Monday, September 30, 2013

LA Area: Huntington Beach, John Baca Park, Search for Yellow-green Vireo, September 25, 2013

I got a late start in the morning due to updating my blog.  Then either a glitch in Google Maps or one in my brain sent me in the wrong direction and to the wrong place.  Consequently, I arrived at John Baca Park in Huntington Beach at about 11:00 am.  I walked around for a bit until I found the willows in the pit area.  Yellow-green Vireo, a rarity in North America, breeds in Mexico and shows up in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in late June through August (as occurred this year), but not every year and in Southern California, as is occurring right now.  First, I found a Townsend's Warbler in the willows.  Then I met another birder, Joe, who was helpful in pointing out where the Yellow-green Vireo had been seen recently and showed me the way to the pepper bush where the bird had been seen several times yesterday.  Joe introduced me to several other local/CA birders who were searching but without success.  I spent most of my time there birding with Joe and learning a lot about CA birding in the area and the state, which is often important for an out of state birder.  Joe and an American couple of oriental descent helped me more easily find the Nutmeg Mannikins in the park, a new bird for the year and also a life bird.  Thanks, Joe.  See photos.

We searched until about 2:00 pm.  Then I took a break to get a late lunch and returned to look more for the Yellow-green Vireo.  I met Joe again, and we kept searching along with the man and woman who were also looking for the Yellow-green Vireo.  

We also saw Black-throated Gray Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hutton's Vireo, Bushtit, California Towhee, Common Yellowthroat, Warbling Vireo, Black Phoebe, Pacific-slope Flycatcher and Orange-crowned Warbler but no Yellow-green Vireo.  There were also Anna's Hummingbirds and either Rufous or Allen's Hummingbirds in the park.  I left the park after a late day vigil at the pepper bush along a hillside next to a development that surrounds this small park.  There was a flurry of activity near the pepper bush, but the Yellow-green Vireo was a no show.  The previous day, the Yellow-green Vireo was photographed very well by Don Hoechlin and posted on Flickr, as reported on CA-Orange County list serve, showing all the field marks.  Such is chasing rarities and vagrant birds.  Here one day, perhaps gone the next. 

Joe showed me how to monitor LA traffic conditions on the LA freeways at  That was really helpful.  Thanks, Joe.  I left the park at about 7:00 pm, and traffic was moving at a good pace on my route back to my motel near LAX.

It was good to add Nutmeg Mannikin a John Baca Park while looking for Yellow-green Vireo, which saved me time looking for the Nutmeg Manikin separately at another location on a different day.   Nutmeg Mannikins are an attractive bird with black on white scaling on the sides of the breast and a rich chestnut face, back and wings which is almost red on the face.   Nutmeg Mannikin, also known as Scaly-breasted Munia, Ricebird and Spice Finch, was recently added to the ABA list to be countable only in Southern California from San Luis Obispo County south to the Mexican border, where populations meet the eight criteria to be included on the ABA list of established species published in the seventh edition of the ABA Checklist in 2008.  Nutmeg Mannikin is a resident of tropical southern Asia from northeastern Pakistan through the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka, Indochina to southwestern China, Indonesia and east to the Philippines.  Because of its striking beauty and gregarious behavior, it is a popular cage bird.  Its accidental or intentional release, depending on your point of view, accounts for its presence in the United States.  In some cultures in US cities such as Houston, it is common practice to release Nutmeg Mannikins at weddings and at significant events.  Some question the decision to include this species as established, because the population may be supported by continual accidental or intentional releases. 

There was a large flock of 30 to 50 of Nutmeg Mannikins in John Baca Park feeding on the seed heads of the ornamental grasses planted in the formal landscaping.  They are very gregarious with frequent calling of short whistled notes; therefore, they are easy to find once one knows the call notes.

Nutmeg Mannikin is a new bird for my Big Year list and new life bird for the ABA Area, raising my yearly total to 667 and my ABA Area Life List to 809.

I am at home briefly and have recovered my laptop, electronic list and capability to manage photos.  I will gradually add postings for my birding in Arizona and will add to my previous postings about Alaska, Arizona and California with photos.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tassajara Road near Carmel Valley for Mountain Quail, September 24, 2013

I read Neil Hayward's blog about his difficulties finding Mountain Quail, before we met in late July on the Half Moon Bay pelagic trip.  I provided Neil several suggestions about locations for Mountain Quail based on my own experience and the experiences of Greg Miller and Dan Sanders who have done Big Years.  I was planning to use the information on Neil's blog about Tessajara Road for Mountain Quail, but Neil and I have had several discussions about his experience in finding Mountain Quail at this location--at Gambell and since then on the Bodega Bay and Half Moon Bay pelagic trips.  I have also shared previous experiences with Neil about finding Himalayan Snowcock and west coast airports with cheaper flights, car rental and easier access.  Neil has shared a lot of information about locations for birds I still need and his experiences finding them.  Doing a Big Year requires a special set of birding and travel skills and Big Year birders need to stick together.

I left for Tassajara Road at about 4:30 am from Salinas and arrived at the intersection of Carmel Valley Road and Tassajara Road at about 6:30 am to a lightening sky.  I was surprised at the number of vehicles that I meet on Tassajara Road as I drove up and even after the pavement ended.  I believe that about four vehicles passed me going downhill and one going uphill.  There are a number of private lanes off of this road.  Some of these vehicles may have been hunters.  Others may have been parents taking kids down to the entry of Tassajara Road to meet the school bus which I meet on the way up.  It was discouraging, because each vehicle travelling this road ahead of me probably cleared the roadside of any Mountain Quail.  I stopped a few times to look and listen but then kept driving up the road.  I knew I needed to get higher to get in better Mountain Quail habitat and to escape the vehicle traffic.

When the habitat became more open near a corral my heart started pumping faster at the sight of a flock of quail feeding in the road, but alas, they were only California Quail.  I took some quick photos and continued driving up the mountain.  Soon after the corral, I entered Los Padres National Forest and passed a NF campground, which I drive through.  Above the campground I found Band-tailed Pigeons, new bird for the year.  I continued to the top of the mountain the first place where the road dropped down and where there is a gate on the left with a road closed sign.  At the top, the habitat looked good for quail, few trees with low brushy vegetation and the closed to vehicle road had apparently been walked before providing an entry to the habitat.  I searched on the internet and found that this is the road to Monterrey Institute of Research in Astronomy (MIRA), Oliver Observatory on Chews Ridge at 5045 feet elevation.

I walked back this road slowly listening and looking.  It was quite birdy along this road.  At the top of this road is open low and medium height brushy habitat with Fox and White-crowned Sparrows and Spotted Towhees.  There were many dead trees in the area due to an apparent previous fire, several of which looked like Christmas trees with candelabra of Band-tailed Pigeons.  I estimated 100+ Band-tailed Pigeons in the area.  I walked down the road to the right where it passed through tall pines.  It was about 8:30 am, the sun was getting high and I expected it to be almost too late to find Mountain Quail unless I could find them feeding in the shade.  Shortly after I entered the tall open pine stand, a covey of about 6 quail burst from the grass in the shade of a pine tree about 30 feet from road on the left and flew into the higher thicker brush.  They were making the alarm call and covey connection rapid peeping calls of Mountain Quail. Most of the birds quickly disappeared down into the brush but one, the apparent sentry, sat up for a short period of time for my observation and a few distant photos in poor lighting conditions, which will require work in Adobe Photoshop when I recover that capability.  I saw the chestnut sides with bold white vertical barring and the single line of relatively broad white streaks at top of the barred sides and the darker throat with the white border but without a white supercillium like California Quail.  The head was in the shade; therefore, I could not see the chestnut color on the throat patch.  The head plumes were hidden by the brushy background and leaves but may be visible in the photos with work in Adobe Photoshop.  These were clearly Mountain Quail.

