Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)Photo by Wikipedia user…

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)

Photo by Wikipedia user DickDaniels


Glenn found a Cattle Egret at Devereaux Slough yesterday morning. I couldn’t get away to look for it yesterday, but I set the alarm for 4:30 a.m. and was there with my spotting scope as it was getting light this morning. Lots of egrets (Great and Snowy), but no Cattle.

It was still a lot of fun. I haven’t been to Devereaux in a while, and it was neat seeing some different birds. I headed down to Coal Oil Point after that, and what should appear in the lagoon near the beach but a Lesser Yellowlegs! I’d chased these a few times earlier in the year without success, so I was pretty excited about it. I got a bunch of (crappy) digiscoped photos, and Nick and Rob were kind enough to confirm the ID for me. Short, straight beak, not much longer than the width of the bird’s head; this one was the real deal, not like the Greater Yellowlegs I tried to turn into a Lesser back on April Fool’s Day.

Anyway, yay! Let the summer doldrums end and the list start ticking upward again. Come on, fall migrants! 😀


Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/176784680361.

Black Tern (Chlidonias niger)#286One benefit of fleeing the…

Monday, July 30th, 2018

Black Tern (Chlidonias niger)


One benefit of fleeing the smoke to come back from our Mammoth trip early was that I had the chance this morning to chase the Black Tern that Nick reported yesterday at Ocean Beach Park west of Lompoc. Success!

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/176453574846.

I went on a spectacularly successful pelagic birding trip last Sunday. To spare your dashboard from…

Monday, July 16th, 2018

I went on a spectacularly successful pelagic birding trip last Sunday. To spare your dashboard from individual posts about each of the county year birds I added I’m going to put them all in one post, and I’ll throw in a cut to spare non-mobile dashboards from so much wonderful pelagic-birding content. 🙂

This was the long-range summer pelagic trip conducted by Island Packers, as organized by Ventura-county birder Dave Pereksta. We started from Ventura Harbor at 7 a.m., visited Anacapa Island, then motored west along the south sides of Anacapa and Santa Cruz. Once we reached the northwest corner of the Santa Cruz Basin (an area of very deep water south of the island) we headed south along the underwater escarpment that marks the basin’s western edge. Areas like that tend to be characterized by upwellings that bring nutrient-rich water to the surface, leading to more fish, marine mammals, and birds.

(Side note: I was too focused on the birds to pay much attention to the cetaceans, but we had great views of Minke, Fin, and Blue Whales, as well as several types of dolphins, during this part of the trip.)

We went south as far as a point about 7 or 8 miles north of San Nicolas Island, then turned east and headed to Santa Barbara Island. From there we made the final trip back north to Ventura, passing east of Anacapa. The whole trip took about 12 hours. About half of it was in Ventura County waters, so those birds didn’t count toward my Santa Barbara list; the other half was in Santa Barbara County.

Is it interesting to a non-county-list-obsessed person how the offshore county boundaries are drawn for bird-watching purposes? Probably not; apologies… But basically, county boundaries don’t actually exist far out in the ocean, so birdwatchers have come up with a system of assigning pelagic birding “counties” based on whatever the closest point of land is. This makes for an interesting patchwork off southern California, since some islands (Anacapa and San Nicolas) are in Ventura County, while others (Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and Santa Barbara) are in Santa Barbara County. Fortunately, keeping track of all that was up to the trip leaders: Super-experienced birders who got a free ride (I assume) in return for acting as guides for the paying customers, keeping the county-specific eBird lists and helping find and identify birds.

Enough meta; on with the birds!


Pink-footed Shearwater (Ardenna creatopus)

Photo by Flicker user Greg Schechter


We saw thousands of Sooty Shearwaters during the trip, but I’d already managed to add those to the list by scoping from shore at Ocean Beach Park west of Lompoc. The Pink-footed Shearwaters were another story, though. We saw lots of them mixed in with the Sooties, and I soon got familiar with their slightly slower flight style.


Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)

Photo by Flickr user Andrew Cannizzaro


We saw a few of these at various points during the trip, skittering away from the boat across the water. I’m pretty sure at least one group was in Santa Barbara County waters, though I won’t know for sure until the official trip lists are shared with participants.


Cook’s Petrel (Pterodroma cookii)

Photo by Flickr user Duncan


Such a cool bird! They breed in New Zealand, but during the Northern Hemisphere summer they range up into the eastern part of the North Pacific. Our trip leaders weren’t expecting to see them since we weren’t going to be far enough offshore, but surprise! We saw a lot of them in both counties; close to 100 in the final count. I loved getting to know their graceful, arcing flight pattern, the way they swoop down toward the water and up again, similar to but distinctly different from the shearwaters they were hanging out with.


