Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sweet, Delicious, Nectar-filled Migrants

Ah, sweet, sweet Galileo Hill. The place was oozing with migrants when we were there. Aside from Pacific-slope Flycatchers (which were oddly abundant for so late into spring), the most common empid was Dusky Flycatcher. Here is one doing it's best impression of a Hammond's Flycatcher, trying to make it's primaries look hella long and showing off its black lower mandible.

But another angle shows us the slightly longer bill we are accustomed to in Dusky Flycatcher, and suddenly the primaries look a bit shorter.

This is a better angle to judge primary extenstion from (different bird though). These things were everywhere, even foraging from the ground!

Black-headed Grosbeak was another common migrant that day. Small flocks of them were foraging on the ground like goddamn sparrows...only the magic of the desert could render such a thing possible. Believe it or not, this is the species' first appearance on BB&B.

One of two Rufous Hummingbirds we had that day. This bird fiercely defended a large creosote bush for a long time, despite many other flowering creosotes in the area. Despite the oasis that is Galileo Hill (many migrants must think it's a mirage at first), the birds will not hesitate to leave their green goodness and hop right back into the creosote.

Birds love creosote so much, they will surf it.

A blazing sunbow appeared over Galileo Hill for several minutes, beckoning birds. No big deal, just another day birding Kern County.

White-throated Swifts, as you can probably guess, are not built to be photographed...they are built to be blurry and undocumented. This is my best grab yet...alas, there is still work to do. They are very classy birds though...if you have not yet seen one, I can put your fears to rest and assure you that you are missing out.

Nomnomnomnom...nomnom. Chipping Sparrow. When I come off island next week, can you guess where I'm going to go birding?

After Officer Searcy and I finished with Galileo, we lurked over to California City, which was also pretty birdy but failed to produce anything more bizarre than a Bank Swallow, late Bufflehead, and resident Snow Goose and Cackling Goose. The Piute Ponds and Dipper Dan were next on the agenda, where these White-faced Ibis showed off their white faces.

Spotted Sandpipers don't get much attention (except when getting misidentified for Wandering Tattlers in winter), but I reckon they are a charismatic bird. A good bird. I don't get too see them all spotted up very often.

I can't really claim this is a "crush", but I feel like I at least put a dent in this sandpiper. I really dig the underwing pattern of this bird, this is not something I've really registered seeing before. I wonder if there's any difference with Common Sandpiper? Who knows how many of those things have gone undetected on the west coast...

By now you have wondered how we could go do a full day of birding in May and not find a Vague Runt. Well, we didn't manage to photograph one (fail), but I managed to capture the soul of this bird, a real Vague Runt!  Stilt Sandpiper (here with Black-necked Stilt, for pointless comparison) is a rare bird in California (aside from one infamous, stinky locale), and even rarer in spring. EBird only lists one other spring record for Stilt Sandpiper in LA County, although I don't doubt there are more.


  1. Pointless comparison shot...nice. Definitely some good dents in the Spotted Sandpiper. The only thing between you and a full on crush is that damn grass.

  2. Great post and personally I adore those Spotted Sandpipers for all the butt-bobbing they do, they just can't seem to stop doing that! Love the images Steve!