Butterflies are Frustrating!

Back on June 11th, I was biking down a Fort Bragg back-alley along the GP property balancing a small Zappa's mocha coffee in one hand heading for my bus stop. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a small butterfly along the fence. I put on the brakes and laid the bike and mocha down (without spilling a drop) and was able to get this picture.

By small I mean smaller then a dime with the wings folded. Upon reviewing the picture I thought this was going to be an easy butterfly to identify. I should never think that. In Kaufman's Field Guide to Butterflies of North America I first noted the Acmon Blue with it's large range in the west and thought that had to be the one but just below it was the Lupine Blue that had a smaller range that also included the Fort Bragg area. Kaufman states that the classification of these two butterflies is controversial. “The widespread forms may be Lupines, not Acmons, or they may make up multiple species.”

I submitted the picture to the experts at Butterflies and Moths of North America and got this response.

There is no information provided that will resolve whether this is an Acmon or Lupine Blue…it could be either.

Two weeks later on the bluffs overlooking Virgin Creek Beach I was able to get a few pictures of this butterfly.

This time I was able to get the bottom of the wings and thought that might be the key to identifying this butterfly. I knew that once again I was up against the Acmon/Lupine problem. I received this response.

There is no upper view or other information provided that would allow an ID except someone familiar with that locality-Ken Davenport

On July 13th, while birding at the Little River Airport, a totally different environment, I found several of these butterflies and got pictures of both the upper and lower wings.

What was the response from the expert?

Without knowing the host plant and the locality myself, I can't say which species it is. I suspect acmon but can't be sure. Maybe someone else familiar with that locality will know so I will leave the submission open to review.-Ken Davenport

Currently all three of my submissions for this butterfly remain pending waiting for a local expert to weigh in. It seems that I will now have to become a botany expert.To be fair to Ken Davenport he apparently lives in Bakersfield and doesn't know this area. At least I got a “possible” answer. I actually believe that he's correct. Kaufman states that the Acmon Blue flies “spring to fall” with 2-3 broods. The Lupine Blue “flies spring to summer depending on locality and elevation” with mainly 1 brood. Butterflies fly earlier at lower elevations. Shapiro's Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions states that the Lupine Blue flies generally in late spring. If that's true then this Acmon/Lupine Blue that I found near the end of Ward Ave. on July 23rd in most likely an Acmon Blue.

The later I find this butterfly the chances are that it's an Acmon Blue. That's my theory anyway. Shapiro has this to say about the Lupine Blue.

Of all the species listed in this book, this is the one whose status in our area is most uncertain. It has been recorded from Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Countries, but whether the specimens are correctly identified…remain to be determined…The situation is so fluid that we had best wait for Paul Opler to complete his revision of the group, now in progress, and hope that it clarifies these questions…Have fun!

That is why butterflies are so frustrating! The day I found the Acmon/Lupine Blue at the airport was a four butterfly day, something that is rare there. All of the butterflies were in fresh condition which indicates to me they had just emerged. There was no frustration in identifying them. This Painted Lady is probably part of a second brood since the airport was covered with them in the spring.

A Mylitta Crescent.

And a California Sister that flew up to me and gave me great views.

This American Lady recently settled down on some flowers on my deck. It is only the second one I've seen in Mendocino County and both have been at the Woods where I live.

Let's talk a little about birding. The big birding news, at least for me, concerns birding at the Little River Airport. Readers of this blog might remember an incident at the airport after I reported a Mountain Bluebird last year.

Sat. 6/14/14–This morning I was doing my usual birding at the Little River Airport and happened to start a conversation with the airport’s manager. I started the conversation with the announcement of a rare Mountain Bluebird last Sunday. He said he knew all about it and proceeded to tell me several stories about birders chasing it. One birder after watching plane activity proceeded to walk out on the active runway. Another group of birders decided to form a car caravan and drove out on the taxiway, stopped on it and got out and set up their scopes. He related a plane on the taxiway having to stop because of people in it’s way.

