quotidianart: 119. Common Murre (Uria aalge), with…

Posted March 9th, 2018 by John Callender


119. Common Murre (Uria aalge), with spectacle/bridled markings (the white marks around the eyes.) In a recent fake survey, bridled common murres were considered more intellectual by their peers than non-bridled conspecifics.

Hopefully the highlights on its beak don’t make it look too much like a thick-billed murre…

It’s an odd thing for me personally, having grown up sailing, and also birdwatching, that I’ve never really done “pelagic birding”, in the sense of going to sea for the express purpose of looking at birds. I’ve checked out seabirds opportunistically, but when you’re sailing (as distinct from powerboating) and especially when you’re racing, opportunities for focused bird study can be hard to come by. At least that’s been my experience.

So tomorrow’s kind of a big deal for me. I’ve booked one of the last available seats on Island Packers’ spring pelagic birding trip, which (weather permitting) will be heading out from Channel Islands Harbor tomorrow morning. The plan is to follow Hueneme Canyon toward Anacapa, then motor past Anacapa checking out the nesting birds. Then we’ll cross the Anacapa Passage to Santa Cruz, where we’ll go ashore at Prisoner’s Harbor to see the requisite Island Scrub Jays before returning to Oxnard late in the day. The forecast is for some rain, but relatively light winds.


I’m especially interested in the part of the trip when we’ll officially be in Santa Barbara County (basically, everything west of a north-south line bisecting the passage between Anacapa and Santa Cruz). That’s because I’m doing a “little big year” in which I identify as many species as I can in the county. (I blame @quickthreebeers.) I’m hoping to add 5 new species tomorrow, and think I have an outside shot at 10. Mostly, though, I’m looking forward to a fun day of birdwatching with other obsessives. And if I’m lucky, my first-of-the-year Common Murre. 😀

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/171699629036.

Jameson Lake, Carpinteria Christmas Bird Count, 2018-01-05

Posted February 23rd, 2018 by John Callender

Jameson Lake, Carpinteria Christmas Bird Count, 2018-01-05

So, if you’ve followed me for a while you know I get really into the bird thing late in the year when the Christmas Count comes around. This past year I got super into it, helping Rob (the founder of our local Christmas Count) organize things, which mostly meant letting him do the hard work of contacting everyone and lining up participants while I did the fun part: scouting (i.e., birdwatching).

We were in the home stretch when a slight hiccup occurred: The Thomas Fire. It burned through the majority of our count circle, forced evacuations of large parts of the Carpinteria Valley, and kept those who stayed behind indoors due to the horrible air quality. We basically had no choice but to postpone the count to Friday, January 5, the last day of the count window.

By the time the rescheduled count rolled around the fire was contained and people were getting their lives back together. The firefighters had done a great job, keeping the fire mostly out of the human-inhabited coastal strip. But inland it had burned unchecked.

We normally work hard to get a team to Jameson Lake, a freshwater reservoir in the northern part of our circle. It’s hard to reach even in the best of times, but it’s worth it; there are birds there we just can’t get on the coast. But this year it was completely inaccessible; no one was being allowed in except firefighters and Forest Service personnel.

Then we got a break: Alan, the dam caretaker at Jameson Lake for the Montecito Water District, is a birder. He’d arranged for us to go in back in November, before the fire, for a scouting visit. Now he’d started going back in for damage assessment, and he scheduled ones of his visits for count day. Even better, he pulled some strings and got permission for a carload of us to follow him in.

So that’s how it was that I, along with two other birders (Deborah and Taylor, aka @quickthreebeers) got to spend count day out of cellphone range, exploring a burned-out landscape that was eerily silent: no other people, and very few birds.

For the most part it wasn’t great birding. But it was a fascinating look at the aftermath of the fire. And in terms of the citizen-science mission of the Christmas Count it was a wonderful opportunity to gather data on which birds were there (ducks, woodpeckers, and SO many Dark-eyed Juncoes) and which were gone. I’m really looking forward to going back over the next few years to see the area come back to life.

As I mentioned, we were out of cellphone range all day, so it was only after making the three-hour trip back at the end of the day that I was able to touch base with Rob, and get the good news about the overall count: It went great. We got 155 species, just 3 short of our all-time record.

This is some video I shot of our trip to the lake.

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/171217768486.

Santa Monica Creek, Santa Barbara, California, USFeb 1, 2018…

Posted February 1st, 2018 by John Callender

Santa Monica Creek, Santa Barbara, California, US
Feb 1, 2018 5:19 PM – 6:03 PM
Protocol: Traveling
0.8 mile(s)

Comments: Sunset walk with Rory. Mesa Lane to El Carro Lane to the Santa Monica Creek trail, then north to Foothill Road and return. I was looking for, but failed to find, the Common Ground Doves Eric Culbertson had a few weeks ago in the avocado grove on the west side of the creek near Foothill Road. I did get to see a bat come out, though.

15 species

Anna’s Hummingbird  1
Acorn Woodpecker  1
Black Phoebe  4
Bushtit  1
House Wren  1
Wrentit  1
Hermit Thrush  1
Common Yellowthroat  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  3
White-crowned Sparrow  17
Song Sparrow  2
Lincoln’s Sparrow  1
California Towhee  4
House Finch  1
House Sparrow  2

View this checklist online at https://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S42425217

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/170402647796.

