17 January 2012

A Humboldt humbling

We took advantage of the long weekend and swung up to Humboldt County for the first time.  Anyway, before we got there, we stopped in Bodega Bay first to check things out.

Along with the usual suspects, I snapped a picture of this MEW GULL doing a fly by:

I also saw this first-cycle THAYER'S GULL with some pretty pale primaries from Porto Bodega:

We checked out Owl Canyon but didn't find much except for a giant flock of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS.  Instead, I just took a picture of the "canyon" itself:

Here's the sunset overlooking the harbor:

We ended the day by doing some owling along Salmon Creek Road.  We dipped on Northern Saw-whet Owls but heard three SPOTTED OWLS and some GREAT HORNED OWLS.  The SPOTTED OWL was at the very top of my nemesis list so it was super rewarding to sit in a dark, quiet canyon and listen to them hooting away.

The next day found us up in Humboldt County.  Our first stop was the north jetty:
View North Jetty in a larger map

Things fell into place perfectly starting with great looks at a ROCK SANDPIPER:

The SURFBIRDS were common, several of them practically asking to be photographed:

This BLACK TURNSTONE was also extremely tame:

A bit more uncommon at this location this time of year was a lone WANDERING TATTLER:

Even a LEAST SANDPIPER was on the jetty, apparently looking for acceptance with the shorb crowd:

In terms of gulls, there had to have been at least 20 BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES in the area.  Here is one flying by:

Judging by the underside of the primaries, I was thinking this gull was a THAYER'S GULL:

Giving me a chance to *try* to learn more about the hybrid gulls in this part of the world, I first thought this was a WESTERN GULL due to the yellow orbital ring but looking at how pale the mantle is (among other things), it's a hybrid WESTERN X GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL instead:

These GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL-things have apparently figured out that they can digest starfish... if they can just swallow them:

"Do I have..... something.... hanging out of my mouth?"

There were some neat ducks around the north jetty as well including all three scoter species, two HARLEQUIN DUCKS and three LONG-TAILED DUCKS.  Here is one of them:

After birding the north jetty, we went to Arcata Marsh to look for BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES:

View Arcata Marsh in a larger map

We eventually found a swarm of chickadees but before we found those, we paused to look at a EURASIAN WIGEON amongst a flock of AMERICAN WIEGON.  Anyway, it seems silly to target BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES but out here in CA, they only occur in the extreme NW corner of the state.  We eventually found quite a swarm of them:

The next morning was rainy and dreary but we started anyway by looking for the TROPICAL KINGBIRD that has been in the area for some time.  A little looking and we found it low in a pasture nearby:

Here is a map of the spot we had it:
View Tropical Kingbird in a larger map

We then headed to Russ Park in Ferndale to look for GRAY JAYS.  We will note though that Google maps didn't lead us to the right spot for this park.  Instead, from downtown drive east on Ocean/Bluff Street until you see the dirt parking lot on your right.  Here is the spot:
View Russ Park in a larger map

What an awesome canyon, I desperately wish I lived closer to places like that.  Before long, we heard a GRAY JAY whistling.  Further up the canyon Ash spotted a loose, high-flying flock of GRAY JAYS moving from tree top to tree top.

Other birds at Russ Park included PACIFIC WRENS, HAIRY WOODPECKERS, FOX SPARROWS, both KINGLETS, and many VARIED THRUSHES like this one:

We ended the day in Oakland.  Our target was to find the wintering TUFTED DUCK at Lake Merritt:

View Lake Merritt in a larger map

We honestly didn't think much of the park... until we saw the flock of ducks!  They literally have become tame "puddle ducks" which actually made for fun photography.  Never before had I walked up to a lake looking for a TUFTED DUCK with my naked eyes, pointed down at it, and said "There it is".

In fact, we saw 6 aythya species on the same lake.  That got me wondering... has anyone ever had 7 aythya species on one lake anywhere in the world?  I can't imagine it.  Either way, it was a treat seeing up close GREATER SCAUP:



And even this BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON was extremely tame: