Saturday, November 20, 2021

Post #208 - My final Bay Area bike chase and big plans for the future.......

No, I'm not retiring from the glory-sport that is bike-birding, but I will be vacating the Bay Area for the next 10 months. Airbnb is permitting Sonia to work remotely through next September, and Tropical Birding will fly me from wherever I am to wherever my tours run. So, with that flexibility, we've decided to rent our apartment and hit the road! We're going to Chile for all of December, and we're planning to spend the remaining winter in CA, NV, AZ, and NM once we've returned. We've not visited OK or AR, so we'll hit those states en route towards LA, hopefully in early-April. From the bayou, we'll follow the Mississippi River north through May. We'll explore Ontario and Quebec in June and July, and we're planning on camping in Norway, Finland, and Sweden in August before returning to the US, picking-up the car in Philly, and recrossing the country in September. Throw my tour schedule (TX, FL, NC, MA, WY, Newfoundland) on top of that plan, and it's going to be a very hectic year. I'm optimistic we'll have room for my bicycle on the US and Canadian legs, but there should be plenty of blog material regardless!

Given the necessary preparations ahead of our departure, bike-birding has recently been curtailed. I did, however, put a pause on planning to pursue a Gray Catbird (GRCA) which was found in the San Francisco Botanical Garden on November 1st. I'd missed the mostly-Eastern species (range map below) on two different occasions -- once in San Francisco's Presidio in September of 2018 and again Half Moon Bay in August of 2019 -- so I was keen to avoid a third strike when I mounted up on the morning of November 4th.

The 19.5-mile ride to the Golden Gate Park was painless (~85 mins). Half-a-dozen birders hadn't observed the bird by my arrival, so I settled into the search for the next hour. And then another. And then another. Nancy Palmer caught a glimpse of something promising as the fourth hour arrived, but it took another 30 minutes before a clearer view confirmed her initial suspicion, the bird finally perching in the open for all to see. It was a great 'get' given that I was ready to fold the search five minutes earlier!

Gray Catbird - Bay Area bike bird #343 (SF bike bird #252)

39 round-trip miles

The ride avenged my previous misses on this species and wrapped-up my Bay Area biking with a savory victory. I'll miss my adopted home these next ten months, but I know there will be plenty of biking and birding when we return next fall.

Here are some numbers since we moved to San Mateo in May of 2017.

2017: ~700 (estimate since I didn't keep track or know how obsessive I'd become)
2018: 2,001 miles
2019: 2,086 miles
2020: 2,940 miles
2021: 2,080 miles
Total; ~9,800 miles

Species totals by county:
San Mateo            292    (408 checklists)
San Francisco       252    (137 checklists)
Santa Clara           229    (71 checklists)
Alameda               194    (29 checklists)
Santa Cruz            117    (17 checklists, all on same overnight swing)
Marin                    138    (11 checklists spread across six visits, mostly Rodeo Lagoon)
Monterey               95     (6 checklists, all on one morning as part of 5-day trip)
Stanislaus              73     (3 checklists, all on one day as part of 5-day trip)
San Benito             62     (6 checklist across an afternoon and morning as part of 5-day trip)
San Joaquin           59     (4 checklists across one summer morning as part of 5-day trip)
Contra Costa          51    (4 checklists, all on one summer afternoon as part of 5-day trip)
1,562 county ticks representing 343 species

***These totals include widespread and ABA-countable introduced species like European Starling and Eurasian Collared-Dove but not Red-masked Parakeet (observed in SF), Mute Swan (the pets at SF palace of fine arts), Mitred Parakeet (observed in Palo Alto), Northern Red Bishop (observed in SF), Chilean Flamingo (observed in Alameda), and so so.

Particularly notable birds:
Tufted Duck (SM)
Broad-billed Hummingbird (SF)
Black Rail (heard-only in SC)
Hudsonian Godwit (SM)
Bar-tailed Godwit (SM, Ala)
Ruff (SM, SC)
Rock Sandpiper (SF)
Parakeet Auklet (SF)
Sabine's Gull (SF, SC)
Slaty-backed Gull (SM)
Laysan Albatross (SM)
Red-footed Booby (SM, SF)
Northern Gannet (SM)
California Condor (SB)
Yellow-green Vireo (SF)
Dusky Warbler (SM)
Brown Thrasher (SF)
LeConte's Sparrow (SM)
27 New World warblers including Canada, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Prairie, Yellow-throated, Lucy's, Worm-eating, and Ovenbird.

OK, enough. More from the road in the near future. Cheers!


  1. have a great trip/adventure year on the road! may the bird gods blow vagrents into your pathway.

    1. Thanks for the well wishes! Vagrants in the center of the country will be tough, but I'm hoping to build up state lists in place I haven't visited previously.

  2. Have a wonderful road trip! I look forward to traveling with you from the comfort of my computer and sharing your fantastic experiences. Your biking big year continues to impact my life and how I do things - recently retired I gave up my personal gas-powered vehicle as unnecessary and now travel almost everywhere on foot or bicycle. Continue to inspire and enjoy all that awaits you.

    1. Hi Larry - I'm so glad to hear that you've taken up the bicycle! It's a wonderful way to explore the world. I will be blogging as Sonia and I move about, so I hope my periodic broadcasts will offer you a window to what I'll experience these next 10 months. Cheers!

  3. Good on Sonia and good on you!
    Please keep posting your impressions of the places you go.
    Especially in these Covid times, it is so good to get a glimpse of life elsewhere.

    1. Will do! might even get Sonia to make a guest blogging appearance. If nothing else, hopefully get some video of us clowning around in the places we'll visit!