Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Rock Wren Is Not As Forgiving As I Am

We are absolutely buried in December now. You may be excited by Christmas Bird Counts (I know The Great Ornithologist Felonious Jive is), but I'm pretty focused on the new Star Wars. Anyways, nothing says "Happy Holidays!" like HERMIT THRUSH ACTION. This fog-bound bird was holding down the Fish Docks out at Point Reyes, where I managed to see a number of quite uncommon birds, but not many rare birds this fall. Railer. Oh well, I can always look back on the last Connecticut Warbler with fondness and be grateful that I wasn't there for The Murrelet Incident.

In northern California, White-throated Sparrows are near the bottom of the Eastern Vagrant Totem Pole...but if they are on the pole, it's a good bird! This confiding individual was recklessly hopping around on the path at the Fish Docks, in close proximity to the raging HERMIT THRUSH ACTION.

This is one of those birds that I've somehow not managed to photograph properly before...this bird on the path is on the right path to a proper photo, I reckon. It is a pleasureable sparrow to look at, methinks, good ol' Sam Peabody, you know what I'm saying? Perhaps the next field guide will have a section on pleasure sparrows.

Rock Wrens are always holding down the Outer Point, which is a very good thing. I consider them to be the most fearless might say that their overconfidence is their weakness, but your faith in your friends is yours.

See what I did there?

Here is the Rock Wren rendering itself into some sort of highly amicable modern art sculpture, apparently melding tail and wing into a protective wren-shell.

However, the wren-shell has a weakness. It's a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system. A precise hit will start a reaction which should destroy the...wren-shell.

How about there? Did you see what I did there?

Getting sick of fogbound, brown bird pictures? Fine, here is a fogbound haggard coyote. Be glad you are not that coyote.

Look at the bill length on this Tricolored might as well be a Tricolored Heron. Actually, I can't even tell which one of those species this bird is. Birding is hard. Photographed at Ardenwood Farm, Fremont.

I've mentioned it before, but since ya'll probably don't read every single BB&B post (how very sane of you), it bears discussing again...Tricolored Blackbirds don't really match field guides very well during the fall. With the buffy epaulet edging, this may look like a typical Red-winged Blackbird at first glance, but this is actually typical of Tricolored Blackbird in the fall (see the first TRBL photo as well). That buff color will fade to white over time, and that's when these birds look like they've been consulting field guides for how they appear.

Another thing to keep in mind is that "typical" Red-winged Blackbirds are not very common in the bay area, we mostly have Bicolored Blackbirds, which only have a red patch on the wing.

Speaking of patchness, I finally found a rare bird at my patch! This absurdly late Common Tern (seen November 8) was a surprise a few minutes from my house, and is likely the latest I've ever seen of its kind in the country. Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, Oakland, CA.

Not surprising at all was this Long-billed Curlew. Curlews are great birds...not in terms of rarity, just in general. I think it is important to have curlews lurking at one's patch, laying waste to what lies beneath the surface of the mud.

I don't like to do this...really, I don't. I'm not one to fetishize obviously escaped birds, but one will nonetheless be portrayed here...this is the first free-flying Mandarin Duck I've ever seen. Granted, it probably doesn't fly very much (it has been in Golden Gate Park for a very long time now), but it could leave if it wanted. It does a good impression of a female Wood Duck, with a different bill color of course.

This is a plover. A plover of snow. I hadn't been to Crissy Field (San Francisco) in years, so I did what I thought was best and lurked over there a few weeks ago. It was hell of peopley, shocker. Fortunately there were four Snowy Plovers in the designated Snowy Plover area. This one had more colorful legs than the others. Turns out I was the one who banded it.

Naw, just kidding, it was someone else. All the ones I've banded were down San Diego would be weird if one of them turned up this far north. Anyways, a small flock of Snowy Plovers is here at Crissy on the regular, though they don't breed. These pleasant beach loafers/sand nuggets can be found along Ocean Beach as well, which (surprise surprise) is also peopley.

Brown Pelicans are nice to look at. I have nothing more to say, except I have not seen the new Star Wars yet so for the love of all that is Holy and Right in the world, don't leave a spoiler in the comments. Photographed at Crissy Field.


  1. thanks for the great post. I have noticed that Rock Wrens are a good way to test the hearing of the person birding with you. You can ask: 'did you hear that Rock Wren?' when there is a Rock Wren, and you can ask 'did you hear that Rock Wren?' when there is not a Rock Wren. It is interesting yet useless at the same time, reminiscent to when mobsters say they can tell when someone is lying in movies. Even if they could really tell, it doesn't matter. But it makes for interesting conversation if there are no other birds to watch.

    1. Fascinating. I will commence pretending to hear Rock Wrens.