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

































Some Birds, Butterflies and Even a Starfish

I like doing these birding posts. They don't require much research. Just get the picture and blog it. This post will have a little tragedy and maybe some hope. I'm going to throw some butterflies and a Starfish in for good measure.

While birding the Little River Airport on January 31st there was the second earliest Allen's Hummingbird recorded in Mendocino County.

Red-naped Sapsuckers are listed as extremely rare in Mendocino County. In the last few years they have been showing up regularly inland. I chased one that was found at Riverside Park in Ukiah in 2013. Failed to find it. One was found in early November, 2014, at the Rose Memorial Cemetery in Fort Bragg. It might be the county's first coastal record. I spent many trips to the cemetery in an attempt to find it and failed each time. I had given up until it was seen again in early February. On February 4th, I finally found it.

That same day after getting back to Mendocino on the bus I decided to see who was right in the reporting of two white geese out on the Mendocino Headlands. They were either Snow Geese or Ross's Geese. There was no obvious “grin patch”, the border at the base of the bill was straight and vertical, bill and head was smallish and petite, and another person's picture show bluish on the bill's base. Decision goes to Ross's Geese, a rare bird for Mendocino County.

February 12th was my 33rd Wedding Anniversary. My wife decided we would make a day of it by going to the Garcia River Casino and then out for dinner. Didn't have much luck at the casino but when we went outside to leave there was a Palm Warbler in the parking lot. Palm Warblers are listed as rare in Mendocino County.

The Long-tailed Duck continues at Virgin Creek Beach giving some up-close viewing opportunities. Several times I observed it flying in.

During my SOS Surveys at Virgin Creek Beach I've been reporting many dead seabirds on the beach. It seems that conditions in the Pacific Ocean are proving bad for much of it's wildlife. Two cases in point are a massive die-off of Cassin's Auklets and Sea Lions. It might be that our Cassin's Auklet here in Mendocino County is the Common Murre. I've been reporting many dead Common Murres on the beach. Some of them are fresh and still in the surf line.

On the 11th of February I witnessed one die right before my eyes.


But on the same day I saw something I hadn't seen in a long time. It was a Starfish.

If you have been following this blog for sometime you would have read a post called, What is Turning Starfish Into Goo?, back in December 2013. Is this a sign of hope? Will have to wait and see.

On the 26th of February I was going pass Lake Cleone on my way to have lunch at the Laguna Point parking lot (MacKerricher State Park) when I notice some fluttering in a little marshy area between Mill Creek Dr. and the Haul Road. It was a little grayish bird in the water. I was confused at first but realized it was a bird not normally seen while on land. It was a distressed(?) Fork-tailed Storm Petrel. They are listed as rare during spring and fall. It might be the first sighting for winter.

On the same day we had a massive flight of Aleutian Cackling Geese flying north. I estimated 930 plus geese with one flock having 450 plus birds in it. They were flying into a 20mph headwind.

The Violet-green Swallows have returned to the Little River Airport. I spotted two of them on the 1st of March, beating the last early date by two days.

Butterflies are also returning to the airport. I found the strikingly pretty Western Pine Elfin and the rather plain Brown Elfin on March1st.


Kaufman's Field Guide to Butterflies of North America said that the Western Pine Elfin flies late spring or early summer. I guess the butterflies are confused with our strange weather.



Birding and Butterfly News

I guess the title for this post should be something like, How to Get Yourself Shot by a Duck Hunter. The first couple of weeks in January were interesting for me as far as the birding went. I also found my first butterfly of the year.

On the 9th, I went to one of my favorite places to bird, Navarro Beach Road. It has many different habitats and you can expect to see lot's of birds.

When I got to the beginning of Navarro Beach Road I went out on the bridge over Navarro River to look for ducks. While out on the bridge a loud explosion occurred. The area is down in a valley with high cliffs around it. The explosion was startling and seem to echo from under the bridge. A short time later there was a guy rowing towards me from the west in a camouflaged kayak, in camouflage gear, and a camouflaged shotgun.