Black Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma melania)

Image by Wikipedia user Cato Neimoidia


I’d never identified a storm-petrel before. I’m sure I must have seen them, having spent so much time sailing off southern California growing up, but almost all of that time I was racing, not birdwatching, and I guess I just kept the two activities compartmentalized. Anyway, I’ve now enjoyed quality views of a whole bunch of Black Storm-Petrels; we saw lots of them throughout much the trip.


Ashy Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma homochroa

Photo by Jeff Poklen


I was grateful to have expert birders around to help me learn these. Peter Gaede (who led our Big Pine Mountain survey trip) patiently showed me how the Black Storm-Petrels had deeper wingbeats, while the slightly smaller Ashies had quicker, shallower wingbeats. The difference was subtle, but with someone standing next to me to confirm the IDs it didn’t take long to be able to pick them out.


Leach’s Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa)

Photo by Flickr user Marcel Holyoak


Again, I was lucky to have experts around to find and point out the different storm-petrels in the big groups we motored through; I saw a few of these at various points. Some of the more-expert birders on the boat saw a few additional storm-petrel species, but I wasn’t able to get on any of those.


Nazca Booby (Sula granti)

Photo by Flickr user putneymark


This is the bird (actually birds) that the trip leaders were most excited about. It’s a super-rarity that normally lives in the Galapagos Islands, but a few have showed up in Southern California in recent years. We saw one perched on Arch Rock on the east end of Anacapa; that one was something like the 3rd or 4th county record for Ventura County. Which was cool and all, but I couldn’t help feeling a twinge of regret that the bird hadn’t been a few miles away in Santa Barbara County. Fast-forward to late afternoon, though, as we were approaching Santa Barbara Island, when a second Nazca Booby appeared out of nowhere and flew right over the boat as dozens of giant lenses tracked it and snapped photos. Apparently that one was only the second Santa Barbara County record; it was a real privilege to be there for it. Officially the sighting will have to be approved by the California Bird Records Committee, but for my low-grade just-for-funsies county year list it definitely qualifies for now.


Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster)

Photo by Flickr user Alan Schmierer


Another tropical species that has been expanding its range. I didn’t realize it before the trip, but last November Brown Boobies were discovered nesting on Sutil Island, a small islet a few hundred yards from Santa Barbara Island. We counted more than 40 of them perched on the rocky cliff as we bobbed a few boat lengths from shore.


Long-tailed Jaeger (Stercorarius longicaudus)

Photo by Flickr user jacksnipe1990


We saw a few of these near Santa Barbara Island; not the adult form with the long central tail plume that gives it its name, but younger birds like this one. I’ve got a soft spot for jaegers, and seeing these (we saw several) was really special.

That was it for new county year birds, but I also got some great new-to-me birds in Ventura County:


South Polar Skua (Stercorarius maccormicki)

Photo by Flicker user Greg Schechter

This one showed up to check out the chum line that professional bird guide and frighteningly knowledgeable birder Wes Fritz was ladling out from the stern as we cruised north of San Nicolas Island.


American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus)

Photo by Wikipedia user Peter Wallack

One of the goals of the trip was to look for possible American Oystercatchers on the south shore of Anacapa, where they sometimes show up mingled with the local Black Oystercatchers. And… one was there! It’s not for-sure; hybrid American/Black Oystercatchers also tend to show up in Southern California, and there’s a complex formula called the “Jehl scale” that birders sometimes use to try to figure out how “pure” a particular American-ish SoCal oystercatcher is. I dunno; we got good looks and lots of photos of this one, and the assembled experts seemed to think the bird looked pretty good for American.

It wasn’t in Santa Barbara County, so I’m like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Sabine’s Gull (Xema sabini)

Photo by Flickr users Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren

This one was a legitimate thrill for me; a bird I’d very much hoped we’d see, that I knew was a possibility but that was also far from a sure thing. It’s a pelagic gull that’s rarely seen from shore, and I was so happy to see it I didn’t even mind that it was in Ventura County.

And that’s it! On the way back the experts on the boat were fairly giddy about how well it had gone; “one of the top 5 Southern California pelagic trips ever!” one said. I’ll take his word for it; it was only my second pelagic birding trip, so I don’t have much to compare it to.

But I sure had a good time.

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/175977277766.

permagrinphoto:Reddish Egret #276Local SB birder Glenn, who’s…

Friday, July 13th, 2018


Reddish Egret


Local SB birder Glenn, who’s 2015 green big year was a source of inspiration to me in working on my own non-green county list this year, sent a message this morning that he was seeing an adult Reddish Egret in Goleta. This turns out to probably be the same bird Nick (who was on the Big Pine Mountain survey trip last month) had recently seen up the coast at Ocean Beach County Park near Lompoc.

