Friday, February 13, 2015

California North Bay Area Feb. 1-11 2015 Common Scoter, Snowy Plovers

February 1, 2015 we loaded up the car and headed south.  Nephew Collin, who lives in San Francisco, had graciously offered his weekend cottage (more like a mansion) in Healdsburg for a week.  Our little townhouse at home will not feel the same after staying here.  The first night we stayed in Medford Oregon.  This made for a six hour trip to Healdsburg the next day but Colusa wildlife reserve was on our way.  A Falcated Duck has been reported here so we made a side trip.  After spending about an hour searching and talking to other like-minded birders, we ascertained the Falcated was not to be found that day.  On to Healdsburg.
California Towhee Colusa
Black-tailed Jackrabbit Colusa
Snowy Egret Colusa

White-faced Ibis Colusa
White-fronted Geese Colusa
Black-crowned Night Herons Colusa
The bushes were dripping with Black-crowned Night Herons.  This is only a small section.
While we were sitting at home in Abbotsford, we kept reading reports of a rare Rustic Bunting in Golden Gate Park.  This was one of the reasons we decided to make the trip.  It is amazing how one can drive hundreds of miles and within minutes find a tiny bird in the middle of San Francisco.  It helped to have a local lady named Lee to point it out to us.
Another bird we wanted to see was a Brown Booby.  One had been reported at Point Reyes.  After finding the Rustic Bunting we headed there.  Here is the trail leading to Chimney Rock where the bird was seen.  It is about a mile long.
Chimney Rock.  We were talking to some girls there and told them what we were after.  One of them had binoculars and said "is that it?"
Yes, she had picked it out.  It is the brown one behind the Pelicans.  This picture is highly cropped.
While checking this picture when I got home, I see there is another one in the upper left hand corner.  It is barely visible.  It isn't often I get to see 2 boobies in one day. (Wait a minute).
On the beaches below the trail,  Elephant Seals were numerous.  This bull is battle scarred.
Dian on the return hike.
February 4 we drove through the Napa Valley vineyards to Putah Creek Wildlife area.  Ebird states it is a good place to find Wrentits and Nuttall's Woodpecker.
A scene from Solano Lake Park along Putah Creek where we found the following  birds.
A Hermit Thrush greeted us at the Putah rest area.
It wasn't long before we spotted a male Nuttall's Woodpecker.
A female Nuttall's was close by.
Oak Titmice were common.  
An obliging Wrentit appeared.  Another check on our life list. 
This goose was mostly Canada but I do believe a White-fronted Goose may have jumped in there when no one was looking.
We stayed close to home on Feb 5.  A Hutton's Vireo was the only bird we photographed but we saw a White-tailed Kite In the distance.
Another picture of the Vireo?  No, it is a Ruby-crowned Kinglet to show the similarities with the Hutton's Vireo.  Note thinner bill, dark lores
Bodega Bay was listed as a great place for birds so we hit it Feb 10.  The reports were right on.  Birds  abound here and I wish we could have had more time to explore it further.  Here are some of what we did see.
Some Black Turnstones were gleaning the shore behind a restaurant.  Bits of seafood were being discharged  from the restaurant and the birds were taking advantage of the bonanza.
2 Ruddy Turnstones also reaped the bounty.
Having only seen Snowy Plovers once before in Texas we were happy to find 35 on  the beach at Bodega.  This one was ringed.  I reported it and will disclose the findings in a future blog when I get a reply.
Snowy Plover
There had to be over 1000 Marbled Godwits around Bodega Bay.  The most I have ever witnessed.
An Elephant Seal was providing a feast for the Turkey Vultures.
Brants were very common on Bodega Bay.

While in California we heard reports of a Common Scoter in Crescent City.  We detoured there Feb. 11 on our way home.

While searching for the Scoter a local girl approached us and asked if we were looking for the rare bird.  (Story sound familiar?)    She said someone from British Columbia had shown her the bird the day before.  ( WW?)  Luck was with us again. Unfortunately the sun was behind the bird and the distance was too great for a good picture.
This bird is usually found in Europe and Asia and may be the first recorded sighting for North America.
At the same location a Long-tailed Duck was escorted by some Surf Scoters. The Long-tailed Duck was right at home with the Surf Scoters, unlike the Common Scoter which always remained apart from the other seabirds.
We saw this bird on the way home.  Not sure of the exact location but I think around Willets, Ca.   I thought juvenile White-tailed Kite but can't find any images to match this.  Send me a message if you can help.
Mystery solved.  Light phase Ferruginous Hawk.  Thanks to everyone who replied.  I always thought this was a Prairie bird.
We spent 9 days birding north of San Francisco and we didn't get to see all we wanted to see.  We made 2 more futile trips to Colusa to find the Falcated Duck.  One day we missed it by ten minutes. 3 of the 9 days we had rain.  That only means one thing-we have to return and we can't wait.  

End of this blog.  Scroll down for previous blog.


  1. If I had to guess on your last bird, I'd go with a ferruginous hawk. Although I'm sure others with more experience will offer up help as well. Nice shots, looks like you had a great trip.

  2. Yes A L you are with the consensus.

  3. Hi Len. Nice photos! The site where you saw the Brown Booby(s) at Point Reyes National Seashore is "Chimney Rock", not "Castle Rock".

  4. Looks like you had an awesome trip thanks for sharing and congrats on the common scoter!

  5. Thank you Mellie. To quote a famous Californian "I'll be back".

  6. We almost crossed paths! I saw the Common Scoter in Crescent City on February 7th as we drove down to Anaheim. Such a treat! Too bad about the rain.

  7. Hi Glen-I think a few people from BC preceded us. Thanks for the comment.

  8. Hi Len, I'm working on a paper documenting the Common Scoter with a couple of other people and we were wondering if we could use your pic of the COSC in flight? If so please contact me via my email: Thanks so much! Rob