The section of the river west of the bridge is Navarro River Estuary State Marine Conservation Area.

  • In a state marine conservation area, it is unlawful to injure, damage, take, or possess any living, geological, or cultural marine resource for commercial or recreational purposes, or a combination of commercial and recreational purposes, that the designating entity or managing agency determines would compromise protection of the species of interest, natural community, habitat, or geological features. The designating entity or managing agency may permit research, education, and recreational activities, and certain commercial and recreational harvest of marine resources. (PRC Section 36710(c))

As you can see, if you go to the link, duck hunting is allowed. I don't see how a duck hunter can safely hunt there. There's a state highway(128) to the north of the river, a state park to the south, and the bridge I was standing on to the east. In which direction can you shoot? After talking to various agencies (and getting some bad information) it would appear that as long as the hunter is shooting safety, it's allowed. In all the years I've been birding there, it has never happened. It certainly changed my mood for the day.

At least he wasn't butterfly hunting! While walking next to the river I noticed a very colorful butterfly flying near me. I was able to get two poor picture of it before it went on it's way.

My first thought was, what was a butterfly doing out in the middle of winter? Since flowering plants and trees have been blooming I thought that butterflies were being confused. When I got home I got out my butterfly book to identify it. I'm reasonably sure it's a Green Comma. A new species for me. Commas used to be called anglewings, a name I prefer. Kaufman's Field Guide to Butterflies of North America' states,

Most are woodland butterflies, preferring to feed at tree sap, rotting fruit, mud, dung, or carrion instead of flowers. Commas hibernate as adults, usually in tree crevices, logs, or cracks in buildings. Hibernating adults occasionally fly on warm winter days.

So much for my climate change theory!

Birding at the Little River Airport has been slow lately. I failed to reach my goal of 30 bird species two times this month. On the 14th during a slow day I heard what sounded like an Osprey calling. I was so sure that I ticked it on my list. Then I heard some strange calls associated with the Osprey call. When I investigated I found a single Gray Jay. This was only the second time I've found them at the airport. The jay did not cooperate in getting it's picture taken. Gray Jays can be hard to find in Mendocino County especially If you're trying to find one.

The next day was a SOS Shorebird Survey at Virgin Creek Beach. In the gull flock was a first year Glaucous Gull. These are the best pictures of a Glaucous Gull that I've ever taken and no it didn't fly because of me.

We only get one or two Glaucous Gulls every winter. Most are first year birds. They are rare here but are an easy gull to identify because it's one of our largest gulls and are very pale with a sharply bicolored bill.
Further up the beach I was looking for Harlequin Ducks in the water or on the rocks. I found five of them which I think is a new record for me at Virgin Creek. While watching them a female Long-tailed Duck popped up.
It was the closest I've been to one. Most of the time they are further off shore. Long-tailed Ducks are rare in Mendocino County with generally only one per winter if they show up at all. It has been refound several times.
The most exciting event of the day was the Battle of the Phoebes. After the Long-tailed Duck sighting I heard a commotion just below the bluffs. Two phoebes were having a territorial fight. I realized one was a Black Phoebe.


The other was a Say's Phoebe that appears to be overwintering on the Mendocino Coast.

I have always admired the pugnacious nature of the Black Phoebe. I've seen them go after American Pipits and Yellow-rumped Warblers when they get in the way. I've also seen one nonchalantly ignore a Sharp-shinned Hawk at the Little River Airport. But the Black Phoebe was no match for the Say's. The Say's Phoebe chased the Black for a few minutes, caught it and took it to the ground and beat the crap out of it. The Black Phoebe left the area and appeared unharmed the next bluff over. Lesson learned- don't mess with a Say's Phoebe.


Another Birding Report

It's been a little while since I've written about the local birds that have been seen in Mendocino County so let's do that now.

Starting off where I ended with the last birding post is the group of six Aleutian Cackling Geese that were in a field along the Haul Road north of Fort Bragg back on October 24th. One of the birds had a blue neck collar. The band on it's right leg can't be seen in this picture.

