Western Sandpipers roost at high tide in the Arcata Bottoms, Arcata, CA. The habitat in the background is Lesser Frigatebird habitat, believe it or not. The Vague Runts that put down in Humboldt County never cease to amaze.
March is upon us, and in California that means two things: spring migrants, and no rare birds. It is bloody hard to find unusual birds this month, though lingering winter birds usually mean something good is around, somewhere. Perhaps it is a good month to go track down some scrub-jays...for that Island Scrub-Jay you still have not looked for, or for Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay, which some believe will be an imminent split. Tracking down a Bendire's Thrasher would not be a bad idea either...I've still only seen one ever, about 20 years ago...it's probably time to rethrash.
But I will not be doing any of those things...weird scrub jays and novel thrashers are far from me, and my wage slavery will keep me in the bay area for the time being. So without further delay, here is a classic/cliche I-went-birding-locally-and-this-is-what-I-saw post from a few spots over the winter.
Here it is, the most overrated bird. Note that I did not post this sighting on a listserv, unlike most people. I did not need to say "I saw a Pine Siskin too!" It is simply not necessary. It is a common bird that can be found in many different habitats, from sea level to the mountain tops. The appropriate way to report this species is something like "The redpoll was associating with a flock of Pine Siskins", right? Photographed in the Arcata Bottoms.
On a trip up to Humboldt County earlier in the winter, I was rained out when it came to birding. I accomplished much drinking, but birding was unproductive, with one exception. On the way home, I pulled into Fields Landing (which sometimes is ablaze with waterbirds), and was shocked to find a flock of Red Knots foraging in a puddle next to the parking lot. Knots are rarely seen in southern Humboldt Bay in winter, and getting within 20 feet of them anywhere in California is an impreesive feat. I just parked next to the knot puddle and crushed away as the rain came down.
Look at this dumpy goodness. What a lovable bird.
These birds belong to the roselaari subspecies, the only subspecies expected on the Pacific coast of North America. I'm glad they are not getting completely hammered (on a population scale) like rufa, but on that note there are less than 14,000 of them (and maybe less than 10,000). Be grateful for the knots you see in California and Mexico, because there are not many of them.
The knots were not expected at Fields Landing, but there is often a flock of turnstones checking out the wrack line next to the boat ramp.
Black Turnstones are the most abundant rockpiper in California, and generally the most confiding as well. They seem a bit more opportunistic in their foraging than other rockpipers, and were feeding side-by-side with the knots in this rain puddle.
I've hardly been to Lake Merritt at all this winter...lame. Canvasbacks like this one have not been getting much attention from me, though they are absolutely deserving of it.
This Great Egret looks like it had just killed the shit out of something. Berkeley Meadows, Berkeley, CA.
Barrow's Goldeneyes can often be found in the tidal channel south of Lake Merritt, where they are easy to see but often stay just outside true crushing distance. This is an absurdly difficult bird to get further south in the state, with the Colorado River being the only exception.
Lloyd Lake in Golden Gate Park (San Francisco) is one of the best places to get up close to Hooded Mergansers. These birds were so unapproachable where I grew up birding that I still feel compelled to stop and look at them whenever I'm birding in the park.
This thick-necked bastard looks like he is doing some courtship display.
With spring in the process of springing, I may have seen my last Hoodie until the fall. In the meantime, I will honor them by wearing lots of hoodies.