Apparently birders are not the only idiots there that do strange things at the airport. In talking to pilots I've heard many scary stories about people walking their dogs, riding their bikes and just having a good time out on the runway and in the hanger area. I have humorously called the airport my “playground” because of a 2005 newspaper article That stated,

As for the airport property incursions and the lack of enforcement against trespassers, the LRAAC wants an approved policy the Sheriffs department can use to disperse illegal assemblies, with guidelines on when to arrest and to prosecute those involved. Airport Manager Thorpe conveyed their reluctance to respond to calls without a clear policy for handling complaints.

The letter states, Now there is a mixture of teenagers and older people who have made the airport their playground. They ride motorcycles and off-road vehicles by developing their own unauthorized access roads and paths.

Sometimes people trespass on the airport in pickup trucks and park near the runway to drink at night. Then they smash large numbers of empty bottles by throwing them into the runway. The broken glass is a real danger to landing aircraft.

When the airport supervisor approaches these trespassers, their typical response is, There are several of us and one of you, what are you going to do about it?

The letter indicates the committee strongly supports increasing efforts to block runway access by implementing the CIP security fencing project, as soon as possible, and placing better No Trespassing and Warning Federal Offense signage around the perimeter.

On Jan. 9. numerous shots were fired on airport property. Two abandoned cars were discovered smashed with large amounts of garbage dumped where bonfires and disturbances have been taking place. On Feb. 2 a parent refused to take his children, who were riding bicycles, off the airports active runway, or to leave when ordered to by the airport supervisor.

The Little River Airport is now trying to make the airport idiot-proof. They have already installed gates around the terminal that will solve much of the problem. There has been a proposal for an Airport Traffic Area where you would need permission to enter from the airport manager.

On the rest of the property you will have to sign a Little River Airport: Permission to Hike on Airport Property Form. This form will indemnify Mendocino County from any damages or injury that might occur on the property and that you could lose this right to hike on the property if you enter the Airport Traffic Area without permission. The airport property is extensive at roughly 564 acres.

For me just stepping across Little River Airport Road puts me on airport property. The light green section (C) is where the locals are trying to save a valuable section of Redwoods.

I have been in negotiations with members of the Little River Airport Advisory Committee about boundaries for the Airport Traffic Area and certainly I'm making every effort to stay on friendly terms with the pilots and the airport manager. I know two members of the committee. They are mostly concerned with the idiots that are out on the taxiway and runway and have no problems with the berry pickers, mushroom hunters, dog walkers (on leash), and at least this local birder. Stay tuned.

The actual birding here in Mendocino has been slow but is beginning to pickup. The shorebirds have started to return. The Elegant Terns are returning in good numbers which indicates a warm ocean. With El Niño conditions expected we are looking forward to an interesting fall.

A Mute Swan turns up occasionally. Here it is at Virgin Creek and flying over Fort Bragg.

Heermann's Gulls arrived early and are here in numbers I've never seen before.

But the most bizarre thing that has ever happened to me was during a recent SOS survey at Virgin Creek Beach. I had notice a strange bird calling and couldn't locate where it was coming from. The source of the call was a couple, Mike and Paula approaching me, who were out walking their Aplomado Falcon.

This is a Peruvian Aplomado Falcon, F. f. Pichinchae. The couple, both licensed falconers, had purchased it in Washington from a breeder. They had previously had a Gyrfalcon but found it too large for the area, whatever that means.

There is some controversy concerning falconry. There are those who believe that birds should fly free if capable. There are others, mostly falconers, who feel that falconry is a benefit. Wikipedia of course has an article on falconry. The art(?) of falconry is ancient with the earliest accounts dating to approximately 2,000 BC.

Falconry was largely restricted to the noble classes due to the prerequisite commitment of time, money, and space.

From what I have read it's still a sport for people with money. There are several groups of falconers that have been created. One of these is the North America Falconers Association.

