Sunday, July 4, 2010

Break from Green Birding

Leif Rydell and his family (photo left) visited us from Sweden, so I took three days off from my BIGBY to show Leif and his son Hannes some birds in my home territory. (Leif's wife and daughter did other things while we did most of our birding).

They arrived midday on June 19 so we birded nearby at Montana de Oro State Park (photo above). We went there to see Pigeon Guillemot (photo below) which nest in the cliffs at the park and which was new for them. We also had surprisingly good luck at the Bluffs Trail - finding five Pacific Rattlesnakes (photo), which Hannes really wanted to see. These snakes were very drably marked and acted very passively. That was a good thing since the snakes were all less than a foot off a very heavily used trail! I lifted one up gently with a tripod leg and it did not strike. It barely even rattled while sliding off into the weeds.

On the 20th, we went inland to Cerro Alto for birds which breed in riparian habitat away from the cool coast and for the slightly higher elevation which attracts birds like Olive-sided Flycatcher. At Cerro Alto, we met Ross and Mike Schaefer, and Aidan Briggs, from Templeton and Atascadero. They helped us to find many new birds for the Rydells, such as Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Wood-Pewee, a beautiful male Western Tanager, MacGillivray's Warbler (after some long looking for this bird that was singing in thick cover) and Pacific-slope Flycatcher. We also visited Whale Rock Reservoir where we found breeding Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Blue Grosbeak, and Lazuli Bunting (a gorgeous male that flew over tantalizingly, before finally perching in the open for good looks). We were also surprised by an adult Bald Eagle (unseasonal, but they do breed at reservoirs within 30 miles, as the eagle flies). Leif and Hannes had seen over a dozen new species that they had not seen on their prior visit to the area (in the winter).

On the 21st, Leif and I (Hannes decided to sleep in a bit) found a group of very vocal ("chi-beer") Cassin's Kingbirds (they seem to often breed near our coast in eucalyptus groves) on the way to Atascadero, where we saw Wood Ducks at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Since access to the plant was denied, we viewed the birds from a hill on the outside of the fence.  While I couldn't really bird with these visiting birders on my bike, it was a fun bit of birding. I enjoyed birding with them and seeing the birds from their perspective. I was also glad that I didn't find anything I hadn't already seen on my BIGBY since I would not have been able to count it!

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