I enjoyed birding the area a little longer.  Steller's Jays replaced the Western Scrub Jays of lower elevation and Cassin's Finches were calling, singing and easily seen in the tall pines.       I started down the mountain sometime after 9:00 am.  There were lots of Dark-eyed Juncos (Oregon race) along Tassajara Road.  Just before the junction with Carmell Valley Road, a covey of California Quail ran down the bank on the left and flew into the trees on the right.  I saw them briefly while perched and flying further into the trees. These wrote clearly California Quail with horizontal white streaking on the sides, black throat bordered by white with a white horizontal border to the crown above the eye and plumes that were thicker  and rounded on the end.  I stopped at Wild Goose Bakery and Cafe in Carmel Valley for a late breakfast of a breakfast sandwich on fresh baked bun and told the owner and a customer why i was in the area to let them know that birders visit the area and spend money locally.  It was very satisfying to enjoy the freshly made breakfast and bask in the glow of seeing a really tough bird to find.

Band-tailed Pigeon and Mountain Quail are new for the year.  The total is now 666.

I'm flying to LA area to try for Yellow-green Vireo, Spotted Dove and Nutmeg Mannikin and a possible Ruff.

Joseph D Grant County Park near San Jose, September 23

I need many of the common birds in California. I have found Joseph D Grant County Park to be a good place to find the common species when I have been in the area for pelagic birding trips out of Bodega Bay, Fort Bragg and Monterrey.  In the past, I have found Yellow-billed Magpie in this park as well as White-tailed Kite.

I was tired from the pelagic trip and post-pelagic trip birding; therefore, I stayed in Hayward, got up early, and drove the 1+ hour to the park.  I arrived at about 7:30 am, early enough to see the early morning bird activity.

I started at Grant Lake, my usual strategy for this location.  My first new bird for the year obtained at this park was Oak Titmouse.  A very cooperative pair of this almost all gray bird gave many photo opps.  Then a Black Phoebe appeared along the trail near the lake and was very cooperative for photos.  There was an interesting goldfinch that may have been a Lawrence's Goldfinch.  The crown and nape looked grayish and the wing bars and primary and secondary edges looked yellowish.        However, I will wait to look in detail at the photos before I decide to count this as another species my list.  There was an empidonax flycatcher in the willows near the lake.  In retrospect after studying my National Geographic field guide, I believe this empidonax was a Pacific-slope Flycatcher which is not new for the year.  I saw Pacific-slope Flycatch first in Arizona but not yet discussed on my blog.  I heard a Nuttall's Woodpecker calling, somewhat like a Downy Woodpecker but the rattle is lower and slower, and eventually saw it near the base of a willow along the trail along the east side of the lake.  I saw the black face with white borders and the relatively small size in comparison to the more common Acorn Woodpecker.  It looks similar to a Ladder-backed Woodpecker except for the black face.  I also heard California Quail calling and under the bushes along the trail near the lake.  I saw them flying away and then feeding on the ground in the shade and got some reasonable long distant photos.  This converts California Quail from heard only to a sight record.

There were lots of birds at Joseph D Grant Park.  I saw White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrows, which I had also seen at Cow Mountain Recreation Area east of Ukiah.  Migration is underway.  California Towhees and California Thrashers were easy to see here.  I found  a Great Egret, Great Blue Heron and two Yellow Warblers.  Acorn Woodpeckers are everywhere ini the oaks.  A Red-shouldered Hawk and a Red-tailed Hawk patrolled the area.  I saw Red-winged Blackbirds flying to and from the surrounding fields into the rushes along the lake edge.  When I scanned the flock, I found at least one Tricolored Blackbird, a cold gray female.  In comparison, the female Red-winged Blackbirds were a warmer brown with reddish brown tinges.

I also found Greater Yellowlegs, Wilson's Snipe and Virginia Rail along the lake and at the edge of the rushes.  I looked along the road above the lake and where I had seen Yellow-billed Magpie before but it was not to be.  When bird activity slowed down, I returned to San Jose to get something to eat and spent some time at McDonalds updating my blog.