Our Mission and Purpose: Is to improve, aid, and encourage competency in the art and practice of falconry among interested persons; to provide communication among and to disseminate information to interested Members; to promote scientific study of the raptorial species, their care, welfare and training; to promote conservation of the birds of prey and an appreciation of their value in nature and in wildlife conservation programs; to urge recognition of falconry as a legal field sport; and, to establish traditions which will aid, perpetuate, and further the welfare of falconry and the raptors it employs.

The Peregrine Fund is credited with the successful reintroduction of the Peregrine Falcon in the U.S. You can tour the Archives of Falconry at their facilities.

Falconry is one of the oldest methods of hunting. Eagles, hawks, and falcons are used by falconers to pursue and catch quarry for food. When the Peregrine Falcon became endangered due to the widespread use of DDT and other pesticides, falconers were instrumental in organizing the successful effort to recover the species.

Audubon doesn't seem to have a problem with falconry looking at it as another help with conservation. Audubon groups seem to welcome the falconer at their meetings and use the event as an educational tool.

I could not find a group that had as their main mission the banning of falconry but in Great Britain efforts were made by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and other lobby groups to have falconry outlawed, but these were successfully resisted.

My biggest concern with falconry is that falconers are allowed to break the law.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA), codified at 16 U.S.C. §§ 703–712 (although §709 is omitted), is a United States federal law, first enacted in 1916 in order to implement the convention for the protection of migratory birds between the United States and Great Britain (acting on behalf of Canada). The statute makes it unlawful without a waiver to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill or sell birds listed therein (“migratory birds”). The statute does not discriminate between live or dead birds and also grants full protection to any bird parts including feathers, eggs and nests. Over 800 species are currently on the list.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues permits for otherwise prohibited activities under the act. These include permits for taxidermy, falconry, propagation, scientific and educational use, and depredation, an example of the latter being the killing of geese near an airport, where they pose a danger to aircraft.

To have a bird of prey just because you want one seems to me a violation of the intent of the MBTA. When you read the California Regulations for falconry it get worse. Things like this disturb me.

A Master falconer may possess any number of raptors except he/she shall possess no more than five wild-caught raptors for use in falconry at any onetime, regardless of the number of state, tribal, or territorialfalconry licenses in possession.

(3) Raptors may be captured by trap or net methods that do not injure them. The licensee shall identify all set traps with the name and address of the licensee and shall check such traps at least once every 12 hours, except that all snare type traps shall be attended at all times when they are deployed.

(5) The following raptor species may be captured from the wild in California: Northern goshawk (Accipitergentilis), Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperii), sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus), red-tailed hawk (Buteojamaicensis), red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus),merlin (Falco columbarius), American kestrel (Falcosparverius), prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus), barred owl(Strix varia), and great horned owl (Bubo virginianus).

(6) No more than two nestlings of the species allowed for capture from the wild may be captured by the same General or Master licensee during the regulatory year. In no case may all nestlings be captured and removed from any nest. At least one nestling shall be left in a nest at all times.

I will let you form your own opinion on falconry if you care to. The internet is filled with falconers justifying their hobby. One site justifies falconry because of it's cultural and traditional history.

Being a living culture, falconry remains strongly rooted in the past. This aspect has been recognized and accentuated in the UNESCO statement on falconry as Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Humanity, that describes and qualifies it using such expressions as “traditional activity” and „cultural heritage” that is “passed on from generation to generation”, providing “a sense of belonging, continuity and identity”.

There are many cultural and traditional practices that we are trying to end, such as discrimination against minority's, gay marriage and even flying the confederate flag. Not all historical practices deserve to continue.

Another site made this statement in a “moral” effort to justify falconry.

And even if you face falconry from an aesthetic point of view, you will find no contradiction. As far as we know, animals have no thirst for freedom.

How do you justify an argument based on unknown data?


While writing this post I conducted a SOS Survey at Virgin Creek. After the survey I found two new butterflies to add to my Mendocino County list. One was a Checkered White on the bluffs above Virgin Creek Beach.

The other was a West Coast Lady at Ward Ave. I have now seen all the Lady's in Mendocino County.

And I finally got a picture of an Acmon Blue. If you still remember the beginning of this post, my theory was right. This is my first picture of a male. It was on territory chasing away another male.

