Saturday, January 4, 2014

Carpinteria and beyond

I somehow managed to get up to Carpinteria today. The continuing grey hawk has been reported daily since early December last year. Originally seen last winter as an immature bird, this hawk has returned for a second year as an adult. This bird represents the first and only record of grey hawk for California so thus it is rather special.

Naturally the species occupies Central and South America, with a few records here and there in the northern region of Mexico, Arizona and some neighbouring states. Its been a pretty big deal over the birding community and you can expect that I wanted to see it. I personally found it this morning at its typical haunt, a telephone pole outside a Nursery on Viva Real (sp.?) Lane.

Yes. Its grey. 
I managed to add some other nearby(ish) locations to the itinerary. The next place was a Alice Keck Park, a small area with a duck pond and a few trees. It didn't sound like a good place for birds, and it isn't, but the passage birds apparently aren't choosy...Two Thayer's gulls were reported here and have been for about a week. Other than mew gull (which I have seen previously in Canada) Thayer's is the only semi-regular gull I have not yet seen in California. Its a tricky bird to find with very small numbers trickling over the state each winter. When I arrived at the park two gulls were circling around and departed almost as soon as I arrived, and indeed one was the Thayer's gull. The younger Thayer's gull was still on the pond.

The younger of the two. Very slender bill and rounded head are best physique indicators.

There was a black-and-white warbler here too though I didn't really memorize the directions in favour of memorizing more important birds. It wasn't a big deal since of all the rare birds the black-and-white warbler seems to be fairly abundant. There seems to be a new one reported nearly every week.

The last stop was Ocean Meadows Golf Course, an old golf course that was long abandoned and is now turning into a wetland area. A massive 5 rarities have been reported at once at locations within seconds of each other. Not even the Laguna tamarisks can often boast that. Since today coincidentally happened to be the Santa Barbara Christmas Bird Count there were quite a few people here, better for me as more eyes searching increases the chance of seeing the birds if they are around. The tropical kingbird was the most conspicuous of the rarities and when it wasn't randomly disappearing it was rather omnipresent. I also saw the baltimore oriole for a moment. Apparently not many people saw the oriole today so I suppose that was fortunate, though I had already seen some in Canada.
Tropical kingbird.
Is this a good example of why kings are better than monarchs? Oh right they are the same thing, nevermind.
I'm not sure what it was thinking of doing with its new butterfly mask. It kind of just hung on to it for a bit and
I don't know what happened after then.
The rare Grace's warbler was my prime target here and it turned up after I was done with the kingbird. I was rather paranoid that I wouldn't see it, as it was notorious for rendering itself invisible in the days following up to today. The bird appeared for about 30 seconds in its "favoured tree", vanished unseen, and never returned again for that whole day. Didn't get amazing photos but they aren't bad.

Grace's warbler. As with all cropped images
this website/Google Picasa decides to super compress the images even more which highly
reduces the photo quality... Well you can see what it looks like anyway.
The vermillion flycatcher unfortunately did not show, though apparently it was seen 2 hours prior to my arrival. A Lucy's warbler was abruptly found in a tree on the far side of the course, and despite the fact that I was in the group who saw it and the fact I was present when they were observing it I didn't manage to see it. Of course, it didn't help that "the dead branch" I was looking at was not the dead branch actually being referred to. Though of all the warblers I could have missed, I'm glad it was Lucy's. Of all the colourful and vibrantly coloured warblers Lucy's stands out as being completely brown and colourless, and though it is rare I can't say I'm bothered as much as I would be if it was any other rare species.

The Lewis' woodpeckers continue locally in Agoura...I have some better pictures this time.
Lewis' woodpecker.