Saturday, February 27, 2021

Post #194 - More Bay Area Bike-birding

Days are lengthening, the COVID vaccine is being distributed/administered, and spring migration will be here before we know it. Things are looking up! My bike-birding has been hampered by other projects, familial commitments, and injured toes (long story) of late, but I've managed to sneak out on the bike a few times since my last post. I'll recap three recent rides in this installment: one in San Mateo County, one in Santa Clara County, and one in San Francisco City/County.

Mountain Bluebird (MOBL) and Red-necked Grebe (RNGR) in San Mateo County
More common towards the Sierras, MOBL makes only rare appearances at/near the coast; there are only a handful of eBird records spread across San Francisco and San Mateo Counties, so folks on the peninsula were surprised by an iNaturalist report from Mori Point Pacifica on January 24. The bird was seen daily for the next week, but I wasn't able to ride for it because of high winds and accompanying rain. Better weather prevailed on the 30th, and I used a free morning to make the hour-long ride to Pacifica. Drama? Nope! The bird showed with 5 minutes of my arrival and bounced around the coastal cliffs exactly as advertised. Pretty sweet San Mateo bird, especially on the bike!

Mori Point in Pacific - Not traditional Mountain Bluebird habitat!

Mountain Bluebird (digi-binoc)
Bay Area Bike Bird #329, San Mateo County Bike Bird #287

The MOBL showing quickly, I shot up to Mussel Rock to look for the Red-necked Grebe(s) which had been hanging around there for the previous week. The species has been a bit of a San Mateo bike nemesis for me. I've tried piggy-backing it onto pursuits of other species, always without success, and this time was no different despite a two-hour vigil. I have it on my SF bike list and my regular San Mateo list from a pelagic, but it's proved elusive in San Mateo when I'm on the bike. Eventually......

My ride for MOBL and RNGR on January 30th

Chipping Sparrow (SCHSP) in Santa Clara County
This species had eluded me in Santa Clara, so I rode down to Terman Park (Mountain View) on the advice of Adam Burnett and ticked three continuing birds within 30 seconds of arriving. Easy as could be. And that's all I'm gonna say about that

Chipping Sparrow (digi-binoc) Santa Clara bike bird #222 

My ride for CHSP on February 10th

Varied Thrush (VATH), Bullock's Oriole (BUOR), and Baltimore Oriole (BAOR) in San Francisco
I was prepared for a longer search since took a friend and I ninety minutes to find a VATH at this location the previous week (by car),  so I was stoked when one revealed itself just 5 minutes after I arrived. San Francisco Bike Bird #238 secured with minimal effort, I cruised over to Fort Mason to look for the continuing Bullock's and Baltimore Orioles. I didn't have a whiff of either across three hours, so I packed it in at 12:15. I loaded my crap into my panniers and pushed my bike out of the community garden where I'd stashed it. Mounting up, I heard an unexpected rattle from behind me. Slamming on the brakes and excavating my binocs, I got eyes on the sought Baltimore a moment later. It kept calling, so I fished out my 7D2 and 100-400, reassembled the functional rig, and captured some frames of the improbable bird. As I was pishing it in closer, the Bullock's popped up as well! It was really sweet to salvage both birds after I'd conceded them. 

VATH - SF Bike Bird #238 (DSLR)

Bullock's Oriole - SF Bike Bird #239 (DSLR)

Baltimore Oriole - Bay Area Bike Bird #330 and San Francisco Bike bird #240 (DSLR)

And what about this thing?!?! It's an immature male Northern Red Bishop which has been hanging around Fort Mason, apparently for some time. He doesn't count towards my various lists since the species is an introduced exotic in California - it's native to equatorial Africa - but I had fun chasing him around community garden while I was looking for the orioles.

Northern Red Bishop (DSLR)


My ride for VATH, BUOR, BAOR on February 26

That's it for now. Stay safe. I hope to see folks in the field the next few weeks. Cheers!

