Last week I had the pleasure to attend the San Diego Bird Festival (California) for the first time. I went to represent Birds & Nature Tours, since I work has one of the main guides for the company.
The festival kept me busy, between talks and staying at the company booth. But I had also the opportunity to co-lead a field trip with my friend Stan Walens, and also doing some birding in my free time. I would like to thank Richard and Stan for their time on taking me out to see some California specialties and Jackie and Craig for their kindness. It was a pleasure to review friends from trips I lead in Portugal and Spain.
Below is the list of species that I observed during my stay in California. This was my first time on the West coast, which resulted in 35 new species and a total of 115 species seen.
All photos taken with the versatile Canon SX50HS.
1. Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens)
Four birds seen near Tijuana border, this birds had been reported before.
2. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
3. Green-Winged Teal (Anas crecca carolinensis)
4. American Wigeon (Anas americana)
5. Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
6. Cinnamon Teal (Anas cyanoptera)
7. Ring-Necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
8. Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)
9. Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)
10. Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
11. Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
12. Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)
13. Pied-Billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)
14. Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)
15. Western Greb (Aechmophorus occidentalis)
16. Rock Pigeon feral (Columbia livia)
17. Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaoto)
18. Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
19. Anna´s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)
20. Allen´s Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin)
21. American Coot (Fulica americana)
22. Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata)
23. Black Oystercatcher (Haemantopus bachmani)
24. Black-Bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
25. Whimbrel (Numenius hudsonicus)
26. Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa)
27. Black Turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala)
28. Surfbird (Calidris virgata)
29. Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)
30. Wilson´s Snipe (Gallinago delicata)
31. Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)
32. Wandering Tattler (Tringa incana)
33. Willet (Tringa semipalmata)
34. Red-Necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)
One bird flying at sea.
35. Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus)
36. Parasitic Jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus)
37. Heermann´s Gull (Larus heermanni)
38. Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
39. California Gull (Larus californicus)
40. Glaucous-Winged Gull (Larus glaucescens)
41. Western Gull (Larus occidentalis)
42. Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus)
43. Red-Throated Loon (Gavia stellata)
44. Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica)
45. Common Loon (Gavia immer)
46. Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis)
Stunnig record of 2 birds just off La Jolla.
47. Northen Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis rodgersii)
48. Short-tailed Shearwater (Ardenna tenuirostris)
49. Pink-footed Shearwater (Ardenna creatopus)
50. Black-Vented Shearwater (Puffinus opisthomelas)
51. Double-Crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)
52. Brandt´s Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus)
53. Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus)
54. American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
55. Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
56. Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
57. Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)
58. Great Egret (Ardea alba)
59. Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)
60. Black-Crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
61. Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron (Nyctanassa violacea)
62. Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
63. Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
64. White-Tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus)
65. Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)
66. Sharp-Shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)
67. Cooper´s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
68. Red-Shoulder Hawk (Buteo lineatus)
69. Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
70. Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)
71. Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)
72. Nuttal´s Woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii)
73. Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
74. American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
75. Merlin (Falco columbarius)
76. Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
77. Red-Masked Parakeet (Psittacara erythrogenys)
78. Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)
79. Say´s Phoebe (Sayornis saya)
80. Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus)
81. Cassin´s Kingbird (Tyrannus vociferans)
82. Californa Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)
83. American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
84. Common Raven (Corvus corax)
85. Tree Swallow ( Tachycineta bicolor)
86. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
87. Northern Rough-Winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)
88. Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)
89. House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)
90. Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)
91. Bewick´s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)
92. California Gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica)
93. Wrentit (Chamaea fasciata)
94. Western Bluebird (Sialis mexicana)
95. California Thrasher (Toxostoma redivivum)
96. European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
97. Scaly-Breasted Munia (Lochura punctulata)
98. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
99. House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)
100. American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
101. Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)
102. Orange-Crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata)
103. Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)
104. Yellow Warbler (Sethaga petechia)
105. Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)
106. Townsend´s Warbler (Setophaga twonsendi)
107. Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)
108. California Towhee (Melozone fusca)
109. Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
110. White-Crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
111. Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco Hyemalis)
112. Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)
113. Red-Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
114. Brewer´s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)
115. Great-Tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus)
Today, early in the morning, I was walking back with my moth trap, along the valley near my house (Bombarral, West Portugal), when I heard a rare, but familiar call. It came from the top of a huge blooming eucalyptus, without my binocular, I could only see several small birds fluttering on the treetop. And again it called, it was a Yellow-browed Warbler! Caught off guard, I went back home to get my camera, bins and directional microphone.
This was only my 3rd (self-found) Yellow-browed Warbler, the previous one was during this autumn. Soon as I arrived back, I could see a lot of Chiffchaffs feeding among the eucalyptus flowers, also, a Coal and several Long-tailed Tits. I spotted the bird feeding in the treetop and I set the mic on right away waiting to record some calls. A funny thing I noticed, was the more prolongated feeding action on the same area of the tree, unlike Chiffchaffs.
