Sunday, October 25, 2015

Destiny Is A Little Green Goober


Back in the day, I used to blog hella, with multiple posts a week. I'm not doing that these days, and for that I am truly sorry. It's not you, it's me. Being a bird wizard, I know in my heart of hearts that I have a sacred duty to get the good word out there...and of this I feel like I am failing you.

But fear not...BB&B will not be abandoned by any means, and between Felonious Jive (the Great Ornithologist), myself, and our squadron of suffering and unpaid interns, we will continue to strive to take the Birdosphere by storm. We will do whatever it takes...except for post as much as we used to, apparently.

One of the reasons I haven't been posting as much is a very good reason...I've been birding hella, and we have a lot of catching up to do.

Fall Vague Runt season seemed to have a bit of a late start here in California. For a while I was afraid that we would have another fall of 2013, which sucked, generally speaking. But at the end of September things really turned around, and the massive staff of eager and oft-abused interns here at the BB&B campus were suddenly working overtime, keeping track of incoming rarities and trolling birders on the internet...which they do all year, frankly, but that is not the point.

I've only been out to Point Reyes once this fall...I'm not exactly sure why that is the case, and I'm kind of embarrassed about it...may have to rectify that soon. On this day at the end of September, this Tropical Kingbird at the Fish Docks was a pleasing Vague Runt and county bird. Tropical Kingbirds are a low-level rarity on the California coast, we get quite a few of them every fall, but it's one of only a handful of Central American species that come up this way with much abundance, if you can call it that. It would be fascinating to know where they are all coming from...Mexico, or points further south?

Speaking of county birds, this roadside Burrowing Owl was also a pleasant thing to gaze upon. There were two of them at this spot; this bird was acting very much like a migrant, using a culvert for cover and being extremely wary of all the raptors in the area (a wise thing to do if you are a Burrowing Owl in transit). The other owl seemed much more settled in, with just the top of its head sticking up from a nice burrow.

Burrowing Owls are all but extirpated as a breeder on the California coast away from south San Francisco Bay, but can still be found in low numbers as migrants and wintering birds.

The Burrowing Owl was not stoked when this Ferruginous Hawk flew directly overhead. I was quite chuffed, however.

There are many reasons to be content as a birder living in California; Ferruginous Hawks help provide this contentment for about 5-6 months every year. They are grand birds.

Spaletta Plateau is one of the legendary hotspots out on the outer point, though I've never seen a whole lot out there until this day. A short walk out from the road produced a big roosting flock of Black-bellied Plovers, with a number of Pacific Golden-Plovers sprinkled in. This is what looking at golden-plovers looks like.

I've said this before here many times, but the outer point is a magnet for Tricolored Blackbirds. Here is a female displaying all the typical field marks; long bill, dull "cold" coloration, mottled underparts.

No one should go to the outer point in fall and miss seeing Tricolored Blackbirds. They are everywhere out there, it's a unique and special situation.

Upon returning home from birding Marin County that day, where I actually dipped/missed a number of tasty birds, I found out that a Painted Bunting had been found in San Francisco. This is a bird I have longed to see in of those birds where if you tell someone else you haven't seen one in the state, they raise their eyebrows and say "really?".  Much like Scarlet Tanager, it has been a source of great shame and frustration for my family. So with low expectations and high hopes, I ventured forth to Golden Gate Park the next day to see if I would meet my destiny.

Behold my destiny.

This little green goober brought me much joy. Back in the day (in this case, the 90's), California's Bird Police were very skeptical of Painted Buntings, suspecting that many were just escaped cage birds. Adult males were beyond suspect, more like just plain guilty. A distinct pattern of occurrence has emerged since then, and the Bird Police don't even review them anymore, so birders can enjoy them here without suspicions or hangups.

Not great photos, but who cares? This is the first one I've seen west of the Rio Grande in Texas, and only my third state bird of 2015. It's so easy to fall in love with fall migration out here...anything can happen!


  1. I love all your posts... No matter the frequency! :)

  2. That last sentence makes me wonder if you actually wrote this post or if you had one of your interns do it for you.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. That was all me. Vague Runts make me sentimental.

  3. My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

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