Monday, February 8, 2021

Post #193 - San Francisco Bike-birding

Last time I recapped a super productive ride through Santa Clara County, and this time I'm going to describe some San Francisco exploits. The described ride is another holdover from the first half of January, it undertaken on January 7th and targeting three birds in different parts of the city. The first of those was the continuing Swamp Sparrow (SWSP) at Lake Merced. Reliably present for the previous nine days, the bird was favoring the scrubby hillside separating the Vista Grande Canal and the adjacent golf course. Ditching my bike in some bushes after covering the ~14 miles from my San Mateo apartment in 53 mins, I glanced skyward just in time to view a White-tailed Kite (WTKI) float buoyantly over my head. That bird was long-overdue for SF bike bird #236, and my subsequent passes of the favored hillside produced the sought SWSP for SF bike bird #237. Two-for-one, no complaints.

Digi-binoc'd Swamp Sparrow - sweet perch, right?

My first target acquired, I turned my attention towards the Hammond's Flycatcher (HAFL) which had been frequenting Moscone Park in the city's northern reaches since December 29 (10 days prior). Beyond a SF bike bird, it also be new for my cumulative Bay Area bike list, that consideration motivating me through the cityscape post-sparrow. The sun broke through while I was en route, and I hoped the flycatcher would be active given warming temperatures and associated insect activity.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm not a huge fan of birding in urban parks, particularly on really nice days. Why? Well, with a group of little kids playing on one side of the flycatcher's favored area and a dozen twenty-something women doing yoga on the other, I looked like hella shady as I repeatedly scanned chain link fence which separated the two groups. I've watched enough Law and Order: Special Victims Unit to know I - as a forty-two-year-old, ugly-ass white dude - fit the pedo-perv stereotype, particularly with binoculars dangling from my neck, so I just wanted to find the bird and get the hell out of there.

"What were you doing George, birdwatching?"

Swirling hoards of White-crowned Sparrows and Yellow-rumped Warblers monopolized the fence for 75 minutes, but a small flycatcher eventually found the gumption to join their ranks. Approaching for a better view, I noted the blocky head, small bill, eye ring, and long primaries, that final field mark rendering the tail short in appearance. The bird also drooped its left wing as other observers had noted of this individual Hammond's (SF bike bird #238). I snapped a few quick shots, jumped on the bike, and cleared out.

Digi-binoc'd Hammond's Flycatcher, thankfully without downward dog behind.....

With ample daylight on my way home, I made a one-hour stop at Heron's Head to see what I could find. That yielding nothing unusual beyond Rocky, the incredibly-approachable Rock Sandpiper which has spent the last two winters at the park's distal terminus, I continued to Yosemite Slough with hopes of Loggerhead Shrike. More common inland, the crafty predator makes only hella rare appearances in San Francisco; the individual found by Rachel Lawrence on December 23 as part of her record-breaking SF total (275 species, I think) represented the first SF sighting since 2008 and one of only a handful since 2000 (according to eBird). I missed the bird on my previous December 28 swing, and, sadly, the result was the same this time around. Can't win 'em all, and 2 outta 3 (plus the kite) ain't bad!

Digiscoped Rocky as bayshore consolation


Until next time.........

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Post #192 - An amazing day of bike-birding in Santa Clara County

Commitments have kept me off the bike for two weeks, so I'm gonna dust off a ride from early-January for this post. Undertaken on January 10th, it sought three would-be Santa Clara County bike birds at the southern end of San Francisco Bay. With negligible wind and partly sunny skies forecasted, I departed my San Mateo apartment with high hopes.

The day's first target was the long-staying Common Loon (COLO) on Pond A4 in Sunnyvale. Abundant on the oceanside of the peninsula, the species is highly unusual on the Santa Clara bay shore. I'd not found the time to pursue the bird during its two-month stay, but it cooperated for me as it had for so many others, the slow-slung swimmer materializing from hoards of scaup on the far/north side of the impoundment after a twenty-minute search (too far for photo). Santa Clara bike bird #217 bagged, the day was off to a good start.

