Friday, April 3, 2015

Green eBirding in My Neighborhood

     I had a lighter than normal workload today, so I thought I might take a walk with my dog around the local golf course, first thing in the morning. I also wanted to check the course for migrants and any other species that might be around (hopefully something not on my eBird list for my local patch). It was a bright and clear morning, so how could I resist? Also, due to a back injury, I have not been able to cycle since August of last year, so I do a lot of walking! (I have become a plodder!) Moving slowly, though, has allowed me to see things I might have otherwise missed!
     Cora and I started out at about 7:30. We worked our way around bushes in the coastal scrub, on trails, through eucalyptus groves, around adjacent neighborhoods and through some fences, in our circumnavigation of the course. It is not a regular route! But that's good, since it makes for more birds. The Sea Pines Golf Course is an eBird "hotspot", but it gets little attention compared to better known hotspots in the area like Pecho Willows and Sweet Springs Preserve. I am guilty of this inattention more than any of the local birders, since it is right in my neighborhood! Being unable to cycle has caused me to really concentrate on birding in my neighborhood (which is a good thing)!
     Spring migration has been going on for awhile here; the swallows and Hooded Orioles on our walk were evidence of that. There were surprises, however. About 1/2 way around the course, we were skirting the edge of a eucalyptus grove and walking on a path next to the golf course fence. I looked through the fence at two birds feeding on a green, like robins. But when I put my binoculars on them, it was two female Varied Thrushes. They have wintered in the neighborhood (and in good numbers coastally) this last winter (very unusual), but I didn't expect to see them out on the course acting like robins!
     Another surprise (I won't say "highlight") was a pair of Great-tailed Grackles. These were new for my local patch! But, they are nest parasites and not welcome to stay (not that I have anything to do about it). Other interesting sights were: about 250 coots (really a high number) on the golf course (the golfers now have to walk more carefully!); two very streaked and recently fledged White-crowned Sparrows that were begging for food from an unseen parent; courting Brown-headed Cowbirds (stretching their necks and pointing their bills up, as they strutted on a wire); and Cliff Swallows that were just starting their cup-shaped mud nests under eaves.
     The picture above is Cora and me, as we were finishing our days walk/bird trip. She's the one in green (she's camera shy!). I didn't bring my regular camera because it was too heavy to carry. This was taken on my smart phone by a guest at the golf course motel. I'll try to get shots of some of the birds we saw, and add them later. You can see my full day's list of birds on eBird. We walked 2 1/4 miles, to and from our home, and saw 46 total species. Two were new species for my local patch: the grackle and the House Wren.