I returned to Joseph D Grant Park to look for Yellow-billed Magpie.  I found a distant White-tailed Kite soaring beyond the park headquarters, looking south from a hill near the lake.  I saw the light gray upper parts and white underpparts as well as the kite shape, long tail and pointed wings.  I did not find a Yellow-billed Magpie.  I left the park near sunset and stopped along Mt. Hamilton Road to take some scenery photos.  On the way back to San Jose, I encountered a tractor trailer stuck on a sharp curve, blocking the road.  There are signs at the start of this road warning truckers about this narrow road with very sharp turns!  An emergency worker directed my turnaround.  Fortunately, I knew an alternate route and got back to San Jose.  Then I headed south to Salinas.  Tomorrow, I will try for Mountain Quail near Carmel Valley.

Oak Titmouse, Black Phoebe, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Tricolored Blackbird and White-tailed Kite are new.   The total is now 664.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bodega Bay Pelagic, Ukiah and Half Moon Bay Pelagic,September 20, 21 and 22

This is another update on my Droid RAZR without photos.  I made it to the boat just in time for the 7:00 am boarding.  I was pleasantly surprised to meet Isaac Sanchez and his wife Patty.  Isaac is a birding buddy from graduate school days in the late 60's at U of Delaware.  Isaac is doing a photo Big Year.  We wondered when we would meet this year.  Great to see Isaac and. Patty!  Neil Hayward was also on the boat.  We keep meeting everywhere recently, and it is always a pleasure and fun to meet up with Neil.

On the Bodega Bay trip on September 20, I first added Brandt's Cormorant, which I missed on my first west coast pelagic trips out of Half Moon Bay on July 27and 28, because Brandt's Cormorants were not present on the jetties as expected.  In the fog and dim light on September 20, I saw a close fly-by Brandt's Cormorant, and saw the larger head, bill and thicker neck than Pelagic Cormorant, the lack of the orange throat and face of Double-crested Cormorant and dimly saw the white throat patch in the fog and poor light.  I hoped for a better look on the way back to the dock, but it was not to be.  The bright sun disappeared  on our return to the dock.  Bright sunshine had developed during the day and burned off the fog.  The second new bird for the year was Black Storm-Petrel.  Black Storm-Petrels were mixed with Ashy and Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels in the largest flock of storm-petrels ever recorded in North America, a total of 17,000+ storm-petrels.  It was AWESOME!  Truly, a lifetime experience.  Debi Shearwater reports on her blog that there were 10,500+ Ashy Storm-Petrels, 6,500+ Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, 300 Black Storm-Petrels and 25 Wilson's Storm-Petrels.  We had a grand slam of jaegers:  Pomarine, Parasitic and Long-tailed Jaegers and South Polar Skua.  Sea mammals put on a good show with 15-17 Blue Whales, 12   Humpbacked Whales, 50 Northern Right Whale Dolphins, 350 Pacific White-sided Dolphins and 8 Dall's Pofpoises. Pinnipeds included: California Sea Lion, Stellar's Sea Lion, Northern Fur Seal, Northern Elephant Seal and Harbor Seal.  It was quite an exciting trip.

Brandt' Cormorant and Black Storm-Petrel raise the total to 654.

