Five years ago yesterday, I threw an idea out there:
This has been rattling around in my head for a while now, and it seems like a good time to test the waters for a regular (or at least pretty reliably semi-regular) bird blog. I'm guessing that at least a fair number of Kossacks are birders, or at least find them sorta interesting in a general way. Even if only 1% of the community are into birds, that's still 1,000+ potentially interested people.(These days, that would be more like 4,000+ potentially interested users, but 500 of them would be spambots.)
The original thought was to talk a little bit about backyard birds and birds you see while out and about, a little bit about natural history, a little bit about political and environmental issues that affect birds, and a bit about... well, whatever.
So today, I'm celebrating the anniversary with a bit of out-and-about. Last weekend, my friend and I headed down the peninsula. Our plan was to go along Skyline and check out some of the open space preserves. If time permitted, we'd also head to Loma Prieta to see the Black-chinned Sparrows that had been hanging out. Great! I was writing last week's diary about birding near San Jose in anticipation of NN13, and this would give me a chance to add to it.
It was just too nice of a day for the freeway, so we were going to take Hwy 1 from SF down to Half Moon Bay, then take Hwy 92 up to Skyline. The drive was so nice that we decided to go a little further, and then take a different route up to Skyline. Really, you can't go wrong with any of the roads that go between the coast and the ridge.
As I've mentioned, summer is not quite as birdy here in many locations since all of the wintering waterfowl, shorebirds and raptors have departed. But there are a few really good summer spots, including most riparian areas. Gazos Creek is one of our favorites. A couple miles before the turnoff to Gazos Creek Road is the Pigeon Point Lighthouse. (As mentioned in the comments last week, there's a hostel at the lighthouse.) Because of the way it juts out into the ocean, Pigeon Point is a good spot to see some seabirds a bit closer to shore. At certain times of years, the shearwaters are just amazing. "Lighthouse Field" also attacts some great passerines - most often in the fall, when coastal migrants are attracted to the recently harvested field. They feed on the stubble, or on the insects attracted to the stubble.
I hope it wasn't me; I really don't like to disturb birds because it just wastes their energy. Birds have enough disturbance in their lives from us already, especially those species who live on the coasts and beaches.
A scan of the ocean turned up just a few birds, mostly Surf Scoters and Western Grebes; mixed with some cormorants and gulls. It was a bit of a surprise to see a Common Loon - they normally only show up in the winter. It looked like a first-summer (i.e., one-year-old) bird; maybe it just figured why go back to all that cold? The rocks were pretty bird-less, too, with one wonderful exception - the Oystercatchers. I just love them, and it was nice to see this group hanging out.
On to Gazos and birds! The whole length of Gazos Creek road was filled with birdsong. At the start of the road, the mix was Swainson's Thrush, Wrentit and Bewick's Wren. As the tree cover got more dense, we added Pacific Wren, MacGillivray's Warbler, Purple Finch, Spotted Towhee, Black-headed Grosbeak, Chestnut-backed Chickadee... everyone had to add their voice to the chorus. It was almost 11:00 when we got there, and usually birds won't be singing as much at that point, but everyone was still going at full volume. It was lovely.
Along Gazos Creek, a Pacific Wren (aka Winter Wren) belts it out, with MacGillivray's Warbler and others singing backup.
We turned on to Cloverdale Road and headed for Pescadero. From there we could take Pescadero Road to Skyline.
Or, we could get distracted by some other nice birds along Cloverdale. There were siskins in abundance, and my friend hadn't seen many this past winter; we made up for her deficit. No bobcats, though this road is pretty reliable for them. The biggest treat for me was Grasshopper Sparrow. They're not very common in our area, though they are around if you go to the right places. It's probably been ten years since I've seen one, but as we drove slowly looking for bobcats, I thought I heard a faint little trill. We stopped, heard it again, and started to move off the road onto the shoulder. We flushed one who'd been sitting just a few feet from us! They were hard to spot, giving only fleeting glimpses, but we heard a half-dozen or more. I'd only seen individual birds previously, so this was a remarkable bonanza.
We grabbed some sandwiches at Arcangeli Grocery in Pescadero and added a few birds to the day's tally while we were in their picnic area out back. The day was getting away from us, though in a good way. We decided to skip Skyline and took the Stage Road north to San Gregorio, then drove back up the coast. Along the way, we encountered this lovely lineatus - it was calling from a treetop, and being answered from the woods behind. All-in-all, a fine day out.
I included this poll in the very first Dawn Chorus. How do we compare now?