The expert at Butterflies and Moths of North America accepted my submission as an Acmon Blue.

You are right, based on date this should be an Acmon Blue. And familiarity with Acmon Blues leads to improved ability to tell the 2 apart, but maybe not with nominate Lupine Blues which occur in that part of the state-Ken Davenport

So I guess I found three new Mendocino County butterflies. Butterflies are now only slightly less frustrating!


The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.

Rabindranath Tagore

































What a Week-MTA is Raising My Bus Fare & They’re Cutting Down the Redwoods!


The end of last week was a busy time for me. The Mendocino Transit Authority(MTA) has been proposing a fare increase for several months. Their reason’s for the increase was a shortfall of $200,000 and a low fare box ratio. The fare box ration is determined by fares collected divided by operating costs. This ratio has fallen below 15% which is a magic number. If you drop below it you set off bells and whistles and the bus system would go on probation and could lose funding from various transportation agencies therebye forcing reduced services. The MTA was asking for a 20% increase for all fares.

The MTA has not raised fares since June of 2010, over 4 years ago. I was not riding the bus at that time so this was my first experience with a rate hike. The first MTA Board meeting to address the fare increase was on April 24th. I had been hearing from the drivers about the meeting. I could not attend that day but enough public comment was received that a ad hoc committee was formed to clarify and make adjustments to the various rates they charge. This last Thursday, May 29th, I was able to attend after my SOS Survey at Virgin Creek Beach. 

The board meeting takes place in two places, Ukiah and Fort Bragg. It is “Vide-Conferenced” so you see a bunch of people who are over in Ukiah on a TV in front of us here in Fort Bragg. I was in high company at the Fort Bragg part. There was Dan Gjerde, a Mendocino County Supervisior and a bike rider, Meg Courtney, a Fort Bragg council member, and Dan Baxter, MTA’s General Manager. Word got out that the blogging guy who used the bus to do a “green” birding year was in the house. Mr. Baxter mentioned that my five part series on the “Psychology of Bus Riding” was well worth reading. 

During the public hearing on the fare increases a new rate structure was announced which had some rates raised less than 20% and some were more than 20%. Bottom line as far as my rates were concerned is that my Senior 16 punch pass would cost me $8.50 instead of $7.50, a dollar increase. That means that my fare for a “round trip” from Mendocino to Fort Bragg  will cost me $1.06 up from .94¢. A trip over to Ukiah round trip will be $5.20 instead of $5.00.

I spoke in favor of the rate increase basing my opinion on not wanting a reduction in service (we have already lost Saturday buses here on the coast) and actually wanting an increase in services to make it easier for people to use the bus and get their cars off the rode. I spoke of the need for a bus going to the south coast of Mendocino in the morning so that people could get there and back in a day instead of two.

I had to leave before the meeting ended. I told them the “public” had to catch a bus.

On June 3rd, I noticed that I got 40 hits on my blog, most of which were for my “Psychology of Bus Riding” series. The MTA had linked to my blog on their Facebook page. It pays to be involved.

On Friday I attended a public tour of a planned logging harvest at the Little River Airport. North of the airport on county property there is an old growth Redwood Forest. The county has logged the area in the pass but doesn’t clear cut and has mostly left the “core” of the Redwood area alone. The logging area is pictured below. The orange arrow points to near my house.

There were ten of us in the tour. Included were Linda Perkins and her husband Bill of the Sierra Club, Tim Bray of Audubon, the Register Professional Forester, Roger Sternberg, Bob Morgan, with the county, myself and 4 other public members.

We were given a handout listing what was planned and who (many of the names I knew) was involved. 59 plant species were found with 6 identified as sensitive and special mitigation required for Bolander Pine, Pygmy Cypress, and California Sedge. 39 bird species were identified with Cooper’s Hawk, Purple Martin, Northern Harrier being on the “California Bird Species of Special Concern” list. I told him to add Olive-sided Flycatcher which is common at the airport and was observed during the tour. Two years of Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet surveys still needed to be finalized before logging could start. I think we added a bird during our tour when two Gray Jays flew in looking for a handout. They have been rare this year and I’ve never seen them at the airport. 

