Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Post #168 - Hybrid post: Half Bike-birding, Half Photography (Godwitpalooza!)

I don't know about the rest of California, but a number of long-time San Mateo County birders have lamented a historically-slow fall migration in our parts. I struggled to find Yellow and Orange-crowned Warblers on many days, and the county felt generally devoid of vagrants with the exceptions of southwestern strays Lucy's Warbler and Vermilion Flycatcher, both at Coyote Point. San Francisco seems to have experienced a decent fall push from what my inexperienced can discern from message boards, but I'd be interested to hear about migration in other parts of the Bay Area or Golden State.

That question posed, I did add Chestnut-sided Warbler (CSWA) to my Bay Area bike list (#293) in Golden Gate Park since my last post. Initially reported on October 9th, the bird continued through the 11th at North Lake where I caught up with it. The eastern CSWA regularly stays to California in fall, and I'd passed on several opportunities to pursue the species knowing others would present at more opportune times if I didn't find my own example in the meantime. The below eBird graphic reveals lots of Bay Area sightings, the orange pins representing those between September 11 and October 11 of this year, so it was inevitable I'd intersect the species at some point.

Bay Area eBird CSWA records and the GG Park bird I observed

The 43-mile round-trip took ~3.25 hours 
with traffic lights and other nonsense.

Less likely in the Bay Area was Hudsonian Godwit (HUGO, #294), a tundra nester which migrates through the center and eastern parts of the continent, and the bird hadn't been recorded in San Mateo County prior to October 14th, the day when Dan and Dave Sidle found one on Tunitas Creek Beach. I was having lunch with Alvaro Jaramillo in Half Moon Bay when the belated report came through midday on the 15th, but I passed on driving for the would-be state bird that afternoon despite dining just 8 miles from it. Instead, I biked the 22 miles from my apartment the following morning, the 16th. I reached Tunitas at 8:45am and immediately intersected die-hard California county birder Jim Lomax as he exited the beach. When the crafty veteran informed me the HUGO had been joined by a Bar-tailed Godwit* (BTGO, initially noted by Dave Webber), I raced down the bluff to observe both vagrants associating with ~40 Marbled Godwits (MAGOs). It was a pretty incredible morning. 

*Some might recall my successful pursuit of BTGO in Alameda County in July. With details about that Alaskan/Eurasian vagrant at the link, I won't rehash them here.

 L to R: Jackass, Lomax, HUGO, BTGO, MAGO

Hudsonian Godwit migration and California eBird records.
Left image modified from this website. It has much HUGO info.

44 miles round trip, two climbs over Route 92.

As you can see from the above phone-scoped shots, I did not have a DLSR with me on the bicycle. (I carry binoculars and scope+tripod or 7D2+100-400, depending on where I'm going.) The vagrants and attending MAGOs seemed very comfortable with birders and photographers during my bike-based visit, so I returned in the car with my big rig the following morning. Zero beachgoers and a relatively flat-pitched beach made for fantastic shooting, and I was able to walk out with nice shots of Hudsonian and Bar-tailed. Here are four of the better frames, the last being my favorite. Fog and cloud made for constantly shifting light and backgrounds, so each shot has a slightly different feel to it. Marbled included mostly for reference.

***click images to see larger***

Marbled Godwit - Limosa fedoa
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS 1DX2
1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 400, manual mode

Hudsonian Godwit - Limosa haemastica
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS 1DX2
1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 640, manual mode

Bar-tailed Godwit - Limosa lapponica
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS 1DX2
1/3200 at f/5.6, ISO 640, manual mode

Bar-tailed Godwit - Limosa lapponica
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS 1DX2
1/2500 at f/5.6, ISO 800, manual mode

Monday, October 14, 2019

Post #167 - Early-fall bike-birding update

Well, without my childhood Philadelphia Phillies or my adopted Boston Red Sox in playoff contention this fall, it's been a steady diet of migration through September and into October. We've had a some nice surprises on the peninsula, and this quick post will highlight three I've intersected on my bicycle. 

I've poached a lot of previously found/reported birds in the last few months, so it was nice to find my own Lucy's Warbler at Coyote Point on September 9th. eBird reveals 1 to 2 Bay Area sightings a year for the last ten, almost all between September and February, so the species is rare but regular around here. The last San Mateo County record was from February of 2017 (I was still living in LA), and I intersected my Bay Area bike-first at a Lake Merced stakeout in San Francisco in December of that year. So, the Coyote Point bird wasn't new for my cumulative Bay Area bike list but was new for the San Mateo County subset of that project (#261). Can't argue with convenience.....

Lucy's Warbler range (left) and Bay Area sightings (right)

Heavily cropped Lucy's Warbler record shots

Coyote convenience........

Coyote Point delivered again on September 22 when Ron Thorn found a Vermilion Flycatcher 50 feet from where I found the Lucy's. Another generally desert/southwestern species as far as the US is concerned, the bird appears in the Bay Area slightly less frequently than Lucy's Warbler. A cooperative adult male spent 8 weeks at Joseph Grant County Park east of San Jose between July and September, but I couldn't afford the overnight chase that individual would have required. I learned about the more convenient Coyote Point bird fifteen minutes after its discovery, and my understanding wife granted me a stay on chores while I tried for it. ('Understanding' is probably the understatement of the century given that she let me ride away for a year in 2014.) I relocated the bird near its discovery point moments after arriving, clicked a quick record shot, and raced home 10 minutes later. It was a shameless tick-and-run, but that's what circumstances dictated.

Northern part of Vermilion Flycatcher Range (left)
All Bay Area eBird records (right)

A distant and heavily cropped Vermilion Flycatcher record shot.
Bay Area bike bird #291

I'll move from San Mateo to San Francisco for the final bird of this installment. Yellow-green Vireo is a Mexican and Central America species which is rare but regular along the California Coast; between 0 and 3 individuals have been eBirded from the Bay Area each of the last ten falls. A Golden Gate Park representative was discovered on Friday, September 27th and remained until Monday the 30th when I was able to catch up with it near Stow Lake. The vireo is one of only a handful of ABA coded birds I've observed from my bike in the Bay Area - Tufted Duck (3), Red-footed Booby (4, discounting Hawaii), Ruff (3) Dusky Warbler (4) - so it was really nice to add it after the 3-day delay. Interestingly, the only other time I've observed this species was in San Diego during my 2014 bicycle Big Year. So, yeah, there's that useless bit of trivia. 

Yellow-green Vireo range (left) and California eBird records (right)

Yellow-green Vireo - Bay Area bike bird #292

My Yellow-Green Vireo chase

And since I've offered only crappy records shots, here's a proper frame to end. Cheers.....

Marbled Godwit - Limosa fedoa
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II on EOS 1DX Mark II
1/5000 at f/4.5, ISO 400, handheld
Click image for large/better view