brooklynbridgebirds:GadwallBrooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 4

Saturday, January 20th, 2018


Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 4

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kaiyves: namu-the-orca: More watercolour birds! I recently got…

Saturday, January 20th, 2018



More watercolour birds! I recently got some watercolour supplies of my own; including lovely paint and a few proper brushes. One channel-billed toucan and a ruddy shelduck for practice later, and these three came to be. All common garden birds here in the Netherlands; a blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus), a male common blackbird (Turdus merula) and a european robin (Erithacus rubecula). The robin and blackbird were commissioned, the blue tit was a gift.

I had a blast with these, and learned a lot from all of them. All ideas, techniques – and some things I should definitely not do – which can be used for future paintings. It’s wonderful slowly getting to know a new medium, bit by bit.


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debunkshy: Leconte’s Sparrow Lake Barney, WI, 10-19-17

Thursday, January 11th, 2018


Leconte’s Sparrow

Lake Barney, WI, 10-19-17

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dendroica: Song Sparrow (by me)

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018


Song Sparrow (by me)

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lawrencejeffersonphotography: A Yellow-rumped warbler in…

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018


A Yellow-rumped warbler in Pearland! (at Shadow Creek Ranch Nature Trail)

Looks like a Myrtle, which is the more common subspecies in Texas but very much less common than Audubon’s out my way.

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anonsally replied to your photo “A few weeks ago the hills above Carpinteria, the coastal town I…

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

replied to your photo
“A few weeks ago the hills above Carpinteria, the coastal town I live…”

Good luck. I hope you’ll see something… Also, that’s a gorgeous photo.

Thank you! And thank you! That’s a tree that I’m pretty sure isn’t there anymore. I took that photo on the scouting trip that produced the eBird list below, two weeks before the fire. Supposedly the riparian corridor in the base of Romero Canyon only has “moderate” damage, with the understory burned but a lot of the trees only slightly scorched and hopefully surviving. But the hillside above, where this fire road runs… Well. I haven’t been back there yet. But like I said; pretty sure this tree is gone.

Romero Canyon, Santa Barbara, California, US
Dec 1, 2017 8:01 AM – 10:03 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.709 mile(s)
Comments:     Looked for, but failed to find, Rufous-crowned Sparrow. Hiked the canyon, then up the Old Romero Canyon dirt road a half mile or so up the hill and back down.
25 species (+2 other taxa)

California Quail  2
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Band-tailed Pigeon  16
hummingbird sp.  1
Northern Flicker  2
Black Phoebe  1
Hutton’s Vireo  2
Steller’s Jay  1
California Scrub-Jay  3
Oak Titmouse  2
Bushtit  9
Canyon Wren  2     Great views foraging in an oak limb.
Bewick’s Wren  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  3
Wrentit  5
Hermit Thrush  4
California Thrasher  1
Orange-crowned Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  8
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)  2
Fox Sparrow  2     Believe they were Thick-billed, but I didn’t see them long enough to confirm that.
Dark-eyed Junco  1
California Towhee  4
Spotted Towhee  2
House Finch  6
Purple Finch  1     Female
Lesser Goldfinch  2

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

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A few weeks ago the hills above Carpinteria, the coastal town I…

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

A few weeks ago the hills above Carpinteria, the coastal town I live in, burned. I was talking to a neighbor today, someone who spent his career working in forest management. He’s retired now, but he’s an expert on wildfire behavior. He’s been volunteering since the fire on restoring the Franklin Trail, which leads from Carpinteria up into the hills. He showed me a map and pointed out the few strips of riparian habitat where the fire damage was relatively light. Except for those isolated pockets, the damage behind Carp is severe. He said he’s never seen a burn pattern like this. In the time leading up to the fire, drought and the persistent high pressure had driven humidity levels so low that when the fire came through the vegetation was like one big expanse of tinder.

