Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ruffless and Owlless in Central California

Having seen so many really great and rare birds of late, the past 36 hours have reminded me again that sometimes you just don't get your bird. Yesterday morning I was at the Younger Lagoon in Santa Cruz by 9:15 in hopes of finally seeing a ruff. A local birder was there ahead of me, and we both spent the next hour scanning the lagoon for the ruff that had been reported from there the morning before.

We saw pectoral sandpipers, killdeer, a single dowitcher and a few peeps along with several snowy egrets, but no ruff was to be found. We also saw a cooper's, a sharp-shinned, and a red-tailed hawk along with a northern harrier and a peregrine falcon while we were looking for the ruff, so that might be one reason we could not find it. There have been no more sightings reported over the past 2 days, so at least I don't have to feel bad that somehow I missed finding it even though it was there somewhere.

I then drove the 4+ hours over to Yosemite NP to try for a great gray owl that had been seen at one particular spot on Glacier Point road just 2 days before. I arrived about 6 PM and was joined immediately by an English birder that I had seen on a couple of the pelagic trips this week. We staked out the meadow until dark thirty, and then went to sleep in our respective vehicles in hopes of having success this AM.

I was out scanning the meadow about 6:15 AM along with the Englishman. About 7 four more birders from the pelagic trip out of Bodega Bay drove up, and we all spent the next hour waiting for the owl to make an appearance. About 8 they decided to drive down the road to look for sooty grouse. About 8:45 they returned to say that they had just talked with 3 other birders who had the good fortune to find a great gray owl at McGurk Meadow--a scant 5 miles from where I was standing--and watched it feed for upwards of 30 minutes.

We all zipped over to the trail to McGurk Meadow, and quickly walked the 10 minutes it takes to get down to the meadow. After about an hour of searching the meadow all we found were some owl feathers below the perch it had used to feed. So once again the great gray eluded my best efforts and info to find it.

I am now checked into my motel in Santa Barbara after driving the 6 hours it took to get here from Yosemite. Week #37 finished up yesterday with a total of 105 birds seen for the week. Week #38 began today with only 17 birds recorded, but tomorrow morning I will be going out on the Condor Express again in search of more seabirds. I get back to shore about 3 PM which should give me enough time to rush down into Los Angeles to look for a ruff that was found on the Los Angeles River in Long Beach yesterday. Stay tuned!


  1. Chris,

    My GFs daughter Sharna has for the past two years been studying the Great Gray Owl in Yosemite. Her blog is Give her a shout and she can likely give you a few good sites to find one (privately) I went out with them last year doing calls and after maybe a dozen stops we heard one.

  2. I hear a rare double breasted wifey bird was heading towards LV! Maybe you'll get a sighting! xo