I mentioned this to my boss before I left. He has been incredibly supportive of my Big Year and this trip. He told me to visualize positive results. Now, when most people tell me this kind of thing, I just blow them off, because, well, I think that kind of thing is stupid. However, coming from my boss, I actually tried to take it to heart. Funny how something that is said by the right person can leave such an impression.
As I rolled into Half Moon Bay a few hours after I left my house, I had with me some very vague directions to a Black-and-White Warbler that had been seen by Ron Thorn the day before. Fortunately, I had a couple of friends (Malia DeFelice and Chris Hayward) meeting me at the Half Moon Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant (birding is so glamorous). All we had to do was walk, fortunately, upstream from the plant for what appeared on maps to be a couple of miles and we might run into the bird. Seemed like a long shot, but I hadn't seen a B+W Warbler yet this year. I had to at least try. I thought about my boss.
We walked through the water. Malia and Chris had their "wellies" on and I was in some oversized flip-flops I desperately bought in a Mammoth Lakes thrift store on this summer's bike trip when my Tevas died. There was a little bird activity including both a Barn Owl and a Great Horned Owl that we spooked. We were encouraged, but still kept asking each other where the heck Ron was when he found the bird. Finally, Malia, who was birding more slowly, which is to say being more thorough, found the bird. As, it turn out, this bird was not the same bird that Ron had seen.
That BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER was one of the more relieving birds of the year. My eight day birding trip was not an absolute failure. At least I had found one and it was the first day. Leaving Half Moon Bay, I felt grateful to Malia, Chris, and my boss Mark.
Friends put me up in San Francisco that night (thanks Samanellen!). And thanks to Dominic Mosur for letting me in on a little BURROWING OWL secret that I found the next morning. Unbelievable, but I was sworn to secrecy about the birds location. Two new birds in two days.
I birded Marin County a little that day. I tried the Hawk Watch in the Marin Headlands, but it was foggy and cold. No Broad-winged Hawk for me this year. A couple MERLINS were fun to watch, and it was great to practice IDing accipiters. I spent the night with friends in the Marin Headlands. Bioluminesence on the beach that night.
The next day I climbed the massive Mount Tam, and dropped down to Bolinas Lagoon and Stinson Beach. Fell asleep on a friends porch to the sound of waves crashing.
I met up with Keith Hansen at his studio in Bolinas. For those who are familiar with his work, check him out at: http://keithhansen.com/ He was very welcoming, offered great bird finding info, some recent sightings, and great encouragement in my Big Year. Now I had some new target birds.
I missed Black Rail. Like most who try, especially out of breeding season when the birds are more vocal, but did find the SWAMP SPARROW Keith had clued me in on.
My friend Fiona Firefly, who lives in Point Reyes Station, put me up for the next two nights. I couldn't be more appreciative for the royal treatment I got there. The next two days continued to be pretty grueling, so dinner and a couch felt absolutely divine. Sure, I missed the Pacific Golden Plover, Lapland Longspurs, AND Red-Throated Pipit that Keith had mentioned, but did see a RED-NECKED GREBE and three FERRUGINOUS HAWKS. Marin was a great success.
I hauled down to SF the next day and back into San Mateo County the following day. No new birds, but got to see the Marin BLUE-FOOTED BOOBY (my sixth BOOBY of the year) and a pair of ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS. Waking in San Mateo, I decided to take my chances at Coyote Point. Who knows, maybe I could spot a rare Long-tailed Duck out on the bay. I wouldn't say it was a complete bust by any means. And while it wasn't a new bird for the year, I found a SAGE THRASHER out on a jetty near the harbor. This was a rare bird for sure- one that I had never seen in San Mateo County. I made some calls and several birders came immediately. I was so happy to see Jennifer Rycenga, Peggy Macres, Ginny Marshall, Leslie Flint, and Ron Thorn all able to get there in time to see the bird. What felt even better was that Malia and Chris arrived. They had helped me see the Black-and-White Warbler less than a week earlier, so it was nice to pay them back with a rare bird.
The next day was epic. 60+ miles. I rode San Mateo City to Palo Alto to find a lingering NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH and a COMMON GALINULE then home to Pescadero. And despite the fact that I probably averaged about 40 miles/day on the eight day trip and that most of the big climbs were at the end of the day, the ride home was very, very sweet.
It was an end to the pessimism that plagued this Big Year. Thanks to everyone for all the support and encouragement.
Pictures to come.