a lot of Peregrines over the years. The only ones I've seen really closely were either really sick or were trying to behead me because I was too close to a nest. This one was neither. It was mellow. However, due to the location, I had to wonder if this was one of the Ross's Gull murderers. The scene of the crime was about 4 miles away, but this could have been a different bird.

The bird, quite unexpectedly, did not give a fuck about me. Decent photo ops suddenly turned into prolonged bursts of shutter fire when I realized it might be a great many years before a falcon was this nonchalant again. Eventually it began to crumble under the relentless torrent of crushes I unleashed upon it. It surrendered, signaled by flashing the underside of its foot and lowering its head weirdly. How often does one observe the underside of a Peregrine foot?

I'm not sure why the bird was so unwary that morning. It was bloody cold, but falcons are not reptiles. I did appreciate the killer looks though.

Awesome bird! I've never even had a kestrel be this confiding. Random aside: one of my first birding memories was walking out to the mouth of the Santa Clara River Estuary with my dad when I was a kid. It was winter, we didn't see shit except for a Sanderling, which was flushed by a Peregrine and chased with great persistence and glee. This was a very exciting event for adolescent Steve. Back and forth they went; it seemed like the falcon was just terrorizing the Sanderling for fun, as it was such a tiny prey item. Anyways, it was a facemelting experience for me, thought you should know.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Squid, Scum, Styrofoam, Scavengers

It's May. Not much birding lately...except from my exceptional yard. So far this month, I have the best yard list in the entire state, in eBird anyway. What else do you expect from #7? I'm not fucking around over here. Yardbirding has suddenly become very serious. But more on that to come...

Though I haven't been slaying lately, I did bird a great deal this winter and earlier this spring, so let's dip into that, starting with a Squid Crow. I've seen American Crows eat a great many different things, but this is the first one I've seen with a squid. The novelty is compelling; the ramifications are still being fully ascertained. San Leando Marina, San Leando, CA.

This first cycle Herring Gull was pleasantly typical. Novelty may be something worth seeing with Corvids, but not with large gulls. Revel in the simple gulls such as this that do not leave you wanting to reach for the bottle. San Leandro Marina, San Leandro, CA.

Soon, Thayer's (above) and Iceland Gulls may become much less of an identification headache. We are now in the calm before the shitstorm of butthurt that will come ashore when these birds are lumped. Get you shitjackets ready. San Leandro Marina, San Leandro, CA.

Anyone know who is putting field-readable bands on Western Gulls in the last few years? The banded birds from the Farallones typically just have an unnumbered color band as far as I know. San Leandro Marina, San Leandro, CA.

I'm sure something ended up scavenging this hapless scaup. Life is pain. Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA.

Is this what the future of birding looks like? Scum, styrofoam, and a mopey Mew Gull? Perhaps. Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA.

This Glaucous-winged Gull* has beady black eyes. Trippy. It looks possessed. Look away, nothing novel to see here. Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA.

*Not sure if Olympic Gull can be ruled out, but at the very least it presents as a GWGU.

Here is a more typical-looking Glaucous-wing. Not novel. That is fine. Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA.

We get a lot of birds that look like this in the bay in the winter. They aren't very big, and at first glance they look like a good candidate for a Herring or a pale-eyed Thayer's. In fact, with a second or third glance, they still like one of those two. Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA.

Take a look at the orbital's almost colorless. A grayish pink? It's not what you would expect on either a Herring or Thayer's. I reckon this is a Herring X Glaucous-winged that looks mostly like a Herring. Oh, and it did not show a Thayer's pattern on the underside of the primaries, if you are wondering.

Since we may be saying goodbye to Thayer's Gull, here is another one. So long, old friend. Pacifica Pier, Pacifica, CA.

Few species in the world have had poorer reproductive success than Heermann's Gulls in the last few years. HEEGs drew the short straw as far as fledging chicks goes...we in California can tell because juveniles have suddenly become rarities. Not mellow. Pacifica Pier, Pacifica, CA.

There are a few places around the bay area where Common Ravens are extremely tame. Though abundant and generally bad for nesting birds, they are pretty impressive up close. Look at that profile! Those cankles! Pacifica Pier, Pacifica, CA.