Thursday, January 24, 2013

Big Birding

Chasing birds has never been my thing (for those who don't know, "chasing" means tracking down birds other folks have already found).  Local birder and friend Peter Metropolis once said, "why would I want to go look for someone else's used up bird?"  I certainly agree that it takes a lot of the fun out of birding when you chase, but as far as doing a Big Year goes, especially a Green Big Year, I'll be chasing birds quite a bit.  I better get used to it.
  Last weekend, I rode up to Half Moon Bay.  I had two birds I was really looking for.  One was a Rock Wren that Barbara Kossy found on the riprap just above the beach.  The other were the Short-eared Owls that are seen at Wavecrest every winter.  I've looked for them before, but missed them every time.
  The ride up was fantastic.  I left after work, which means in the winter, I was riding partly at night.  It was so pleasant; nice and warm, minimal wind, Great-horned and Barn Owls along the way.  Kind of stupid is the 1 night limit that HMB State Beach has for hiker-biker spots, which I didn't know when I made my plan to stay up there for three nights.  I guess they are just trying to keep the transient type folks from setting up shop there.  It's really their loss. 
  Anyway, the reasonable camp host allowed me two nights stay.  That meant I could spend all day looking for HMB birds on Friday.  Friday morning started with the ROCK WREN at Miramar, right where Barbara found it.  I arrived at the same time that Al "Ears" Eisner (as I like to call him based on his birding-by-ear skill--last name pronounced "Eyes-ner") and helped him get on the bird.  He helped me find a Black-headed/Rose-breasted Grosbeak hybrid once, so it was nice to return the favor.  It was pretty cool to see a bird that usually hangs out in arid to semi-arid desert or alpine zone hanging out at the beach.
  On to Pillar Point, where the big wave surf competition would be happening in about 48 hours.  No swell at all while I was there.  Flat as a pancake really.  Highlights were a Spotted Sandpiper, Wandering Tattler, and a Sea Lemon (nudibranch) that I help a group of 1st-2nd graders identify on their tidepooling fieldtrip.  I wish I would have gotten to do that as a youngster.  Alas, I grew up in the mountains of Virginia.
  By days end, I made it to Wavecrest in HMB and saw a Short-eared Owl.  Finally!  After a few trips up looking for this species, I finally saw one shortly before the sun when down.
  I should mention, a big hearty thanks to J.R. and Annie for the resupply and wonderful dinner that night at HMB Brewery.  It was great to reconnect with friends and talk about our futures, science, educating kids and all kinds of other stuff.  Great company and good beer goes a long way in helping with a big year.
  The next day I made for home, skipping out on the Harris' Sparrow a mere 22 miles (one way) away.


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