Monday, July 25, 2011

New Walking Year Birds

The rate of new birds for the year that I can see within walking distance of my home has really slowed down. There are some species I know I can see this summer that are a minimum 10 mile walk from home - "maybe next weekend!" I have had a few surprises on my morning walks with Nike, my trusty canine companion and the only one in the house who will go out every morning with me while I bird. My usual route is through the neighborhood (a variety of middle class homes) and out along the sandy edge of the bay and then by or through the local patch of trees - Pecho Willows. Occasionally, I lengthen the walk to include a local grove of eucalyptus trees or to include the nearby golf course or the local elementary school grounds.

On June 10, 2011, I heard a buzz and a short sharp call from a small passerine as it flew by me, near Pecho Willows. I assumed it was a late Lazuli Bunting, which is a very striking but common migrant (and breeder about 4 miles from home). I looked with my binocs and it was a bunting, but it was entirely dark blue - without the white and rusty underparts of a Lazuli. The Indigo Bunting is a breeder and regular migrant in the eastern part of North America, so when one strays into my neighborhood I get a little excited. I took the far away photo of this bird to document its presence (click to enlarge the blue blob top center). It shot through the neighborhood and I did not get a decent photo.  Another birder came by about a half hour later and could not re-find the bird.

On July 2, I had just gotten out of the front door with my dog, when I heard an unfamiliar bird song. It was a warbler that was not a regular singer in this part of California, so I grabbed my camera, my iPod with speakers, my binocs and my dog and ran after it. As it flew from the elderberry tree in my front yard to a hedge in my neighbor's yard, I saw a flash of orange on either side of the tail - a likely American Redstart (an "eastern" warbler). This bird was another guy in a hurry. I chased it down to the end of my block and played my iPod recording of its song.  It responded and gave me some good but brief looks. Jay, who lives at the end of the street, also saw the bird before it headed west toward the ocean. Again, I could only get distant photos as the bird would not stay in one place long enough to get close to it.

My last new walking green year bird was  Elegant Tern. This species had returned to the bay for its summer through fall annual stay and I finally found one on July 8. I heard several of these terns calling "kareek" and the younger ones calling a quieter less raucous call as they zig-zagged over the bay, diving at times for small sivery fish. This particular individual posed long enough for a decent picture. This species nests and breeds south of Central California, but wanders up here after breeding. All, or almost all, leave here before the cold of winter.