Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Problems with Google, October 29

For some reason, I cannot update my list and now google indicates that the spreadsheet and list have been deleted, which is incorrect.  I will continue to try to resolve this.  Perhaps this new posting will allow me to establish the link.  Stay tuned.

Monday, October 28, 2013

California Again Ventura Pelagic Trip, October 12

When I was in Gambell, Alaska on St. Lawrence Island, I made reservations for this pelagic trip which was part of an effort by SoCal Birding to make-up for an earlier cancelled trip.   There was a really good turnout of about 50 people for this trip run by Island Packers and SoCal Birding.  At the dock, it was announced that there was a military activity in a 25 mile radius which would keep us out of some areas that would otherwise have been visited.  Apparently, the radius was reduced to 20 miles.  We skirted this area and tried to make up for it.

On the way out of the harbor, we stopped for the Brown Booby on the channel marker at the end of the jetty, this time more cooperative for photos.  See photo below.
cooperative Brown Booby
We stopped for the large flocks of Black-vented Shearwaters and other birds and mammals in the channel.  However, I discussed these in my previous post for October 11 for the trip to Santa Cruz Island.  Then we headed for Anacapa Island and the east end near the arch (See photo) to look for the Blue-footed Boobies that have roosted near there on the cliffs to the right/west of the arch.

Arch, east end of Anacapa Island
I saw at least five different Blue-footed Boobies flying and sitting on the cliffs, but there were at least eight announced as being present.  The light was not perfect, because was hard to get the sun at our back on the boat near the cliffs for perfect photography.  Nonetheless, it was a good show!  
Blue-footed Booby
Blue-footed Boobies
Blue-footed Booby, showing blue feet
The Blue-footed Boobies, and a two booby day, were the highlights of this pelagic trip.  This was the second two booby day this year for me.  The first two booby day was on the Yankee Freedom to Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas where the two boobies were Brown Booby and masked Booby.  None of these birds on the Ventura Pelagic Trip were no new birds for the year for me, as previously reported in a brief summary, because I had previously seen Blue-footed Booby, first for the year, in Arizona in August at Patagonia Lake.  It has been a good booby year for me! 

We went around Santa Cruz Island and then headed out to sea, and headed past Santa Nicolas Island toward Santa Barbara Island and then back to Ventura.  We saw a good variety in our species list for the day:  Parasitic, Pomarine and Long-tailed Jaegers, South Polar Skua, Black-vented, Pink-footed, Sooty and Buller's Shearwaters, Heerman's and Western Gulls, Red-necked Phalaropes, Cassin's Auklets and an Arctic Tern.  There may have been a few Black Storm-Petrels near the end of the trip as we were returning to Ventura.

We arrived back at the dock in Ventura at sunset.  See photo.

Sunset, Ventura Harbor
After getting out of my seafaring clothing, I headed for San Diego and Point Loma for tomorrow's (October 13) pelagic trip.   There are very few rest stops in certain parts of California, but I finally found one approximately thirty miles north of San Diego. I had not been successful in following Paul Lehman's advice on how to manage two back-to-back pelagic trips, one in Ventura and one out of Point Loma, which was to drive about one hour, get some sleep and then drive the rest of the way to Point Loma for the boat trip.  I tried to find a motel room on-line, but must have waited too late, because all of the ones I checked were booked, perhaps because they were too close to San Diego.  I decided to stay the night in the rest area in my rental car.  Dinner was a vending machine ham and cheese sandwich and a few lefts overs that I took on the Ventura pelagic trip.   I awoke at about 3:30 am, brushed my teeth, shaved and left for San Diego.  I stopped at a Shell gas station/quick mart and bought food for breakfast and food and drink for the Point Loma pelagic trip.  I arrived in San Diego on time for the pelagic trip and lucked out by finding a parking space in the parking lot at Point Loma Sportfishing.  Otherwise, I would have needed to find a parking space on the street during the day while on the pelagic trip.

No new birds for the year on this Ventura pelagic trip.  The total remains the same as on October 11.   

Quick Update, Texas, October 26

Between long distance walking at several sites looking for Groove-billed Ani unsuccessfully, I found a Tropical Parula, a new bird for the year, at University of Texas Pan America at 12:15 pm on October 26 after a 1.5 hour search the previous evening and a 4 hour search the next morning.  More about this later. 