The area that’s going to be logged is not a part of my weekly bird walks at the airport so I was surprised to learn that there were five class ll and five class lll watercourses on the site. We visited a running creek (stream).

We were told that a whole knoll of trees would be cut because it was in the safety profile for the airport and the FAA Regulations ruled. Picture the airport as a football field–open at the ends and the seats gradually getting higher on the sides and you will get an idea of this profile. 

Also learned that there had been several plane crashes at the airport. I glad that where I live is in the airport noise abatement area with few flights over my house. It did remind me of my flight lessons in 1973 at the Torrance CA Airport when practicing touch and goes. My instructor, just as we were about to touch ground, said, “oops” as we bounced a few feet back into the air.

I have great confidence that the harvest plan will be a good one. Seeing the back and forth between Linda Perkins and the forester I realized that Linda knows what she’s doing.


The Return of the Big River Bird Survey.


A week ago Tuesday I was on the west end of the Big River Haul Rd. leading a Spring bird survey. I had been approached by Nicolet Houtz, Trails and Stewardship Coordinator, for Mendocino Land Trust, to see if I would be willing to lead some surveys, something I’ve done in the past. “Since 2003, working in collaboration with Mendocino Coast Audubon Society and Mendocino High School’s SONAR program, as well as trainers from Mad River Biologists, Big River Stewards have pursued a long-term study of bird populations at Big River.” These surveys will establish a baseline from which to monitor changes to the property. I first started doing these surveys probably in 2007 and continued through 2011. Since the death of Matt Coleman in 2011 the surveys have have been infrequent, if not on “hold”. Nicolet’s job is getting them restarted. I’ve written about Big River and Matt Coleman before. You can find that post here. You can find a report on the Big River Bird Surveys on the Mendocino Land Trust’s website.

The surveys are taken on 3 different parts of the Big River watershed, the West Haul Rd., the East Haul Rd., and Laguna Marsh. Each survey route consists of about 10 or 11 fixed survey points about 1/3 of a mile apart. This mostly allows for not recounting birds and since they are fixed you can get a feel for any changes at that point. Below is a map of the points for the West and East Haul Rds.

The surveys at each point is for a 10 minute period. During that time we count every bird seen or heard, trying not to count any birds more that once. This year’s surveys were accompanied by lots of Mosquitos. That not always the case. These surveys remind me just how many Wilson’s Warblers, Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Swainson’s Thrushes, and Song Sparrows there are along Big River. This year we had 2 Hermit Warblers (more on them later) and a softly singing White-throated Sparrow which is rare here at this time. During these surveys we have the rare privilege of driving the Haul Rd. behind the locked gate.

Near survey point 5 we stopped to check out the Double-crested Cormorant Rookery. This is the only “known” DCCO rookery in Mendocino County and with binoculars we could see 5 or 6 active nests. Will have to take my scope next time to observe them better. This rookery was discovered after a Spring Big River Bird Survey in 2011. We had noticed cormorants carrying what we thought was nesting material. I went back later and found the rookery.


On the way back we stopped to check out the Great Blue Heron Rookery which can be seen directly south from Matt’s Memorial Bench. We could only find 2 active nests. That’s Nicolet in back and Linda Perkins of the Sierra Club in front.

I have not been birding as much this year as I did last year. Still catching up with things around the house and my reading. I have continued my weekly Saturday birding at the Little River Airport and have moved to Thursdays for my “off” season SOS Shorebird Surveys at Virgin Creek Beach. Still using the MTA and my bike to get there. In fact I had a 88 day period between gas fill ups for my truck which is a new record. Some of that was caused by rain but it seems the less birding I do the more gas I save. How sad!

