2010. After ditching a camera for a great many years, by December of 2010 I was back into photography again and always birded with a camera on hand. At the time, that put me in the minority of birders...the boom in bird photography since then wasn't something I expected. This male Allen's Hummingbird had taken up residence in the backyard of where I grew up, in Ventura, CA, and is still the best place I know of see Allen's at point-blank crushing range.
December...we're almost there. The year is almost over, and it's been a doozy. It all started being sick to death in Oakland and doing no partying whatsoever on New Year's Eve for the second year in a row (SHAME), dragging my sick ass to Lake Merritt on January 1 to get some year birds, then heading down to Mexico for a fucking ace birding trip that will go down in the history books. Now, on the other end of the year, I live in a different city, preparing myself to become a father next month...holy shit! Is this really happening? This was not another boring year, by any stretch of the imagination.
Before I grab fatherhood by the balls though, I have one last trip to get out of my system...tonight I will be on my way to a DADCHELOR PARTY birding trip to the one part of the country where I could get the most lifers, which just happens to be in...Puerto Rico! I've never been to any of the Caribbean islands before, so this is a whole new part of the world for me.
So nerds, unfortunately I will be busy birding so won't be posting for a couple weeks. To tide you over, I thought I would revisit some birds from previous Decembers that may have not gotten the attention they deserve recently. I will be back soon with many reviews of all the Puerto Rican strip clubs and quality of cocai...oops hahahaha by that I mean a crop of crushed lifers. Thanks Billy for letting me loose to look at a shitload of birds one more time before (human) nesting season arrives!
2011. By this time I had finally settled on a lens I was happy with (the underperforming Sigma I had purchased recently was stolen by a Mexican cartel, which turned out to be kind of a favor because I went out and got a better lens). Shooting birds like American Pipits was hella more fun than it used to be. Sacramento NWR, CA.
2012. By now I had quite a few ABA Area and Mexican birds under my belt so it was time to go to that special place where all birders must visit eventually, Costa Rica. This Gray-capped Flycatcher was one of many ridiculous lifers we got at Hotel Gavilan (near La Selva), where we stayed a few nights. I definitely recommend staying there...there is geri birding, after all.
Sarapiqui Eco-Observatory (not sure if the name has changed since then) has an awesome setup for geri birding and overall good birding on the property...I'm sure we would have seen more if it hadn't been raining almost the entire time. The $20 birding/crushing fee did seem ultimately worth it. This Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer was a clutch bird to see up close.
La Selva and birding with Haynor was fucking great. This low-flying King Vulture, a bird I'd always drooled over, was an immense lifer. I definitely want to go back and rebird the shit out of that place.
La Cinchona has some of the best geri birding I've ever experienced. Prong-billed Barbets await.
2013. I went back up to Humboldt County to see the Little Bunting (great success, very nice). Will Humboldt or Del Norte be home to another MEGUH this winter? Highly likely. But if that doesn't happen, just remember Bonaparte's Gulls are fucking cool. Photographed at Arcata Marsh.
2014. California is blessed with a pleasant number of Eurasian Wigeon during the winter months, and every now and then they turn up someplace where they are practically fearless. This drake was getting all pastoral at a small park in Thousand Oaks.
That winter Don Mastwell and I had a sector for the Salton Sea (south end) CBC. We totally failed in taking care of our main responsibility (getting Least Bittern), but at least there were hella Yuma Ridgway's Rails. Fortunately we bagged a Horned Grebe, the only one of the count.
Considering the ridiculous number of rarities that had been seen in the area over past winters, the Salton Sea vague runt situation at the time of the CBC was pretty dull. A Varied Thrush was a great county bird though, and as usual there were Vermilion Flycatchers around. Vermilion Flycatchers are synonymous with good birding if you ask me, and I am the Global Birder Ranking System's #7 U.S. birder, in case you didn't know...so take that to heart.
LeConte's Sparrow is a deeply underappreciated bird. This skulker is intricately patterned and make my eyes bulge painfully and my tongue engorge whenever I see one. Talk about an eye-feast. This easygoing bird wintered at Abbott's Lagoon in Marin County and didn't put much effort into staying hidden, thankfully.
California is arguably the best place in the world for sapsuckery; I haven't done it myself, but there are birders who have achieved the vaunted SAPSUCKER SLAM, getting all four species in the same day....the mind reels. This is the weirdest sapsucker I have ever seen, a reported Red-naped near Inverness Park in Marin County that ostensibly doesn't have any blatant hybrid traits (Red-breasted X Red-naped are regular in the state) but it bizarrely lacks any white behind the eye and has an unusually dark breast. Hypermelanistic?
2015. I pulled into Fields Landing, Humboldt County, during a rainstorm to find a flock of Red Knots feeding in a puddle next to the parking lot. The knots must have been starving because I parked next to them and crushed them with reckless abandon and total disregard to all the knot souls I was stealing. It was brilliant.
Thanks for jumping into the BB&B time machine today! If all goes well, soon there will be posts littered with Antillean Crested Hummingbirds and Red-legged Thrushes.