Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Rancho, Rarities, Radii and Rebo

Christ on a cross! Should I just quit while I'm ahead? Put BB&B to sleep forever? The 5MR post has quickly shot up to the third most popular post we've ever had...and in case you've forgotten, that is ten years of blogging, close to 1,000 posts! What have I been doing with my life?! The only more popular posts are LIFE IS PAIN (thanks to Reddit) and RISE OF THE STORM WIGEON (thanks to birders and hunters).

Well, I'm not sure how to follow that up, so I suppose I can just cover some recent birding, which I've practically stopped doing somehow...blogging about it, that is.

March vagues. Well, somehow suddenly spring is here. It's been a real slow winter for yours truly as far as vague runts go, but the previous winter featured a Ross's Gull, so I can live with that. While great for wildflowers and so-so for spring migrants, this month is a mediocre (and I'm being generous with that adjective) time in the state for seeing chronic rarities. There have been a handful of notable exceptions in the state recently though...but I'm sure as shit not going to chase the goddamn Gyrfalcon again, which was well photographed this month and is quite possibly still here. As usual, Humboldt/Del Norte sucked in another winter MEGA in the form of a Black-tailed Gull, which (this year) is too far for me to see. A more-or-less-confirmed Steller's Eider has been seen by several observers in Humboldt County, which would fulfill a prophecy made by a certain visionary birder back in November. I would be exceptionally gripped off if other birders were having much luck refinding it, but high surf, bad weather and a lack of an elevated viewpoint is preventing that from happening...but I could really use seeing a megaeider right about now.

Closer to home instead of Nome, I dipped on a Slaty-backed Gull over the weekend here in Santa Clara County, which is very typical for me and that species - in general, February and March seems like a great time to find them in the state though. It's only the second in the county, but with all the gulls that winter here and the relatively few observers around who could identify one, I suspect they are here with some regularity. The bizarre, long-staying Garganey may have finally left its duck pond (mostly a Mallard pond) down south, as it has not been seen for a week.

Inexplicably, this year has been heavy on Bald Eagles for me so far, despite putting in no effort to see them (very nice, I like) - I've seen three from my yard alone! This one was next to my house at the Los Capitancillos Ponds.

This Anna's Hummingbird had the brilliant idea of building a nest right next to my hummingbird about convenience! She was able to incubate eggs while protecting her feeders at the same time. I suspect the chicks got eaten though :/

Rancho de Bastardos. The yard birding is pleasant as usual, but it has been a long time since a new bird has been added to the yard list. The most recent highlight was a California Towhee with a white head that bounded through the yard. The yard list sits at 120 species (newest addition was Red-breasted Merganser in January), with 87 recorded so far this year...that is tied for #1 in all of California, by the way. With spring migration in effect, I'm hoping it won't be long before we get something new...Orange-crowned Warbler, Bullock's Oriole, Allen's or Rufous Hummingbird would be nice.

March is a good time for scouring your 5MR. This White-tailed Kite was along the Los Alamitos Creek Trail, a part of my radius that I plan on giving more attention to this year.

The 5MR. What's funny (in a sad way) is that I've seen and heard about a ton of other 5MRs in the last week or so as this thing has blown up, and it turns out mine is one of the worst of them all in terms of potential for species diversity and rarities. No matter, I will keep on toiling! Incredibly, my last new 5MR bird (Rufous Hummingbird) was also a county bird....fuck yeah.

Winter rarities. As I said earlier, I've given up on catching the blog up on all the birding I've done...but it's not like it's been a completely dull winter, despite the lack of lifers and state birds. Here's some of the rarities I've met up with from the past few months.

I was hoping that this Barrow's Goldeneye (surrounded by Commons) would return to Shoreline Lake this winter, and the dude obliged. Nice county bird, and typically a species I only see a handful of times each year anyways.

After seeing the goldeneye, I bumped into this "Common" Teal in Charleston Slough, which I had totally forgotten was present. Sweet. We Nearcticans think of them as just another subspecies (or two, can't forget nimia), but the IOC treats them as a separate species. Will the AOS ever be persuaded to embrace this vision of distinct tealness?

Vesper Sparrows are really hard to come by in the bay area; they just don't venture to the coast very often. This obliging and confiding stub-tailed bastard at La Honda Creek Open Space Preserve (San Mateo County) was the first I've seen locally.

I went to San Luis National Wildlife Refuge for the first time this winter; it was mellow, not as birdy as Merced, but this Swamp Sparrow at a random part of the auto tour route was a nice find. It is only the 8th eBirded record for Merced County, though I'm sure with the amount of good habitat out there they occur on the reg.

This Vermilion Flycatcher wintering in Coyote Valley is the first Santa Clara County record, and was a great way to kick off local birding in 2017. This species has become considerably more regular in much of the state since when I started birding in the mid-90's, even factoring in the increase in observers.

And just like that, winter is singing its swan song and spring will be in full effect before you can say "five mile radius". I look forward to the year birds....and county birds! I didn't get out a ton in Santa Clara last spring, for reasons too boring to state here, but this year is different.

Of course, spring birding is really going to be kicked up a notch when I get out to Texas to lead a trip for MAX REBO BIRDING TOURS (no one finds Ortolans like Ortolans!), where every day will cough up all manner of avian rewards. I will be gagging on neotropical migrants. It will be truly gluttonous birding, even with slow days at the migrant traps. And while I mention it, a space just opened up on the trip...don't miss this opportunity!

Contact MAX REBO BIRDING TOURS for details.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. (Oops, deleted my original comment in error!) Anywho, 1000 posts!? I have some catching up to do! Just found your blog a few months ago and followed it solely based on the awesome title, but am really enjoying the content, thanks!

    2. Glad you found us Louise...yeah we've been around a long time. We don't actually blog about bourbon very much (at all?), but nonetheless it is a necessary fuel around here.

  2. Congrats on 10 years!!
    To celebrate and honor our achievement, I spent a good chunk of recent plane flight reading 13 months or so of posts, roughly 10% of your blog, in a sitting.

    It felt good. Real good.
    Looking forward to hearing about the Texas Debauch.

    1. I am honored to learn that so much of it could be consumed at once. Glad to have you back in the Birdosphere!