I was too busy to make it up to Lompoc to look for the egret there, but Goleta was only 20 minutes away. So when I saw Glenn’s update this morning I headed up to see it. And there it was! :-)

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/175861927431.

debunkshy: Virginia RailPleasant Valley, WI, 4-21-17 #275I…

Friday, June 29th, 2018


Virginia Rail

Pleasant Valley, WI, 4-21-17


I didn’t see it; just heard it grunting before sunrise in a spot (Barka Slough) where they’ve been heard recently. Not the most satisfying identification, but good enough to count.

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/175392237281.

ospreyphoto-blog: Common Murre Photo by Oleg…

Saturday, June 16th, 2018


Common Murre

Photo by Oleg Gurvits


Spotted one out past the waves at Surf Beach, looking vaguely like a loon but with the snazzy black-and-white breeding plumage shown here.

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/174957756466.

montereybayaquarium: Sooty shearwaters undertake a remarkable…

Saturday, June 16th, 2018


Sooty shearwaters undertake a remarkable 40,000 mile migration every year, tracing a figure-eight path from breeding sites in the Southern Hemisphere to richer feeding sites in the North Pacific Ocean.

Hopefully they get frequent flyer miles!



They’ve been in the ocean off Santa Barbara County for a few months now, but I haven’t been out on a boat and they don’t usually come close enough to shore to be seen easily down in my part of the county. North county is another story, though; at the beach west of Lompoc this morning I saw hundreds of them. They were still out pretty far, but identifiable.

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/174957660241.

acryptozoo: Least Tern (Sternula antillarum) #272A few weeks ago…

Saturday, June 16th, 2018


Least Tern (Sternula antillarum)


A few weeks ago someone reported four of them out at Ocean Beach County Park west of Lompoc. This morning I drove out to see if they were still there.

They were. 🙂

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/174956109991.

#271Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)I set up before 6…

Thursday, June 14th, 2018


Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)

I set up before 6 a.m. in a spot that had a decent view of where the kite was seen yesterday. It was overcast and foggy, though, and there didn’t seem to be much possibility of an insect-hawking bird being active.

Just before 8:00 the sun broke through. I only had about an hour before I needed to head home for work, and I was busily scanning trees when a message came through the group chat: “Kite is showing now”.

No one was visible up or down the road from where I was. I texted back “Where?” and started hustling back to my car. “Just north of tennis courts” (a quarter-mile up the road from where I was). A few minutes later I was standing with a group of excited birders checking out my first-ever (and Santa Barbara County’s fourth-ever) Mississippi Kite. I got great views of the bird both perched and flying; the photo above is the best of the ones I digiscoped, though I’m sure there will be spectacular photos available on eBird shortly from the people who were near me with much better equipment.

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/174888299296.

debunkshy: Dusky Flycatcherde Anza Trail, AZ, 1-21-17 #270The…

Sunday, June 10th, 2018


Dusky Flycatcher

de Anza Trail, AZ, 1-21-17


The best place in Santa Barbara County to find these fun little flycatchers breeding is Big Pine Mountain, so it’s super-helpful to go there if you want to hear them singing on-territory. And at least for someone with my limited Empidonax expertise, hearing them singing is pretty much required in order to identify them.

Anyway: Dusky Flycatcher achievement unlocked!

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/174779108371.

northwestnaturalist: Pygmy Nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea)…

Sunday, June 10th, 2018


Pygmy Nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea) Sittidae

Council Grove State Park, MT
March 16, 2015
Robert Niese

There are three species of Nuthatch in the Pacific Northwest, but the Pygmy Nuthatch is the only one endemic to our region. These birds are only found in the Rockies and inland Pacific Northwest. They are particularly fond of old Ponderosa Pine forests.


Saw lots of these adorable little squeakers on Big Pine Mountain over the last few days. 🙂

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/174778932031.

Tomorrow before dawn I’m leaving for a part of Santa Barbara County I’ve never been to: Big Pine…

Friday, June 8th, 2018

Tomorrow before dawn I’m leaving for a part of Santa Barbara County I’ve never been to: Big Pine Mountain. At 6,820 feet it’s the highest point in the county. It’s going to take a lot of driving on 4WD roads that normally are closed to the public; we’ve got special permission from the Forest Service to go in for an annual bird census.

The forecast is for high winds, which is unfortunate, but we’re going to be there for most of two days, so hopefully there will be some quieter stretches.

I’m super excited, both because of the silly obsession with the county year list and because I’ll be birding with some people whose skill I really admire.

There are 3 or 4 species they often get up there that I don’t have yet, and another 10 that are possible though unlikely. But you never know!

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/174706610101.

sunwendyrain: Scott’s Oriole Big Bend, Texas #268The other…

Sunday, June 3rd, 2018


Scott’s Oriole 

Big Bend, Texas


The other desert bird I was hoping to add in my Cuyama trip. I heard two of them singing before sunrise, then got good looks at a third one while hiking the trail.