The fire crews saved most of the structures. They successfully protected the  homes in Ojai, La Conchita, Carpinteria, Montecito, and Santa Barbara. As a result, in tomorrow’s (rescheduled) Carpinteria Christmas Bird Count, most of the accessible areas in the coastal strip where we were planning to bird are actually looking pretty good. Indeed, in the scouting I’ve done since the fire the birding seems better than usual. The unburned areas are filled with displaced chaparral birds; wrentits and California towhees and ruby-crowned kinglets everywhere you look. I think they’re refugees. The carrying capacity of the habitat they’re in won’t have increased. The extra birds will disperse more widely, or will suffer from predation, disease, or starvation. But for now it makes for exciting birding.

That’s the story in the “front country”, the area south of the Santa Ynez crest. The backcountry north of the crest is another matter. There the fires burned largely unchecked. Jameson Lake is seven miles north of Carpinteria. It’s hard to reach even under normal circumstances, requiring a day-long backpacking trip or mountain biking down miles of dirt roads that are closed to private vehicles. We don’t always manage to include it in our Christmas count; it’s great habitat for us, giving us a chance at an inland freshwater lake that we otherwise don’t have, but it’s hard to get there.

This year it’s especially hard. The whole area is closed to the public. The only people with access are fire and forest service crews, and the people who maintain the water facilities at Jameson for the Montecito Water District.

So… tomorrow, thanks to some really nice people pulling some strings on our behalf, we get to go count birds there. I’m going in along with two other birdwatchers, led by the water district employee who lives part-time at the lake (or used to, before his cabin burned down).

I don’t know what we’ll find. I was there on a scouting trip in November. Alan, the caretaker, has been in several times since the fire, and he’s told me not to expect much. Everything has burned. For all I know we’re going to spend all day in a sterile moonscape. But I think it’s important to document what happened. The Christmas counts are mostly for fun, but they also produce useful citizen science. Thousands of volunteers go out each year and catalog the birds they’re able to find. In some count circles above the Arctic Circle they go out in the midwinter twilight to record a single species (thank you, common raven). Next to that I’m getting off easy.

Anyway, that’s what I’ll be doing tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes.

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jhfrench:raven on scratchboard, with details

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018


raven on scratchboard, with details

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Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018


Growing up as a Californian (especially Southern), you’re taught from a young age that California is all you need. We bleed red, white and green and I’m sure a majority of us have not been told that Grizzlies were extirpated from the state long ago. We don’t refer to our highways as ‘interstates’ because the reference is irrelevant; you have no reason to go to other states, so why would you need to mention them? We’ve got avocados and sunshine on one end, and arguably the best redwoods on the other. Most of us don’t know a life that’s based upon changing seasons, although we sometimes like to pretend we have ‘sweater weather.’ We also have some of the best birding in the country, with over 600 reported bird species, two endemic birds and a wide range of diverse ecosystems. 

Despite this, it took me spending a great deal of time away from my home state to really recognize how much I love it. I spent the last two weeks of December celebrating this rekindled love for a very long state, trying to pick up some birds before the year ended. I started by driving six hours to Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area in Sacramento County after reports came in of a Citrine Wagtail, the first California record and only the third for the ABA. I, along with a significant number of other birders, spent two full days looking for this Wagtail, attempting to turn pipits into gold, but our Citrine friend was nowhere to be found. The bird was first reported during a nice bout of windy weather and allowed for a total of three people (as far as I know) to see it. I arrived with the sunshine, and apparently the good weather caused the Wagtail to depart. 

My time in the Sacramento region was not without slight success. I managed to pick up a Pacific Golden-Plover at the Woodland Wastewater Treatment Plant. I signed in at the “Birder Entrance” and did my VIP strut down to where the Golden-Plover was rumored to hang out. I managed to stumble over my own feet and a huge flock of Black-bellied Plovers took note. The plovers decided I was too close and took off. I tried scanning the flock as they circled over head, hoping one of them would be the Pacific, lacking the black underwings that are obvious on Black-bellieds. As far as I could tell, they all had black armpits. I scanned the rocks below and it was obvious that the last plover standing was the Pacific. By the time I had my camera set up, the Black-bellied Plovers landed again, making the Pacific harder to spot. I thought I lost it but managed to find it again in a search that reminded me of Where’s Waldo.  It was probably my third or fourth time going to a spot where a Pac Go-Plo was reported and I finally got it! Very distant views, but I was satisfied. 