After the Bodega Bay pelagic trip, I drove to Ukiah to look for Sage (Bell's) Sparrow at Cow Mountain Recreation Area.  I learned about this area and the Sage Sparrows from local birders during past pelagic trips with Debi Shearwater out of Fort Bragg. On September 21, It was raining early; therefore, I arrived later at about 9:00 or 9:30 am.  First I found California Towhee, new for the year.  The towhees cooperated for photos to be shown later.  Then, I heard and briefly saw California Thrasher, the second new bird for the year, which also eventually cooperated for photos at a different location.  I drove further up the mountain on the wet, dirt and sand road to a large area of thick sage where I had seen Sage Sparrows on two or three previous visits.  My front wheels spun a little reminding me to be careful.  At least three Sage Sparrows perched on top of the sage long enough for photos.  Another, very cooperative California Thrasher perched in view for photos. While I was photographing the California Thrasher, several nearby but invisible California Quail started calling their "chi-ca-go" calls.  I tried to see them but could not.  It started to rain rather hard; therefore, I headed slowly and carefully down the mountain to the entry and rest rooms.  It cleared up quickly and the sun came out.  I stayed to bird the entry area where I had once seen Lawrence's Goldfinch during a previous visit.  I thought that I had heard goldfinch type song or notes when I arrived earlier.  No luck on the search for tjis elusive golfinch.  I drove back up the mountain to the sage area and still found the cooperative California Thrasher.  It was time to move on.  I drove down the mountain with windows open listening for bird song but found nothing new.

I drove to Ukiah and had my usual chicken salad for lunch.  Then I drove to Fort Bragg to a spot that has always produced easily seen Chestnut-backed Chickadee.  I wanted to convert my heard only Chestnut-backed Chickadee to a seen one.  Not this time.  I contemplated trying for Sooty Grouse on a mountain road south of Fort Bragg but north of Point Arenas.  However, it was getting late and I needed to get south to Santa Rosa early enough for a good night of sleep before the Half Moon Bay pelagic trip in the morning.

California Towhee, California Thrasher, Sage (Bell's) Sparrow and California Quail raise the total to 658.

On September 22, I made it to the boat with plenty of time to spare this time.  Neil Hayward was on this trip again.  This time out of Half Moon Bay, the Brandt's Cormorants cooperated on the jetties with good photo opps.  On the way out beyond the jetties, we also had excellent looks at winter plumaged Marbled Murrelets and good photo opps, the best for me this year.  There was not much activity and I started to fall asleep until a sharp eyed young leader yelled "Flesh-footed Shearwater!"  I jumped into action but could not find the bird.  Neil got on it as it flew away but did not get a great look at it far out near the fog bank.  I was concerned that I missed this bird, because Flesh-footed Shearwater often flies in to the boat quickly but then leaves just as quickly.  We continued on and then Debi spotted a flock of shearwaters on the water.  The wind was low and shearwaters were sitting on the water.  They use the wind to save energy while sailing over the waves instead of flying to find food.  Debi told me to go up to the bow to help check the flock, because the Flesh-footed Shearwater could be in the flock.  We checked the flock, but all birds appeared to be Pink-footed Shearwaters.  I checked the flock with my binoculars, and the flock took flight.  I yelled "There is a dark one in there and Debi and I yelled "Flesh-footed Shearwater"!  Debi was ahead of me in yelling as she should be.  This Flesh-footed Shearwater was very cooperative and flew around the remaining flock on the water and quite close to the boat.  There were many photo opps.

The rest of the trip was very good with another grand slam of jaegers like the trip from Bodega Bay.  A Laysan Albatross caused a lot of excitement onboard for the California birders.  Perhaps I am jaded (pun intended, jayded), but I am not as enthused by the appearance of Laysan Albatross since my trip to Attu where we saw good numbers of Laysan Albatrosses. In addition, I have seen Laysan Albatross on three of four of Debi's trips this year.  However, there were only a few petrels unlike the Bodega Bay trip.  The highlight for me was the Flesh-footed Shearwater.

After the boat trip, I stopped at Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve to try to see Chestnut-backed Chickadee.  I heard this chickadee at this location but did not see it on July 28 after that Half Moon Bay trip.  This time I heard and saw the Chestnut-backed Chickadee to remove it from my heard only list.