Next up? Glaucous Gull (GLGU). Unusual but regular across all Bay Area Counties, the species has been a recent nemesis; I struck out on San Francisco example 3 times before dipping on an Alameda bird on the day I hurt my thumb. That's more than 150 miles of GLGU misses! Given those headaches, I was hella stoked to find the continuing second-year example shortly after arriving at Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge in Alviso (Santa Clara bike bird #218). I was also able to pull an Iceland (Thayer's) Gull (ICGU, Santa Clara bike bird #219) from the flock on an adjacent impoundment. Two-for-one - money.

Glaucous Gull at Don Edwards

Extending my hot hand still farther from home, I rolled into Lick Mill Park and immediately had a quick but identifiable glimpse the seasonally-aberrant Hermit Warbler (HEWA, Santa Clara bike bird #220) which had frequented the patch park since its Christmas discovery. The songbird nests at ridge elevations towards the southern end of the county, but those areas are a royal chore to reach on the bike. I tried for the bird at Monte Bello and along the Santa Clara reaches of Skyline Drive last summer - to no avail - and I was apprehensive about reaching farther and higher for it this year. Fortunately, that's a moot point now.

Running ahead of schedule and feeling like I couldn't miss, I decided to get greedy, expand my return route, and try for the Phainopeplas (PHAI) which had been hanging around the Stanford Dish since January 5th. The only problem? I had my scope in my panniers, and bikes aren't allowed into the Dish reserve; I wasn't about to lock my bike up and walk away from it with the scope hanging out the back pannier. The solution? I hid my panniers (and scope) in a heavily-wooded yard, continued a quarter-mile to the Dish entrance, locked the unloaded bike, and - after 52 miles of riding - started walking. It was quite warm at that sunny, mid-afternoon juncture, and I was lagging halfway through the 4-mile loop. Stopping to rest, I detected movement in a mistletoe-adorned oak and approached to find the female Phainopepla foraging in its upper reaches. Santa Clara bike bird #221 capped an incredible day of bike-birding! 

Female Phainopepla at Stanford Dish

My Santa Clara exploits on January 10

Three-and-a-half years into my Bay Area tenure, Santa Clara returns continue to diminish, so adding five birds on a single swing through the northern part of the county was a huge victory. I'd love to reach farther south and east in Santa Clara, but those longer trips will probably require an overnight ride and will be best done post-Covid. Until then, I'll keep exploring the bayshore for unaccounted species like Red-breasted and Red-naped Sapsuckers, Osprey, Cackling Goose, and Chipping Sparrow. I really enjoy birding in Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and Alviso, and I'm guaranteed a good workout riding to and returning from those destinations. I just have to avoid days with strong north or west winds; those make the return ride a huge pain in the ass.

More coming soon. Stay tunes. Cheers.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Post #191 - Recent waterfowl photos

Good news - my thumb is on the mend! It's still tender, but I can grip stuff and generally function as usual. I was able to resume biking this week, so stayed tuned for recaps of those rides.

I'll also point you towards my Top Photos of 2020. 19 of the 20 were captured in California - the Sandhill Crane is from New Mexico - and I'm stoked that every shot was an authentic, in-the-field result. Shooting baited birds at established set-ups is fun, but I find it more satisfying to study behavior and stalk birds in their natural environments. Getting down an dirty is always fun too.

OK, let's dive into the ducks. I'll start with this male Common Goldeneye. I was fortunate to have close photographic opportunity at a confiding female in Golden Gate Park two years ago, but I was missing comparable images of males - until this encounter. All it took was laying down on the edge of a local lake and waiting an hour for this beautiful example to swim within range. I whistled at him so that he'd turn his head a bit, but my plan backfired and he dove underwater just after I captured this image. They're so skittish.