I was able to record some calls and some (bad) photographs. The moth trapping was not so exciting that night, with just a few Cerastis faceta, but this Siberian surprise was very exciting, just outside my house and a winter record.
Since 2009 I´ve been very enthusiastic on moths, beside birding this became my main hobby. In 2014, I´ve stared sampling on the limestone hills near my house in western Portugal. I keep a database with all individuals recorded and photographs of every new species or variation. Below you will find some photos of the last days:
On the morning of 29 December 2019, I went to salgados lagoon (Algarve, south Portugal) and found a second-winter ring-billed gull. I took the oportunity to study this plumage, and take some record shots, because it´s the one I´ve seen less.
The records of Ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) have been decresing during recent years, in Europe in general and in mainland Portugal in particular. There was a recent article on Birdwatch magazine by Josh Jones ("Rise and fall", Birdwatch November 2019, Issue 329), that analysied the declining records in Europe of this iconic Nearctic gull.
I remember, back on the early 2000´s, to go to my local patch in S. Martinho do Porto bay and see eight or nine on the beach. Now, I struggle to observe one a year. I went to ebird to check my last sighting in Portugal of this species and was in 29 January 2019, a first winter in Salgados lagoon, so most likely this is the same bird i saw eleven months ago exactly on the same place.
By late December the south coast of Portugal is swarming with Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita). Sunny days around a reedbed can be very productive if you are interested in get familiar with plumage variation of these busy birds.
Some birds, with good light and the help of a camera, can be aged by the level of wear on wing feathers, and the presence of different generations. First winter birds will show more abraded flight feathers and usually diferent generations in coverts, being the result of a partial post-juvenile moult.
In the case of the bird in the picture, it´s possible to see that some tertials and the central pair of tail feathers was replaced on the post-juvenile moult. Although, from late December onwards we need to keep in mind that adults and first years usualy do a partial pre-breeding moult, and it could simulate first winter plumage, but this new feathers would be fresh!
This afternoon I went to Lagoa dos Salgados (Silves, Algarve) to log 69 species, including this female Ring-necked duck, two first winter Common gull and, at list, 5 Barn swallows. Interesting enough was the fact of some of this birds were activily moulting mid wing, indicating the possibility of wintering in the area.
You can check the e-bird list here: https://ebird.org/checklist/S62566154
At the beggining of the afternoon of the 21st December the wind was moderately blowing from SW, as a result of a low barometric pressure that was moving towards the Bay of Biscay. When the low pressure hit the Finisterra area, there was a good weather corridor formed between the Portuguese coast and a cold-front. Looking at the weather chart, sitting at my computer, this looked promissing for some seabird movement, forced to move south by the low pressure. Before driving to Peniche, I texted Pedro Ramalho, and we arranged to meet at the usual spot, and share one car.
When we arrived to Cape Carvoeiro (Peniche), we noticed right away some regular Gannet movement, and soon after, the first flock of Black-legged kittiwakes.
With my eye glued to the scope, I noticed this pale shearwater type bird, flying just short form mid-distance. In December a bird with this jizz really stands out, due to the lack of Cory´s shearwaters! Fulmar just came to mind right away: the white underparts, grey upper body and an obvious pale head, were a giveaway. I shouted this bird to Pedro, he picked it up right away, and I jumped into the challeging task of trying to make any kind of media record. Below you can see my poor results of the Fulmar entering the field of view from the low right corner and going out the left corner of the image.
After this distraction we continued our task of tally Kittiwakes, and after one hour we finished with a total of 333! Other highlights included a flock of 6 Northern pintail, and, sadly, very few alcids and scoters.
This was a brief movement, but it´s quite rewarding when one sits at a computer and dares to predict seabird movements, just to find out that it works! But, I must say, most of the time it doesn´t!
I´m not a bird photographer. Having said that, I do take some photos of birds.
I carry binoculars and, the majority of the time, a spotting scope, so, adding a big lens and a DSLR it would be a pain on the neck, literally. When bridge cameras became available I did find those to be perfect for my needs, the portability and the big zoom made this cameras perfect for record shots.
I own a Canon SX50 HS and, if you scroll down my blog, you will find the range of photographs it produced, some with very acceptable results. Recently, I decided to test the video option in very challenging conditions, filming seabirds from land at Cape Carvoeiro. I did film a Great skua moving south, at 50x and 60x. The video was made hand held, so I belieave a tripod with a fluid head could make it even better. I was quite amazed by the capability of this small camera in a overcast day.
If you are interestd in know more about bridge Cameras, and what they can do, check my friend Stephen Ingraham blog - Point & Shoot Nature Photographer .
He began birding at the age of 11 and has never stopped since. His involvement in bird ringing has developed over the years and he has a special interest in moult in passerines. He currently works as a bird guide for Birds & Nature Tours in Portugal and Spain.
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