Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A New Month and a New Pace

February was immediately very different than January. I was now going after one or two species at a time and multiple species trips would now mostly only involve trips of 40 or more miles. The easy days, of many new BIGBY birds in a day, were over for the year - the hard listing work was starting. (I don't want it to sound like I only bird to add year birds to my list because I enjoy a day of birding, even without any new species for the year.)
On February 1, I took an afternoon cycle from work for Ferruginous Hawk and Burrowing Owl - 2 new BIGBY species for me that had been recently seen on the west side of San Luis Obispo. (It meant I would have to come back and work late, but the ride would be worth it.)
The area was damp after the recent hard rains and the fields on the west side of town were flooded, with ponds having formed where there had been dry fields in the fall. I checked out the ponds and pasture near Foothill Boulevard for the hawk without luck, but it was interesting to note a grazing flock of at least four different forms of geese that were once all lumped together as Canada Goose. There were Aleutian Cackling Geese, minima Cackling Geese and the full size Canada Goose. The fourth was an intermediate form which I will have to study (see http://www.oceanwanderers.com/CAGO.Subspecies.html for a discussion). I next set off for the Burrowing Owl near Cuesta College and found it just where Maggie said it was - peaking out of a grassy mound in a large pasture hillside. It was in among many ground squirrels, which sometimes looked superficially like a Burrowing Owl until I looked more carefully. The owl watched me, but was too far away for a photo and people were working in the fields nearby, moving bee hives, so I couldn't get closer. I watched the owl for awhile and then set off for a another search for the Ferruginous. A perched Northern Harrier and a variety of ducks in the pond and wet fields were worth watching, but none were close enough for a good photo. I settled instead for a shot of the flooded fields as the sun set, and then pedalled back to work, glad I took the break.

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