Sunday, February 14, 2016

Owls of The Ground, Owls of The Pine, and Stroking of The Robin

A Belted Kingfisher hunts at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, Oakland, CA. This is a great birding place where I see the same common species over and over again, which is in high demand these days.

BB&B has been very focused on exotic birds so far this year. I know it. And I know what you really want to be seeing are incredibly common, run-of-the-mill birds that anyone can see without even trying! Am I right? Or amirite? That's what the birding (or perhaps the bird photographing public) seems to crave these days I think, so if that's what the public wants, that is indeed what they shall get! Also, my GLOBAL BIRDER RANKING SYSTEM rank in Mexico isn't anything worth bragging about (Felonious Jive, The Great Ornithologist, has a much better standing than I do), so while posting about Mexico has been fun, it's not a good platform for touting where the GBRS puts me. However, as you may recall, I can totally brag about my GBRS score for U.S. ranked birders.  That would be #7, in case you have forgotten...but how could you? Anyways, lets take a look at some abundant, widespread birds.

Here is a Snowy Egret! Oh, joyous day! How pretty!

My goodness! A fish is pursued!

Ok, I'm not knocking Snowy Egrets and Belted Kingfishers or beginning birders (well...I am a little bit), I just thought I would change things up. I've got a big backlog of pre-Mexico photos to deal with, you know? I wasn't seeing many rarities in late fall/early winter so this is what we are stuck with. And if you are not happy about that, how do you think I feel? For good or ill, any kind of wader is fun to photograph when it gets giddy about catching fish. I'm still waiting for my epic, point-blank Reddish Egret photo session, so until I get spoiled with that we will have Snowy Egrets...

...and Forster's Terns! This is the one and only tern we have an abundance in the bay area in winter. It's a sad state of affairs. We don't even have many tern species in the summer. I miss living in places where seeing Black Terns is a normal thing. Ballena Bay, Alameda, CA.

At high tide, this bird was roosting on a little floating piece of driftwood, and drift it did until it was crushed into oblivion.

Ok, I reckon you have had enough of all the robin-stroking. Here is a Ferruginous Hawk, a bird superior to most birds. Salt Springs Valley, CA.

Judging by the extensive amount of white on the underwing and underparts (including the shaggy legs), this is a young bird. According to Dipper Dan, famed Calaveras County birder, Salt Springs Valley is the best winter birding the county has to offer. I reckon he is probably correct on that account. While we dipped on Rough-legged Hawks (this hasn't been a good winter for them), there was an abundance of Ferruginous Hawks and Lewis's Woodpeckers, and Tricolored Blackbirds and Bald Eagles were refreshing birds as well.

Refreshing birds are nice and all, but certain species reside on a higher plain of perception and enjoyment. I have a special place in my cold, nerdy little heart for Burrowing Owls.

This is the other half of the pair, presumably the male based on the paler coloration (or colouration, if you are so inclined). Shortly after this, while I was attempting the most epic photo anyone has ever taken of a Lewis's Woodpecker, my SD card took a shit and it was hell trying to get the photos off of it...not that you care, but it was a relief to rescue some decent owl shots.

Sometimes I post things photos of things like Black Phoebes, which is not a momentous achievement but it seems to drive the easterners crazy. In that vein, I offer you this California Towhee. Back in December, I went on a ragey camping trip that happened to take place where a few birds live. This brown beauty belongs to a breathtakingly common species, and it also happens to be disgraced former Bird Policeman Adam Searcy's favorite bird...and lets face it, he needs some cheering up. Only a month ago, The Bird Police relegated the besmirched Mr. Searcy to a boring subcommittee and stripped him of his former power. Will he ever rise again, like the phoenix, to become a voting member? We may not know for years. In an apparent snub to Mr. Searcy, Officer John Garrett celebrated Mr. Searcy's demotion by finding a briefly-chaseable Kelp Gull. It rained on Officer Garrett that night...droplets of Glory soaked him for hours. Pinnacles National Park, CA.

While northern California has a deficit of winter terns, we at least have a couple species of quail. California Quail is a fine state bird I reckon, delicious both to the eyes and mouth. Such plumpness and fine patterning is a thing best beheld in person, and behold I did.

Fantastic patterning on these birds, though their roundness may be even more remarkable. And no, we did not see any California Condors.

After Pinnacles, it was out to Mercey Hot Springs in Fresno County. Everyone in the group was excited about soaking in the hot springs...which was fun and led to exacerbated inebriation, but I was looking forward to Long-eared Owls a lot more. I had heard this place was the best place in the state to see LEOWs, and I had also heard that birders can't just show up there anymore without paying (which I cannot confirm or deny to be true at the moment), but I didn't care since we were paying to camp. The owls were easy, really easy to see, thankfully, and my nonbirder roommate Arrison found them before I even arrived.

While I was there, all the day-roosting birds I saw were all in a single pine tree. They were used to people, so it was no problem walking under them and getting a good look. Now this is a bird I will never get tired of seeing.

Incredibly, there were TEN Long-eared Owls roosting in this tree! Here are five of them, looking like oversized pine cones. I never thought I would see a flock of them, but you know what? I have seen a flock of Long-eared Owls. Imagine that. Shortly after this photo was taken, I became completely incapacitated with a hangover. As Flycatcher Jen says, good times!

p.s. #7


  1. Jesus fucking christ. A flock of long-eared owls?? WTF. You know, sometimes I really doubt this whole #7 thing but fuck, you always set me straight.

    1. That what the sevens of the world are meant to do, thank you.