Thursday, December 2, 2010

Still Shrikeless

Today is December 1st, my birthday, so I had my fingers crossed that we would see the brown shrike today. After 9 hours of sleep last nite, we were out in the heavy mist by 9 AM, prowling thru the sand dunes and wetlands listening and looking for the shrike. Like yesterday, there were about 10 other birders out there with us. Alas, after all the other birders had left, we called it a day about 1 PM without finding our elusive quarry. We saw 5 more new birds for the week. Because it was raining today, I again did not take any new pics, so I have put a photo of an eastern screech owl that I took down in south Texas earlier in the year (click on it to enlarge).

We grabbed a quick lunch, and checked the web to see if any new rarities had been found today. None were in the lower 48 states, so after sorting thru my options with Bob and Wes, I have decided to stay here in San Fran for now to see what develops with the shrike, or some other bird. Bob is heading home so that he can then go up to Newfoundland to try to see both black-tailed, and a yellow-legged gulls. I did get an email this evening from John Puschock telling me that 2 gyrfalcons have been seen near Moscow, ID recently. This is one of the birds that I am hoping to see before the end of the year, so I need to get some more info about this possibility.

On the way to our motel for the nite, we stopped in San Fran for a quick dinner at my favorite SF chinese restaurant--Hunan. I talked about this place earlier in the year when I ate there with my son Caleb. Since I was not home to eat a celebratory meal with my wife, it was great to share a birthday dinner with Bob and Wes at a place that I have been eating at for over 30 years. They let me pick the dishes and they seemed quite happy with the results.

There are only 30 more days in this big year. I said a few weeks ago after I had seen 688 birds that I was raising my year end target to 695 birds. With 697 now seen, and the common redpoll an all but certainty, I am now within reach of the amazing level of 700 species seen in the lower 48 states. If rarities keep showing up at the rate they have in the past 3 weeks, then getting to 700 is looking much more probable. "Slim" is now back in the "town limits", but there is still some work and luck required for me to get to 700.

Based on sightings over the past few years, some rare birds I have not yet seen that have a greater probability of making a showing before the end of 2010 include the following:

gyrfalcon, slaty-backed gull, thick-billed murre, hoary redpoll, roadside hawk, emperor goose, ivory gull, eared quetzal, loggerhead kingbird, and white wagtail.

Given the large number of northern birds that have pushed down into the lower 48 states in recent weeks, other rarities such as the brown shrike might also be found. The travel map has been updated. Stay tuned!


  1. Been following you all year. Great story...

    Just wanted to say the we get Thick-Billed Murre pretty reliably out of Boston and on up to NH and ME. Plum Island and Andrew's Point in MA are two places that immediately come to mind to see them from land.

    In most years you could pretty easily get redpoll and the Murre in a day or two out here.

  2. That shrike will be nobody's birthday bird. If today is Wes' birthday... don't breathe a word of it.


    I just made you a birthday cake (see above). 694 candles, each a gift of your amazing year, would not fit upon it. Instead there are 6 to remind you of possibilities.


    Happy Birthday Dear Chris,
    I hope your wish comes true.

  3. I'm cheering for you and sending all my postive karma, good thoughts, and even prayers your way! I will be a neighbor pretty soon as my family is moving from Boise to the Raleigh area.

  4. Check Mass RBA - Northern Lapwing

  5. Subject: BAIKAL TEAL-Gilbert Water Ranch, AZ

    From: Gary Nunn
    Date: Thu, 2 Dec 2010 16:24:26 -0700

    I just discovered an adult BAIKAl TEAL roosting here on first pond on
    the left from the parking lot.

    4:22 pm Thursday 12-2-10

    I will stay right here and hope to see other birders! Perfect light
    for long lenses, it's a beauty.

    Gary Nunn,
    Phoenix, AZ

    Sent from my iPhone

  6. just to follow up re: thick-billed murre, there is a pelagic trip aiming to go out to Jeffries Ledge in NH on Saturday. Below is the message from Massbird

    Weather permitting I will be leading a trip to Jeffries Ledge this Sat., 8-1pm, leaving from the Coast Guard dock in Portsmouth, aboard the UNH Gulf Challenger. Weather is currently predicted to be waves 1-2 feet, which is about as calm as it gets this time of year, but as always, final call Friday evening 6pm. $75pp. I have posted a few pics on my blog from trips this past year There are still a few spots available. Contact me offlist if interested.

    Likely species:
    Northern Fulmar
    Northern Gannet
    Black-legged Kittiwake
    Common Murre
    Black Guillemot
    Atlantic Puffin

    Thick-billed Murre
    Great Shearwater

    Outside chance:
    Skua or jaeger
    Eric Masterson

  7. chris....enjoyed my sighting of you in terminal A and the fried chicken. I believe it's time to alter your nickname to senator bird...did you fly west or to boston last night....will have to wait to read tomorrow

  8. Glad the Baikal Teal came through - what a fine bird! So only five more? I like the idea of a NH pelagic trip (and it would be worth checking landfills in NH and nearby for Slaty-backed, recorded in some recent winters). Hanging out on the Maine/New Brunswick border with a good scope at this time of year will probably produce more than a few Thick-billed Murres in the morning alcid flight (Campobello Island area). I looked through eBird but saw no Hoary Redpoll reports in MN, WI, MI, ME. In some winters, these are very tough south of Canada. Gyrfalcon stake-outs are not common in the East. Sometimes Michigan has one by the middle of the month. I think there have been semi-reliable Gyrs at pheasant farms in the Dakotas in some winters. I tend to think that Western Spindalis could pop up on a FL Christmas Bird Count as well, but these can be difficult to chase.

  9. Two springs ago, Hoary Redpolls could be picked out of the Common Redpoll flock around the feeders at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory fairly easily. I wrote about that a few times on my own blog: It might be worth checking with WPBO to see if they are there now, not everything gets reported to eBird. And although I missed Gyrfalcon, I believe they can be found most winters in nearby Sault St. Marie. With some preparation obviously, I think you have a fair chance of seeing these two birds in the Michigan UP. Good luck with your quest!