Saturday, August 08, 2009

Finally--Sonoma Valley, Bodega Bay, LIFERS!

We finally arrived on Thursday afternoon and got our furniture and stuff on Friday, and we've been unpacking and settling in. It's still a little unreal, this whole "we now live in California" business, but it's sinking in. I sure do miss AB, and it's tough talking to her when there's a three hour time difference, but she'll be visiting soon!

I'm slowly learning my way around, and we've finally gone to the grocery store and started cooking our own meals. We've discovered that food prices here are a lot higher, and that all these cool local-produce stores are great except when you just want to buy something simple; you end up either not finding it or paying a lot more for it. We need to hit someplace like Trader Joe's where we can get staples for a little cheaper, Matty thinks. Any advice from you other Californians would be appreciated!

Here are some first views of Sonoma County:

Not too shabby! It's incredibly beautiful here--just breathtaking. The sunlight seems so much brighter here than back east, or maybe it's just in our heads. It's definitely drier and not as lushly green, but it's still beautiful.

This morning we decided to see the beach, so we drove to Bodega Bay, about 45 minutes away--a little longer than I thought it would be, but the scenery was gorgeous. I'll show you some shots from the drive home later; first, here's the bay:
Brown Pelicans aren't lifers (I saw them in Texas), but they're so cool:I also saw a bunch of White Pelicans but didn't get a shot of them flying over me.

But this California Gull is a lifer, number 203!
What the heck are these little guys?They were flying in little flocks, fast as lightning, banking and turning as one, and uttering little squeaky cries the entire time. Here, I happened to catch a bunch of them as they took a little rest. They were not at the seashore, chasing the waves, so I know they're not Sanderlings; their behavior and flight was totally different. But what are they? Are they lifers?

They also had a little birdwalk marshy area at this one beach we went to (the name of which I no longer remember!):

A Snowy Egret showing off:

A tiny jellyfish no bigger than the front of my foot, but look at his spots!
Some kind of kelpy stuff?
Uh... kelp?
Looks like someone threw up blood here, but it's another sea plant:
And isn't this red seaweed pretty?
There were tons of dead jellies on the shore, some as big as a foot across like this one:
Matty found a Dungeness (I think?) crab shell:

Hey--I actually know this one--Bull Kelp:
Thanks to the Audubon Field Guide to California for that ID!

Way out in the water, I saw what looked like some kind of cormorant: Couldn't get any closer.

And check out this lifer, a Western Scrub Jay! I think I heard one of these guys calling back when I was in Texas in February, but now I've seen one and can count him! (and sorry to the lady who was stuck behind me while I snapped this pic--heh heh) Aw crap--I just checked my list and found that I DID count him in Texas. Hmph. What a dummy.

More lifers--Western Gulls!
And this sparrow--any guesses on ID?
Here are some pretty flowers:

That last one is some kind of lupine, like a Texas Bluebonnet only the wrong color.
Another shot of the Brown Pelican.

A cool shot of a Ring-billed (I think) Gull in flight.

Another shot of a Ring-billed:
And I found two little sand dollars!
Okay--so the road home; here are a couple of shots:

What a wonderful day. Lifers were Western Gull, California Gull, Western Scrub Jay (which I first thought was a Pinon Jay, until I learned that they're all blue and they aren't found by the beach), and (I hope) those unidentified peeps. I saw some plovers of some kind, but I couldn't get good enough photos to even see field marks, much less ID them. But I bet they were lifers too! Still, that's at least three more, combined with that Lark Bunting I saw in Colorado, so my ABA total is now a whopping 204! My goal is 300 by the end of the year--I'd better get cracking.


Rabbits' Guy said...

Welcome to Sonoma and the Pacific! Yea - you'll need the Western Bird book to identify all the gulls and shore birds. That's a Dungeness ... would be a little small to keep if alive. That looks like a wild lupine alright .. and that might be a loon out there .. they are big chunky birds.

Try for a Safeway .. they are the big chain.

Sometime drive down to San Rafael and take the Larkspur ferry on foot in to San Fran ... lands right on the waterfront there ... get some fresh hot crab and enjoy the whole city.

You sopund a bit like a guy from Mars landing in Ca!!!!

FranIAm said...


Great post and photos... you have truly arrived. It makes me so happy to see this, you have no idea.

And I can see that even in nature, the dollar is shrinking. *sigh*

That was a terrible joke,but I really did have to make it. Honest, I did.

Matty Boy said...

Yay, dg! I'm so glad you made it!

I was at a wedding yesterday on Lake Merritt, where you might see a few birds for the first time is you swing on down. I'm taking a mini-vacation until Thursday, but let me know when you have time to get together and we will make this thing happen, cap'n!

John said...

I'm glad you arrived safely and are enjoying the birding in California. Congrats on the lifers, too. I'm sure you'll be picking up many more. Isn't the landscape a lot different from PA?

My brother lives out in California. He and his wife get fresh produce through some sort of agricultural co-op or CSA. Basically they pay a monthly fee, and in return they periodically get a crate of fresh produce delivered. I don't remember how much it costs, but I think it's reasonable compared to the supermarkets since they're buying in bulk and the produce is whatever happens to be in season. So in winter they get a lot of squash and potatoes and in summer a lot of greens, etc. It's worth investigating, anyway.

Not sure how much I can help with the sparrow, but juvenile white-crowned is a possibility.

dguzman said...

Rabbits' Guy--that sounds lovely! Matty will be pleased to hear about the fresh seafood; I'm a vegetarian. Thanks for the ID help! I have the Western book but it's still hard. We went to Safeway too, but the prices were really scary!

Fran--thank you! and it took me a second to get that joke, but oooohhhh, I got it. Hee hee!

Matty Boy--Coming to SF tomorrow, probably via Rabbits' Guy's suggestion. I'll email you with my cell number, okay?

John--thanks for the help--I started thinking about white-crowned myself, which was disappointing (not a lifer). Yes, the terrain here is vastly different from PA--hills, but completely different hills. And so dry! I think it's probably too late to get in on a CSA (at least it was in PA, and I imagine the harvesting time here is even earlier) but we are going to farmer's markets!

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Laurent said...

The peeps seems to be western sandpipers. Just my 2 cents.....

Congrats for your moving in california!!!!

dguzman said...

Laurent--Western Sandpipers? Yeah? LIFER! What do you think, John?

dAwN said...

Been following your trip..Glad you made it safely..Looks like you had a great time sightseeing along the way.
Where in Cal. are you? We have friends that live in Sebastopol..we will be there the end of nov.
Also visiting friend in Sacramento for a few weeks.
Planning a Birders who Blog, Tweet and Chirp Bird outing somewhere in Northern Cal. sometime in Nov.
Let me know if you are interested.

Have a wonderful time in California..I love northern cal!
Bodega bay is awesome..always go there when visiting our friends
and the mushrooms are ripe for picking in nov.

Earl Cootie said...

I was going to say Red-throated Loon on the cormorantish bird - from the way it holds its bill up.

Oh my goodness, I've been mostly offline for the past week or two, and now you're all moved in. How exciting! I bet you'll be up to 300 in no time.

Elizabeth said...

Western Sandpipers, no question. I saw them last weekend in Pescadero, CA. (