Flesh-footed Shearwater raises the total to 659.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Portal, Paradise, Rustler and Barfoot Parks, September

I stayed in Willcox, got to bed early, left for Portal at 4:00 am and drove the 93 miles to Portal via I-10 and NM SR80.  I first birded State Line Road at dawn and found Bendire's Thrasher,  two Sage Thrashers and about ten Brewer's Sparrows. I also got a good photo of a Scaled Quail sitting up for a portrait.  I stopped at the store and lodge in Portal and found the store closed.  I had hoped to pick up some additional food for the day in the mountains and information about the status of the washes on the two roads to Rustler Park from Pardise or through Cave creek but it was not to be.  I birded briefly around the lodge but found very little but Curve-billed Thrasher and Eurasian Collared Drives.  I drove the road to Paradise and stopped about three times to check for Black-chinned Sparrow in the first few miles in appropriate habitat but found only Canyon Towhees and Black-throated Sparrows.  The Black-chinned Sparrows are no longer singing.  Tough birding!  I stopped by the Walker House to check for Juniper Titmouse and hummingbirds, perhaps a Calliope Hummingbird.  I met Jackie who runs the B&B.  She said the Titmouse was not coming to the feeders very much.  Too much food still available in the mountains.  No Calliope Hummingbird either.  I stayed for a while and watched the feeders seeing nothing new but still fun to see Blue-throated, Black-chinned, Magnificent, Rufous, Broad-tailed and Anna's Hummingbirds and Red-naped Sapsucker,  Hutton's Vireo, Bridled Titmouse, House Finches and Lesser Golfinches.  Soon John Yerger, whose name I recognized from the AZ-NM listserve and a local guide, came to watch the feeders with two clients.  I knew that he was affiliated with Penn State University at one time.  He was a student there.  I found out that John Yerger was from Pennsylvania where I grew up.  I was born and raised in Lancaster Co, but he was from closer to Philadelphia.  I tbought that my SageThrasher sightings were somewhat early and John verified this and that my distant photos were actually of Sage Thrasher.   Thanks John.  He also verified that I was looking in the right place for Black-chinned Sparrows and that they were no longer singing, but that Florida Wash was a place where he had seen many in the winter.  Thanks again John.  I recall seeing Black-chinned Sparrows there when I stopped in Florida Wash after a successful chase for the Blue Mockingbird near Douglas less than ten years ago.

I left Walker House and headed up through Cave Creek Canyon to Rustler and Barefoot Parks arriving at about 1:00 pm. Jackie told me that the my rental car could not get across the three wsshes from the Paradise end but that there was only one wash from the Cave Creek side and that my rental could cross that wash.  Thanks, Jackie.   At the top, the recent fire devastation was enormous but the great wild flowers make up for that.  Photos to follow later.  I did not find the Mexican Chickadee but searched until about 4:30 pm.  I met two women, one from New Mexico and one from Texas and  couple from Iowa who were also searching.  No one found the chickadee but the couple from Iowa talked to someone at the Research Center who had the chickadee with a feeding flock of birds early at about 7:30 near the split of the road for access to Rustler and Bar Foot Parks.  I will need to return to try for the chickadee again soon.

When I returned down to the lodge area, I noticed that a tire was losing air pressure.  My options were to replace the tire with a donut spare or to look for help in very small Rodeo, NM.  I choose to look for help and found the Rodeo Service Center which looked closed and rather run down.  However, when the young man returned from his job, he found the problem, a nail, and patched the tire for a very reasonable $20.  I gave him a tip and was headed on my way to Phoenix,AZ  after only an hour delay.

I am headed to Bodega Bay for a pelagic trip with Shearwater Journeys.

Bendire's Thrasher, Sage Thrasher and Brewer's Sparrow raise the total to 652.

I will update my list and blogs after returning home for a brief stay after which I will return to  Arizona and the west coast.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Gambell, AK to Seattle and Monroe, Washington to Arizona

No new birds seen at Gambell since the Stonechat on 09/10/13.  Stonechat is number 807 for my ABA area life list without considering Little Bunting.  I have decided to count the Little Bunting, number 808 on my life list.  I will discuss the rationale below but first the update.

