Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Regrets and Shorebirds Aside

This Yellow-headed Blackbird was the last interesting spring migrant I saw, back in early June. Despite the maelstrom raging around us, it begged me to crush it as it foraged passionately.

Wow. Just like that, we have plunged into rarity season. The Wood-Rail really opened the floodgates, didn't it? I have been without internet for quite a while now, and once I come back online rare shorebirds are being reported left and right. Being confined to an island that is not known for vagrant shorebirds, this shit is getting a little hard to handle...

But then I remember I just saw my state Red-necked Stint, and I can relax. While Lesser Sand-Plover is indeed a facemelting and anxiety-inducing rarity, I am happy to say that I saw one back in 1996...Greater Sand-Plover, on the other hand, is another story...a story of pain, failure, and regret.

Regrets and shorebirds aside, I am currently on my final tour of duty on Santa Cruz Island. The focal species of our studies are almost all done breeding, which makes field work go pretty quickly now that we are not checking on nests or chicks. Unfortunately, the internet gods who reign over the island have not been kind lately, so instead of enriching the Blogosphere, I've lately been going through back issues of National Geographic and spending way more time editing photos than usual. But I am sure to have pure, uncut internet access for the next few days, so I will try to do what I can while there is still time.

Here is a veritable smorgasbord of Santa Cruz Island scenes for your ocular consumption. See you soon!

I hope the bird made it off the island, rather than being eaten by a fox. It was pretty fearless, which may not been a good personality type with hungry foxes lurking everywhere.

The Peregrine Falcons no longer chide me (or try to kill me) when I get too close to their nest sites, although it's not rare to see an adult whiz by with a juvenile begging horribly close behind it.

The other day I looked up into the fog and saw 2 Peregrine Falcons (one of which was probably this bird) soaring with a kettle of 7 Red-tailed Hawks. That may not sound so strange to you, but on Santa Cruz Island in July, that was too many raptors for me to handle. I found myself kneeling in the grass, weeping into the dust. Strange sights call for strange reactions.

I have pelted my beloved and attractive readers with Island Fox photos lately, so you only get one today. This is outside the kitchen at Christy Ranch, where we are normally based.

For BB&B's very first Acorn Woodpecker photo, I thought I would make it particularly wholesome. If only the woodpeckers were storing acorns in the cross...the potential for bizarre metaphors would be endless.

Barn Swallows are one of the most abundant birds on the island. They have been raising chicks for months now. If a bird raises chicks over and over again for months, it would seem logical that they would become one of the most abundant birds, no? We all could learn a lesson from the Barn Swallow.

I take that back. I think Barn Swallows should go about creating more Barn Swallows as much as possible, but this is not a way of life I would recommend to any sane human lover of earth, life, liberty, etc. In the end, none of this has anything to do with Barn Swallows sunning themselves in ecstasy on a windowsill.

Christy Beach at sunset, with squid boats dotting the horizon. Not bad, not bad at all.

I think a lot can be learned from the social lives of Black Oystercatchers. They clearly do a lot of socializing, both in pairs and in strange group displays which remain unexplained. In this photo we see them behaving in a remarkably human way; completely ignoring each other, despite their obvious close proximity. They never did get a conversation going.

Heermann's Gulls are back in force, attempting to steal fish scraps out of the pouches of Brown Pelicans. A lot of them still have their dapper frosted heads, but they are going to start looking gray-headed and boring soon.

Fraser Point is on the west end of the island, where few lucky souls are privileged to travel. The next outcrop of land, to the left, is Santa Rosa Island. This is the view from one of my field sites (photo is blow-uppable, and taken with an iPhone).


  1. Hi, I just found your blog! It's sweet! (Haha, I'm from LA but that Lesser Sand-Plover showed up when I was busy at SD Comic Con. So close, and yet so far.=p)

    1. That hurts...a pleasurable plover so painfully close. Glad you found BB&B, come back soon!

  2. Yeah Yeah missing rare shorebirds...Arizona sympathizes with you.

    Super photos. We all look forward to whatever tour of duty is next for team zissou, err seagull.

    1. I think what Arizona lacks in shorebirds, it compensates with in Slate-throated Redstarts!

      Upcoming duties are various and largely unofficial...North Carolina bird blitz, California pelagic trips, and bay area birding though the fall.