At the airport I have found that most of the migrating birds have arrived early this year, some as much as much as 12 days early (Allen’s Hummingbird). Only Wilson’s Warbler and Pacific-slope Flycatcher were on time. I found my first “Spring” Hermit Warbler “airport” record this morning during a bike ride around the airport. With the two we found on Big River (in a place where I’ve never seen them) and the two I heard singing Monday while walking around the “Wood’s” where I live, Hermit Warblers seem plentiful this year.

At Virgin Creek Beach the shorebird surveys during late Winter and early Spring have been the worst I’ve ever seen since I been surveying. Surfbirds, Sanderlings and Black-bellied Plovers were all in short supply. It picked up a little this last month and last Thursday (during some rain) I found 3 Ruddy Turnstones on the rocks.

Looking forward to the start of the regular SOS Shorebird Surveys in July.


Last SOS Survey and Last Airport Walk of the Year

Friday I did my last SOS Survey of the year at Virgin Creek Beach. While I didn’t find anything new I was pleased to find 8 Whimbrels and 1 Willet on the rocks. I haven’t seen them there for sometime. 

Saturday was my last birding walk of the year at the Little River Airport. Had 39 species, a good number at this time, but no new year birds. I did have a first. I heard two calling birds and realized that they were Peregrine Falcons. They were dive-bombing each other and twice locked their talons and spun for a very short time. I’ve never seen this happen before. It all happened so fast that I didn’t get a picture. 

Another thing that I noticed was that the Wilson’s Snipe that I found in the main pond seems to be wintering there. I guess that is another first. This picture is a long shot.

It would appear that 250 year birds is my final number unless something happens during Monday or Tuesday, my work days. 250 birds is better than what I thought I would get at the start of the year. The final carbon producing truck miles saved will probably be 2929 miles. I had wanted to break 3000 but when you add in miles I birded when driving for the Lodge at the Woods it’s well over that.

There are still a few subjects I want to write about before the year is done. Will try to get to them.

Added a Long-tailed Duck/Final Gas Usage Report/Weeks Birding

Had to fill up my truck Thursday. It was almost empty. I had been wanting to go into the New Year before doing this but a late bus and the Thanksgiving Holiday forced me to use my truck more than I had planned. I went 50 days between fill ups this time which wasn’t bad. My record is 56 days which I did twice. Before this “green” year I was going an average of 21 days. I have saved lot’s of money on gas this year. I only put gas in my truck 8 times which averages out to once every month and a half.

Where did I use gas? Most of it was getting to bus stops. Then there was getting to the recycling centers, banking, and shopping for large items for home projects. As always I tried to get as much birding done while taking my truck into town.

Thursday I stopped at the Rose Memorial Cemetery but still no luck on the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Scoped off of Ward Ave. and spotted a Mendocino County rare female Long-tailed Duck. We see 1 or 2 every winter. It was too far out to get a picture so this Wikipedia picture will have to do. It’s a little darker then the one I saw. I didn’t see a credit for the picture.



From Laguna Point I spotted what I was sure were Cassin’s Auklets which would be a new “year” bird but because they were so far out I’ve decided not to claim them.

Friday I did my normal SOS Survey at Virgin Creek Beach. While on the bus I spotted the Snow Geese still at the Dana Gray Elementary School. It would have been a good sighting from a bus if I hadn’t already found them on Wednesday. While I didn’t find anything new at Virgin Creek there were 9 Snowy Plovers on the beach in the afternoon. I had heard about them being there earlier. The entire flock had been down at Ten Mile Beach and why they have split is unknown. 

I added a new bird for my Little River Airport list on Saturday.  I heard a strange call coming from a marshy part of one of the ponds at the west end. I suspected a rail and reviewed their calls on my Itouch. It turned out to be a Sora “keep” call. I rarely use my Itouch to call in birds but rails are rarely seen so we talked back and forth for a minute. I never saw the rail. Soras are not a year bird but I was happy to add it to the airport list as it was a bird I was expecting to find there at some point.

New totals are 249 bird species with over 2859 carbon producing truck miles saved.

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.


Little River Airport Birding

Saturday is my day to bird the Little River Airport. Like Friday it was a cold morning and a warm day. Located a Red-breasted Sapsucker(actually had two for the day) which I haven’t seen there in a long time. The picture below is from a previous sighting.