I reported the Cackling Goose to the people at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Bird Banding Laboratory which is part of the United States Geological Survey. It's was easy to do in this case because the collar number was easy to see. The website can be found here. In many cases they depend on amateur birders like me to report these bands to them. They provide you with a Certificate of Appreciation with the full details on the reported bird. This is what it looks like.

It feels good to be appreciated. I saw several large flocks Of Cackling Geese fly over this Fall. This is just a small part of a large flock (220+) that flew over the community of Mendocino.

Next up on this list is a Mute Swan. Mute Swans had been reported on the Noyo River, Pudding Creek (as a Tundra Swan by one Ebirder) and this one at Lake Cleone. They are probably all the same bird.

All reports of Mute Swans in California have been rejected by the California Bird Record Committee. It's felt that they are all escapees from private collections.

A bird that is all wild is this American Advocet on Virgin Creek. It was there on October 30th, a fairly late date for Mendocino County.

Early in November there were several reports of Eurasian Wigeons in Mendocino County. This “bright” male was on the Caspar Pond.

During a SOS Survey at Virgin Creek Beach on the 11th of November, the best bird wasn't a shorebird. It was a Rock Wren. Rock Wren are listed as rare in this county but can be found regularly inland on the Lake Mendocino Dam. Very few are found on the coast. I like this picture because the colorations in the rock match the colorations in the bird. I heard that a fellow birder chasing the wren found a very rare Sage Thrasher in the same area. I think I should get partial credit for the Sage Thrasher:>)

On the way back from the SOS Survey there was this Lapland Longspur right beside the new bike path at Glass Beach. Based on Ebird it's the only one reported this year.

I have many of the MTA bus drivers reporting birds they have seen. I told them to be on the lookout for big white geese among the many flocks of Canada Geese they go by that are mostly on school playgrounds. Last Thursday one of them reported seeing two white geese at the Redwood School. By the time I got there they were gone. To avoid the Pineapple Express storm coming in I went into town to do my SOS Survey on Tuesday. Coming up to the Redwood School playground I saw two Snow Geese with the Canada Geese. I told the driver to slow down so I could get some pictures. She stopped and asked if I wanted to get out to take the pictures. I was the only one on the bus. I said “no” and snapped off a few shots through the window and fence of the school yard. Probably should have got out. Most of the pictures were bad.

Virgin Creek Beach was very dramatic that day. There was a 6' tide and a high surf event that left little beach to survey except the main beach. Have recently been finding Bonaparte's Gulls during the surveys. Found 5 that day and 3 more at Big River. That's a little unusual for this time of year.


I like Bonaparte's Gulls. They are graceful flyers and I have seen these birds dive into the water feeding.

After the survey I went up to Laguna Point to look for a Rock Sandpiper. The only one reported this year on Ebird was actually a Dunlin. This identification was caught by the reviewer. It took me a few minutes but one turned up. We only get a few at this time of the year. They are more common further north.

At the Laguna Point parking lot there was a very “friendly” Brant hanging out. An old timer said it had been there for a week. One of my bus drivers said that there had been two of them there.

On my SOS Surveys I've started to find evidence of the COASST program. They survey beaches for dead seabirds which they tag and record. This is what a dead seabird looks like when they are done with their survey. I think this is a small Eared or Horned Grebe but I'm not sure and neither or they.

That's the end of the birding news for now. The Fort Bragg Christmas Bird Count(CBC) is coming up two Saturday's from now. I've decided to rerun my comments from last year about CBC counts with a few notes added. Look for it soon.

Birding at the Little River Airport has been pretty slow. Recent rains have filled the ponds and flooded the trail to the airport. I did however have an encounter with a dangerous animal while at one of the ponds. It just didn't want me to get by. It was like a horror movie. I escaped with my life.





Birding News.

Birding on the coast has been interesting. It started off with a “bang” during the Peregrine Audubon sponsored pelagic trip on September 28th. The boat we used was the Telstar with Captain Randy.

