Within the last month, I have seen a paltry 9 warbler species here in the bay area...although this is very embarrassing, it's not completely my fault. Townsend's Warbler is one of the few species I am cursed to see regularly. It's worth mentioning that this was shot at 3200 ISO on my newish D7000, looks deec if you ask me. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA.
It's been a quick, strange fall this year. Life changes both inside and outside of the realms of birding...and the more I bird, the more grateful I am to have a life outside of the realm of birding. So many birders are not as lucky...but it is hard to weep for those who take something so humorous/fun/nerdy so deadly seriously. It has become vividly clear that a lot of birders seek a kind of birder antihero to illuminate a brighter path of birding for those still groping through the darkness...but who will it be? Of course, it is also pertinent to distinguish between the antibirder (antihero) and birding antichrist, of which there are already several.
So what's new? It is the weather. There is too much sun. Too much northwest winds. Where is our fall marine layer???? It has been a pathetic year for vagrant passerines in the bay area...I've seen a few fun migrants (Blackburnian Warbler, Prairie Warbler, American Redstart, Indigo Bunting), but it's been very slow in general. The birders offshore on Southeast Farallon Island, normally a vagrant magnet, have had one of the worst years on record in terms of finding rare birds out there. They weep daily, even though they get to see Northern Gannet and Blue-footed Boobies together all the time. The good word has it that they have resorted to trying to befriend a Sandhill Crane that has settled on the island, whom may or may not be lapping up their tears for sustenance.
Speaking of boobies, they are still happening. I have now seen them in both Marin and San Francisco Counties this fall, which I would really be excited about if I was a county lister (I'm usually not). Call me old-fashioned, but I just like looking at boobies, even if they are too far to crush. Their northward "push" seems to have stalled out, but they are still regularly being seen in the bay area.
Wilson's Storm-Petrels have been seen with regularity in storm-petrel flocks in Pioneer Canyon and Cordell Bank this year, but if you really want looks at them, go to the east coast. This ambitious bird grabbed a chunk of chum from off the stern of the Stormy Petrel II, off Hatteras, NC.
Laysan Albatross was a bird I really wanted to get on a Shearwater Journeys boat this year...as you can see, the bird gods answered my repeated blood sacrifices. This is a fresh juvenile...I've heard a number of birders suggest that the Laysans found off the coast of California are from the Mexican population, but I haven't seen any actual evidence of that. Photographed off Half Moon Bay, CA.
Unlike the relatively poor passerine scene, seabirding has been very good this fall for me. Two Cape Hatteras trips in August (seven lifers and an ABA bird) and leading on seven Shearwater Journeys boats (a state bird and great birds and whales in general) has been more than fruitful for me. Uncommon and rare shearwaters have been seen with regularity off the central coast this year (Great, Manx, Flesh-footed), and storm-petrels have put on an amazing show in a couple places. Too bad I wasn't able to get it on the Craveri's Murrelet and Least Storm-Petrel action off San Diego this fall, but even Number 7 can only be in one place at a time. The pelagic season will be winding down soon, so get on a boat when you can!
So many crucial birding spots are found on federal land...but they are no longer options, thanks to the profoundly ignorant/crazed/moronic Tea Party and their allies. So, we must find birds like this White-faced Ibis on state, municipal and private lands...it's an interesting challenge, to have a "handicapped" arsenal of hotspots to choose from, but not exactly fun in early October. Photographed on state property at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, Davis, CA.
The government shutdown is bad for everyone, and lets face it, birders have it the worst. How are we supposed to bird national wildlife refuges? National parks? I am supposed to be going to Yosemite National Park in a few days, and guess what? Not fucking happening...life is pain. Those Great Gray Owls will just have to wait, and my heart grows blacker every day. It is a known fact that if one goes too long without seeing a Great Gray Owl, their life becomes futile. In fact, that is why most human beings die.
The best place to consistently find Pacific Golden-Plover in the bay area is Schollenberger Park in Petaluma. If they are around, they are not difficult to distinguish from Black-bellied Plovers...I don't think I need to tell you which of the above birds is of the golden variety. Schollenberger is lit up brightly on the new eBird Hotspot Explorer, reflecting the good number of species recorded there over the years.
Have you peeped the eBird Hotspot Explorer yet? Give it a look. This long overdue new chapter of eBird lets one conveniently find and compare different hotspots...I think I will be putting it to use in the near future. This is an excellent tool for scouting out places to bird in an area you are unfamiliar with, and may assist researchers in examining sites with differing degrees of species diversity.
Pygmy Nuthatch is a bird. It is not a rare bird, but it is a good bird. In this area, an abundant bird. Despite a full day of local terrestrial birding with Nate from This Machine Watches Birds, I could not get him on any of these things. Blue-footed Booby? No problem. Vaux's Swift? Ok. Eurasian Wigeon? Sure. One of the most abundant birds in the area? No. Photographed someplace we did not bird...Sutro Heights Park, San Francisco, CA.
Lastly, it's been a great fall for migrant birders in the bay area, with lots of old and new friends being observed in the area (often on pelagic trips). I'm grateful to be located someplace that sees so many shining/disgusting examples of humanity drop by regularly, especially since I don't bird with anyone who lives here! So thanks to all of you who have stopped by for birding, raging, etc., and I look forward to crossing paths again soon....scumbag birders must stick together, or else our weird kind may be wiped out completely.