Thursday, July 20, 2017

March Mildness, Marin Wildflowers, The Pullout Method

And so we blog onward, in the heat of the desiccating and unrelenting San Jose sun, until BB&B is all caught up with current birding events. I'm not sure how long this will take, but I'm happy to put the work in. You know, BB&B will be ten (10) (!!!) years old next year, and it's never too early to start ramping up the blogging activity in anticipation of this epic milestone. We have a lot of special things in store for you next year, and as long as this microdosing thing keeps working, the inspiration to do even more will keep flowing!

A long time ago, in a harbor far, far away, a Greater Yellowlegs was molting in some crisp, clean alternate coverts. It was springtime in Alameda. Is there anywhere that matches the glamour and glory of an Alameda spring? Yes, a great many offense Alameda birders. Photographed in Ballena Bay, Alameda, CA.

This Long-billed Curlew would would soon be exchanging it's patch of mudflat for grassland. Like some other shorebirds, curlews may defend nonbreeding territories - this bird may have already returned to this patch of mud by now. Unlike my species, procrastinating and other forms of lollygagging have not been documented in curlews.

On another March morning, I birded China Camp State Park to see if I could get a couple Marin birds that had been holding out on me. This White-throated Sparrow was not a county bird, but was an unexpected surprise. Around here, March is not a month that bursts with the potential of coming across extremely uncommon birds, so this gave me a good birdbuzz.

It was a very cooperative bird, but spent most of its time feeding actively in the deep shade. Some genuine, potentially legendary crushes were missed, but I was happy to spend some quality time with it. Year bird!

A male Spotted Towhee took a break from wailing against the leaf litter to soak up some sun.

I did succeed in getting one county bird that morning...Black Rail. There was one calling from the saltmarsh pictured below...

...and several calling from this freshwater marsh, which really surprised me. Black Rails in the bay area generally are found in saltmarsh or wetlands with tidal influence, though they use freshwater habitats in many parts of the state. I suspect this marsh is totally dry during drought years, so the rails were probably chuffed to have this habitat available this spring.

Billy has used her powers to make me unwittingly pay more attention to plants than I used to, so I couldn't ignore some of the mellowing wildlowers in bloom, particularly the iris. Pretty sure this is Douglas iris (Iris douglasiana).

This could be the same species, I think they are pretty variable. That said, I have almost no idea what I'm talking about.

An even paler blossom. Is this a different species, or is this still douglasiana?

Death camas! Not only deadly, but replete with aesthetics.

Not sure what species this is, but owl's clover has always been one of my favorite wildflowers.

This was a wallflower we hadn't seen before. Headland wallflower (Erysimum concinnum)? This was in the coastal scrub of the headlands just south of Muir Beach, Marin County. Not sure if there are any other wallflowers with white blossoms growing in the area.

On another March morning, Matt Sabatine and I went out to Mines Road, south of Livermore, to see what we could find. Mines Road offers some of the best road birding in the bay area, and one of the only spots to easily find Yellow-billed Magpie in Alameda County. I got a number of Foxtrot Oscar Yankees and new Alameda birds that morning, including chaparral-loving Rufous-crowned Sparrows. But aside from finding a Golden Eagle nest, the other highlights all appeared at the same random pullout.

Immediately after getting out of the car, I thought I had found a Red-naped Sapsucker, though the bird was distant and I was unable to get photos. Aaron Maizlish eventually crushed the bird, which turned out to be an apparent Red-naped X Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, an extremely rare hybrid in the state. His photos can be seen here. I wish we could see the right side of the bird, but shit, I wish for a lot of things.

This bobcat was much more cooperative than the sapsucker. So far, no hybrid allegations have been brought forth, but I wouldn't put it past your average birder to do so. This hybridphilia has got to stop...but I digress. Bobcat is a great bird!

Bobs usually don't casually saunter across the road a stonechat's throw away while you are standing there fumbling with your camera. They are still fairly common in many parts of California, but my stoke for seeing them is genuine, prolonged and sustained.

You may be thinking to yourself, "Goddamn Steve, how much shit can you possibly see at a random pullout in fucking Alameda County?" Well, how about a blazing-hot county rarity, one that is not a stupid hybrid? This Townsend's Solitaire flew in from up-canyon, perched nearby for a few minutes, then continued on its way north, never to be seen again.

And it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the long, solitaire. I would have liked to have known you, but I was just a kid. Few birders have ever had the pleasure of seeing one in Alameda, a decidedly unpleasant county for solitaires to linger in.

Yes, that was from an Elton John song. I am unapologetic, but I should probably quote Minor Threat instead next time.

1 comment:

  1. Hybridphilia, so very very real. It even rears its head in regards to tiger beetles. Always nice to expand your awareness to plants too!