Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Post #204 - Fall Migration in Full Swing!

The stream of interesting migrants continues! I've been out on the bike a fair amount lately, and I'll use this entry to highlight a few birds I've intersected since my last post. Let's get rolling....

Canada Warbler (CAWA) is an eastern species which occurs in California as a rare migrant, usually in fall (range map below). Beyond a would-be addition to my Bay Area Bike List, CAWA would be a state bird for me because I'd not intersected it anywhere in California -- by bike or by car -- since moving from Boston in April of 2015. That as a backdrop, I sprung into action when Aaron Maizlish reported one at the Colma Creek mouth on the San Mateo bayshore on September 14. The report came in 2.5 hours after the original sighting, and I wasn't optimistic about relocating the bird given the huge wind which had materialized in the interim. I saddled-up regardless and -- to my surprise -- relocated the bird after a ten minute search. Other birders arrived a bit later, and the subject showed well through the afternoon and the next day. It was the first CAWA reported in the county since 2014, so it was well-received by all.

Canada Warbler
Bay Area Bike Bird #340
San Mateo County Bike Bird #291

While I was looking at the Colma CAWA, Noah Arthur found another in the San Francisco Botanical Garden. I didn't have the time to continue to SF for that second bird, but I caught up with it two days later, on September 16th (SF Bike Bird #248. No photo, sorry). So, after seeing zero CAWAs in California across six years, I saw two by bike in the span of three days. I think it was karma since I decided not to drive for a cooperative CAWA in Contra Costa County the previous week.

I hadn't birded the Colma Creek mouth prior to my CAWA visit, and I decided to return on September 24th since I liked what I saw the first time around. There's a lot of fennel along that stretch of bayshore, and I was hopeful I could find some interesting migrants. When I didn't find much beyond White-crowned Sparrows, Black Phoebes, Bushtits, I continued to the adjacent mudflats where I took a quick binocular scan of the various shorebirds.

What the hell is that? Could it be a Ruff ? No way - they're hella rare around here.

I jumped off the bike, fished out my the scope, and threw it onto the tripod, my subsequent view to the bird confirming my Ruff suspicion! I snapped a few digiscope pics, but the bird vanished while I was posting it to the Telegram group and list server. Fortunately, I relocated it from another vantage half an hour later, and at least one other person arrived in time to see it. Ruff is a great find for San Mateo -- there are only a handful of county records -- but it wasn't a Bay Area Bike Bird since I observed one in Santa Clara at Don Edwards on November 3, 2018.

Ruff - San Mateo Bike Bird #292

That's it for now. More to come in the next few weeks. Cheers!

Friday, September 10, 2021

Post #203 - My most ridiculous bike chases yet?

I know the title is high billing, but two of the three pursuits I'll recap in this post were laughable, albeit for different reasons. With that teaser, let's start with something standard to get warmed-up.

I saw Eastern Kingbird (EAKI) by bike in San Francisco a few years back, but I've been waiting for one to appear in San Mateo. That finally happened when biologist Rusty-something found one at Crystal Springs Reservoir on the morning of September 1st. Though positive reports rolled in through midday, non-birding responsibilities prevented me from getting out until 2:30pm. I wasn't optimistic about my chances given the howling wind which had materialized across the day, but the bird showed right after I arrived. It stayed well inside the fence, so even scope views were poor. 

        Eastern Kingbird - San Mateo bike bird #289
At least the white tail band is visible...

It's nice when rarities show up so close to home....

OK, now for the fun stuff! It began when Sonia and I drove to Garin Regional Park in the East Bay for a morning of hiking on Monday, September 5th. The birding in the parched hills was expectedly-slow -- the topography was selected to exhaust our energetic foster beagle -- but we swung through Coyote Hills afterwards to look for previously-reported Baird's (BASA) and Pectoral Sandpipers (PESA), two species which I needed for Alameda County (by car or by bike). I had great looks at two of each while Sonia gave the dog some additional walking, and we returned home via the Dumbarton Bridge at 3pm.

Sonia wanted to lay low through the afternoon, so I decided to hop onto the bike and sprint straight back to Coyote Hills -- 22 miles -- with hopes of adding the same birds to my Alameda bike list. All the shorebirds had vanished since my earlier visit, but a BASA and a PESA eventually flew-in with a flock of peeps. The sun sinking to the west, I turned-tail and arrived home at 7:50pm, twenty minutes after sunset. I've double-chased birds before but not on the same day, so this represents a new level of bike-birding obsession. Not sure if that's good or bad.......

Pectoral Sandpiper (left) and Baird's Sandpiper (right)
Alameda bike birds #193 and #194

What the hell was I thinking?!?!?!

Interestingly, in pursuing the above pair, I necessarily passed on the Phainopepla which David Assman found at Fort Mason earlier on that same day. That location is a headache to reach because of all the traffic lights, and I was already limited by daylight given how late I was leaving. Plus, I wasn't keen to bike into the city via the baseball stadium when the Giants were playing the Dodgers on a holiday weekend. Phainopepla would have been a great SF bike bird (I already have it in Alameda and Santa Clara), but I didn't feel I was set-up for success given the above considerations.

It was therefore apropos that Aaron Maizlish found another Phainopepla in San Bruno (San Mateo County) on Wednesday, September 8. I was walking the dog when the report came through, so I hustled home, jumped on the bike, and quickly covered the 6.6 miles to the location. 75 minutes of searching yielded nothing but a Chris Hayward sighting, so I folded the search and headed home with hopes of a productive afternoon. And wouldn't you know it? The crafty Brit found the bird about 20 minutes after I departed! I'd already covered 5 of the return miles with the aid of a stiff tailwind, but I immediately turned around and returned to the location. Chris kindly held onto the bird -- with Malia also en route he better have! -- and it showed shortly after my re-arrival (and again after Malia arrived). So yeah, with all the back-and-forth, I rode 23 miles to see a bird which was less than 7 miles from my apartment. Ugh.

Phainopepla (immature)  - San Mateo bike bird #290

If at first you don't succeed.......

That's it for now. I'm sure there will be additional chases as fall progresses, so I'll post about those as they unfold. Cheers!