Our leaders were Rob Fowler a bird trip leader from Humboldt County up north and Jon Dunn a nationally known bird expert. You will see his name on the National Geographic's Field Guide to Birds of North America and the Peterson's Guide to Warblers. He is currently a member of the California Bird Records Committee(CBRC). The CBRC members are considered our California birding gods. Here's a picture of Jon partially hidden behind another birder.

Weather and ocean conditions were good. The talk was of finding some rare warm water pelagic birds. There were plenty of birds flying out over the ocean for most of the day. At around 0830 hours and 5.4 miles out I heard Jon Dunn say, “get some pictures of this bird!!!” I spotted the bird but I was on the wrong side of the boat. Lucky for me it came by us again a little later and I was able to get a not so great series of pictures. Only the CBRC has seen this picture because it's so bad but it does show all the necessary points to identify a CORY'S SHEARWATER.

If accepted by the CBRC it will be only the third record for California. The CBRC's website says this about Cory's Shearwater.

Members of borealis breed on islands of the northeastern Atlantic Ocean, are common between May and October off the Atlantic coast of North America (less commonly in the Gulf of Mexico and rarely in the Caribbean Sea), and winter off South America’s Atlantic coast, with substantial numbers reaching the southwestern Indian Ocean (Marchant and Higgins 1990).

Cory’s Shearwater normally occurs over warm water, suggesting that the species may occasionally stray into the Pacific Ocean by way of the Indian Ocean. Another plausible mechanism would involve a bird in the Caribbean Sea or southwestern Gulf of Mexico (both areas where the species is exceptionally rare) being blown across either Panama or the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

In other words it's hard for this bird to be found off the coast of California. It was a life bird for many people on the boat including me.

I did a little better with a Flesh-footed Shearwater. This bird nests in New Zealand and are fairly rare off our coast.

Nailed the South Polar Skua. We saw many of these which is not normal or we saw the same one over and over again.

Also got my first picture of an Arctic Tern.

While not good, this picture of an Ashy Storm-Petrel is the best I've gotten so far and it shows off it's strange shape and small size.

A brief mention about the carbon expenditure of a pelagic trip. The Telstar website says this about the boat.

The Telstar has recently gone through an engine upgrade. She is now powered by a fully electronic Cummins diesel engine. Making her carbon footprint considerably smaller.

The real carbon expenditure is the number of birders and how far they came to bird. Jon Dunn lives in Bishop, CA which is 468 miles from Fort Bragg, one way. Rob Fowler lives about 141 miles away. There were several birders from Lake County which would be about 100 miles away. Several birders came from Ukiah and Hopland. That's in the neighborhood of 60 to 70 miles away. There were very few local birders on the boat. The carbon footprint of a pelagic birding trip is not small. I just may be the only pelagic birder to admit that.

While birding at the Little River Airport early in the month of October I noticed a flock of Lesser Goldfinch fly into a tree. The fact that there was a flock of LEGOs at the airport was unusual since I had only seen individuals there. I took a few pictures and went on my way. When I got home I checked the pictures and there was a Lawrence's Goldfinch in the flock. LAGOs are rare in Mendocino County and especially so on the coast. It was the first one seen at the airport. LAGOs are a strange bird. After nesting they move east and west instead of north and south. They never nest in usual locations so it's hard to determine their population numbers. This is a male with it's black face and very yellow breast.

The big news at Virgin Creek Beach has been the high numbers of Black-bellied Plovers and Dunlins. The BBPL numbers have been approaching 150 and the DUNLINS have been as high as 50+. This has been happening for the last three weeks and have upset the Ebird filters. Sanderlings have also been high. These have been amazing numbers for a small stretch of Mendocino Coast.

The beach has been covered by the most Jellyfish I've ever seen. Normally they are small but these were big ones. Had a hard time dodging them while birding.


There was a Palm Warbler during the last SOS Virgin Creek Beach survey. Though rare here, when there is a shortage of Fall vagrants, like this year, it seems that a Palm Warbler shows up.