Common Goldeneye - Bucephala clangula
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS 1DX2
1/3200 at f/7.1, ISO 640

Next up is Canvasback, a species I've wanted to photograph for years. The flocks which winter on San Francisco Bay are always out of range, so I was grateful when a friend pointed me towards Alondra Park in Lawndale (in the LA sprawl). The twenty-some birds at that traditional winter haunt were very approachable, presumably because of the constant presence of fisherman and joggers, and I captured a nice panel of frames during my morning with them. The different water colors result from shooting against varied refections of foliage on the far shore of the lake. Beware - there was loads of goose crap around the pond, so wear crappy clothes if you wanna get low.

Canvasback (male) - Aythya valisineria
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II on EOS 1DX2
1/2500 at f/5.6, ISO 640

Canvasback (male) - Aythya valisineria
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS 1DX2
1/2500 at f/5.6, ISO 640

Canvasback (female) - Aythya valisineria
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS 1DX2
1/2000 at f/5.6, ISO 640

Apparently jealous of the attention I was showering on the Canvasbacks, this male Lesser Scaup decided to crash our shoot. He looks ready for his close-up, right? What a diva!

Lesser Scaup (male) - Aythya affinis
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS 1DX2
1/4000 at f/6.3, ISO 800

Last is this Bufflehead I photographed at Shoreline Lake in Mountain View. Female waterfowl don't get as much photographic attention as their male counterparts, so I was really happy when this lady surfaced in these dreamy surrounds. I'm glad I held onto the feather detail in her creamy ear patch; it's very east to overexpose that characteristic field mark against the surrounding brown, especially in bright sunlight. 

Bufflehead - Bucephala albeola
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS 1DX2
1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 500

That's it for now. I'll try to post again next week, assuming the country doesn't burn to the ground on January 20th.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Post #190 - End of Year bike-birding adventures land me in the emergency room!

How's this for an end-of-year teaser? I biked 2,940 miles this year before ending the year in the emergency room! Please know I'm fine; it was a VERY painful but ultimately minor injury. So, with the hook baited, let's get into my recent wanderings. As the four rides I chronicle in this post were particularly ambitious, I hope they'll keep you entertained ahead of my injury reveal. 

Ride #1, December 4th
This story starts on December 1st when a Dusky Flycatcher (DUFL) was reported from the East Palo Alto bayshore. Common in the Sierras, the species makes only rare visits to the coast, the referenced bird only one of handful of San Mateo County records in the past decade. I wasn't able to pursue the continuing bird through the 3rd, but an equally exciting report of four Tundra Swans (TUSW) from Pescadero that afternoon forced a move on the 4th. Unable to chose between the two birds - both would be new for my Bay Area bike list - I decided to try for them both in one, very long day. 

My combined pursuits of TUSW and DUFL

Succeed, fail, or anything in-between, I figured this ride would make good blog fodder, so I kept careful notes on timing as I pedaled from home to Pescadero to East Palo Alto and to home again. Leg 1 unfolded as expected, but leg 2 with the higher climb over the coastal mountains really beat the hell out of me. Fortunately, I scored both birds with minimal searching, so adrenaline powered me through Leg 3 to close the 77-mile loop. This was my most ambitious one-day pursuit since I moved the the Bay Area in May of 2017, and it couldn't have unfolded any better. I even captured some hella bad digi-binoc images of both species!

Left: TUSW - Bay Area Bike Bird #325 (San Mateo County bike bird #285)
Right: DUFL - Bay Area Bird Bird #326 (San Mateo County bike bird #286)

Ride #2, December 9th

My next outing took me to Alameda County on December 9th, mostly to search for the long-staying Harris's Sparrow (HASP) at Pacific Commons Linear Park but also to fill in some more general Alameda County holes. I was able to find the sparrow for Alameda County Bike Bird #184, and I ran my total to 190 with subsequent additions of Redhead (REDH), Ring-necked Duck (RNDU), Bald Eagle (BAEA), Ferruginous Hawk (FEHA), Burrowing Owl (BUOW), and Loggerhead Shrike (LOSH). 