A few weeks ago the hills above Carpinteria, the coastal town I…

Posted January 4th, 2018 by John Callender

A few weeks ago the hills above Carpinteria, the coastal town I live in, burned. I was talking to a neighbor today, someone who spent his career working in forest management. He’s retired now, but he’s an expert on wildfire behavior. He’s been volunteering since the fire on restoring the Franklin Trail, which leads from Carpinteria up into the hills. He showed me a map and pointed out the few strips of riparian habitat where the fire damage was relatively light. Except for those isolated pockets, the damage behind Carp is severe. He said he’s never seen a burn pattern like this. In the time leading up to the fire, drought and the persistent high pressure had driven humidity levels so low that when the fire came through the vegetation was like one big expanse of tinder.

The fire crews saved most of the structures. They successfully protected the  homes in Ojai, La Conchita, Carpinteria, Montecito, and Santa Barbara. As a result, in tomorrow’s (rescheduled) Carpinteria Christmas Bird Count, most of the accessible areas in the coastal strip where we were planning to bird are actually looking pretty good. Indeed, in the scouting I’ve done since the fire the birding seems better than usual. The unburned areas are filled with displaced chaparral birds; wrentits and California towhees and ruby-crowned kinglets everywhere you look. I think they’re refugees. The carrying capacity of the habitat they’re in won’t have increased. The extra birds will disperse more widely, or will suffer from predation, disease, or starvation. But for now it makes for exciting birding.

That’s the story in the “front country”, the area south of the Santa Ynez crest. The backcountry north of the crest is another matter. There the fires burned largely unchecked. Jameson Lake is seven miles north of Carpinteria. It’s hard to reach even under normal circumstances, requiring a day-long backpacking trip or mountain biking down miles of dirt roads that are closed to private vehicles. We don’t always manage to include it in our Christmas count; it’s great habitat for us, giving us a chance at an inland freshwater lake that we otherwise don’t have, but it’s hard to get there.

This year it’s especially hard. The whole area is closed to the public. The only people with access are fire and forest service crews, and the people who maintain the water facilities at Jameson for the Montecito Water District.

So… tomorrow, thanks to some really nice people pulling some strings on our behalf, we get to go count birds there. I’m going in along with two other birdwatchers, led by the water district employee who lives part-time at the lake (or used to, before his cabin burned down).

I don’t know what we’ll find. I was there on a scouting trip in November. Alan, the caretaker, has been in several times since the fire, and he’s told me not to expect much. Everything has burned. For all I know we’re going to spend all day in a sterile moonscape. But I think it’s important to document what happened. The Christmas counts are mostly for fun, but they also produce useful citizen science. Thousands of volunteers go out each year and catalog the birds they’re able to find. In some count circles above the Arctic Circle they go out in the midwinter twilight to record a single species (thank you, common raven). Next to that I’m getting off easy.

Anyway, that’s what I’ll be doing tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes.

Reposted from http://ift.tt/2qnD9F7.

sunwendyrain: Orchard Oriole Quintana, Texas When I was little…

Posted December 25th, 2017 by John Callender


Orchard Oriole

Quintana, Texas

When I was little I’d page through the field guides. We had two on the shelf, legacies of my dad’s upbringing in New Jersey with a mother who was a birdwatcher. There was an original-edition Peterson and an older all-in-one birds+mammals+fish+reptiles+amphibians guide, but both were east-of-the-Mississippi in terms of coverage, so there were a lot of species I never actually saw.

The male Orchard Oriole always caught my attention, though, because look at him: such a different color for an oriole, remarkable and gorgeous but so WEIRD. And then I spent most of my life as a non-traveler, living (and birding) almost exclusively in California. But on October 17 I was walking Rory along the channelized creek near our house and suddenly there he was, plain as day atop a patch of Cape honeysuckle: the bird that had occupied my imagination for 50 years.

It seemed too early for an overwintering bird; probably a fall vagrant on his way south. I didn’t even think about him sticking around for the Christmas count, then scheduled for December 16. But week after week he stayed, and it started getting close enough to hope. And then the fire happened, and half our circle was on fire or smoldering on count day with the rest under a thick pall of smoke, so we postponed to the last possible day: January 5. And again, the chances that he might still be there seemed slim.

There are a lot of misadventures that can befall a bird, especially one so brightly colored, out of its normal range and small for an oriole. More than once while waiting for him to appear I’ve seen an adult Cooper’s Hawk, a female, I think, from her large size, fly in and perch in the eucalyptus that overlooks that Cape honeysuckle patch, listening and scanning for movement just like me, and though I’ve appreciated her presence I’ve also been quietly anxious on the oriole’s behalf, and have felt relieved when she’s given up or been discovered by crows and chased off. Yes. Thank you. Go find some sparrows further up the path.

I haven’t seen him since we got back from evacuating, but someone else did 5 days ago. So he’s still there, or was. Maybe later today after the family event I’ll go look for him, my non-traditional avian family member. Merry Christmas. Please stay. Please be shy and cautious, and watch out for hawks and cats.

Eleven more days.

Reposted from http://ift.tt/2pylCtc.