Friday, February 3, 2012

Rock Sandpiper Yes! Al the Laysan Albatross No!

We were back out before 8 AM at MacKerricher SP, but at a different location to look again for a rock sandpiper. As we looked down from the bluff we could see lots of shorebirds bouncing around on the rocks looking for breakfast as the waves rolled in. I walked down onto the beach to get closer to one rock that seemed very active. To everyone's delight there was a rock sandpiper (photo above--click on any photo to enlarge) feeding along with surf birds, sanderlings, black turnstones and black oystercatchers. On a nearby rock we found a glaucous winged gull trying to swallow a starfish (photo just below).

Having found the rock sandpiper which was a life bird for 2 of the group, we decided to start driving to see if Al, the laysan albatross that has wintered for 19 years at Pt. Arenas, was in the harbor. Enroute we stopped at Van Damme SP for about 20 minutes to see what was around. As soon as we got out of the truck we heard several pacific wrens singing, and Laura got a photo of one (just below).

We also found several varied thrushes mixed in with the robins. One male was particularly striking (photo just below).

Our next stop was at the Pt. Arenas harbor to check on Al. The harbor master told us that he had not come in yet that day, and had not been seen for a few days. As we waited to see if he might make an appearance, we enjoyed seeing other birds including a fly over of a ferruginous hawk (photo just below).

At one point a boat came in loaded with sea urchins. We watched the harbor master unload over a 1000 pounds of them into large plastic lugs. Laura captured a 1st year western gull checking out the mound of sea urchins in the photo above. We took a lunch break, and checked out another location to see if maybe Al was over by the lighthouse. When we returned to the harbor the sea urchins had been taken off to Ft. Bragg to be processed for use by sushi restaurants.

About 3 PM we concluded that Al was not in the area, and knowing we still had a 3-4 hour ride back into San Francisco, we decided to call it a day. Laura and I were dropped off at our motel near the airport at 7 PM, and Dan, Doreene and Joe headed over to Oakland to spend the night close to Merritt Lake to be in position early on Tuesday to try for a tufted duck. As Laura and I were heading to the airport Tuesday morning she received a cell phone picture taken by Doreene of the tufted duck.

After 3 days of birding we had seen about 125 species. The Nutting's (ABA code 5) was a life bird for all of us but Joe who had already seen it a few weeks ago, and the falcated duck (code 4) was a life bird for all of us but Dan. Laura told me that she ended up with a total of 8 life birds on the trip, and Joe may have had almost that many. I do not know when I will be birding again, but you never know, so stay tuned!

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