Life List Update:66-70

Been way to long since I posted here, but that is the way it goes I guess. Foul weather and lots of work limited my bird watching in December, but I did get to see a few birds here and there. We are in Massachusetts for the holidays and I hope to see s0me new birds here. I already saw a Tufted Titmouse in the yard this morning.

66. Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

67. Surf Scoter

Surf Scoter at Twin Lakes State Beach

Surf Scoter at Twin Lakes State Beach

68. Sanderling

There were quite a few sanderlings enjoying low tide at Twin Lakes SB

69. Pine Siskin

I knew we had siskins in the back yard, but it took a lot of patience to get this picture.

I knew we had siskins in the back yard, but it took a lot of patience to get this picture.

70. Tufted Titmouse

Coming to the North East, I get to see new birds, like this titmouse

Coming to the North East, I get to see new birds, like this titmouse

Weekly Life List Update: 56 to 65

Well, I am back home in Santa Cruz, where we were greeted with gale force winds and pretty constant rain. Therefore, I haven’t really been able to get out and do any bird watching this week. Fortunately, our last few days in Alabama were very productive, and I was able to add another ten birds to the life list, including two nuthatch species, and two more woodpecker species. The nuthatches were especially satisfying, as I failed to see one when we were New Hampshire this October, despite several sightings by my father.

56. Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

The Carolina Chickadee is my fourth Chickadee species. It is hard to distinguish it from the Black-Capped Chickadees I grew up with in New England, but as I saw it in Alabama, I can be sure of the ID.

57. House Finch

House Finch

It is very difficult to distinguish House Finches from Purple Finches and Cassin’s Finches. I found some very useful information here.

58. Downey Woodpecker

Unfortunately the Downey Woodpeckers jumped off the suet before I could get my camera around. I spent the next hour with one eye on the window, but they never came back.

59. Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe at Aldridge Botanical Gardens, and my third Phoebe species.

60. Belted Kingfisher

I Saw the Belted Kingfisher several times at the lake by the Hoover, AL public library, sadly I never got a shot off with the camera.

61. Brown Headed Nuthatch

Brown Headed Nuthatch

The Brown-Headed Nuthatch was much more common in my in-laws neighborhood than the White-Breasted Nuthatch.

62. Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

We came upon a whole flock of Cedar Waxwings in Hoover, Alabama.

63. Pine Warbler

Juvenile Pine Warbler

This juvenile pine warbler doesn’t have the bright yellow head and neck of the adult.

64. Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-Belleid Sapsucker

The front of my in-laws house is full of woodpeckers, these Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers were in the trees outside the front window.

65. White-Breasted Nuthatch

White Breasted Nuthatch

The White-Breasted Nuthatches seemed to prefer lower branches and the trunks of trees, while their brown headed cousins perched much higher.

Cedar Waxwings in Hoover, Alabama

We are just coming back today from a great trip to Alabama to see my in-laws. I will post a longer entry on Wednesday detailing the various Eastern species I was able to identify, but I wanted to post some photos of the Cedar Waxwings Sarah and I came upon while walking near the Hoover, Alabama library yesterday. We have these fantastic birds in California, but I have not managed to find them there, so I was very excited to see so many together. I counted at least seven individuals, but from the sounds in the woods around us there were many, many more.

Cedar Wax Wing

Cedar Waxwing

Two Cedar Waxwings

Weekly Life List Update: 43 to 55

I am thankful for this great week of birding. I know that eventually it will be a big event to add a “lifer” to my life list, but in the meantime, I see new birds almost every day. This week I saw new birds at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve at the POGONIP park in Santa Cruz, and in Birmingham, Alabama, where we are visiting my in-laws for Thanksgiving. All told, I was able to photograph and identify 13 new species! I still have a few days here in Alabama, so I am hoping to see a few more Eastern species before we go to Califonia.

43. Long Billed Curlew

Long Billed Curlew at Moss Landing State Beach

44. Says Phoebe

Say’s Phoebe, I originally mistook this for a very small California Towhee, due to the drab color with a bit of orange below the tail until I saw the beak and the shape of the head.

45. Bufflehead

Buffleheads, floating in the slough

46. Red-Tailed Hawk

Red Tailed Hawk

Spotted Red-tailed Hawks at both Elkhorn Slough and POGONIP this week.

47. Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs, whose yellow legs are just… great.

48. Semipalmated Plover

Semipalmated Plovers: I really like the word semipalmated, which just means they have “half-webbed” feet.

49. Great Egret

Rain bothers not the Great Egret

50. Townsend’s Warbler

Townsend's Warbler

Townsend’s Warbler in POGONIP

51. Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal in Alabama

52. Clay-Colored Sparrow

Clay-colored Sparrow

Clay-Colored Sparrow in Birmingham backyard

53. Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The trees are full of woodpeckers in this Alabama neighborhood.

54. Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Probably my favorite latin name, Mimus polyglottos

55. Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

To see my full list click here or follow the link at the top of the page. Click on a bird’s name to see its picture (if I have one).

Chestnut-backed Invasion

One of my favorite things about my backyard is watching the different species that make use of my bottlebrush tree throughout the year. For most of the summer and early fall, the tree was dominated by Anna’s hummingbirds, but this week the balance of power seems to have shifted and the Chestnut-backed Chickadees are firmly in control of the tree.


Chestnut-backed Chickadee in the bottlebrush tree.

I don’t know why I find these guys so charismatic. Part of it may be that they remind me of the Black-capped Chickadees that I grew up with back home, but mostly I just like the way they flit between the tree and the birdfeeder.

Chickadee on the Suet

The Chestnut-backed Chickadees have been enjoying the peanut suet and the black oil sunflower seeds.

Rainy day at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

I was looking forward to going birding in Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve this weekend with my wife Sarah and our friend Deirdre as a pre-birthday treat. I was therefore quite upset when the whole central California coast was hit with a Pacific storm on Friday afternoon that was forecast to last through Sunday. I’m ashamed to say I considered calling off the trip, but Sarah and Deirdre convinced me that it would be worth the drive, even if it was too wet to use the camera. Boy were they right. We ended up spending most of the day there, and while it did rain intermittently, we had a lovely time. All together, we identified seventeen species, seven of which were new additions to my life list.

Rain on the Elkhorn Slough

Rain on the Elkhorn Slough

The visitor center for the Reserve is run by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and staffed by DFW officers who not only helped us plan our visit to see the most birds possible, but also lent us three very nice pairs of binoculars for free.

Western Scrub Jay overlooking the Elkorn Slough

Western Scrub Jay overlooking the Elkorn Slough

The reserve offers a variety of environments for birds, including saltwater estuaries, freshwater ponds, upland forests, stands of eucalyptus, and just nearby, several state beaches.

Acorn Woodpecker

The oak groves along the trail were full of Acorn Woodpeckers

I was hoping to see more shorebirds in the estuary, but as it turned out we got to the reserve just at high tide. Fortunately we were able to stop by Moss landing state beach, where we saw some Semipalmated Plovers and a Long-billed Curlew.

Long Billed Curlew at Moss Landing State Beach

We will definitely be going back to the slough, hopefully next time with clear weather and at low tide.

Goonies Ship

This ship showed up coming out of the Moss Landing Marina while we were on the beach. It was just like the Goonies.

Weekly Life List Update: 34 to 42

It’s been a great week for birding and a good week for my life list.  This week, I was able to identify 8 new bird species bringing my total to 42. Note: If you think I have mis-identified a bird, please don’t hesitate to correct me in the comments.

35. Bushtit

Backyard Bushtit in the bottlebrush tree

36. White Crested Sparrow

White Crowned Sparrow in the backyard

37. Western Gull

Western Gulls have distinctive red dots on their beaks.

38. Heerman’s Gull

Heerman’s Gull, note the bright red beak.

39. Common Murre

This guy was just hanging out on the rocks about a foot from the walking path, and seemed singularly unconcerned with my presence.

40. Willet

Willets spending the winter in mostly sunny Santa Cruz.

41. Clark’s Grebe Western Grebe

I originally misidentified this as a Clark’s Grebe, I now believe it is the very similar Western Grebe

42.Ruby Crowned Kinglet

Ruby Crowned Kinglet on the North Campus woods at UCSC.

This Kinglet’s Ruby crown is just coming in.