I waved goodbye to the Central Valley and cut across to Monterey to do some sea watching. I needed an Ancient Murrelet and a Short-tailed Shearwater. I got the former but the latter proved to be beyond my skill level. Ancient Murrelets are little floating footballs that have light-colored bills and a distinct pattern, making them easy to distinguish with a spotting scope. Short-tailed Shearwaters look just like Sooty Shearwaters, another common coastal Californian shearwater species. I studied the night before and found that you can distinguish the two all-gray shearwaters by size, underwing coverts and head shape, but that’s only if you can see them well. And every single gray shearwater I saw that day was very, very far away. Every. Single. One. It was unfortunately a beautiful day and the shearwaters had no reason to come closer to land. Good weather failed me again. 

A visit to Point Reyes was next on the list, for no reason other than it felt necessary to pay homage to how far I had come. In February of 2017, I had visited Point Reyes with Adam, hoping with naive optimism and inexperience that we would stumble on a puffin. It was at Point Reyes that I felt that a big year was something I had to do, and it felt like it was something I definitely could do. In February, I felt I had the world. I had a little bit of money, a youthful energy, a partner that would always be there, and my tried-and-true trusty truck. But now it was December. Tired, I parked at the Abbott’s trail head, looking at the chip in my brand new windshield.

The wind brought a nice marine layer along the coastline while the sun shined in the dunes. I walked through the sand and watched the sea for a bit. The cold wind hurt my ears and I was reminded of in February the way Adam had tried so hard to turn Surf Scoters into Tufted Puffins for me. Both Surf Scoters and Tufted Puffins are some degree of black and white with bright orange bills. Without decent binoculars and refined birding skill, you could believe that one is the other, especially if you really wanted to see one thing and not the other. It’s funny to me now, how we try so hard to see what we want to see. Our minds will tell us that it’s there when it should be obvious that it never really was. I stood facing the Pacific as a more experienced birder and an ever-so-slightly wiser person, and I appreciated how much clearer things appear to me now. 

I returned to the dunes and admired a healthy group of Snowy Plovers, most banded, if not all. I kept my distance, but most of the Snowies didn’t seem to even mind. The majority of the group kept napping, and the ones that did feel uncomfortable by my presence hopped lazily on one leg away from me. 

I continued the drive up Highway 1, admiring the views and trying not to think about the potential for landslides. I visited Glass Beach near Fort Bragg. The smooth, sea glass stones are the product of oceanside communities dumping garbage into the ocean many years ago. Although the practice has been long abandoned, the trash remains and is now treasured by the community and illegal for the taking. 

Humboldt County was my next destination. I felt as though I could not end the year without one more visit to the place where I got my start. Even though Los Angeles is where my family resides and is where I grew up, Humboldt is where I learned to be an adult. In the small city of Arcata, I learned how to do things on my own and for myself. I learned the ways that I can rebuild my life from scratch, by myself. It was only appropriate to say hello and goodbye to a place that has grown to mean so much to me. I also needed a Rock Sandpiper, and on the North spit jetty I knew exactly where to find one. Instead of beating myself up over the fact that I didn’t get one when I still lived in the area, I welcomed the good excuse to make the long journey to Humboldt Bay. 

I arrived to the Samoa dunes late in the afternoon. The sea splashed violently over the concrete pylons and I hopped my way down to the end of the jetty, being careful not to slip on the slimy algae. It was the west coast equivalent to the time I spent hopping down the Barnegat Light jetty in New Jersey, looking for the Purple Sandpiper. Like the Purple, I didn’t get the Rock in one try either. 

The next morning, I scraped the frost from my car. It seemed unusually cold and not-so-unusually gloomy. I made my way to the jetty, checking to make sure the group of Black Turnstones wasn’t harboring a certain Calidridine sandpiper. The tide was still out, which made all the difference. Surfbirds, Black Turnstones, Black Oystercatchers and two Rock Sandpipers were all foraging on the exposed rocks in the intertidal zone. I watched as a single Turnstone chased the Rock Sandpipers across the rocks. Although I’m fairly certain the Rock Sandpipers were not happy about being driven away, their downturned bills made them appear even more dejected.  

