Monday, April 17, 2017

Las Gallinas - Zono Zone, Let The Kinglet In, The One You Least Suspect (LISP)

Sorry for the lack of output lately buddies. Unsurprisingly, it becomes harder to blog when you are hanging out with a baby all the time. I've gotten plenty of good birding in this winter/spring though, so I have no shortage of material to work with...shit, I even have flowers.  But before I could even blog it, the Quasi-Perpetual Weekend (QPW) has come grinding to a's back to work for me. I've been off since my daughter was born in January, so this is going to be weird.

One of the things I've been able to take advantage of during the QPW was my proximity to Marin. Among northern California birders, few counties hold the appeal that Marin does. While I've lived in a number of places in the bay over the last ten years, I've never managed to live in Marin, which is widely considered the best birding county. That said, my current home in Albany is just a quick 15 minute drive over the Richmond Bridge to the Promised Land. I've spent a great deal of time birding in Marin since last fall, which has paid no end of dividends in terms of rarities and quality outings.

The Las Gallinas Ponds is a default birding location on the Marin can rack up over 60 species pretty easily for much of the year, it has rarity potential, and a lot of the birds are highly crushable. Indeed, if you enjoy running into photogs who can't identify the birds they are shooting (who doesn't?!), then spend some time here!

Marsh Wrens are extremely common here (not unusual), but there are so many of them that you are bound to get good looks at a couple (unusual).

Common Gallinules are a highly local species in the bay area, and there is no better place to see them than at Las Gallinas. They are totally fearless here, even more so than the coots. Close observations of gallinules will lead you to conclude they are more interesting than coots in almost every possible way, except their feet are not as cool. Coot feet are hard to top. I'm not sure why gallinule feet are so simple in comparison, considering their niches and behavior overlap so much.

Did someone say "common"? Oh good, now I have a reason to post a White-crowned Sparrow. We have them year-round here, but they still are very much a scourge of winter.

Your friend and mine, the Great Egret.

This photo begs a question...without googling, does anyone know what bird species has the longest neck? Either in proportion to its body, or actual length? This seems like important trivia to know.

Don't worry locals, I managed to slip in one rarity in this post. After a substantial time spent dipping on this bird, eventually I connected with the Harris's Sparrow at Las Gallinas. Though not a MEGUH by any means, this is a solid rarity in California, and since I didn't see any last year it made for a fine yankee bravo, as well as a Marin County bird. Unfortunately it disappeared after about 30 seconds, and I was left wallowing around in more common birds...

Golden-crowned Sparrows are abundant and often very confiding...too bad most of them don't look very impressive until April or so. But what they lack in aesthetic appeal, they make up for in humble plumpness.

Wow, did I just throw up pics of three Zonotrichia? Perhaps it is time to brush up on these horsemen of the apocalypse.

Unlike Zono sparrows, Cooper's Hawk is not a bird I encounter up close very often. Practically everything at Las Gallinas is begging for merciless crushing.

I am not above posting the occasional House Finch photo...and by occasional, I mean this is the third one BB&B has ever posted since 2008. It was time. Come on, I know you are programmed to not even look at it, but it's a pretty bird, admit it. It looks good with that lichen...this is something you and I have to accept. Hey, if you are ever going to find that vagrant rosefinch, you're going to have to look closely at some House Finches.

Now that we got that out of the way, we can let this Ruby-crowned Kinglet into the empty cavities of our hearts. Don't be afraid...just let it in.

This is, without doubt, the best Ruby-crowned Kinglet photo I have ever taken. This is not a boast (that would be embarrassing), just simple fact. I dig how yellow the tail looks on this individual, that's not something I notice in the field very often.

Lincoln's Sparrows often fit the descriptions of murderers that you hear about on local news stations...they are quiet, nice, keep to themselves. Wouldn't harm a fly...or so you would think. No one would ever suspect them of breaking the law at all, let alone capable of killing nine people.

This is definitely a species pulling stakes right now; I've probably seen my last of the spring already. I've mentioned here before how they never sing at wintering/stopover sites in California. Do they just fail horribly the first few times they sing each year? They are probably spot-on, but I like the idea of them having to sing out the rust.

A few minutes away from Las Gallinas is the Marin Civic Center. There's a big, weird artificial pond there which attracts some gulls and ducks and has pulled in a couple interesting birds in the past. I recently discovered that it has tame Common Mergansers, which is heck of novel to me.

I've never seen them so close before. That is probably an odd notion to some of you, but now you know you can become #7 without ever getting close to Common Mergansers. As you definitely can tell, they were looking for delicious bread handouts (that's why they evolved serrated bills, obvi), but they are pretty striking birds regardless of the lowly intentions of these individuals.

Ok, I think I used up all my blog stamina. I've got to save energy for the next post, as that will deal with something I've been needing to tell you about for a long time....a long time.


  1. when do we get a gratuitous babe photo? or did I miss it?


  2. As a birder in the eastern United States who regularly encounters Common Mergansers I will say that they are never that tame. Fucking California and your damned duck ponds.

    Also, Lincoln's Sparrows wouldn't harm a fly. It's Swamp Sparrows you have to watch out for.

    1. There are not duck ponds in NY? Honest question.

      We do have a lot of spots for tame fowl of water here, it's pretty sick.

  3. COMEs' serrated bills make sense now. Covergent evolution with bread knives?

  4. Apropos of nothing except possible the word "kinglet", I saw this today and thought you should see it too. (Kinglets get mentioned in the "about this blog" part) :

    1. Good good good. I liked the shame-eating nuthatch.