After the survey I was coming back from Ward Ave. and I spotted some small geese land in a field. One of the Cackling Geese had a band on it's right leg and a blue neck collar with the numbers 695 on it.

That's it for now. I will leave you with this question. How do they do this?





Birding and dead Stuff

Haven't blogged in awhile mainly because of a disfunctional blogging app. I have upgraded my IPad to Apple's new iOS8 but my old blogging app that I learned on hasn't updated and it's current version is unusable. Could have used my old computer to blog but I don't think I would know how. This post will be done on Blogsy and I'm totally unfamiliar with it. You will see how this post goes and who knows, maybe I've found a new blogging app.

The “official” SOS shorebird survey period ended on the 15th of this month but some of us just keep birding on. Winter shorebird data needs to be gathered. I have to state that I don't think that the shorebird activity at Virgin Creek Beach has been that good but the tern activity along with the Black Skimmer back in June has been the highlight of the surveys. Elegant Terns were the most numerous of any year on record. During my last “official” SOS survey I witnessed an example of kleptoparasitism between some Heermann's Gulls and Elegant Terns. I'll let you look it up. Also that day I found 4 Common Terns on the beach. While they are not rare at this time in Mendocino County they are hard to find on the beach.

One of them seemed to have an injury under it's left wing.

Earlier in the month, coming back from an SOS survey, there were 6 White-faced Ibis at Pudding Creek. They are becoming more common in Mendocino.

That same day there was a “rare” coastal Ring-billed Gull at Virgin Creek.

We have actually had some rain during the past two weeks. I missed a SOS survey because of it. I was able to get to the beach yesterday. The Pectoral Sandpiper was the star. We had lot's of them last year and there were 3 yesterday. The Pectoral Sandpiper is not a small shorebird. I thought this picture was interesting showing it's size compared to the kelp on the beach.

If you followed my blog last year you would know that I walked up Ten Mile Beach often. I had not been there since California State Parks finished taking out the old washed out Haul Road. Earlier this month I decided to make that first trip. Birding wasn't all that great but I did find a few interesting things. First of all this is how it looks with the Haul Road taken out. Both of these pictures feature an area, Inglenook Creek, where I birded last year.

It's not pretty out there but sand should erase these tracks in a short time. One of the things that I found during my walk was the sand covered by Velella Velella, By-the-Wind Sailors. This picture shows a combination of them freshly washed up and a few older ones.

This is one that was found during a recent pelagic trip. It's amazing that they die by the thousands, if not millions, when they wash up on the beach.

Please check out Wikipedia for more information on these creatures. Another thing I found was a dead Mola Mola. Credit goes to Alison Cebula, state parks Snowy Plover specialist, for telling me what it was. It's also called an Ocean Sunfish.

Here's a picture of a live one taken during the pelagic trip out of Fort Bragg.

You can read about the Mola Mola at Wikipedia. They are an interesting fish. They eat Jellyfish which we have plenty of here. Mola Mola, Jellyfish, Velella Velella, and Elegant Terns are all an indication of a warming ocean.

My Ten Mile Beach walk has been about dead things. I have to continue that theme with this picture of a dead River Otter found near Fenn Creek up near the old Haul Rd. I have always thought of Ten Mile Beach as a graveyard. There has always been lot's of dead carcasses there.

So let's talk about life. During the recent Mendocino Coast Audubon Society sponsored “beginner” pelagic trip, which I got to go on because of a last minute cancellation, we got a surprise when a Townsend's Warbler came on board. We were well out to see and the warbler tried to fly off but kept coming back to the boat. This is not that unusual. Birds get lost all the time. At one time it landed on my shoulder. I got this picture.

Good news! Captain Randy found a box, the warbler was captured, boxed and released when we got back to shore. It was last seen in the trees across from our mooring point. We wish it the best.

Birding at the Little River Airport has been fairly good. In the Fall local migrants, Yellow Warblers, Western Tanagers and something unexpected, always seem to show up. So far the unexpected is a Say's Phoebe. Not a good picture but you go with the picture given you.