The rest of time in Humboldt I spent coming to terms with not coming back. I did the drives I used to love to do on the weekends, up to Big Lagoon and Bald Hills, south on Scenic Drive, from Trinidad to Houda Point. I watched the sun go down on Winter Solstice at the Arcata Marsh, the sunset turning the sky behind the power lines into familiar swirls of purple and pink. I visited the credit union I used to work at, and made a contribution to the candy drawer I had helped create. I participated in the Willow Creek Christmas Bird Count with my first roommate ever. And I was very lucky to drink terrible beer and watch terrible TV with some of my very best friends. Even though Humboldt is where I learned to enjoy being alone, I left feeling loved, wanted and happy to have been among friends. 

I did the very familiar six hundred and sixty mile drive home to my parents’ house on Christmas Eve, making good time. The rest of the year I spent celebrating the holidays with family and picking up just a couple more birds. I got two members of the family Motacillidae, the family of wagtails and pipits, as if to make up for missing out on the Citrine Wagtail in the middle of the month.

On the Inland Counties listserv, I had seen reports of a White Wagtail in San Bernardino. It as reported the day after Christmas, but on the 27th, I and a few other birders spent the morning waiting in vain for the Wagtail to show up again in the spillway. On the 28th, I went back out to the park. As I arrived, a handful of other birders were already on it. I met a birder named Bill who was celebrating the Wagtail as his 400th San Bernardino County bird! I watched it as the group left, and stayed until I could hand off the Wagtail watch to another group of birders. 

The next Motacillid was a Red-throated Pipit in San Diego County, a bird that kind enough to be long-staying. I arrived at the dog park to meet another birder who was peering at the pipit parade through the chainlink fence that separated the park from Berry Elementary School grounds. After sifting through the American Pipits, I was finally able to pick out one that looked different. Pink legs, heavier streaking, neatly scalloped wing bars. Bradley, the other birder, confirmed it. Pipit, hooray! We watched the Red-throated Pipit do its familiar pipit bounce across the park’s bermuda grass on New Year’s eve eve.

I tried for a Spotted Dove for the third time this year on the last day of December, hoping to push my number to 644, but 643 is the number that stuck. I spent the night of New Years Eve with my immediate family. As we played games in the backyard by the fire pit, my mind would occasionally drift to that number, 643. Is it bad, just okay, or maybe actually really good? I couldn’t make up my mind. But as I sit now in the year 2018, after all that had happened in 2017, it’s very clear to me now that it is not the number that matters. It actually was never really was about the numbers; it was always about my relationship with birding, with the world, and with myself. In all aspects, I have come out better, more experienced, and stronger. And in this way, I have absolutely won.  

Here’s to looking at birds in 2018.

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hiimlesphotos: Taking Off

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018


Taking Off

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myrachidh: California Towhee ~ Pyrgisoma crissale ~ Melozone…

Saturday, December 30th, 2017


California Towhee ~ Pyrgisoma crissale ~ Melozone crissalis ~Tohi de Californie ~ Our Garden in Dolores Heights, San Francisco, California.

#CaliforniaTowhee #Towhee #Pyrgisoma crissale #Melozone crissalis #Tohi #TohideCalifornie #Californie #Dolores #DoloresHeights #SanFrancisco #SanFran #SF #California #CA. #birds #birding #Oiseaux #birdsofinstagram #birdphotography #wildlifephotography #Wildlife #closeup #closeupphotography #macrophotography #macros #bestbirdshots #oiseauxmigrateurs #oiseauxerrants #Ornithology~ (at San Francisco, California)

The first bird I ever tried to identify on my own.