Tropical Parula raises the total to 686 + 2 provisional.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Update Texas, October 23, 2013

On October 21 at Edinburgh Scenic Wetlands, I added Ringed Kingfisher with the great help of Javi, naturalist/educator.  We looked for but did not find the Tropical Parula, which Javi first found about one week ago.

Yesterday at Frontera Audubon Thicket, I added Golden-crowned Warbler.  Awesome bird!

Gotta go birding!  More later!

Ringed Kingfisher and Golden-crowned Warbler raises the total to 685 + 2 provisionals.

Updated checklist now attached.

More About California (October 10 and 11)

I am now in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Pharr, Texas.  On Saturday, October 18, I flew from Oakland, CA through Salt Lake City, Utah to San Antonio, Texas and drove down to the McAllen area.  On my way down Rt. 281, I noticed many Scissor-tailed Flycatchers on the power lines, fences and a few on dead tree branches.  About 26 miles north of Falfurrias, I decided to start counting the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers (SCFL).  By the time I got to Falfurrias, I had counted 191 and estimated that I had seen at least that many before I started counting.  In one stretch before I started counting, there were about 50 SCFL sitting on the power lines on the three sections between four poles.  That amazing sight is what convinced me to try to count these SCFL!  By the time that I got to Pharr, I had counted 365 SCFL plus the190 for a total of about 555 SCFL!  This is a rare bird in Ohio where I live!

Filling in the recent past

Recall that after St. Paul and arriving in Anchorage on October 9, I took a red eye flight from Anchorage, Alaska to Los Angeles, California through Seattle with a 4.5 hour lay-over.  I got a little sleep on the flight to Seattle and my lay-over on the floor of the airport at the gate while waiting for my flight to LAX and more sleep on the flight to Los Angeles.  I arrived at LAX at 8:40 am.  My first stop was to get breakfast, my usual oatmeal, a breakfast burrito meal, orange juice and coffee at McDonalds. 

Palos Verdes Peninsula, October 10:  I headed to the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the Ocean Trails area opposite Forrestal Drive off of Palos Verdes Drive South to try for California Gnatcatcher.  There is a large amount of development in this area with destruction (aka development) of the coastal sage and scrub along the sea cliffs.  Trump National Golf Club has consumed a large amount of habitat, but provides the public access to the trails through the habitat and also public toilets.  I walked east in the direction of the remaining habitat looking for California Gnatcatcher and found at least two by going uphill along a trail and then east/south along a trail that skirts new development.  Hopefully the habitat protectors will win future battles.  It helps that a lot of local people use the trails for exercise--walking and running.  I first saw movement in the low scrub, heard a mewing call and found a California Gnatcatcher, new bird for the year, preening in the shade.  It eventually came out in the open for the photos below.  Note the buffy or light reddish brown color on the back and under-parts toward the tail, the darker head and the somewhat indistinct white eye ring and almost completely black tail except for a small amount of white on the outer tail feathers and a few white tips on the feathers on the underside of the tail.

California Gnatcatcher 
calling, sounds like a cat mewing

buffy under-parts near tail and limited white on tail feathers
While in the area, I looked for Allen's Hummingbird.  I had previously identified an Allen's Hummingbird also reported by local experts near the Chuparosa Bed and Breakfast in Madera Canyon, Arizona, where Allen's is unusual if not rare.  I wanted to supplement that identification with a sighting in known habitat. Near the public restrooms at the clubhouse of the golf course, there were two large beds of flowering lavender (purple).  There were Anna's and the smaller Allen's Hummingbirds competing for these flowers.  I managed a few photos of an Allen's Hummingbird showing the green back and the very pointed outer tail feathers (rectrices).  This is apparently an immature male due to the incomplete color on the throat and the shape of the outer retrices, which would be stiletto shaped on an adult male (Ref.  Hummingbirds by Sheri Williamson).  The shape of the tail feathers distinguishes Allen's hummingbird from the similar Rufous hummingbird, a potential migrant.  It took a while to get these photos, but it was a lot of fun watching the fights and completion between the Anna's and Allen's Hummingbirds.
Allen's Hummingbird-green back

