Sunday, March 17, 2013

Staging For Migration: Major BB&B and Bird News

Despite the number of people who proudly proclaim to their children that this is a swan, we know it as an American White Pelican. This wild bird has taken up residence at Lake Merritt, competing with the injured "Hank" for handouts.

Well birders, there is good and bad news here at BB&B. The bad news: PERPETUALWEEKENDY2K12-13 is about to come to an end. As you may know, next week I migrate back from the bay area south for the spring and summer, where I will be splitting time between Ventura and Santa Barbara counties for the field season. That means less freedom, being separated from Booby Brittany, missing some good shows, being in Bro Country again, hanging out with Adam Searcy, yadda yadda yadda...

The good news? I will be working on Santa Cruz Island, which will be my third island job, in a third part of the Pacific. I will be earning money again to fund future birding trips (which I can't help but start plotting now...I have THE URGE), will be only a couple hours from good mountain and desert birding, get a lot of boat time as part of my job commute, and finally am joining forces with the bird research cabal of PRBO.

But you know all this already. What you care about reader, is that my ranch on the island has some high-quality, fresh internet! How sick is that? This is a luxury that no one had anticipated. So instead of an arid spring and summer where your mind lays dormant due to a lack of BB&B posts, I will be able to feed you content constantly. Of course, it may just consist of an endless stream of Island Foxes and Island Scrub-Jays most of the time, but that is better than nothing.

I like the dual tufts going on at the back of his head. It's too bad it's so bloody hard to get a good background with this bird in the frame, as I haven't been anywhere else where you can get this close to a wild white pelican.

Locals may recognize this bird as Hank. Hank is actually a female it seems, as the wild pelican above is considerably larger than Hank and there is a difference in size between genders. Her left wing is permanently fucked up from colliding with powerlines many years ago; she was brought to the Lake Merritt nature center to live out her days in peace and delicious hand-fed tilapia. More on Hank here.

Right. This all goes into motion next week. Once again, the weird turns pro...

In other bird and birding news:

Anacapa Island, Santa Cruz Island's close neighbor, has been proclaimed officially rat-free after an extensive and apparently wildly successful extermination program. Seabirds like Scripps's Murrelet are subsequently flourishing.

The American Bird Conservancy has produced a 30 minute film on the ongoing extinction crisis of Hawaiian birds. Lots of good info and bird footage on the bird extinction capital of the world, which sadly sits in our very own United States.

The Nature Conservancy has been hard at work on restoring short-grass prairie in Chihuahua, Mexico. Not only will this benefit dozens of vulnerable bird species, but they have even reintroduced bison as well.

I've posted this bird already, but it's still bird of the month. One must be very lucky to be able to get this close to a Lesser Black-backed Gull in California. San Leandro Marina, San Leandro, CA.

Maybe I'll take another look for it before I head south. It might be completely white-headed by now, which would be cool to see.

USFWS has announced an increase in the wild Whooping Crane flock in Texas, which is nice considering that a Texan water agency was found legally accountable for the deaths of 23 Whooping Cranes in the winter of 2008-2009.

EBird wants you to help in the search for Rusty Blackbirds this spring (that's right now, easterners), and enter data that will help inform next year's Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz. I would be inclined to participate, but alas I live in California and have seen all of one Rusty Blackbird. Ever. Life is pain.

On a lighter note, check out VermPhoto, a new blog by a great bird photographer who actually has a good sense of humor. Beware of tits!

This is my best yard bird so far in Daly City, an intergrade Red-shafted X Yellow-shafted Flicker. I don't get to see these intergrades very often. Note the dull pinkish chevron on the bird's nape.

This is probably the best flicker photo I've ever taken, despite the urban perch and background. Not bad for being taken through a window eh?

A nice rainbow of yellows, pinks and oranges confirms this bird's mixed ancestry. Hybrid Theory is not at play here.

Clapper Rail! The lighting is bullshit, but the bird is not. Arrowhead Marsh, Oakland, CA.

My, what big feet you have Clapper Rail. My, what a nice metal band you have as well. This is the "California" Clapper Rail, Rallus longirostris obsoletes, a subspecies endemic to the bay area. I believe I've actually seen all 5 Clapper Rail subspecies that occur in the U.S....pretty sweet.

You probably recognize the Rock Pigeon, but who is the owner of those devious claws? They look weathered and gnarled by evil....anger, hate, aggression...and if there is a Rock Pigeon lurking nearby, there is no doubt that dark forces are at work. Could they belong to this guy?

Nope, just another majestic Great Egret. If you ever want to get someone into birding, Lake Merritt is as good of a place to start as any. You can see species up close there that simply don't tolerate people most everywhere else.


  1. Ah, Bro Country for Old Men...hang in their Seagull. If Emperor Penguins can do endure, so can you (to be fair, maybe the reason they live so far away is because Bros typically avoid cold places like the Antarctic).

    That Gull taunts me, but I'm looking forward to your islands updates and photos.

    Welcome to the workforce, slave.

  2. I think that Clapper Rail has a radio antenna sticking out its back, too.

  3. As much as I feel your pain of having to work, I do look forward to the island birds... Like Anus laurencio said: welcome!

    1. Thanks. I'm looking forward to the commute...for there will be seabirds.

  4. Most excellent bird-watching adventures await. Maxwell will be most jealous.

    1. I would like to get a Ventura county bird this year. I haven't done that in many years...Least Bitterns are in my future.

  5. Good Lord, internet on SC Island? Wow. I have friends (park rangers) who, years ago, would stay in the NPS-provided housing: metal storage boxes the military left out (on one of the Channel Islands), rife with mouse poop, and water-, temperature-control-, electricity-, air-circulation-, and window-free as they were. Good times! Glad things are more habitable.

    Sounds awesome, PSYCHED to see you photos and hear your tales, and congrats on the bio-glamor gig!

    And thanks for the FABULOUS news re: Anacapa Island. Those rats seem invincible, and it's great to know that with smarts and persistence and some amount of political support, you CAN win SOME big bio-battles.

    1. I think TNC just did a lot of work on the ranch we will mostly be at. Should be pretty nice for island housing.

      Public opinion is not on the side of if only people would feel that way about cats...

  6. P.S. ANY shot of a clapper rail is golden. For me, just SEEING one is a gigantic treat.

  7. Santa Cruz Island...! I'm so sick with envy I could die, a pain alleviated only by the knowledge that you will be posting pictures... lots and lots and lots of pictures... Congrats on the great job! [island ranch... internet... OMG...]