Friday, October 25, 2013

October at Coyote Hills

Damn...I'm getting way behind here...many apologies and condolences. I know BB&B readers need TOTAL COVERAGE of what Felonious Jive and I get into...everything from eBird checklists to what Booby Brittany ate for breakfast to what I've dipped on (Yellow Rail) and scored on (Red-throated Pipits) some catch up is overdue.

There have been many complaints made over the years (and many butthurt defenses) of the tried-and-true "I went to ___ and saw _____" format of bird blogging, but I think its something that must be done today, due to the quality of the visit and number of crushings accomplished.

All photos in this post are from October 9 at Coyote Hills Regional Park in southern Alameda County, along the bay. It has a diverse mix of upland and wetland habitats, and turns up interesting birds in both fall and winter...the locals bird there regularly, and I think it's worth your time if you're just visiting.

Sage Thrasher is a rare bird around these parts, and my first of the year. With the relatively poor showing of vagrants in the bay area this fall, this was one of the "better" birds I've come by.

Of course, we must give respect to our ubiquitous thrasher, the Northern Mockingbird. I don't think I've ever posted one on BB&B before, so here you go.

John Hammond once said, "We've made living biological attractions so astounding that they'll capture the imagination of the entire planet ". Hammond was right, of course, which leads us to this astounding, block-headed, richly-colored Empidonax; a Hammond's Flycatcher, a bird that's hard to come by in fall on the coastal plain. Field guides tell you to expect a dark lower mandible on this species, but I've found that to be an inconsistent field mark.

It skillfully dismembered and consumed a yellowjacket right in front of me. Can you imagine being the size of that bird and getting stung in the face? It could be lethal...what a brave little flycatcher, truly the Velociraptor of its genus.

One of the highlights of the day was the fennel patches...they were swarming with migrants, including more gray-headed Orange-crowned Warblers than most people are comfortable just hearing about. The legions of orestera were practically begging to be crushed; I often stood a mere 15 feet away, firing off hundreds of rounds (er, frames) at incredible speed.

The California birder who goes out in fall without these birds on the radar is doomed from the start. Orestera Orange-crowned Warbler is one of the most frequently-misidentified migrants on the west coast; they are uncommon along the coast in the fall, and many noob birders are simply unaware that gray-headed Orange-crowned Warblers exist...and so birder magic frequently renders them into Nashville, MacGillivray's and even rarer warblers.

Here is a typical lutescens Orange-crowned Warbler for comparison; this is the standard flavor of OCWA in California.

This young Wilson's Warbler was also lens fodder. The avian fennel fruit was plentiful on this day.

Watching a flock of Bushtits at work is a lot like eating comfort food.

It's neither enthralling or exotic, but its a soothing and familiar experience...perhaps less salty though.

A greatly underappreciated field mark for young accipiters is the breast and belly pattern; while both young Sharp-shinned and Cooper's can have streaked underparts, only young (HY) Sharp-shinned Hawks like this one get heavy spotting.

It's always nice to crush the shade-addicts, the birds who seem reluctant to ever make direct contact with full sunlight when a camera is around. This is one of the better Hermit Thrush pictures I've gotten.

That's all from Coyote Hills. One last thing...the Great Ornithologist Felonious Jive recently made his monthly post at 10,000 Birds, this time on how the birdscape/birderscape has drastically changed over the last 15 years. Check it out.


  1. baby...I think everyone is still dying to know what I had for breakfast. Also, keep those warbler tips coming. They get me every time. ;)

  2. Disgusting crushings. Especially the Hammond's. Class shit.

    1. Thanks dude. I still feel guilty, stealing so many bird souls that day.