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/174543771831.

#267Eight of them, at least, looking pretty much like this as…

Saturday, June 2nd, 2018


Eight of them, at least, looking pretty much like this as they chased each other above Ballinger Canyon. Such cool birds; I get such a thrill out of seeing nightjars.

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/174521187016.

digitalaviary: Black-throated SparrowIn Arizona we often call…

Saturday, June 2nd, 2018


Black-throated Sparrow

In Arizona we often call this bird the Desert Sparrow. In the winter small flocks search for seeds and insets hidden under tangles of cactus. Hikers are often startled by the whirring wings of surprised Black-throated Sparrows. 


This desert species just barely makes into the northeast corner of Santa Barbara County, where another birder recently reported seeing some. Today was the first chance I’ve had to check them out; one popped up singing right in front of me about 5 minutes after I arrived at the spot where I’m currently camping. Yay!

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/174521114336.

renatagrieco: March 14, 2015 – American Avocet (Recurvirostra…

Saturday, June 2nd, 2018


March 14, 2015 – American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana)

Requested by: taylorrbranham

American Avocets are found in fresh and saltwater wetlands in western North America into Central America and the Caribbean. They eat aquatic invertebrates, foraging in shallow areas, often sweeping their beaks through the water to locate prey by touch. Their nests are shallow scrapes, usually lined with grass or feathers, which they aggressively defend from predators. Females sometimes lay their eggs in the nests of other American Avocets or occasionally in other species’ nests. Common Terns and Black-necked Stilts also sometimes lay eggs in avocet nests, where the parents may raise the chicks along with their own.


Two of them, feeding in the New Cuyama waste treatment pond. They’re not a particularly rare species, but they’re uncommon and local in Santa Barbara County, and for whatever reason I’ve been unable to catch up with any so far this year until today. Whew. 🙂

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/174520965511.

debunkshy: Willow Flycatcher The Arb, WI, 5-31-17 #264This is a…

Sunday, May 20th, 2018


Willow Flycatcher

The Arb, WI, 5-31-17


This is a better view than I had; the one I saw (after my birdy marathon up around East Pinery Road and the Davy Brown Trail, when I stopped to check out the birds along Cachuma Creek) was in the top of a tree, so all I saw was the tail pumping and the whitish undertail coverts. But the pumping tail was enough to make it an empid, and call it was making was enough to make it a WIFL. 😀

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/174099061246.


Monday, May 14th, 2018



Black Swift (Cypseloides niger)


I was feeling kind of run down yesterday afternoon; a lot of pollen in the air and my allergies have been kicking in from all the time I’ve been spending in sparrow habitat. Then I got a text from Eric: “Seems like a good swift day. Eight Black over Franklin Trail.”

That was all the incentive I needed. Ninety minutes later, a little out of breath, I met up with Eric on his way back down and we checked out a total (while I was there) of 10 Black Swifts migrating north over the Santa Ynez mountains. Such awesome birds; more than any other (except I guess maybe some long-distance pelagics like albatrosses) they’re creatures wholly of the air, always flying. I’d seen White-throated and Vaux’s Swifts before, but this was my first time ever seeing their larger cousins.

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/173896016686.

Black-chinned Sparrow (Spizella atrogularis)Photo by Flickr user…

Sunday, May 6th, 2018

Black-chinned Sparrow (Spizella atrogularis)

Photo by Flickr user Tom Benson


Brad Hacker recently reported hearing some of these up on West Camino Cielo near Refugio Pass, so this morning I got up there as the sun was rising and sure enough; I was barely out of my car when I heard the bird’s distinctive song – until now something I’d only heard in recordings.

I wasn’t able to see the bird, but the song is distinctive enough that I’m fine with counting it.

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/173654352566.

birdsandbirds: MacGillivray’s Warbler (Quite grumpy looking) H.J…

Friday, May 4th, 2018


MacGillivray’s Warbler

(Quite grumpy looking)

H.J Andrews Experimental Forest, OR


You remember my friend Eric? The same one helped me see my county-year Swainson’s Thrush and Calliope Hummingbird? Today around noon he texted me: “You don’t still need macgillivray’s do you?”

Yeah, actually, I did. People have been reporting them all over. Not a lot of them, just 1s and 2s in the appropriate brushy stream-side habitat. I’ve been looking, sifting through lots of Common Yellowthroats and Wilson’s Warblers, but so far no luck.

Anyway, I headed to the 8th Street bridge where Eric had just seen three of them, and shortly thereafter he refound one of them for me. Thanks Eric!

Reposted from http://lies.tumblr.com/post/173588133221.