Sunday, May 11, 2008

Spring Update.

Long time, no blog. No excuses really, just birding too much. Actually, birding a little and biking a lot--new bird species are becoming fewer and farther between. I have ridden my bike over 375 miles since April began and added 28 new species to my year list. That's about one new species for every 13 miles. And that's not counting the many days I bike 6 miles to work and back and see nothing new. It's only going to get harder to see new birds as the year goes on! I can only reasonable expect to add a couple of dozen more bird species for the rest of the year--but hopefully they will be exciting ones.

So where did all those Bigby miles take me. The majority come from two and a half Big Days I did this spring. The first on April 14th logged over 110 miles in Marin County with Josiah. Pretty exhausted after that one. We came one shy of besting our own Marin County record by bike of 151 species. We started in Tennessee Valley in Southern Marin at about 4:00 AM. We made it halfway up Mt. Tam by day brake and had added Great-horned, Western Screech, and Spotted Owls--also strangely, night calling Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Brewer's Blackbirds and Wild Turkey. By 6:30 AM we were off to a great start but right then Josiah would brake his bike chain climbing the rugged Old Railroad Grade fire road on Mt. Tam. No chain tool. Prime dawn chorus. Were our hopes of a truly 'big' day dashed? We walked our bikes on heartbroken. An hour later we flagged down some early morning mountain bikers and were amazed to meet someone with the chain tool that would rescue our day. Josiah fixed the chain and we were off again.

Josiah holds up broken chain at 6:00AM. Luck on the trail: mt. bikers with tools at 7:00AM, thanks Gregor

A little further on the trail and then we raced down to Bolinas Lagoon on the west side of Marin County for sea and shorebirds. In Bolinas a quick stop at Keith Hanson's studio for lunch and then on the road again. Five Brooks, Olema, Nicasio Reservoir, and Lucas Valley Road. Twilight at Las Galinas. Now we just had to ride the 30 or so miles back to San Francisco. We were no longer concerned with new birds, we just wanted to survive and find a place to sleep. In the dark we half-heartedly picked up Virginia Rail north of San Rafael and then Northern Mockingbird in Mill Valley. It was almost exactly midnight when we reached the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. We had been riding for 20 hours and seen 150 species. Needless to say I had had my fill of biking and birding for the day.

Upper, Lucas Valley Rd. Lower, Burritos in San Rafael at 10pm

The next big ride was two days later. This time San Francisco County. Our team included Dominik Mosur, Matt Zlatunich, Josiah Clark and top county lister and Northern California legend Alan Hopkins. We started at Golden Gate Park before dawn. No luck with Barn Owl. Then we biked to Lake Merced and picked up some very good birds for the City including Great-tailed Grackle, Sora, and Wood Duck. We were off to a really good start and the weather was fantastic. All three scoter species at Ocean beach portended a very good day. Next Land's End and Golden Gate Park where our luck with the ducks continued. Now we pedaled across the city all the way to the southeast corner at Candlestick Point. We added new shorebirds and continued up the Bay shore around the Embarcadero to Fort Mason and the Presidio. We picked up Wandering Tattler, Hairy Woodpecker, Spotted Towhee, Wrentit and finally a Hermit Thrush in the Presidio to end the day. 138 species recorded in SF in one day. Only 11 species away from the all time SF Big Day record of 149--and no gasoline!

Finally the "half a Big Day" was a solo effort I made a week ago in San Mateo Co. I couldn't get started early so I only just began the day at 10:15 AM (ghastly late for a birdwatcher) in the definitively un-birdy concrete neighborhoods of Daly City. I made my way down the coast into a SW head wind, and finally came to Princeton Harbor. The birding was great, and despite the late date there were still Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Brant, Sanderlings, and even a White-winged Scoter. It was past noon now though and I had barely any terrestrial birds. I headed up the beautiful Las Tunitas Rd. past farms and dense alder groves were. I heard my first Swainson's Thrushes of the year. Soon enough I was up in the Redwoods in the breeding territory of Hermit Thrushes, Hermit Warblers and Pileated Woodpeckers. Finally, the climbing done I coasted to the Bay at Redwood Shores and excitingly picked up my life Black Skimmers at Radio Road Pond.

Spring is in full swing, which in San Francisco, means cold temperatures and strong westerly winds. Unfortunately this makes for difficult biking and poor birding. Any break in the wind, however, and the migrants come spilling into the City. I check the weather online every morning and observe the giant flag on the building out my back window. If it's slack I head to Buena Vista Park and Golden Gate Park to see if any new migrants are in town. If it is blown by a hard westerly I cancel my birding for the morning and try to bike to work without freezing to death.

As of 5/11/08 my list stands at 219 species (see sidebar).

1 comment:

Becky said...

Fascinating! Loved it! How do your legs hold up? Call me. Becky K