limited color on throat and pointed outer rectrix
stretching almost showing the open tail
I left Palos Verdes Peninsula and headed north toward Ventura.  I had a scheduled trip on October 11 to Santa Cruz Island with Island Packers to try for the Island Scrub-Jay and hoped to see Black-vented Shearwater on the trip across the channel to Santa Cruz Island.  On my way to Ventura, I planned to stop to look at Arnold Road near Oxnard in the sod farm fields and agricultural fields to try for a male Tricolored Blackbird.  On September 23 at Joseph D. Grant Park, I saw a female Tricolored Blackbird mixed in with a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds during an earlier visit to California but wanted to see a male.  Neil Hayward had seen Tricolored Blackbird mixed in with Red-winged Blackbirds on the sod fields on Arnold Road back in July.  I arrived on Arnold Road as the sun was getting low in the sky, but I continued driving toward the end of the road to a gate to a park where there were tules and a large natural area.  The security guard was knowledgeable about birds in the area, and noted that most if not all of the Red-winged Blackbirds had left the area and that there were only a few Tricolored Blackbirds that might breed there.  While we were talking, the security guard noticed a White-tailed Kite fly in and land on the power lines.  This was a much better view of White-tailed Kite than I obtained at Joseph D. Grant Park on September 23.  See photo below.
White-tailed Kite
Happy Canyon Road, October 11:  The trip to Prisoner's Harbor, the best place to see Island Scrub-Jay, was scheduled for 12:00 pm.  There was enough time to drive to Happy Canyon Road to try for the Yellow-billed Magpie.  Yellow-billed Magpie is found only in Central California unlike its more widely distributed close relative, Black-billed Magpie, which I first saw in Colorado this year.  It was only about one hour and twenty minutes from my motel to Happy Canyon Road northeast of Santa Barbara across San Marcos Pass.  I picked up breakfast on the way and arrived at the start of Happy Canyon Road after 8:00 am.  I drove east on Happy Canyon Road through scenic vineyards and ranch country for about three miles, where I spotted three distant Yellow-billed Magpies in a field, my target new bird for the year.  I stopped there to watch them thinking that I would see them only at a distance.  However, five more showed up for a total of eight, and they came closer to the road.  Yellow-billed Magpie is a striking and beautiful bird.  See photos. 
Yellow-billed Magpies
These are crow-sized birds or larger with the long tail.  They are fun to watch as they walk and hop about on the ground, but are more striking and beautiful at close range.
I got my breakfast acorn.  See you later guys!
I decided to leave the area, because I was not getting really close photos of the magpies sitting or on the ground.  I drove down the road to a ranch house to turn around.  As I neared the drive way, three Yellow-billed Magpies flew across the road and landed very close.  Therefore, I stayed to try for some closer photos.
At about 9:30 am, I left Happy Valley Road happy that I had found the Yellow-billed Magpie and headed back to Ventura to meet the Island Packers trip to Santa Cruz Island.
Jay Gets a Jay (Distant Relative?), Island Packers to Prisoners Harbor, Santa Cruz Island, October 11:  The Island Packer boat was not very full for the trip to Santa Cruz Island.  Later we were told that another island Packer boat was at Prisoners Harbor with a large group of elementary school children.  In spite of the government shut-down, we were fortunate to be able to go to Prisoners Harbor, the best place to see the Island Scrub-Jay.  I sat next to a birding couple from Colorado, and we enjoyed this Peregrine Falcon in the harbor sitting on the mast of a nearby boat.

