Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Weird Time Of Year


Golden-crowned Sparrows are often found in blooming willows and fruit trees this time of year, bucolically devouring flower petals. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

Late February. It's a weird time of year. Some people hate February. Winter has been around for a while now, and people in colder climates are starting to get sick of it. The sharp and jagged pains from a million Valentine's Day disasters are felt from coast to coast. Birders have been staring at the same birds for months, and desperately look forward to spring migration. A kind of catatonic depression begins to sink in...long, loving relationships fracture and explode into flames...The Fear sets in, fingernails are chewed off...who are these bastards watching me from the shadows anyway?...and we ask ourselves how much more we can really take...

Well, I'm sure that's the case for some people anyways. Personally, February has always been a month of transition for me, as every year I typically cease my Perpetual Weekend and go back to being a field biologist. At this time last year I was taking up residence west of Veracruz, Mexico, standing on a roof all day looking for raptors and being force-fed caguamas at night (in this case caguamas are 40 oz beers, not tortoises)...but at this point, I've managed to completely fail at lining anything up. Life is pain, as they say, but my luck is bound to change.

Yup...February. Today's blog is a quick snapshot of birding around the bay area this time of year. And before I dive in too deep in to the philosophical bowels of the month, I must assist The Great Ornithologist Felonious Jive in finishing his next 10,000 Birds post, before it is too late. See you soon, bird geeks.


Next month most Western Grebes that intend on breeding this year will begin retreating from the coast to inland lakes. Once there, they will commence spectacular courtship dances and making grotesquely adorable babies. Lake Merritt, Oakland.


Clark's Grebes will do pretty much the same thing as Westerns...they used to be the same species, ya know. Lake Merritt, Oakland.


Hooded Mergansers will be departing in a few weeks. It is a great shame. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.



Black Phoebes and other "resident" passerines often begin nesting earlier than the migrants. By the way, this is my best Black Phoebe shot to date...Californians may feel insulted to have to look at another phoebe, but maybe the rest of you will appreciate it. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.


Varied Thrushes are uncommon winter visitors to much of the bay area. They won't be around much longer, as the urge to retreat to the redwoods grows stronger every day. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.


Raptors, like Peregrine Falcons, often get started breeding during the winter months. This one won't be bumping cloacas quite yet though, it's too young. Point Reyes.


Seawatching birders will be detecting northbound migrants soon, if they haven't started already. Pacific Loons are one of the commonest spring migrants along the California coastline. Half Moon Bay.


A few miles offshore, Cassin's Auklets occupy California waters year round. Much like me, they are probably growing tired of just hanging around for the past several months and doing nothing but socializing and eating...it's time to breed! Well, I don't actually intend on doing that, but you know what I mean. Half Moon Bay.


February is a great time of year to look for weird gulls....herring runs can trigger thousands of gulls to accumulate along stretches of coast for days at a time. I thought this beefy beast was well-proportioned for a darker Herring X Glaucous Gull (aka Nelson's Gull), although it could be a Glaucous-winged X Herring. Fort Baker, Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

11 comments:

  1. Beautiful images. It's remarkable that this is the stuff you pull out of February's bowel. I can't wait to see the prime rib!

    That Hoody is top drawer, but the Varied Thrush wins it today. It's like Bluebird meets Robin meets Meadowlark. Spectacular.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're a great writer Seagull. Have you ever thought about strong-arming your way into publishing with birding mags and the like, at least in the off months? You could even use a bird pseudonym with "Herringway (for Herring gull) or T.S. Gulliot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Varied Thrushes are great birds....now only if I can get a photo on par with how good they look! They really have a thing for the shade.

      Thanks for the writing props...I actually wrote something for Winging It over the winter, but as far as I know it hasn't been used yet.

      Delete
  3. All beautiful shots! Our mergansers will be leaving soon as well. I'm going to miss them. And I love the phoebe shot. We only see eatern ones here and that's rare.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Dina...well the bright side for us is if the mergansers were around all the time, we probably wouldnt think as much of them.

      Delete
  4. the Thrush is beautiful! I haven't seen one of those~

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They really are...come to the redwoods, and you will meet the Varied Thrush.

      Delete
  5. Face melting bird shots as usual. And well said, I think February sucks. Good thing it's the shortest month...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What I didn't mention was that I feel even worse about March...ick.

      Delete
  6. I kind of like February. Anticipation and all that. I saw a yellowlegs today and it got me all pumped for spring. The phoebe shot is pretty damned good- sweet background, weird pose... ya nailed it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah. I actually can't complain that much...I even got a lifer this month (Iceland Gull). March is far worse.

      Delete