I stayed one extra day on Gambell as did Dave Sonneborn also, because the weather and winds looked promising.  I stayed until Saturday morning because the Yellow-browed Warbler and Stonechat showed up late in the day giving me Friday evening for another rarity to show.  Neil Hayward arrived on Thursday evening but all the rarities and many other birds had left Gambell as predicted by Paul Lehman.  There was fog on Saturday morning and Bering Air did not land (Neil's flight).  REA, my flight circled and landed.  Neil and I left together on this flight after much excitement.  Paul Lehman, Gambell and birding expert and birder extraordinaire found a Common Snipe.  We tried but failed to find it even running from the lodge to the boneyard.  We both needed Common Snipe.

We flew to Anchorage.  Then Neil returned to Boston and I flew to Seattle, drove to Monroe for Vaux's Swift and saw about 30 Vaux's Swifts along the Skykomish River and at Al Berlin Park.  At dusk it was an awesome display as 2400 to 2600 Vaux's Swifts poured into the chimney roost from a funnel cloud of circling swifts.  Awesome.  Pictures later.  Thundershoeers did not dampen enthusiasm.

Then I flew to Phoenix, AZ and added Rosy-faced Lovebirds at Encanto Park and drove to Sierra Vista last night.  Rosy-faced Lovebird is number 808 on my ABA list.  I had seen these birds before but needed to see them again after they were added to the official list because they are an introduced species.

Yesterday, September 17, I saw the juvenile Sinoloa Wren in Huachuca Canyon four times while trying unsuccessfully to get a photo.  I heard the ratchet call,  saw the bird twice and heard a brief burst of the distinctive song this morning before 9:00 am, saw a wet and bedraggled Sinaloa Wren at 11:54 am after it bathed in the creek, heard the ratchet call at 1:00 pm and saw the bird again at 3:00 pm just before leaving.  In a feeding flock comprised of Hutton's Vireos, Painted Redstart, Bridled Titmice, Summer Tanagers and a Yellow-rumped Warbler, I found a Cassin's Vireo, new for the year, with gray head, white spectacles, olive grayish back and olive edges to secondaries visible in closed wings with yellowish wash on flanks.

I stopped at Wilcox and checked the lake and found sixty three Long-billed Curlews, another new bird for the year.  I only needed one!  :>) :>)(smile).  There were also 30 Black-necked Stilts, 60 American Avocets, 6 Greater Yellowlegs, about 15 Least, 8 Western and 2 Spotted Sandpipers, one Wilson's Phalarope, 10 Northern Shovelers and 12 Eared Grebes.

Here is the rationale for counting the Little Bunting.  It was suggested that I confused it with the more common Lapland Longspur.   However, since that day, I studied every Lapland Longspur I saw on Gambell and none had the rich chestnut cheek patch and forward part of the supercillium and sharply defined streaking across the breast and down into the belly that I saw.  The fifty or so Lapland Longspurs that I saw did have streaking across the top of the breast and down along the sides of the breast and belly leaving the center of the lower breast and the belly clean unmarked white color.  The streaking on the Lapland Longspurs was not as clean and sharp as on the bird I saw, perhaps because most of the Lapland Longspus remaining on Gambell are juvenal plumage.  I am assuming that adults leave earlier but do not know for sure.  The location was also questioned as on the flats and outside the usual location in the stands of wormwood.  I saw this bird fly from the wormwood in the main part of the far bone to an area of wormwood close to the marsh across the road.  This bird stayed hidden in the wormwood until I approached within about 20 feet.  It flew toward the village twice sticking to the wormwood as I stalked it until it reached the end of the wormwood.  Then it flew over the sparce wormwood a short distance toward the village and swung right and landed in a close-by grassy area and hid behind a small pile of gravel.  I measured the distance from my sighting location to the sparce wormwood and the thicker wormwood using my steps, the floor tiles in the lodge and a small ruler to get these estimates.  The location was 41.66 feet from the end of the sparse wormwood on a direct line toward the lake and 33.85 feet in a perpendicular direction from the thick wormwood toward the mountain.  These distances are quite short for a bird to fly.  I remain open to evidence that will prove me incorrect and will remove it with such evidence in hand.

