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Thanks to the kindness of navajo, some of you got to see a number of terrific photos from a recent birding adventure that a few of your fellow Dawn Chorusers shared. Our friend realalaskan and mrs. realalaskan paid a visit to Northern California and several of us gathered at the Point Reyes National Seashore for an outing. This diary offers a bit about that trip and shares some bird shots I captured, along with a re-sharing of one of navajo's photos she shared in a New Day diary.

Never visited California? Don't know where Point Reyes is? The image below provides a handy reference. Join me below for a bit more about the place and the flora and fauna we encountered.

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As you can see from the image above, the Point Reyes National Seashore is situated just north of San Francisco, about 35 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge. As its name implies, it is part of the National Park Service. I encourage you to visit http://www.nps.gov/... to explore all the things the Seashore has to offer -- I won't attempt that here -- but one of its biggest claims to fame is its bird species abundance.

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"With nearly 490 species recorded (45% of species of birds in North America), Point Reyes National Seashore easily claims the prize for the greatest avian diversity in any U.S. national park. The species total here, in fact, is larger than the species total in each of forty states."

"Some of the factors responsible for attracting this amazing diversity are the Point Reyes' location at an optimal latitude, its diverse habitats, its location along the Pacific Flyway, and the shape of the peninsula which acts as a geographic magnet."

Not many of those 490 species were making themselves available for photos when we were there, unfortunately, but I did get a few, and we saw and heard many more I couldn't capture. Perhaps other members of the fabulous and attractive Dawn Chorus Team seen here can toss in some photos of their own in today's thread?

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L to R: Mrs. realalaskan, side pocket, lineatus, realalaskan, navajo, kimoconnor, Kestrel, tgypsy Photo credit: navajo

I think it's pretty clear from the smiling faces above that we all had a great time that day. The weather was perfect, the camaraderie great, and the birds -- well, the birds were either far away or playing hide-and-seek.

Song Sparrows were abundant and were flitting about on shrubs, on fence posts and on wires. I was about to grab a shot of one hopping about on some water vegetation when it chose that exact moment to take off before I even had it in the frame. I've included it below because it's cool to see the rufous-coloring in its wings.

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We also saw quite a few White-crowned Sparrows, such dapper little birds.

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We saw or heard a great variety of the many species at Point Reyes, including Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Acorn Woodpecker, Anna's Hummingbird, Long-billed Curlew, Dark-eyed Junco, American Avocet, Anna's Hummingbird, Violet-green Swallow, Pacific Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Great Blue Heron, Western Scrub Jay, Red-shouldered Hawk, Northern Mockingbird, Common Raven, Osprey, and many more.

Many of these birds were too fleeting or too far away to capture, but it didn't matter. We had a great time.

In the open grassland areas, we saw a number of Common Ravens. Ravens are quite a bit larger than crows, which is helpful for ID purposes. Size is hard to tell in flight, however, so the raven's wedge-shaped tail is a good way to distinguish it from crows. Here are a couple of shots of a Common Raven (note the massive bill; another ID distinction). This guy had prey and landed on a distant fence post to consume it.

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We were very near the ocean, so we saw lots of the low scrub vegetation that typically accompanies such locations, given that they tend to be windswept for most of the time. Very few trees, and telephone poles and fence posts tend to be the tallest things around.

We did manage to see this Spotted Towhee a ways off, perched on one of the low scrub bushes. These are fairly secretive birds that usually hop around on the ground are aren't prone to high perches, so it was nice to get this good look at one.

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This habitat is also home to more than birds, of course. As we walked along the trail, a couple of Blacktail Deer were lounging in the meadow on the other side of the fence, just yards away. They completely ignored us. (We also saw a bobcat scurrying through the grass earlier near a trail; one of us inadvertently flushed it, apparently.)

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We decided to leave the grasslands area and head back to the visitor's center. Tgypsy had previously noticed an Osprey nest we had driven past, so we were determined to find it on the return drive. We found it easily and even had enough road shoulder for our two cars to pull off.

Lineatus had her spotting scope, others binoculars, and we were looking up at the nest, but we couldn't see any indication that it was occupied. Realalaskan went further up the road to lessen the visual angle for a better look. And guess what? It was indeed occupied!

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After all that birding and the cool sighting of the Osprey in its nest, it was time for a lunch break back at the picnic area near the visitor's center. Here we see tgypsy, side pocket and kimoconnor and an additional photo showing (clockwise) side pocket's forearms, kimoconnor, lineatus's hat and partial profile, Mrs. realalaskan and realalaskan. (Obviously, when it comes to people, I'm not much of a photographer.)

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We also had the company of this friendly yellow lab belonging to some other picnickers, as well as the ever-present Brewer's Blackbirds hanging around looking for handouts.

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After lunch, we headed to Bolinas Lagoon where we met up with navajo who joined us for birding the riparian forest we passed through before reaching the lagoon and open space. There we saw a Nuttall's Woodpecker (shadowy picture below) as well as Mallards, Black Phoebes, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Bushtits, and others. (If you missed navajo's New Day diary telling all about her day with us bird nerds, with many more people photos, you can laugh your head off here.) http://www.dailykos.com/...

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Here is a pair of Golden-crowned Sparrows and a partially obscured Black Phoebe.

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Then there's this shot of a bird I only caught this glimpse of. ID thoughts anyone?

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Exiting the forest to the lagoon, we passed through a good bit of grassland, scrub and low vegetation before getting to the inland water. We saw a sweet Anna's Hummingbird sitting on a branch too far away for a photo, as well as more Song Sparrows. We also got good looks at this little beauty, a Common Yellowthroat. It really stands out against all the dry vegetation.

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At the lagoon, lineatus set up her spotting scope and everyone got to share in the beauty of the distant shorebirds -- Long-billed Curlew, Black-necked Stilts, American Avocets, Killdeer, various and sundry gulls, and other birds I'm sure I'm forgetting but, hopefully, others will fill in. I have a long lens and lack the set up for digiscoped photography, so I couldn't get photos through lineatus's lens, but we all took turns looking through the scope.

As the final treat of the day, lineatus took us into town to the studio and gallery of famed bird illustrator Keith Hansen. We closed out our day, and I'll close this diary, with a look at some scenes from his remarkable gallery.

Mr. Hansen illustrates birds for guidebooks and you can see the tools of his trade here, along with a look at images he's currently working on that you see on his tabletop easel.

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Most remarkable were the four hummingbirds (deceased) that he had literally at-hand providing an extraordinary close-up look at their feathers and iridescence. (Mr. Hansen explained that people in town bring him dead birds whenever they encounter them.) I'm not great at hummingbird ID beyond my most frequent visitors, Anna's, but I'm guessing here that he's holding male and female Anna's and Allen's; I forgot to ask. Those of you with sharper eyes than me can probably tell.

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All in all, it was a grand day and meeting up in person made it even more special. It was a treat to meet Mr. & Mrs. realalaskan and while others in the group had met up before, it was fun to enjoy another outing together. I'll leave you with this final image of a couple of pheasant feathers at Mr. Hansen's gallery. I can only imagine encountering this bird in the wild!

Now, talk amongst yourselves!

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