An overexposed Harris's Sparrow between White-crowned Sparrows

Being that I'd already made significant miles south, I continued around the bottom of the bay and turned northwest to reach Shoreline Lake in Mountain View where I found the continuing Brant.

Brant for Santa Clara Bike Bird #215

Another long day, but 8 county bike ticks was pretty sweet!

Ride #3, December 28th
Other projects and a bit of travel shut biking down for two weeks over Christmas but the longish-staying Least Flycatcher (LEFL) in San Francisco's Presidio put me into motion when I returned on December 28th. Wet conditions and low temperatures kept activity low through the early part of the morning, but the bird showed when the sun came out at around 10:30. The bird was hella trusting, and I wished I had brought the camera instead of the scope. I had to settle for the usual digi-binoc record shots. Would crushed it even with the 100-400. 

Least Flycatcher - Bay Area Bike Bird #327 (SF County Bike Bird #232)

With time to spare, I made a stop at Heron's Head Park en route to Yosemite Slough, that quick pause yielding a unexpected trifecta of Gadwall (GADW) for San Francisco Bike Bird #233. For those who don't know, Gadwall is a very tricky bird in SF even though it's common in adjacent Marin and San Mateo Counties. That self-found bonus secured, I pedaled to Yosemite Slough where I spent the next two hours not finding the Loggerhead Shrike (LOSH). The bird had been very reliable for the previous week, so it was a tough miss. Two other birders missed it earlier in the day, so it clearly wasn't around (despite reappearing for the SF Xmas count the following day, December 29th). A Northern Pintail (NOPI) did soften the LOSH miss for San Franciscio Bike Bird #234. I'd seen NOPI on SF pelagics, but it was good to redeem that dirty bird on the bike.

A trifecta of Gadwall at Heron's Head


Ride #4, December 30th
This ride started out just fine. I covered the 17 miles from my apartment to Geng Road in Palo Alto in 67 minutes and without incident. My target was Summer Tanager (SUTA), and I was shocked that ten others joined my search for the continuing bird; it present for the previous 2 weeks, I assumed everyone who wanted to see it had done so already. It took our search party nearly two hours, but I eventually spotted the bright pink bird and put the others onto it (Santa Clara Bike Bird #216). No time for photos, I hopped back on the bike and crossed the bay to look for the Lapland Longspurs (LALO) which had frequented Coyote Hills Park for the previous week. That ground-dweller surfaced quickly - Alamdea County Bike Bird #192 after the long overdue addition of Herring Gull for #191 - and I initiated a more directed search for the Glaucous Gull which is spending its third winter in the park. 

Lapland Longspur

It was at that point when everything went to hell. Powering towards another corner of the park, I stopped to scan a group of gulls. No Glaucous detected, I unearthed my lunch from the depths of my panniers and removed my leg-length tights amidst growing midday heat. Turning to repack my gear after eating, I hastily thrust my hand into my pannier. I immediately felt a bolt of lightning shoot up my arm, and I withdrew my hand with my thumbnail pried off the nail bed. It was pouring blood, but I squeezed the nail back onto the bed (ouch!) before calling my wife to come and rescue me since I'd be unable to ride home. I still don't know exactly what happened. I might have struck something in the bag, but it's also possible I missed the bag entirely and struck something on the bike frame. Whatever I hit, it went straight under the nail and popped it open, kinda like a car hood. It took my wife 30 mins to reach Coyote Hills, and we raced to the ER in Redwood City with my bike in the trunk and my thumb oozing blood.

