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

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