Monday, September 21, 2009

Birding with Matty Boy!

Today I made the drive into Oakland (life city!) to see Matty Boy, teacher of all the maths. What a day we had! Oakland's quite a place, hosting such high-end storefronts as this one:Wow. Despite the fact that this place was on the next block! from his apartment, Matty Boy does not sport any gold teeth (best or otherwise) in his grillz. But Matty's neighborhood was nice, with a great little bar and a Chinese food place close by.

We had planned to walk around Lake Merritt, which turned out to be like a block away from Matty Boy's apartment, but he declared it not birdy enough after a reconnaissance mission by bike earlier this morning. We went instead to several other places, including Alameda's bayfront and "the famous" Arrowhead Marsh (at least that's what a lady birder we met called it). With the lifers I saw today with Matty Boy, and two I saw/heard last night, the list is at a whopping 223! I'm amazed.

The bayshore featured all sorts of gulls and terns, but sadly only the old Double-Crested Cormorants instead of the supposedly common Brandt's and Pelagic Cormorants. Still, between me and Matty's eagle eye, we spotted plenty of great birding action, including lifers Elegant Tern, Black Oystercatcher (creepy red eyes!), and what we thought was a Willet. I was impressed that near the Bay Farm area we found a bird sanctuary (where we saw the Willet from over the fence). A lot of the birds were basically posing on these little concrete structures:This pic was taken not at Alameda but while on my way to Matty's, when I pulled off I-580 near Richmond Point, at what was supposed to be some kind of beach but ended up (it's possible I might've taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque...) being a very tony and private beachfront community. Still, I drove in and illegally parked for a second, hoping to see something interesting. I just saw what look like a bunch of Ring-billed Gulls, CA Gulls and/or Western Gulls, and Double-crested Cormorants. I didn't have much time to gawk, being illegally parked and all.

Turns out, Port Richmond was quite the hub of activity back in the day:This was near the "Rosie the Riveter National Historic Place" (or something). I did not stop, nor did I see Rosie (or Sarah Palin, fortunately) the Riveter. Still, it was kinda neat to see a place that played a big part in such an important time in our history.

Anyway, for some stupid reason I left my camera in the car at the last place we stopped in Alameda, when we saw the Elegant Terns and Black Oystercatchers. Grrr.

After the Alameda shore, we drove on toward the Oakland Airport and stopped at a marshy area. It's always surprising to me how many birds one can see on the vast and empty lands that usually surround airports. Anyway, we drove to an especially marshy area called Arrowhead Marsh (thanks, birding couple we met!), and that's where we saw these:Check out those pink legs! Black-necked Stilts, baby. And here's more of what we thought were Willets, though smart and waterbirdy people may disagree:We also saw some Yellowlegs (Greater?), but these guys' legs and coloring and the white eyebrow looked to me and Matty Boy like those of a Willet in winter plumage. (Apparently, winter plumage is all the rage right now, as Yellowlegs are only here during the winter, according to my Peterson's--sure felt like summer to me, though). So--are these Willets? And are they ALL Willets?

We also saw a Black Phoebe (lifer!), which I mistook at first to be a Lark Bunting until I realized that (a.) they don't have those here and (b.) he had a white diamond on his belly and (c.) he had a little crest or tuft-looking thingie on his head. We looked through the guide and Matty spotted it: Black Phoebe. Cool! And bigger than I remember the Eastern Phoebes being.

One bird that I saw twice but Matty didn't see was a beautiful buffy one with a long down-turned bill: Long-billed Curlew! (That Mac's guide to coastal CA birds was INVALUABLE today.) While the Black-necked Stilts and (presumed) Willets and (some-sized) Yellowlegs were all rather public in their food searching and preening and general noise-making, the curlew was waaaay back in the taller grass, alone, both times I saw one. It's like he noticed I had the scope on him and hid before Matty could see him. Frustrating. But I got a great look at him! Beautiful.

So that was six lifers for the Oakland trip--I also got two lifers last night, while driving up on Sonoma Mountain (the mountain I see out of my bedroom window):

The first lifer was a Nuttall's Woodpecker, who was noisily tapping at a rather grizzled old oak:

He was about the size of a Hairy Woodpecker, but you can see that his red pattern and the horizontal striping across his back are way different. Sorry the pics aren't better, but it was getting pretty dark at the time. I also got some rather blurry pics (dying battery = autofocus not so focusy) of a beautiful Western Bluebird! and an Oregon-race Dark-Eyed Junco:

I realize the blur makes it almost impossible to see, but just check out that electric blue on the Western Bluebird. Amazing. I heard tons of wild bird songs and calls, but oy vey, I'm just clueless out here!

I did, however, distinctly recognize one rather wild call, that of a Spotted Towhee. It started with a couple of chips, then changed to a long trill, with other chips and noises. Thank to my sister Mary, I now own the Stokes bird song CDs for Western birds too, so I listened over and over and picked out this Spotted Towhee. It was an amazing call, like two or more different birds or something. The chipping and the trilling just didn't go together in my mind, but -- this great singer pulled it off. So, since we've determined that heard birds are lifers -- I will count this on the list. Begrudgingly. I'm not going to feel really good about it until I see the guy. I'm driving back up there tomorrow!

While driving home in the near darkness, I was lucky enough to see a flock of Wild Turkeys--I counted 11 but there could've been more! I LOVE Wild Turkeys, so I pulled off the road, ran about 200 yards, and snapped these hilariously terrible shots:


Fran said...

What a great day, but I am shocked that Matty does not sport a grill!

Great birds!!! I see some really good ones here and always think of you as I do not have a clue what they are.

One day two weeks ago I was driving to work and had to stop so that a family of wild turkeys could cross the road!! I did take some photos but never posted them.

Oh Delia, I hope that you can stay out there.

Matty Boy said...

The little black bird with the crest and the white diamond on his chest is still a puzzler to me.

I had a wonderful time and hope you can find something that will keep you on the West Coast.

I luvs mah li'l dguzman!

Beth said...

It sounds like a wonderful day. I am jealous of all the lifers.


Earl Cootie said...

Lucky you! Gah, I've been wanting to see Black-necked Stilts for the longest time. Rumor has it they can be found out in some of our eastern stomping grounds in the springtime.

We saw a bundle of Western Bluebirds yesterday too. And I got a lifer! Just one though. I'm up to 225 now. (I'll be eating your dust by next weekend.)

dguzman said...

Fran--email me your turkey pics! I don't know why I love them but I do. And I too was shocked and disappointed at the lack of bling on our Matty Boy--I mean, he's big-time faculty. You'd think he'd want to represent.

Matty Boy--per our email discussion, I'm 100% sure on that ID. The Willets, I'm not so sure about. Maybe John or Rich will chime in. I luvs mah li'l Matty Boy!

Beth--I'm still jealous you got to go to New River! I miss my Flock!

Earl--we're neck and neck on lifelists! Those stilts were funny, squeaking and squawking and just showing off.

John said...

Congrats on the lifers!

KGMom said...

You are just rolling up the lifers, aren't you. Great to see you are finding new birdie places.

dguzman said...

John--I'm guessing that my Willet ID passed muster with you? If so, it's official!

KGMom--before I forget, have I mentioned to you that I keep trying to comment on some of your posts but my ancient browser won't allow me to? It's a lifer-rama out here for sure.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just wanted to confirm
your Willet id. The one that
is left of center raising its
wings, displaying the black &
white pattern should cinch the
id for you. I counted 8 willets
in the photo.
Hap in New Hope(MN)

dguzman said...

Hap--thank you, and welcome to the bloggy! I was hoping that someone would catch the wings-up part.

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