Double-crested Cormorants are fairly rare at the airport. This picture is a little unusual for it's location. It was actually watching a plane go by.

Had some disappointment this last week. Dorian Anderson the birder who is biking across the United States in search of 600 species bypassed our section of the coast and moved down Highway 101 to the Bay Area. He actually stayed at the Ukiah Best Western for a night. I had planned to meet him on the Haul Road and bike with him. Maybe even help find him a bird he needed. Didn't happen.

Instead I helped this guy.

While I was birding Navarro Beach Road he came running down the road expecting to reconnect with Highway 1 later. I had to disappoint him and and tell him that that wasn't going to happen. With a few choice words about maps he turned around. In a write up in the local paper I learned his name is Jamie Ramsay. He's from London and he's running from Vancouver, British Columbia to Buenos Aires, Argentine. He expects the trip to take two years. He's riding for several fine charities. You can view his website here. I wish him the best.

I'm going to publish this post. The new app is better in some ways but not in others. Will have to see what the end product looks like.

It seems that the link to Jamie Ramsey's website is wrong. The correct address is jamieisrunning.com. If this link doesn't work you are on your own.

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.


Wrap Up 4–What Next?

My experimental “green” birding year took up most of my free time. 2014 will be a year to catch up on my reading material and projects around the house.













Writing about climate change can unsettle and depress a person. To help me clear my mind I want to get back to my mindful meditation practice. Birding is a way of meditation for me but just being out there ticking off birds on a list doesn’t work for me.

I’m going to work on my photography. I normally leave my camera on one setting and hope for the best. I hope to improve on that. I’m also going to work on processing after taking the picture. Note the picture on the right. It’s the first time I’ve ever used a frame. 

Two of the projects I would like to work on this year are building Hooded Merganser/Wood Duck nest boxes for the ponds at the Little River Airport. I have talked about this with the manager of the Little River Golf Course and he wants to help. Of course we will have to have some rain to fill the ponds. Compare this current picture with one of the very first I used in this blog.

Pond at West End of the Airport

The other project is trying to make California State Parks more bike friendly. Part of that will be more bike racks at various places. Pictured below are the racks I’ve had to use this last year. Since both are located in main parts of MacKerricher State Park I think they need some upgrading.














I’m also thinking of working on a photography project titled, “Happy Birds–The Birds of the Woods Taking Baths”. I may have to work on the title. It would look something like this.




As far as my birding efforts go I will be cutting back a day of birding in general. I plan to continue my Save Our Shorebirds (SOS) Survey at Virgin Creek Beach with less frequent trips to Ukiah using the MTA and my bike. I will continue my weekly birding visits to the Little River Airport. 

I’m looking at another way to keep my birding carbon footprint low for 2015. Talk about long range planning! With a new app called, “Count Circle” I can draw a circle similar to a Christmas Bird Count circle around my home. It contains some of my most popular birding areas and lot’s of areas to be explored. It will give me a reason to get to know my neighborhood and keep me close to home. Much of the area can still be done by bus and bike. To show what a great area I live in, the circle contains the Point Cabrillo Light Station, Russian Gulch State Park, Mendocino Headlands State Park, most of, if not all, of the Woodlands State Park, Van Dame State Park and Navarro Beach State Park. It contains Big River and the Caspar Upland Trail and also a large portion of Jackson Demonstration State Forest. It contains lot’s of the Pacific Ocean. I might have to charter my own boat.

 I plan to continue this blog with posts on birding, biking, public transportation and climate change. They just will not be as frequent. My wife gave me a great Christmas present. It consists of putting my logo, “Greenbirdingmendo” on a hat, jacket, tee shirts, a banner and business cards. So the adventure will continue.

P.s. 1/19/14

I have entered my “local” patch, the Little River Airport, in the “PATCHWORKING CHALLENGE”. More information about this challenge can be found on the “Green Birding” website.


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.