It’s Cold What am I Doing Counting Birds/Weeks Birding

We are finally getting some Winter weather here on the coast but compared to what’s happening in the rest of the country  and Great Britain and Northern Europe our weather is mild. On Friday the weather report was for a cold rain. I decided to do my Virgin Creek SOS Survey on Thursday morning and then continue down to Ten Mile Beach for what will probably be my last walk for the year there. I believe this was the coldest temperature I’d been out on a bike. Inland Mendocino set new low temperature records with 20°F. 

I used my early MTA pickup opportunity in Mendocino to get down to the drop off point in Fort Bragg before 7:30AM. Needless to say I had the Haul Rd. and Virgin Creek Beach to myself. I found the bridge over Virgin Creek and portions of the beach to be iced over. It was much more dramatic in black and white.

While on the beach I checked the temperature and it was 31°F.  I saw little Least Sandpipers wading in the creek. How do they do that? There were actually good numbers of shorebirds on the beach. Almost 60 Black-bellied Plovers, 30 Black Turnstones, 18 Surfbirds with a few Dunlin and numerous Killdeer.

I continued down to Ward Ave. for a walk up Ten Mile Beach. I found another 60+ Black-bellied Plovers with more Dunlins and over 100 Sanderlings. During the day I saw a Merlin at Pudding Creek, an American Kestral at Virgin Creek, heard a Red- shouldered Hawk at Virgin Creek, and two Peregrine Falcons on Ten Mile. Most of our Peregrines on the West Coast are of the Peale’s subspecies but I believe this falcon is of the Tundra subspecies.

I also found a coastal Say’s Phoebe at the very start of the walk. They are uncommon in Mendocino County.

I got far enough up Ten Mile Beach to see part of the wintering Snowy Plover flock. I hear that there have been 53 of them on the beach. With all the falcons in the area and the cold weather I’m sure that they and other shorebirds are under some stress. 

Now that State Parks can proceed with their removal of the old Haul Rd. it looks like they are preparing for it. I found piles of these barrier material all along the road.

Saturday’s birding at the Little River Airport was also cold and windy. While we had no snow there were piles of hail on the frozen ground. I found another (same?) River Otter in the main pond. In my 8 years of birding the airport this is only the second time I’ve seen them and both have been this year. You can read about my first sighting and speculation on where they are coming from in this previous post.

The ponds have a little more water in them since the rain and they were supporting 6 Hooded Mergansers (3 pairs) that day.

No new birds were found this week so I’m at 247 birds with over 2836 carbon producing truck miles saved. Can I make it to 250 birds and 3000 miles? Only time will tell.


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