Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Monday, October 7, 2013

California: The Beginning

The old blog spot has been relatively quite for over a week now and it is all due to a week long vacation to California, specifically the Half Moon Bay area for 3 extensive days of birding with a group of about 50 others and then a few more days with relatives and friends and seeing some sites.  Now that I have returned and processed my photos (some good ones and some that are very bad), it is time to recount my adventures on my blog site.  I was able to add over 30 new species to my life list on this trip.  Unfortunately, not all of those sightings resulted in photos as many were difficult to capture for various reasons.  But not all were that bad as I also was able to capture some decent photos of new birds and some 'old' birds.

I arrived on a Friday afternoon and teamed up with Jim and Vince Austin-Cole and we managed to check out the beach area near our hotel for some quick birding before meeting many of the others.  It was pretty awesome to stand at the edge of the cliff and look down at the beach.  The wind was blowing in off the Pacific Ocean and the cliff created quite an updraft and many of the birds were riding the this updraft with gulls and pelicans flying just a few feet over our heads.  Some were so close that my lens could not focus in on them, but I did manage to capture one of the many Brown Pelicans.

Brown Pelican

And looking behind the pathway, a few Savannah Sparrows were making themselves visible even in the strong winds.

Savannah Sparrow

On Saturday the birding began in earnest.  I was with a group of about 30 birders that spent the day birding at spots along the coast.  One of our first stops was Pigeon Point Lighthouse and it did not take long before I got my first new life bird of the trip, the Tri-colored Blackbird.  A bird that is a bit similar to the Red-winged Blackbird, but having entirely different calls and they also show a buffy or white border on the red patch of the wing.

Tri-colored Blackbird

Several Brewer's Blackbirds were also mixed in and one of them gave me quite a stare down.  Maybe it thought it was auditioning for an Angry Birds photo.

Brewer's Blackbird

While we got to see many birds from this point, including one of the Blue-footed Boobies which have interrupted along on the California coast this season, many of the birds were very distant flying over and swimming in ocean.  Many of these distant birds became easier to see and photograph at other stops later on.  However, we did have one Harbor Seal make an appearance in the water by the rocky shoreline.

Harbor Seal

One of the birds that I had on my wish list from this trip was the Chestnut-backed Chickadee.  Little did I know how common this bird really is.  It was seen in many places, so it was an easy bird to add to my life list.  Getting good photos of one was another matter.  As with many small birds, they are very active and do not slow down, plus they spend a lot of their foraging in the deep shade.  Plus a group of 30 people tend to make it a bit harder to get photos.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Obviously we ventured a short distance from the beach to find this bird and near the entrance to the Pescadero Marsh habitat a Western Scrub-Jay came in and posed on a branch and spent some time preening.  This species is quite common in the right habitats in Arizona, so it was not a new bird for me.  However they can be a bit distant and hard to photograph.  

 Western Scrub-Jay

Western Scrub-Jay

One other stop we made was Pescadero Beach where some of the birds were quite accommodating and many photos were obtained.  That spot was where we enjoyed our lunch and that will be the focus of my next blog.

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