The doctors said there wasn't much they could do but wedge the nail down and see what happens. It may fall off; it may not. Regardless, I am in a small splint for the next week and advised to stay off the bike for that stretch. It's therefore a good time to get caught up on blogging (fortunately, the splinted digit isn't required for my modified brand of hunt-and-peck typing), and I can do some car-based birding while the wound heals. The primary short term issue is that I can't manipulate the camera, but that should resolve fairly quickly. Fingers crossed, so to speak.

I counted the SUTA and LALO as bike birds even though I didn't make it home under my own power. As the pain of the finger exceeded anything the return ride could have inflicted save for getting run over, I figured I'd sufficiently suffered.

Eeyore shirt is apropos.....

So that's how my 2020 bike-birding story ends. This strange episode aside, it was a really good year, one during which I rode 2,940 miles and pushed my cumulative Bay Area Bike List to 327 species (I started 2020 at 299). It's going to be very hard to add new birds moving forward, but I'm far from saturating the contributing counties; there will be plenty of county and general birding to motivate me through 2021 - and beyond.

County                Start 2020        End 2020        Gain
San Mateo                 264                    286               22
San Francisco            188                    234               46
Santa Clara                186                    216               30
Alameda                    136                    192               56
Marin                           92                    138               46
Stanislaus                      0                      73                73
San Joaquin                   0                      59                59
Contra Costa                 0                       51                51
Santa Cruz                     0                      26                26
                  Total County Bike Ticks = 1275

Thanks for sticking with me for through the 6th year of this blog! I wish everyone a happy and healthy 2021! Cheers!



Thursday, December 17, 2020

Post #189 - Shorebirds in Flight

I moved to the Bay Area (San Mateo) in May of 2017 and quickly adopted Foster City as my go-to local photography spot. I cranked out some nice shots through that winter (2017-18) and the next (2018-19), but the area experienced some bottom topography changes ahead of winter 2019-20 that rendered it less productive. Mud moves around, and the birds seemed to be favoring a newly formed bar far out into the Bay. Unable to access that, my Foster City output dropped last year. I was nervous that unproductive trend would continue this winter, but the birds seemed to have returned to their photo-friendly patterns. I've recently captured a bunch of flight images, and I'll use this post to share those and a few words about each.

Let's start with my Foster City bread and butter, the Willet. Yeah, I dropped this shot into a post a few weeks ago, but I'll double up to include it here. These guys aren't much to look at while standing still, but that changes as soon as they spread their high contrast wings. This bird would ideally be banking a bit more, but I thought the two-toned background offset that consideration. This bird was high up off the water, so I was able to get a split water-sky suggestion far behind it. 

Willet - Tringa Semipalmata
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II on EOS 1DX Mark II
1/4000 at f/5.6, ISO 800

Marbled Godwit is another species which frequents Foster City. They tend fly low along the water, and the end of day light really brings out their cinnamon tones. The trick with these flights shots is to avoid shadows. It's mostly a luck function depending on the bird's trajectory (with the respect to the light) and the bird's wing position, but that's the goal. I have a touch of shadow on the far wing, but I think it's a negligible amount. Like the above frame, it's all about eye contact with the bird acknowledging my presence! 

Marbled Godwit - Limosa fedoa
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS 1DX Mark II
1/4000 at f/5.6, ISO 1000

Black-bellied Plovers are present in much smaller number than Willets or Marbled Godwits. They fly faster and tend to stay a bit farther away, so they're harder to nail cleanly and with sufficient detail. Given that challenge, I was stoked to get this speedster in the full upstroke. Note that the axillaries (armpits) remain black (and diagnostic) even in non-breeding plumage. No shadows, woo hoo!

Black-bellied Plover - Pluvialis squatarola
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS 1DX Mark II
1/4000 at f/5.6, ISO 1000

Ok, I cannot tell you how many misses it took to get this full topside frame of this Dunlin. Smaller and move elusive than the previous three species, I think this is a pretty sweet result. I was tracking the bird as it flew in front of me, and it was pure luck that I didn't clip the upper/right wing when he made an unannounced turn. This is probably my best flight frame of this species. Now I gotta get an equivalent result with the bird in breeding plumage! 

