Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Day 68--Barred Owls

Quite a bit to catch up on tonite. The past 3 days combined capture the nature of birding. On Sunday I spent the day driving back down towards San Francisco, including a swing back out to the northern Cal coast to try once more for rock sandpiper and/or tufted duck. I stopped at Castle Rock to scan it for the canada geese (aleutian form) that stage there each March before migrating north. The rock is far enough out that at first you don't realize what looks like a rocky surface is in fact 1000's of geese. As for the 2 target birds, I did not find either but I did find an elegant tern at the Humboldt NWR, which was a surprise to see one this early in the year (they breed on an island nearby). So Sunday was a "miss" but still productive with a new bird for the year.

I spent the nite in Santa Rosa and was thinking I was pretty fried between the all day pelagic trip and then driving all day on Sunday. So I planned to sleep in and then go straight to the airport. But the universe sometimes works in unusual ways. I awoke at 5:30 AM because an alarm was going off in the motel room next door but no one was in that room. Since I was awake, I decided to drive over to Lake Merritt in Oakland to see if a tufted duck that was reported there several weeks earlier might just still be there.

I began to walk the long perimeter of the lake, enjoying red-necked and eared grebes, common goldeneyes, lots of scaup, and the early morning walk. About 3/4's of the way around I approached a large group of scaup and notice there were 4 canvasback ducks in with them. And then, boom, there was a duck with an all black back (scaup have a grayish back). Could it be a tufted or was it just a ring-necked duck. It was in fact a fine looking male tufted duck with a gorgeous tuft adorning its head. So I made the effort and was pleasantly surprised to find a tufted. Goal accomplished after several days of looking. On my way back to the car I also did see a single ring-necked duck.

My flight from SF back to Miami proved to be my first bad travel experience of the year. The plane had mechanical problems, so instead of leaving at noon, we finally got off at 6:30 PM. Arriving in Miami at 2:30 AM was not great but I did get to bed for awhile before getting up at 7:30. I had an address about 20 minutes away where red-whiskered bulbuls had been seen recently. I jumped out of my truck (great to be driving my own vehicle again), and walked down the street. Within minutes I noticed some monk parakeets and white-crowned pigeons--both new birds for the year. And then bingo there they were, 2 bulbuls sitting on the telephone wires.

So it was not even 9 AM and I had 3 more YTD birds, what a fantastic start to the day. I then drove about 20 minutes to a location that has had lots of wintering sparrows lately. I found none but did see some painted buntings and common ground doves. I headed on down to Everglades NP to see if I could see swallow-tailed kites. The day had turned nicely sunny, temp in the low 70's. I drove all the way down to Flamingo at the end of the park road and sure enough, 3 kites were kiting about. This bird flies like a kite does in a nice breeze. Plus it is so nicely colored--check it out at wikipedia.

I then stopped at Mahogany Hammock on my way back out of the park where I snapped the pictures above of an adult barred owl, and one of its owlets. I had just seen on my last blog post a comment from a neighbor who told me he had seen barred owls down by our creek, so Perry these pics are for you! I also saw a brown thrasher--both are YTD birds. Next stop was the Anhinga trail to see what might be lurking there. I found 2 more new birds for the year--an american bittern skulking thru the reeds plus a northern parula (a warbler for you non-birders).

I finished the day at dusk on the edge of the park looking for raptors and owls. After so much success today, I was not surprised to see the run come to an end. Plenty of raptors but no more owls. I think 1 type of owl per day may be an unstated limit. So for the week the bird count is up to 121, and the YTD count is now at 378. Tomorrow I will be trying for a few more target birds for south Florida before driving up to Avon Park to spend the nite with some very good friends. Stay tuned!


  1. Whoa! Gorgeous owls! The young one looks like it was checking you out, typical curious youth. The weather has warmed up here so much that the wrens were fighting for prime nesting places on the porch. Also male bluebirds battling for a females attention or so it seemed.

  2. Man...you are one focused human being. What a story. It is clear you've got the right stuff for this Big Year mission. The rewards have been huge. What a list!

  3. Great pictures of the barred owls. I bet mine were making more noise, haha. I hope we get spotted salamanders tonight at the creek, last night there wasn't enough rain. Thanks for bringing back so many fond memories of birding in South Florida.

  4. Ella here to compliment you on your blogging style. Vividly tantilizing in the food department as well as fun and easy to read. The photos add alot. Here's wishing you all that you desire from your Big Year sent with Big Love!!