Friday, November 14, 2008

Scouting for the Atascosa Highlands CBC

Yesterday my friend Jake Mohlmann and I explored some remote and little-known areas south of Tucson in preparation for the Atascosa Highlands Christmas Bird Count, which we are organizing and compiling, set for Monday, December 15. This view is from an area called Wise Mesa, looking westward over Ramanote Canyon to the Atascosa Mountains. We're about at a mile in from the east edge of the circle looking towards the center, which is beyond the mountains. Click on the photo for a larger image.

To learn more about the Christmas Bird Count tradition, go to the National Audubon Society website.

We also went into upper Peck Canyon, where we were pleasantly surprised by flowing water and nice riparian habitat. We found an Eastern Phoebe at this location.

This is a Great Spreadwing, Archilestes grandis.

And this is a Black-necked Garter Snake

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

San Diego Pelagic Birding – 150 Miles Out To Sea

What a marathon of a bird trip!

From 7:00 a.m. on Saturday, November 1 to 6:30 a.m. on November 3, the 85-foot Grande was home for 40 birders headed out to the open Pacific Ocean. We spent all day Saturday and Sunday birding the open ocean, scanning the horizon for anything moving or sitting on the water.

The trip began with hours of sitting while driving from Tucson to San Diego, then countless hours of standing, staring at a usually birdless Pacific Ocean. And a couple of not altogether comfortable nights on a narrow bunk. And it was by far the lowest species/hour of effort birding trip I have ever been on. Sounds bad? Not at all! I didn't regret a moment of it and would do it again. Part of the excitement was never knowing what the next bird would be, and how rare it might be. The weather was good, the seas not very rough, an no one got seasick. I also really enjoyed meeting a bunch of new birders and making new friends.

Highlights were Xantus's Murrelet (the nominate subspecies Synthliboramphus h. hypoleucus), Flesh-footed Shearwater, Leach's Storm-Petrel, and Red-billed Tropicbird, the latter an especially good bird to see in US waters. For a more thorough trip report, see Terry Hunefeld's write up on the SoCal Pelagic Birding Website.
Here are the birders getting fantastic views and photos of the Red-billed Tropicbird.

Another highlight was watching dolphins ride the bow. Here are Pacific White-sided and Short-beaked Common Dolphins.

Dylan (who drove), Scott, and I broke up the drive to bird some migrant oases in SW Arizona, as well as the marshes of Mittry Lake north of Yuma and the southern end of the Salton Sea. Highlights were a Rufous-backed Robin at the Children of Light commune near the ghost town of Agua Caliente in far western Yuma County on October 30, hearing Black Rail on the next morning, and finding a Least Flycatcher at some cottonwoods west of Wellton on our way back on November 3. These photos were taken by Scott and Dylan, respectively.