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!
More coming soon. Stay tunes. Cheers.