Dunlin - Calidris alpina
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II on EOS 1DX Mark II
1/5000 at f/5.6, ISO 640

Last, and certainly not least, we have this Long-billed Curlew. This species visits Foster City in smaller numbers - maybe 1-2 flybys per visit - but they are always high overhead and not suitable for shooting. I nearly fell of my rock when I saw this guy coming in hella low, and I was stoked to get a beautifully lit frame against some calm water. I would have liked to have the wings a tiny bit higher, but I can't argue with the lack of shadows. Gotta love that beak, right?

Long-billed Curlew - Numenius americanus
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS 1DX Mark II
1/4000 at f/5.6, ISO 800

Those paying close attention should notice I'm aiming for shutter speeds of between 1/3200 and 1/5000 for shots like this. In bright sun, that usually means f/5.6 and ISO 640 to 1250, depending on species and lighting conditions. I mention this so readers know what it takes to freeze fast-flying and rapid-flapping species like these. If you can't achieve a sufficiently fast shutter at an acceptable (depending on camera body), then you'll be working from an immediate disadvantage. Remember, you can fix noise in post production but you cannot fix blurred wings; it's therefore preferable to push the ISO to freeze the wings in the field and worry about the noise once you put the shots into the computer. Fortunately, I don't have to worry much about noise in the beaming sun in which I prefer shooting.

That's it for now. Cheers!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Post #188 - Late Year Bay Area Bike Birding: Painful misses and redemptive gains

Long time readers (i.e. gluttons for punishment) might recall my epic battle with Parakeet Auklet from a few years back. Though that bird frequented Land's End in San Francisco for multiple consecutive summers, it took me four independent bikes rides spread across 2017 and 2019 to add that bothersome bird to my cumulative Bay Area bike list. I said I'd never pour that much into a single bird again, but - sure as you know what - I couldn't help myself when a Glaucous Gull (GLGU) appeared in San Francisco a few weeks ago. The kicker? I already had GLGU for my Bay Area bike list since I saw one in my home San Mateo County in 2017, so I was after the bird purely as a San Francisco bird!

To make a long story short, I chased the SF GLGU three times (November 20, 22, and 26) without finding it. Twice I missed by a matter of minutes, and hindsight suggests the bird gone by the time I made my third trip. I did salvage Evening Grosbeak (EVGR) for San Mateo bike bird #283 on my return ride on my second attempt and a continuing Tropical Kingbird (TRKI) for San Francisco bike bird #231 on my third, so those additions softened the GLGU misses. I say I won't chase GLGU in SF again, but that will probably change if the damn bird surfaces again.....

Summary of Glaucous Gull Failures

Digiscope shots of San Mateo EVGR and San Francisco TRKI

Undaunted by GLGU struggles, I ventured south to Santa Clara County for a continuing Barrow's Goldeneye (BAGO) on November 28th. Fortunately that bird cooperated, and I had prolonged looks at the bird as it foraged on the far side of Shoreline Lake (too far for digiscope photos). That bird added Santa Clara bike bird #214, I birded my way through Byxbee Park and the Palo Alto Baylands on my return. Scanning from San Francisquito Creek, the border between Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, I watched 3 Bonaparte's Gulls (BOGU) fly from the former to the later.  I'd seen BOGU on San Mateo pelagics, but it was good to redeem that 'dirty bird' for a long overdue San Mateo bike bird (#284). The Bonaparte's were even farther away than the Barrow's, so no photo of that bird either.

My ride to Santa Clara County on November 28

I've since undertaken my two most ambitious single-day rides of the year, but I'll save those for a future installment. I've been giving you a lot of bike-birding lately, so I'll swap in some photography for the next post. Cheers! Here's an old shot of a Bonaparte's Gull from Boston to close down for now.