Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Another Lifer!

After having just nabbed the luckiest moment in my birding life (being in the right place at the right time for the one day wonder Taiga Flycatcher) another life bird popped up in the Bay Area. So I sprinted down to the Pescadero Creek mouth in San Mateo County to give a go at the reported Yellow-billed Loon. As I walked across the bridge to join a couple birders on the other side I saw a large loon in the area upstream near the bend where Joe Morlan reported seeing it the day before. I was able to make out the pale bill (especially the mostly pale culmen) and scalloped back that clinches the identification and separates this bird from the similar Common Loon. After a short hike along the creek I was able to get within 30 feet of the bird as it seemed quite oblivious to me as it continued to dine on crabs in the shallows. This afforded ample opportunity to photograph the loon (unfortunately it was backlit/sidelit the entire time).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Searching for a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

I was able to stop and look for the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper for about an hour on the way home with no luck. There were a handfull of other birders there looking, too. It was quite windy and the light wasn't optimal but I was able to pull out 7 Pacific Golden Plovers from the 100, or so, Black-bellied Plovers. I was able to point out structural differences and plumage characteristics between the two species to a couple people. I always enjoy helping people see something new...whether it is a new species or a new way of looking at something familiar...I know how much I like when someone helps me see something new and it feels good completing that circle. I tried to digiscope with my LG VX9800 camera phone. It has a fairly good camera and gets decent results. Even though the golden plovers were at quite a distance and field marks are hard to detemine, you can see the size difference easily between the black-bellies and the goldens. The 3 birds in the front (to the left of the gull) are a good example - Black-bellied Plover, Pacific Golden Plover, and Black-bellied again. The middle bird is obviously smaller and you can even ascertain (with, perhaps, a little imagination) from this photo a warmer overall color in comparison to the grayer black-bellies. It was great to get out even if just for my lunch hour. Certainly whet my appetite for leading trips for the Central Valley Birding Symposium in a couple weeks.