Monday, February 11, 2013

My first trip over to the Bay

  All of last week, I was scratching my head trying to think where I could stay over on the San Francisco Bay side of the county.  There is zero camping anywhere over there, and most people I know live down farther in San Jose.  So, I signed up for and sent a message to a couple that live in the city of San Mateo.  WarmShowers is a website for bike touring folks to get a place to stay and a shower as they travel on bike trips.  I was stoked to find it, but didn't really expect to hear anything back.  So a couple of days later, on Friday, I was convinced that I wasn't going to ride to the bay.  So, at 9 pm Friday night, when I got the email from Brad and Joy in San Mateo, I was stoked. But, it made for some last minute frantic packing and a rush off to bed so I could get up early.
  I stepped outside on Saturday morning at 6:30 am to a NORTHERN PYGMY OWL calling in the foreground, with two GREAT HORNED OWLS calling more distantly.  A great start to the day, as I wasn't sure when I would get to hear a pygmy.
  I was pedaling a little before seven, and made decent time to get to Skyline Blvd. which is more or less the ridge or spine of San Mateo Co.  I'm not sure the elevation there, but it's probably around 1600 feet.  That mountain is kind of a funny boundary for a few species.  We, down here on the coastside of the county, don't get too many Nuttall's Woodpeckers or Oak Titmice for example, so I was excited to see and hear them both.  A HERMIT WARBLER was a nice find on the way down Old La Honda Rd. toward the bay.  
  When I finally reached the bay, I was very near the border with San Mateo Co., but in Santa Clara.  That is where the CAPE MAY WARBLER was.  YAHOO!  a life bird!  Those are getting few and farther between now.  I was so excited.  I was also stoked to find a female BULLOCK'S ORIOLE, out of season, but also in the same tree.  I found out later that another birder, John Sterling, found a female Baltimore Oriole at that location a few weeks ago.  That's too bad.  These two female orioles are VERY similar and since I have limited experience with female Baltimore's, I think I'm going to take my Bullock's off of my list.  At least for now, as I'll probably see another later, but what really bugs me is that I am not likely to see another Baltimore this year.  This one is going down as a ORIOLE SPP. I guess.
   Not realizing this fact yet, I was riding high and so happy to have seen a few good birds.  I added AMERICAN PIPIT and a ton of other great birds along the bay; especially shorebirds.   The next real stop was Radio Rd. to look at more shorebirds and ducks.  That spot is so packed with birds sometimes, but since I was there near low tide, most of the shorebirds were out scattered along the bay elsewhere.  High tide is a bit better.  And though I missed any Lesser Yellowlegs (kind of a hard bird anyway) and Barrow's Goldeneye, not all was lost.  A drake EURASIAN WIGEON was hanging with a few American Wigeon.  
  Well, that about did it for the day.  I was tired and ready for dinner, which went down quick. 
  After dinner, I found my new friends Brad and Joy, who, without knowing me, opened their door and gave me not only a bed, but great conversation and a nice way to wind down the evening.  Thanks again!!!
  Waking up in San Mateo made a huge difference in my ability to get up to San Bruno the next morning.  I set out for the Golden Gate National Cemetery, which is not ordinarily the type place I'd like to visit, but when there is a rare bird there, it turns into a great destination.  The target this time was a ROSS'S GOOSE.  I arrived at the cemetery feeling really good about the weekend and all the great birds I had seen, without any real disappointing misses.  
  So there I was, biking up and down through this national military cemetery.  For about an hour I was up and down, looking down the rows for the goose.  However, it wasn't as easy as I had hoped.  All the headstones were white marble, yup...the very Crayola color...Ross's Goose White.  I gave up.  I decided to head for the gate and start the 60 mile ride home.  Well, maybe one last look down some random cemetery row...
"It's like finding a Ross's Goose in a cemetery."
-Mark Kudrav

  The ride home was sweet.  Nice birding along Crystal Spring and San Andreas Reservoirs, and good punishing climbs over mountains.  Dinner, when I finally made it home after 4pm, was a banana milkshake.  

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