Peregrine Falcon
As we exited the harbor, we stopped to see a brown Booby on the channel marker at the end of the jetty, which was uncooperative for photos because it was preening.  See photo below.
uncooperative Brown Booby, brown bird in center
 The California Sea Lions on the buoy were more cooperative.
California Sea Lions
Several of the 19 oil drilling platforms in the Santa Barbara area came into view.
As we crossed the channel to Santa Cruz Island, I started seeing small shearwaters that were Black-vented Shearwaters.  The boat stopped to investigate a large feeding flock of Black-vented Shearwaters, Brown Pelicans, Western Gulls  with a few California and Heerman's Gulls.  There were also Common Dolphins and at least one Pink-footed Shearwater.  
Common Dolphins approaching the boat
I got busy at the front of the boat getting photos and checking off all the field marks of Black-vented Shearwater, small size and more rapid wing beats relative to Pink-footed Shearwater, smeary brown on face without a crisp demarcation to the white throat and under-parts and dark under-tail coverts, thus its name.  Black-vented Shearwater is a new bird for the year.  
Black-vented Shearwater
Black-vented Shearwater is closely related to Manx Shearwater, more common on the Atlantic Ocean and rare in California waters on the Pacific Ocean.  Manx Shearwater is more white on the under-parts and under the wings, has white under-tail coverts and has a sharper demarcation between the brown on the face and the white throat and under-parts.    The photo below of Black-vented Shearwater shows the additional plumage details used to separate this Black-vented Shearwater from Manx Shearwater. 
dark diagonal mark and relatively wide dark flight feathers on under-wing

dark vent/under tail coverts 
As we approached Santa Cruz Island, Anacapa Island came into view.  This island has the largest colony of Western Gulls in the world.

When we arrived at Prisoners Harbor and debarked, I noticed something different.  The corral was on the left in the past when I visited to see Island Scrub-Jay for the first time in 2005.  Now the corral is on the right side.  During the introductory comments, our guide indicated that the corral had been moved to develop a wetland.  I thought that I was confused!

My first encounter at Prisoners Harbor was with the Santa Cruz Island Fox.   Each channel island has a separate subspecies of fox, which are descendants of the Gray Fox that colonized the Channel Islands approximately 10,000 years ago.  Unlike the Gray Fox, these small cat sized foxes are relatively diurnal (active during the day) and relatively tame.   

Santa Cruz Island Fox
Hey, let me out of here!  (corral fence)
Free again!
I found two Lewis's Woodpeckers in a dead snag near the dock.  These are unexpected and are migrants through this area.  However, they are great new birds for me for the year, and will save me time later by eliminating a chase to find this bird.  Lewis's Woodpecker has a dark back with a greenish sheen in bright sunlight, a light colored collar, red face and pink breast and belly.  I managed to capture these field marks in these long distant photos. 
Lewis's Woodpeckers, greenish sheen, light collar
Lewis's Woodpeckers, pink breast and belly
These Lewis's Woodpeckers were hawking for insects, which is impressive, because their wing span is as large as a crow.

And finally, the object of my visit, my distant relative ( :>) :>) ), the Island Scrub-Jay (which I previously mistakenly called Island Jay).  No jay is an island, but this one lives only on an island.  The Island Scrub-Jay is endemic to Santa Cruz Island and is closely related to the coastal population of Western Scrub-Jay.  The Island Scrub-Jay is larger, more brightly colored, especially the blue, and has a larger, thicker bill, related to eating the thick-shelled acorns of the Island Oak.  A New Jersey birder found the first Island Scrub-Jay, number 700 for the ABA area.  The Island Scrub-Jays are noisy but relatively secretive and did not come close for photos.  I managed a few long distant photos shown below.
Island Scrub-Jay, stout bill, bright blue 

Soon it was time to say good bye to Santa Cruz Island.

Leaving Santa Cruz Island

As of October 11, 2013, California Gnatcatcher, Yellow-billed Magpie, Black-vented Shearwater, Lewis's Woodpecker, and Island Scrub-Jay raise the total to 678 plus 2 provisional species. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Another Update: Salton Sea (October 14) and ABA Pelagic Trip (october 15)

On October 14, 2013, I went to the Salton Sea in search of Yellow-footed Gull.  I updated my blog with the previous post in the morning before leaving at about noon.  Google maps took me to the west end of the Sonny Bono NWR where I found Prairie Falcon, a new bird for the year.  This time I was not unhappy with the error by Google Maps!  I had discounted a previous potential sighting at the tams near Ventura, because I did not see the field marks that I needed to see to count it.  At the Sea, I also added Yellow-footed Gull, a second winter bird and another new bird for the year, on Lack Road near the intersection with Lindsey Road on the south end of the Salton Sea just before sunset. 