Little Bunting, Vaux's Swift, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Sinoloa Wren, Cassin's Vireo, and Long-billed Curlew raise the total to 649.  Little Bunting and Rosy-faced Lovebirds raise my ABA area list to 808.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

More Excitement at Gambell, September 10, 2013

At sea watch this morning, Paul Lehman had a Lesser Sand-Plover fly over calling, a bird I still need for the year.  I checked the sewage pond area in the sparce vegetation in dry areas and in nearby sparcely vegetated gravely areas preferred by this plover, but found no plover.  In the boat yard, I met Clarence a native, excellent bird finder and photographer, who was going to the south end of the lake, and decided to join him and pay him for the ride.  On the way along the mountain, I found a Hermit Thrush at the second pull off and between the road and the lake.  Paul Lehman sees one to two Hermit Thrushes per average year.  We had stopped to enjoy the Northern Wheatears and a single White Wagtail.

At the south end of the lake, we searched the more extensive habitat for this plover and other shorebirds.  No plover found but a number of Rock Sandpipers (30) and ten Snowy Owls.  Clarence took me to the river beyond Ooynik Point, where I could not go without a native guide like Clarence, which was a special treat to see this wilder area.  We met several seal hunters from the village.  Clarence demonstrated his sharp hunter's eyes and skill at seeing birds and locating them after flight, an obvious skill needed by a native hunter.

The real excitement came in the afternoon when James Hunnington found a Stonechat at the far boneyard.  I was at the lodge after a late lunch due to a post-noon return with Clarence. I hustled out there and I got some photos to be shared later.

Stonechat (Siberian) is a life bird for me and number 643 for the year.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Gambell on September 8 and 9

A Siberian Accentor was found late Sunday afternoon by James Hunnington, Wilderness Birding Leader and Norm Budnitz in the invetments at the far end of Troutman Lake.  I had walked the 2+ miles there and was nearby when it was reported.  I got to see it well.  Beautiful bird!  Dave Sonneborn got a photo which I will post at a later date.  After returning to the lodge to rest my legs (got a ride back with James and Norm), a radio call rousted me to the far boneyard to try for the Yellow-browed Warbler found by Paul Lehman.  I did not see the warbler last night, but saw it once this morning, Sept. 9, and several times this evening, seeing the field marks to count is as a new life bird.  Yet to be discussed is a Little Bunting that only I saw that seems to be somewhat controversial.  More about that later.  Therefore, I have not yet decided to count it.

Siberian Accentor and Yellow-browed Warbler, two great birds, raise the total to 642.  Yellow-browed Warbler raises my ABA total to 805.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Further Update: September 9, 2013, from Gambel, Alaska

This is being posted from my Droid RAZR from Gambel, AK on the northwest tip of St. Lawrence Island only 38 miles from Russia (Chukotsk Peninsula).  I have not been able to update my blog due to lack of internet access and related computer issues.  When I left Arizona, my list was 630, having added 47 species in about eight days for my first visit to AZ for the year.  I flew to Salt Lake City and drove to Elko, NV, hiked up to Lamoille Lake (9740 ft elevation) and got the Himalayan Snowcock (3 of them and long distant photos!). Then I added Clark's Grebe near Salt Lake City on my way to the airport.  I flew directly to Anchorage, Alaska to join Dave Sonneborn and am now at Gambel.  My list is now 640 due to the addition of Northern Wheatear, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, White Wagtail, Red-throated Pipit, Yellow-billed Loon, Steller's Eider, Spectacled Eider and Bluethroat.  I saw the Bluethroat well yesterday afternoon.  Four more days to go and still trying to resolve connectivity issues to fully update my blog.  I cannot update the link to my list right now.  I still have a lot of common birds to see and 700 now appears to be in range!