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kaiyves: rivermusic: November by MistiqueStudio Please retain…

Friday, December 29th, 2017



November by MistiqueStudio

Please retain photo credits


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kohalmitamas:Raven in snowy weather by PascalDeMunck

Friday, December 29th, 2017


Raven in snowy weather by PascalDeMunck

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quickthreebeers:The White Wagtail came back to the spillway this…

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

A post shared by Rants & Aves (@rantsandaves) on


The White Wagtail came back to the spillway this morning after taking a day off! (at Prado Regional Park)

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quickthreebeers:I love reading well-written rare bird reports,…

Thursday, December 28th, 2017


I love reading well-written rare bird reports, especially if they have terrible puns.

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Thursday, December 28th, 2017



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anonsally replied to your post “kaiyves replied to your post “Dipped on the oriole this…

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

anonsally replied to your post “kaiyves replied to your post “Dipped on the oriole this afternoon….”


It’s very much a “celebrity” bird to me. I’d always overlooked them up until this year. But I made a point this fall that I was going to push myself on warblers, and that meant that I’ve been able to see and appreciate several species that are rare around here and take some effort to see. I’ve seen this one several times in the last few months and it always feels special.

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kaiyves replied to your post “Dipped on the oriole this afternoon. Trying again tomorrow.” You ATE…

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

kaiyves replied to your post “Dipped on the oriole this afternoon. Trying again tomorrow.”

You ATE an oriole?!?! ;-)

anonsally replied to your post “Dipped on the oriole this afternoon. Trying again tomorrow.”

Good luck! (but what does this mean?)

I guess it’s only fairly recently, and only around fairly hard-core birdwatchers, that I’ve heard the phrase “dipped” used this way. It means to try to see a particular reported rarity, but come up empty.

I dipped on the Orchard Oriole again today. But someone else saw him, so he’s still around.

A Nashville Warbler has also seen several times in the same spot.

And a short distance away people have been consistently seeing a Blackburnian Warbler…

…and a Swamp Sparrow.

All of those would be great if we could get them for the count. Ten more days…

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sunwendyrain: Orchard Oriole Quintana, Texas When I was little…

Monday, December 25th, 2017


Orchard Oriole

Quintana, Texas

When I was little I’d page through the field guides. We had two on the shelf, legacies of my dad’s upbringing in New Jersey with a mother who was a birdwatcher. There was an original-edition Peterson and an older all-in-one birds+mammals+fish+reptiles+amphibians guide, but both were east-of-the-Mississippi in terms of coverage, so there were a lot of species I never actually saw.

The male Orchard Oriole always caught my attention, though, because look at him: such a different color for an oriole, remarkable and gorgeous but so WEIRD. And then I spent most of my life as a non-traveler, living (and birding) almost exclusively in California. But on October 17 I was walking Rory along the channelized creek near our house and suddenly there he was, plain as day atop a patch of Cape honeysuckle: the bird that had occupied my imagination for 50 years.

It seemed too early for an overwintering bird; probably a fall vagrant on his way south. I didn’t even think about him sticking around for the Christmas count, then scheduled for December 16. But week after week he stayed, and it started getting close enough to hope. And then the fire happened, and half our circle was on fire or smoldering on count day with the rest under a thick pall of smoke, so we postponed to the last possible day: January 5. And again, the chances that he might still be there seemed slim.

There are a lot of misadventures that can befall a bird, especially one so brightly colored, out of its normal range and small for an oriole. More than once while waiting for him to appear I’ve seen an adult Cooper’s Hawk, a female, I think, from her large size, fly in and perch in the eucalyptus that overlooks that Cape honeysuckle patch, listening and scanning for movement just like me, and though I’ve appreciated her presence I’ve also been quietly anxious on the oriole’s behalf, and have felt relieved when she’s given up or been discovered by crows and chased off. Yes. Thank you. Go find some sparrows further up the path.

I haven’t seen him since we got back from evacuating, but someone else did 5 days ago. So he’s still there, or was. Maybe later today after the family event I’ll go look for him, my non-traditional avian family member. Merry Christmas. Please stay. Please be shy and cautious, and watch out for hawks and cats.

Eleven more days.

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worldmotheringair: Downy Woodpecker: James River

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017


Downy Woodpecker: James River

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