Yesterday, I was able to go on the first of two ABA pelagic trips as did Neil Hayward due the help and kindness of Paul Lehman who told us in Gambell that he had asked for two extra spaces to be set aside apparently for Neil and me.  Paul also spotted the two Craveri's Murrelets on the ABA trip, another new bird for the year.  "Snatched from the jaws of defeat." as Paul put it, because it was assumed that most if not all of the Craveri's Murrelets had departed south.  Thanks Paul for your help!  I got some extremely good photos of the dark feathers under the bill and of the mottled under-wings when one of the murrelets sat up and flapped.  More about that later.

I spent a number of hours last night and this morning organizing my photos since arriving in California from St. Paul, Alaska and will provide further updates over the next few days or weeks.

I forgot to mention the Black-vented Shearwater as a new bird in my summary in the previous post.  Thanks to John Habig, a birding friend from Ohio.  Prairie Falcon, Yellow-footed Gull and Craveri's Murrelet raise my total to 683 + 2!  Back to birding!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Recent Update: Racing Around the Country Adding New Birds

This will be only a brief update, to be embellished (hopefully) at a later date.  I am too busy birding right now to take the time.  Sorry.  I am currently in San Diego, CA.

I made it to St. Paul Island on Sunday, October 6.  The White-tailed Eagle had been seen three straight days before my arrival, and the weather was clear to partly cloudy when I arrived Sunday at about 3:00 pm, optimum conditions, according to humans, for eagle sightings, but not according to the White-tailed Eagle.  The eagle was not to be seen by me during my stay.

On Monday, October 7, while the group was doing a sea watch near Webster Lake, I stayed behind in the van to put on my wet pants and take off my wet jeans.  Yes, it was raining that day--no surprise!  While in the van, I saw some shorebirds flying around outside the van and landing in the vegetation on the right hand side of the road.  Jim Zamos from New Jersey, whom I have known for a long time (Attu, east coast pelagic trips, etc.), was outside the van patrolling the road and thought that he saw a snipe flying along the road.  I walked east toward the northeast point of the island a short distance and walked out a worn path into the vegetation that started to get soggy.  This appeared to be a likely location to find snipe based on my previous experience in the lower 48 and a short tutorial by St. Paul birding guide Doug Gochfeld.  I continued walking out the path toward a small pond and suddenly a snipe flushed giving a call that was slightly different than that of Wilson's Snipe, slightly higher in pitch and lightly more shrill, and showing the white trailing edge to the secondaries on the open wing.  It was a Common Snipe, a new bird for the year and one that I had hoped to find on St. Paul Island.

I had to good fortune to be with the group on October 8 to see the Common Redstart originally found by Scott Schuette at Diamond Hill and to get the two almost identical photos below of this first North American record, an obvious new life and year bird for me.   I got potentially a few more photos.  The bird disappeared after the first sighting.  We returned later to get everyone in the group on this great bird!

I left St. Paul on October 9, but tried the morning and early afternoon of October 9 and outside at the St. Paul Airport to see the White-tailed Eagle.  It was not to be.  The White-tailed Eagle is not a life bird for me having seen it twice on Attu, but a needed addition for my Big Year.  Within two hours of my arrival in Anchorage, I was on a red-eye flight to Los Angeles, CA with a 4.5 hour stop-over in Seattle.  I arrived in LA on October 10 at about 8:40 am and was soon on the road birding again.

First, I added, California Gnatcatcher, new bird for the year, at the Palos Verdes Peninsula on the Ocean Cliffs trail and also got better views and potential photos of an Allen's Hummingbird to supplement my report from Madera Canyon, AZ, where one was reported at the Chuparosa B&B in August and which I also saw nearby.  Allen's Hummingbirds are less common in Arizona, thus the emphasis on seeing one in prime habitat in California.

On October 11, I went to Happy Canyon Road northeast of Santa Barbara to see and photograph the Yellow-billed Magpies and then returned to Ventura to take the 12:00 pm Island Packers trip to Prisoners Harbor on Santa Cruz Island.  There was a cooperative Brown Booby on the channel marker at the end of a harbor jetty on the way out in the morning.  On the boat trip across to Santa Cruz Island, I added Black-vented Shearwater.  On the island I was surprised to see two Lewis's Woodpeckers, new bird for the year, on a snag and fly-catching.  These were very unexpected, apparent migrants and disappeared after about 20 minutes.  The Island Jays, also new for the year, showed up very quickly but gave me only fly-over views and distant views on tree-top perches.