When I was near the first pond I heard a calling bird going over. It took me awhile to figure it out because it wasn’t expected for this location. It was a Least Sandpiper. I have heard many calling during my surveys. A couple of years ago I saw a small flock of “peeps” flying down the runway at the airport and always thought they were Least Sandpipers.

While birding the first pond I heard a commotion in the second pond. That pond had been almost dry last week but there was enough water for four Hooded Mergansers to swim around in. There were two males and two females.

I’m always glad to see them come through. The Little River Golf Course Manager and I have been talking about building some nest boxes for Hooded Mergansers or Wood Ducks for the pond areas. Maybe next year I’ll have some time.

Virgin Creek Beach and the Little River Airport

Friday I did my SOS Survey at Virgin Creek Beach. It was actually foggy. I’ve only has warm and sunny for most of my recent surveys. Below is a picture of wall to wall Black-bellied Plovers on the beach. 

There was also a lingering Long-bill Curlew that seemed almost tame.

I didn’t find anything new at the Little River Airport. The ponds are getting really low and when I ran into the Little River Golf Course Manager he said he was getting a little nervous. They own the ponds and they are the only source of water for the course. He said he might have 3 weeks left. The picture below is of a Great Blue Heron taking advantage of the low water to go after trapped food. I thought the reflection was neat.

I ended the week with 239 bird species and over 2489 truck miles saved.



Tropical Kingbirds at Little River Airport

Three Ring-necked Ducks were the best birds found during my Little River Airport walk until I was well on my way back. I have only found them the last three years and this is the earliest date that they have been here.

While walking back I happened to catch a glimpse of a bird landing on a pile of bushes on the south side. I rarely bird that side of the airport. While I pondered walking over to see what it was, another bird chased it off the pile. I saw a flash of yellow and I was on my way across the airport. Yellow is good and I suspected a Kingbird. Looking both ways when I crossed the runway I made my way to south side:-) It is after all a working airport. 

There were actually two Kingbirds and they kept bumping each other off of piles of bushes as they made their way east. I had to hustle to catch up with them and they never let me get close. I realized they were not Western Kingbirds, the more common Kingbird in Mendocino County. That would leave Tropical Kingbirds as the logical choice. After reviewing the pictures that’s what they turned out to be. Tropical Kingbirds are listed as extremely rare in Mendocino. They are a Mendocino Bird for me, my seventh of this year. Not bad for a “green” birding year.

Tropical Kingbird’s northern breeding limits are southeastern Arizona and the lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas. After breeding some wander up the west coast and this pair flew into the airport on Saturday.

They are bird species number 236 for the year with over 2330 carbon producing truck miles saved.



What’s Happening at the Airport?

I don’t write about my birding at the Little River Airport much because I haven’t seen anything new in awhile. I shouldn’t get into that habit of only writing about “year” birds found. Things have moved into a late Fall/winter mode. Birders have a different way of telling what the seasons are. We know the season by what birds are here. In the last few weeks the Fox and Savannah Sparrows, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Hermit Thrush have arrived. A week ago last Saturday there were no Yellow-rumped Warblers and this Saturday there were 9. I had my first Red-breasted Nuthatch since last Fall/winter invasion where we had remarkable numbers of them.

Something that is new to the airport is finding Lincoln’s Sparrows amongst the sparrow flocks. I only first found one last year. This year I’ve found two. Something else that’s new is the length of time Western Tanagers have stayed. They have been seen for 7 straight weeks this year with a max of 7. I don’t even find them every year. Western Tanagers are uncommon on the coast and we normally only see them in the Fall.

Another thing that’s new at the airport is the amount of water in the west ponds.

A series of ponds feed water to the Little River Golf Course. I’ve never seen this happen except for the time they had to drain them to fix a leak in a small dam. It shows how much rain we’ve had this year.

With the Wednesday’s Lapland Longspur I’ve seen 234 bird species and have saved over 2294 carbon producing truck miles this year.