Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Golden Birds, Blinging at Lake Merced, Unreadable Garbage

Yipes. It's the middle of October already. While San Diego has been seething with rarities the last few days and a mystery warbler on the Oxnard Plain has ground birding in Ventura County to a standstill, that means we've passed the peak of fall migration here in the bay area, at least in terms of Vague Runts. It went by fast. That said, the quality of rarities often overcomes quantity later in the fall, so anything can happen still...although I would be lying if I told you that the Galileo Hill Red-faced Warbler from last week didn't hurt me deeply. Luckily I have seen plenty of this crippling bird...just not in California. How much longer must I suffer without seeing this bird in my home state? Until that time arrives, I live in a state of purgatory.

Which you probably don't give a shit about. Right...I understand. Unless a birder is deeply competitive or otherwise grossly invested in Schadenfreude, they generally don't care about anyone else's lists. I know you don't care that I didn't see that Red-faced Warbler, but I just can't help myself. Bird bloggers talking about their lists is some of the most unreadable garbage imaginable. Anything more than a sentence about it is overkill. How do I know? Because I read it all the time, and I also write it. But can you blame us? When you write about birds all the time and you're always thinking about that next bird you want to see, it's a difficult thing to ignore. So I'll probably keep doing it, albeit not without guilt. And shame.

And with that, I have nothing thematic to offer today in terms of blog fodder, just some birds I've run into lately.

While I was lurking down in Monterey a couple weeks ago, a couple young Golden Eagles took me by surprise at Moonglow Dairy. They seemed to be working down the transmission line corridor west towards the coast, and both flew low over the car for some of my best looks at them ever. They were easily Bird Of The Day...or for you kids and social media fiends out there, #BOTD.

This individual was the older of the two, with limited white in the tail and no white in the underwing. You can also tell by the notch in the flight feathers of the left wing HAHA JUST KIDDING

Here is the second bird; hella white in the tail. It looks like a goddamn Zone-tailed Hawk. We are most fortunate that Golden Eagles develop their golden nape at a very young age...not that identifying them would be any harder, they just look better this way.

Hella white in the underwing as well. It might be some time before I get such crushy looks again, and it was nice to have a #BOTD for a change that is majestic instead of small and greenish-yellow.

Here is a golden bird of a different sort. This Prothonotary Warbler spent some time in San Francisco earlier this month. It made my face all weird and melty. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA.

In the sun, the bird glows like nobody's business. Total fucking crippler. I wish these birds showed up slightly more often in California, but you know what they is pain.

Here it is pretending to be a flower, or at least snuggling with one. Ain't that cute? It's also doing a convincing impression of a Yellow Warbler.

None of us were ready when the Prothonotary let out a mighty bellow and knocked us off our feet. I did manage to document the event, but at what cost? Fifteen (15) minutes of convulsions and trying not to choke on my tongue.  #BOTD.

Tennessee Warbler is just one of those birds that I have great difficulty seeing in California. There is no logical explanation for it. It is one of those "expected" rarities during the fall, but I just can't seem to connect with them. This one, in the same tree as the Prothonotary, is the first I've seen in the state in years. What gives? Birding works in mysterious ways. It is also hard.

What is there to say about a Tennessee Warbler that looks like this? It's caught somewhere in between a Philadelphia Vireo and a Blackpoll Warbler, and manages to be less appealing than either of those birds. But you know me, I've never been one to argue against the Economy of Style, especially if it's a plumage I don't get into imbibe on the regular.

Like the bellow of the Prothonotary, I was completely unprepared for this White-crowned Sparrow that was rocking jewelry. That's a USFWS band on the right leg, not a white color band. Anyone know where this bird came from? Is this a bird previously fondled by someone at Point Blue? Lake Merced, San Francisco, CA.

I was a bit more prepared for this banded Red-tailed Hawk; a lot of the Red-tails in the city have gotten bling. This Machine Nate, is this one of those Red-tails that are vastly superior to eastern birds? Photographed at Lake Merced.

I have waited my whole life to get a picture of a harrier that comes anywhere close to a crush. Harriers despise photography, which is unusual considering their abundance and conspicuous habits. I was stoked to see this young male hunting from my car on the oppo side of the road. Moss Landing, CA.

It's a slick bird, I reckon. Even if it wasn't #BOTD.


  1. The flower-cuddling prothonotary takes the cake, but that is one super slick harrier.

  2. Replies
    1. I'm trying to think of a color that accurately describes it's underparts, and I am failing.

  3. Ravaging raptor pics--true point that Harriers are big bitches when it comes to photography. I don't know how they all coordinate to be such grumps.

    PRWA is a pretty melty vagraant, like grilled cheese melty in all possible ways.

    1. It's one I hope for every vague runt season, but the vast majority of years I am disappointed. So crippling.