On October 12, I took the Ventura Pelagic trip organized by SoCal Birding using Island Packers.  There was nothing new for me on this trip, but I recorded a second two booby day this year with the Brown Booby on the channel marker on the jetty on the way out and at least four (more reported for the trip) Blue-footed Boobies at the south end of Anacapa Island near the arch.  My first two booby day this year was on the Dry Tortugas near Fort Jefferson, where I saw Brown Booby and Masked Booby on the same day. 

After the Ventura pelagic trip, I hustled down to San Diego for the Point Loma pelagic trip scheduled for October 13.  This time I stayed the night in a rest area about 30 miles north of San Diego.  Neil Hayward and I reversed roles this time.  This time Neil stayed in a motel near Point Loma Sportfishing before the pelagic trip.  Usually, Neil stays in his rental car and I stay in motels.  Neil had remained on St. Paul when I left on October 9--actually, I got Neil's seat.  On St. Paul, Neil added Eye-browed Thrush, which I saw on the Attu trip, and Neil also saw White-tailed Eagle in the afternoon of October 9 and on October 10.  Too bad for me! 

The Point Loma Pelagic Trip was a great success.  I added Red-billed Tropicbird, being chased by a Parasitic Jaeger, identified later in a photo that Neil Hayward got during the chase.  For some reason my camera would not focus or operate correctly for the Red-billed Tropicbird.  Later, we got good looks at Least Storm-Petrels very close to Black Storm-Petrels showing the much smaller size, the narrow wings and very short almost visually non-existent tail relative to Black Storm-Petrels and bat-like flight style of the Least Storm-Petrels. 

Common Snipe, California Gnatcatcher, Yellow-billed Magpie, Lewis's Woodpecker, Island Jay, Red-billed Tropicbird and Least Storm-Petrel raise my year total to 680 plus 2.  The two birds not counted yet are White-faced Pintail and the Common Redstart.  However, I expect that both are or will be countable.        


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Addendum to San Jacinto Wildlife Area Post, 09/26/13 and Quick Updates

Chet McGaugh sent me a photograph that he took of the juvenile Ruff at SJWS previous to our sighting on 09/26/13.  Our sighting was the last sighting as of 10/01/13 when I received this photo from Chet.  Chet and I had a very quick view and mostly from the back as it took off and flew away.  Therefore, it was difficult to be sure whether or not it was the juvenile or the adult.  Thanks to Chet for sharing this nice photo of the juvenile Ruff taken on September 22, four days earlier than our observation.  Tony Metcalf may be correct that it was the adult.  He had a longer view of the bird than Chet and I had.  However, the white ovals along the rump and tail were clear evidence that it was indeed a Ruff as it flew away.   Thanks for Chet McGaugh for sharing this photo. 
Ruff, juvenile with dowitchers
by Chet McGaugh on 09/22/13

I am posting this from Anchorage, Alaska.  I was in Barrow with Neil Hayward, and we joined John Puschock and Jess Findlay for two days prior to the ABA tour at Barrow led by John and Jess.  Jess was one of the leaders on the Attu trip that I took in May-June this year with John Pushcock. 

The trip to Barrow was a success.  Neil and I added Ross's Gull and saw multiple birds well but did not add Ivory Gull.  On my first day back to Anchorage, I added Spruce Grouse and got full frame photos of a Spruce Grouse on the road to Arctic Valley ski area.  Doreene Linzell from Ohio shared the information about this location after she and Dan Sanders (also from Ohio) found two males displaying to a female.  Dave Sonnenborn had showed me this road when I arrived in Alaska to join Dave at Gambel in early September.   Thanks to Doreene and also Dave for the information about the Arctic Valley location.

