Sunday, February 7, 2010
Odds and Ends - 2/7
Since the weather was a little uncertain for later in the day, I decided to do some fairly local biking, hiking, and birding. Also, there were still several new BIGBY species within 10 miles of where I live. I got up early to get on the road for my first stop - the Morro Bay State Park Marina peninsula, to look for Nelson's Sparrow at first light. This secretive sparrow is often seen with Savannah Sparrows at extremely high tides along this edge of Morro Bay. Lately, birders have also found it at first light at the same spot even when the tide was not so high. I arrived at a little after 7:30 AM (about a 5 mile ride) and slowly approached the usual spot - an inconspicuous patch of mugwort (green after the rains), bordered by taller coyote bush. Several Savannah Sparrows were up in the morning sun, but I could see no sparrows with the Nelson's orange face. I took out my iPod touch and played a recording of a Nelson's Sparrow and got a response. Another play and another response. Then a sparrow popped up, onto the coyote bush, showing an ochre face. Then all of the sparrows (including the Nelson's) flew off into the salicornia out in the bay, for no apparent reason.
After a wait and no return of the sparrows I went to the campground to search for a White-throated Sparrow which had been seen in December - in among the RV sites near the entrance kiosk. I found a flock of mostly Golden-crowned Sparrows working the ground around several sites. At the base of a bush was a White-throated Sparrow (BIGBY #2) with tan stripes on the head. Finally! I had missed this species on at least ten tries already this year! I was unable to get photos of this bird, but did get a photo of one of the Golden-crowneds showing off his gold.
The nearby museum has two good overlooks of the bay - one to the south - toward the marina and farther Los Osos, as well as into the sun. The one to the north had better light and I spotted a Black Skimmer (BIGBY #3) roosting with some gulls on a sand bar out in the bay near "Grassy Island" which really ought to be called Salicornia Island, because it is not grassy.
I decide to push my luck and go onto the bay to look for Red-necked Grebe. Three was not a charm for this bird as I searched from the Rock along the edge of the bay, all the way back to the museum with no luck. Black Turnstones (pictured) were one of several rocky shorebirds on the jetty. My last stop at Black Hill for a Red-breasted Nuthatch (irregularly occurring here) was not successful after a two - three mile hike, but there were some interesting mushrooms. The ride home was uneventful for birds, but not for my bike as I got a flat tire (first for the year) as I rode up a hill approaching Los Osos. Not only did I fix the flat, but noticed a crack in my frame near the back axle! Did I need to buy a new bike or could I fix this one, or did the crack not matter? I certainly couldn't ride this bike until I found out.