Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Apalling Postage Rates...A Detour For Cripple...Confronting and Lurking

That's it. Fall is over. Birds like Prothonotary Warblers are a thing of the past. High vagrant season is dead in much of the country. How was it for you? It was mighty fine for myself, thanks for asking. Sure I couldn't chase the Groove-billed Ani, and no I didn't skip work for the White Wagtail, and yes I hate the Northern Gannet...but at least there wasn't an Olive-backed Pipit taunting me down in Irvine. Lifers were had, a state bird was enjoyed, and rare birds found themselves in my binoculars on the regular.

That all said, I find my frequency/infrequency of blog posts appalling. What I've been doing...it's just not enough. This 40 hour workweek stuff...it's horseshit. Talk about a blogging obstacle. The Perpetual Weekend certainly seems like a thing of the past now...can you believe people actually like doing this prolonged and sustained wage slavery? Sure it can be great if you can get outside enough, but that is not what I'm doing. Anyways, I feel guilty about the blogging apathy so I had to get that out. I guess I just have to relax and think about Prothonotary Warblers.

Prothonotary Warbler is a nice thing to think about, but an even better thing to be looking at. This was an excellent bonus bird. I woke up in Oakland one morning, took BART to San Francisco, looked at a Mourning Warbler, took BART back to Oakland, then drove down to Santa Barbara for the night. This crippler was just a few miles off the freeway in Goleta, and cripple it did. Detours are best when your face is left melted off.

Look. It's devouring something.

One thing that SoCal has that the bay area seems to be lacking in is lerps. Lerps are psyllids that live off Eucalyptus, which is fine because Eucs are not native and lerps attract rare birds. The psyllid nymps excrete this crud that ends up making a white, sugary capsule on a leaf, and insectivores are all about it. Maybe the weather is not lerpy enough up here, or perhaps it's just a matter of time before they arrive in force.

Gulf fritillary is an attractive (bordering facemelting, actually), common butterfly in SoCal; it is one of the first butterflies I learned to identify as a kid. Cool story, I know. Ventura, CA.

Cooper's Hawk is a common bird, but they are much appreciated when they abide. You already know this, of course. Ormond Beach, Oxnard, CA.

Here is a dead Lincoln's Sparrow. The yellow thing on its head is a yellowjacket, which is contentedly eating the sparrows face. The sparrow was out in the middle of a dry pond and looked like it was in good condition aside from the missing head flesh. What is most notable about the mysterious corpse-sparrow is that, about an hour and a half after taking this photo, I SAW A FUCKING DUSKY WARBLER. A Dusky Warbler! So rare! So Siberian! A life bird! I predictably got poor looks, but at least I saw its rare face and got to hear its Vague Runt voice over and over again. There had not been a chaseable one in the state for a number of years, so this was an immensely appreciated new bird for me...a true birder's bird. Redwood Creek, Marin County, CA.

Black-bellied Plover is a not a birder's bird, as they are loud, relatively large, and extremely common. The question is, how come I can never crush them like this when they are in alternate plumage? Do they just know to be more coy when they ditch their dingy winter suit? That's what it seems like. Arrowhead Marsh, Oakland, CA.

This Grasshopper Sparrow surprised me when it hopped up on the paved sidewalk. Hanging out a stone's throw away from San Francisco Bay is not appropriate for a Grasshopper Sparrow, but this was a very inappropriate bird. Photographed at Arrowhead Marsh.

I hella like Grasshopper Sparrows and other grassland birds in general, especially after my time in North Dakota. They really know how to work the Economy of Style visually, if not vocally (see meadowlarks, Sprague's Pipit, Upland Sandpiper, etc.).

As most birders in this half of the state know by now, Arrowhead Marsh is the place to go to see Ridgway's Rail. It's just so...easy. They saturate the place. All the loud, grunting in unison...it's just punishing.

Ridgway's Rails may like to hang in the cover of thick saltmarsh, but when they come out (which they inevitably do) they can be pretty accommodating. Being confronted with Ridway's Rails is a pleasurable experience, considering how endangered this subspecies is and the small range they occupy, which is essentially San Francisco Bay.



  1. The yellowjacket eating the face of the Lincoln's Sparrow is freakish, Steve. As far as vagrants, we have a beauty down here in southeast Florida at the moment . . . Western Spindalis (male Black-backed). If you happen to be feeling a bit under the weather, I would advise you to come and get it! I found the bountiful Spot-breasted Orioles chillin' with the spindalis at minimum focus distance, and at eye level even more rewarding.

    1. Hi Bob, I was actually looking at your post about it yesterday. That's a bird I would like to see for sure...hopefully there will be one around next time I get out your way.

  2. Damn, gulf fritillaries are far prettier when closed up then open. I had no idea.