I am in a rush to try to get to St Paul this morning; thus, the quick updates.   Before I left California, I added Yellow-green Vireo on 09/27/13 at the tams near Ventura on Laguna Road off of Pleasant valley Road.  My list is now 672.  There are about 56 species that I can still get.  Therefore, 700 for the year is clearly in my sights!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Spotted Dove Spotted; Ruff Search for a Ruff, 09/26/13

When I was at Gambel on St. Lawrence Island, I asked Paul Lehman (no relation known), now from San Diego, where is the current best place to find Spotted Dove.  Paul has extensive knowledge of birding locations around the country.  I was aware that the population of Spotted Doves has been decreasing since the late 70's and 80's.  I saw my first Spotted dove near the LA Airport, LAX on October 5, 1985.  One theory is that Cooper's Hawks are taking them, primarily because the Cooper's Hawk population has increased in metropolitan areas over the past 20 years or so, perhaps also due to an increase in feeding birds and bird feeders.  Paul suggested Salt Lake Park not too far from LAX.  When Neil Hayward arrived at Gambell, he verified that he found Spotted Dove at Salt Lake Park near the north side of the park near the houses along the street to the north outside the park.  Salt Lake Park is only about 20 miles and 29 minutes from my motel near LAX. 

I headed there early enough to arrive between 7:00 and 7:30 am. at the north parking area and spotted and photographed two Spotted Doves by 7:50 am on a power line behind the first house at the corner of Saturn Avenue and Bissell Street just north of the north parking lot at Salt Lake Park.  One bird was singing its three syllable rolling "coo-coo-cooooo" song while leaning forward and bowing its head down.  I saw the white edges to the tail from above on the singing bird and the large white markings on the underside of the tail on the second bird facing me.  The tail is square in comparison to the tail of Mourning Dove.  The singing Spotted Dove was facing away from me and raised its head showing the white spotted black nape patch, from whence its name.  It is an attractive dove with gray-brown upper-parts and pink-brown under-parts, with a pale gray cap and dark eye line.  See photos.

By 8:30 am, I was on my way to try for a Ruff  or two at San Jacinto Wildlife Area.  A juvenile and adult Ruff have been reported recently.  San Jacinto Wildlife Area (SJWA) is 80 miles and about an hour and 37 minutes from Salt Lake Park.  I had never been to this area.  Consequently, I stopped at the field office and found two people who directed me to the spot where the Ruff (s) had been seen and gave me a printed out map.  The Ruffs had been seen in Ponds 6 and 7 accessible from the Wildlife Area side on a road between two parking areas, Central Parking Lot and Walker Parking Areas or along the connector road between two porta potties.  The area is also accessible from the Walker side also.  When I arrived at the location, I saw one car parked at the far end of the road at the Walker Parking Area to the southeast and a birder was gathering his gear to apparently search for the Ruff.   I started scanning the large flock of Black-necked Stilts and American Avocets that contained only two dowitchers, Long-billed by flight calls, a single yellowlegs and a few ibis.  There was a rather large flock of peeps, mostly Least Sandpipers and some Western Sandpipers.  I heard the flight call of Pectoral Sandpiper and a Dunlin.  A local Northern Harrier was flushing all the shorebirds, and there was constant movement.  The birder joined me but did not stay very long, because he had a doctor's appointment and thus was very impatient to see the Ruff.  Unfortunately, the Ruff did not oblige.

