Thursday, June 30, 2016

Business, Spring Gulling, and Dreams Really Do Come True

We are in the depths of summer now...there is no doubt about it. You know how I can tell? If I wake up late on a Saturday morning I don't have immediate FOMO, thinking there is some rare bird nearby that I should be looking at. It's a disappointment, and also a relief, but reminds me that I should just be out birding anyways.

I do have some more spring birding to catch up on, so let's get to it. After the Siberians packed up and left, it was out to the Hayward Regional Shoreline marshes to look for some migrant Black Terns and a vague runt Laughing Gull. The crippling Black Terns had packed up and left the night before, but the modest young Laughing Gull was easy enough to find, picking up and periodically flying above a Least Tern breeding colony. This is only the third I've seen in the state away from the Salton Sea, and is an exceedingly good bird in this half of California.

By this time, local breeders were already conducting their reproductive business, while other lingering migrants in the area still had thousands of miles to go before they were in the right business-conducting habitat. Black-necked Stilts had already made their cute fuzzy precious babies.

Black Oystercatchers poke around the rocks at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, in Oakland. They are my favorite resident shorebird. They put a lot more effort into chick-rearing than the other local shorebirds, actually delivering food to their chicks (plover and sandpiper chicks do their own foraging) and continuing to do so for months. Chicks that survive to fledging are thought to migrate with their parents.

That said, I have no idea if the birds present in the bay area through summer are year-round residents or disperse in fall, or both. Our winter climate is pretty tame compared to some of the places they winter, so it seems like there would be a lot of permanent territories here.

This is the view looking west at downtown San Francisco from Middle's not very far away. There are some Red Knots in that shorebird flock between the Canada Geese, which was a nice addition to my patch list.

In late May I went with Billy and several nerds to Point Reyes, with high hopes of eastern vagrants and low expectations to match. Low expectations won out, but it was still a nice day on the point. A couple Rhinoceros Auklets close to shore were a surprise, and hundreds of Pacific Loons migrating past Chimney Rock made for a mellow consolation. The resident Great Horned Owl pair at Mendoza Ranch successfully stopped traffic.

The Common Murre colony below the lighthouse was getting crowded. There is much business to do.

The secret-not-so-secret Western Screech-Owl in Lafayette was still holding it down in May. It's possible this bird did no business at all this year. Here it is dreaming about sitting in a tree cavity all day....luckily for the owl, its dream happens to be its reality.

Earlier in the spring, Billy and I checked out Briones Regional Park after a rain. Other than a Golden Eagle, the birding was pretty weak, so I had to find pleasure in the nonavian. California newts were on the move and provided the pleasure that I was seeking.

One patch along the trail was particularly rife with fungus. I don't know much about fungus, but my friend Christian does...check out his blog! Christian is not just another breed of nerd with a blog though, he just coauthored a pioneering mushroom identification guide that any west coast mycofiend would do well to own. Read all about that here.

I just don't know what to caption a fungal photo with. I know nothing about fungus. This kind likes logs and is pretty.

We better get another bird in here...I don't want ya'll to get intimidated by expertise in mycology. Aside from dipping repeatedly on the gannet at Half Moon Bay this year, I managed to gather up the Kelp Gull to join in my Half Moon Bay Dip Party. The only interesting bird I saw at the mouth of Pilarcitos Creek was this bird on the right. The contrast between the mantle of this bird and the surrounding California Gulls was even starker IRL than it is here. It was so freaking pale...but it was just a California Gull! Gulls continue to amaze and enrage me.

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