Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Full day of bike birding

  It's kind of a tradition for some birders, to go out on New Year's Day to see as many birds as they can.  Some go at it casually, others plan out routes carefully, making sure to spend only the allotted amount of time at each habitat or birding hotspot.   Big Days are what they are called.  Similar in concept to the Big Year of course.  I didn't exactly do a big day, but I wanted to make sure I didn't miss some birds that were unexpectedly around this part of California.  I didn't race around nearly as much as if I were doing a big day.  Not that the bike and these hills would allow me to race too much compared to the birders who were using their cars.
  But I can say that by all accounts, yesterday was a great day of birding for me.  Mostly I chased down local rarities found in 2012 on the Ano Nuevo Christmas Bird Count or from before.  Definitely nice to get some time looking at the ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK that Ron Thorn found out on Stage Road.  I lost the bird as it went over a ridge near San Gregorio, when suddently the bird flew right over me coming from behind.  I was left wishing my camera wasn't in the bottom of my panniers somewhere.  By the time I got it out, the bird was sitting on the distant ridge again.  And, wouldn't you know it, took off just as I was taking a picture through my scope.  Not sure how it turned out in the end.  I'll try to get the photo of it up as soon as I figure out how to do such things.
  Another great bird, actually the first I tried for was the BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER that my friend Garth Harwood found up by his place about two weeks ago.  I rode my bike up to see the bird a few times at the end of December, but there is nothing like a little nervousness about having this (the first morning of a Big Year) be the morning that the bird doesn't show up.  It's a nice little nervousness and it keeps it fun.  As does watching bird behavior.  I've notice this bird following a Red-Breasted Sapsucker up a Sweetgum (Californians call it a Liquidambar I've noticed).  It was feeding on the dripping wells of sap that the Sapsucker had drilled.  A Ruby-Crowned Kinglet was doing the same (I've seen Chestnut-Backed Chickadees and Anna's Hummingbirds feeding that way in my garden too).
  Anyway, its cool to see another Black-Throated Blue Warbler.  The last one I saw was when I was a National Park Ranger in Isle Royale NP in Lake Superior. These guys bred there and became my favorite warbler.
  Those two birds,  the RLHA and the BTBW, I didn't get to see in 2011, so it felt good to see them this year.  Gives me hope that the 276 mark from my last effort will be surmountable.  I have a lofty goal of seeing 300+ this year, but who knows.  It helped that the YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER we found at my house on the Christmas Bird Count was still around.  Also the EASTERN PHEOBE was an easy bird to miss in a year of birding in San Mateo County.  Tons of other great birds too and lots that I missed.  None of the misses were critical in the sense that I won't see them again this year  (I'm knocking on wood right now so that the Harlequin Duck continues to stick around).
The Black-Throated Blue Warbler at Dearborn Park.  Photo taken by Chris Johnson.
  In total, after one day:  7 Hours birding/biking, 89 species, and 38 miles.

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