Later, Chet McGaugh and Tony Metcalf, two local experts on the SJWA area arrived.  We continued to scan for the Ruff and walked the edge of Pond 6 back toward the entrance and office of SJWA.  Along the willows and bushes, Chet found a Willow Flycatcher, which is a new bird for my California state list but not a new bird for the year.   We looked through the yellowlegs, mostly Greater Yellowlegs that had been chased out of the northwest corner of Pond 7 to the more eastern part of Pond 6.  There was a swimming Pectoral Sandpiper, which from a distance first appeared to be a phalarope.  That's a first for  me.  I do not recall having ever seen a swimming Pectoral Sandpiper, but that obviously happens.  There were additional Pectoral Sandpipers mixed in with the yellowlegs.  Tony was on an extended lunch break and afternoon break and had to return to work.  We walked back to the cross road that connected the two porta potties and ran between Ponds 6 and 7.  We approached the connecting road from the wrong angle and walked through some relatively deep mud, caused by a leak in the piping used to pump water into Ponds 6 and 7 in preparation for waterfowl hunting season.  Sometime in the near future, the water may become too deep for good shorebird habitat.  The same thing happens in Ohio.  Shorebird habitat is sacrificed for waterfowl hunting.  Nothing seems to change across this country.  A flock of Greater Yellowlegs flew in as well as more dowitchers, all of which sounded like Long-billed Dowitchers by flight call.  Still no Ruff.  Tony started walking back toward his car parked at the Walker end of the porta potty connecting road, and Chet and I were going to drive to the Walker side to join him and look for the large flocks of shorebirds that are usually there according to Tony and Chet.  Just when Chet and I were ready to get in our vehicles, we heard Tony yell something that sounded like Ruff.  We hustled back to join him to briefly see the Ruff, which had just flown in and was preening amongst a flock of Greater Yellowlegs.  I saw the bulky body, relatively long neck and small head, the relatively long legs, the buffy edges to the feathers on the upper-parts (back and wings), the barring on the back and sides of the neck and the short dark slightly down turned bill.  There appeared to be a fair amount of white on the face.  Just when I reached for my camera, the Ruff took off and flew over the nearby row of trees that bordered Ponds 6 and 7 toward the north or northwest.  We could easily see the large white elongated ovals on the sides of the rump and tail as the bird flew away.  The large white ovals are the ultimate confirmation of the identification as a Ruff.  Unfortunately, I did not get any pictures, and I am not sure if this bird was the juvenile Ruff or the adult Ruff reported, although Tony originally thought that it might be the adult.  Since then, I have checked the on-line photos on Flickr by Howard King and Tom Benson.  The bird we saw on Thursday, 09/26/13 appeared similar to the juvenile Ruff reported recently.  Thanks, Tony for helping me find this Ruff, a new bird for the year and also for my California list. 

Tony, Chet and I met again beyond the Walker Parking Area to survey the large number of shorebirds present and were joined by a local lady birder (Rose?).  There was a large flock of Black-necked Stilts, American Avocets and Long-billed Dowitchers with two Black-bellied Plovers.  I identified the dowitchers as Long-billed by flight calls.  Tony and I identified the plovers as Black-bellied by the black axillaries when they flew a short distance as the flocks repositioned due to Chet approaching the edge of the water using his high boots.  Tony and Chet headed to get some lunch, but I had picked up lunch at a Subway on the way to SJWA in the morning.  Thanks, guys for the invite to join you for lunch.  However, I decided to stay and try to get a look at the local Prairie Falcon that Chet photographed being chased by one of the local Peregrine Falcons and to try for another look at the Ruff and possibly a photograph.  Chet observed this interaction between the two flacons on his way to the shorebird spot in the morning.  I missed Prairie Falcon as a new bird for the year by only 1.5 minutes!

I stayed and met the lady birder again after she had walked around all of the pond areas north of Ponds 6 and 7. and after I had driven the roads around the north area ponds looking for Prairie Falcon.  I found a large flock of yellowlegs, mostly Greater Yellowlegs, in Pond 6 late in the afternoon.  We checked them out but did not find the Ruff.  Several additional birders joined us in the search but did not find the Ruff.  A large flock of blackbirds, mostly Red-winged Blackbirds, was feeding in the reeds of Pond 6.  The local Peregrine Falcon attacked the flock and chased it around, but not apparently catching a bird.  See photo of perched, hunting Peregrine Falcon.  There were at least three Yellow-headed Blackbirds in this flock and no Tricolored Blackbirds that I could find.  Local birders indicated that it is probably too early in the year for Tricolored Blackbirds at SJWA, but that they are common later in the fall and during the winter.  I heard and then saw a Nuttall's Woodpecker in the line of trees along Ponds 6 and 7 and got some distant but limited photos of this species, my first photos of this year for Nuttall's woodpecker.

I also drove Davis Road, the entry road to SJWA, to the point where this road is blocked, and checked the power poles for perched Prairie Falcon, but found only a local Red-tailed Hawk.  I made one last checked of the Walker area from my vehicle, and saw a tawny colored large falcon flying north from the Walker Pond entry road, but could not get a positive identification on this bird.   I was the last of the birders to leave at sunset.

Spotted Dove and Ruff are new for the year, raising the total to 669.

Spotted Dove, showing spotted neck patch

Spotted Dove, frontal view

Peregrine Falcon, adult, hunting at SJWA
dark on breast is shadow from power line
Nuttall's Woodpecker, at SJWA
black face bordered by white