Haiku For The Curlew

Curlew seems to dance

Frightened it takes to the air

I apologize




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.

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.


Ten Mile Beach Project Update


I have written about the Ten Mile Beach Project by California State Parks several times. The most recent was this post. At the end of that post I stated, “UPDATE—-Snowy Plovers win. Mendocino County Supervisors voted 3 to 2 to deny the appeal. Opponents of the State Parks project plan to appeal to the California Coastal Commission.”

The opponents did appeal their objections to the California Coastal Commission. On Wednesday, the Coastal Commission found that the opponents of the project raised no substantial issues.

 “a. Appeal No. A-1-MEN-13-0241 (California Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR), Mendocino Co.) [ADDENDUM] Appeal by Thad M. Van Buren, Stanley Anderson, and Eric & Deborah Freeman from decision of Mendocino County granting permit with conditions to DPR for dune restoration project involving: (1) removal of asphalt and gravel base in 3 segments of former Georgia Pacific Haul Rd., totaling 2.7 miles; (2) stream channel restoration associated with removal of 2 road culvert creek crossings along Haul Rd.; and (3) treatment of European beachgrass and other nonnative weeds within project area, on west side of Hwy 1, located in MacKerricher State Park, north of Ward Ave., in community of Cleone to Ten Mile River, Mendocino County. (TG-A) [NO SUBSTANTIAL ISSUE FOUND]”

This means that the project can proceed. Snowy Plovers and a natural preserve win!


Birding This Week

Thursday’s birding was a walk up Ten Mile Beach. Nothing new was found but I did come upon a Burrowing Owl. Burrowing Owls are listed as rare in Mendocino County although in recent years they are being found more often. Last year there were reports of at least nine wintering birds. Ten Mile Beach supported the bulk of those reports. The Burrowing Owl is a, “California Bird Species of Special Concern” and like the endangered Snowy Plover, California State Parks frowns upon  reporting the locations of these birds to prevent “harassment” from the public.

This particular Burrowing Owl was on the same log as an individual I found last year. The first picture is this year’s bird and the second picture is last year’s. Both just watched me walk by.

I guess it’s possible it’s the same, but older, bird. 

On Friday I did a Fall SOS Survey at Virgin Creek. It was a beautiful sunny day at the beach. Dunlins are coming back now. I guess that makes sense because they were the last to leave going north this Spring. The different in their plumage is striking. The first picture was last Spring and the second is what they look like now.

I also got my best picture yet of a Red-necked Grebe that was feeding close to the rocks at Virgin Creek Beach.

I was wondering what the distortion was around the lower neck and after a little study I determined that it was water bubbles reflecting the feathers in that area.

Found nothing new at the Little River Airport on Saturday so my totals are still 239 bird species with over 2512 carbon producing truck miles saved.

Friday Shorebirding

This last Friday I decided to use Lyle again and scheduled an early pickup in Mendocino. This allowed me to do my SOS Survey at Virgin Creek and walk a long section of Ten Mile Beach. It was a pretty day although it’s getting cold in the morning. The recent winds had died down. Highlights of the day were two small flocks of Aleutian Cackling Geese flying south. This subspecies of the Cackling Goose used to listed as rare in Mendocino but this nearly extinct bird has made a comeback and is now listed as uncommon. Wikipedia states, “The primary threat to the Aleutian Cackling Goose has been the Arctic Fox, introduced to the Aleutian Islands by Russian fur traders between 1836 and 1930. The Cackling Canada Goose was considered extinct until a colony was discovered on Buldir Island in 1962. Since then, the Aleutian Cackling Goose has made a comeback and was removed from the endangered species list in 2001.”

The white neck ring is one of the ways to identify Aleutians. Another highlight of the day was the return of a pair of Harlequin Ducks at Virgin Creek. 

This shorebird year could be called the year of the Pectoral Sandpiper. I found three at Virgin Creek and two on Ten Mile Beach. There was a max of six at Virgin Creek a couple of Wednesdays ago. They have been numerous inland at the Ukiah Waste Treatment Plant. This bird migrates in the Spring up the center of the country. We have, to my knowledge, never had a Spring record here on the coast. This Fall has been a banner year for them.

Also looked for Horned Larks on Ten Mile where I’ve found them before but still no luck. 

New Way to Get to Ten Mile Beach

I told you about the early pick-up in Mendocino last week when I used it to get to Fort Bragg for a Ukiah trip. I’ve since learned that the man’s name who is picked up early is Lyle. I’m hoping that Lyle continues to commute to Willets because I’m going to use him.

I used him Thursday to get to the bus stop behind Denny’s. Got there at 7:30AM instead of the usual time of 10:30AM. From the bus stop I biked to Ward Ave. It was strange being on the Haul Rd. that early. There were only a few people out at that time but I did have to survive a raccoon attack. While biking just past Lake Cleone and just before the horse trail I noticed a raccoon coming across the road. I may have surprised it but it kept coming towards me hissing as it went. Needless to say, I didn’t stop to chat. I looked back as it went into the bushes on the other side.

I got to Ward Ave. just a little after 8:00AM, three hours earlier than normal. This means that I could take my time birding Ten Mile Beach and still get back in time to catch my bus. The fact that I could spend more time got me a year bird. Just pass Inglenook Creek (normally I wouldn’t go that far) I found a Buff-breasted Sandpiper. You may remember that I failed to get this bird last week at the Ukiah Waste Treatment Plant. BBSA’s are extremely rare in Mendocino County and this would be the third sighting this Fall. They normally migrate down the middle of the country. There was another sighting on Ten Mile Beach that I’m going to have to write about later.

Using the early Mendocino bus will allow me to get more birding time in looking for Fall migrants. I’m going to have to get Lyle a Christmas present.