Monday, 9 January 2012

California Bird'n on a Winter's Day

This is a recreation of the blog post I wrote following my Big Day of Birding in San Francisco, with Noreen and Edgar, my intrepid birding guides. So, it may lack the initial excitement of my initial post, but might make up for it in thoughtful memories of the day I saw 80 Bird species, 56 Birds of which were added to my Big Year, giving me 99 as of January 8. 50 were new for my Life List.

I was up prior to the crack of dawn, as birds prefer to be viewed bright and early, though it was not bright when I awoke. After a quick breakfast I was picked up by Noreen and Edgar and we were off and birding at 7:30am. We made many stops in and around San Francisco, including Fort Mason, at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, a public gardens in another old Fort, Golden Gate Park, twice, a park overlooking the San Francisco Bay, and ended the day at Heron's Head, a wetlands along San Francisco's southern bay waterfront, and the subject of a field guide written by Noreen and Edgar.

Our first stop was an education in birding. I was amazed at the ease with which my guides would find birds. Whether with they're eyes, binocular or scopes, they pointed out one bird after another to me. And with surgical precision they were able to guide me to a spot in a tree or in a shrub or on the ground, when I could point my binoculars or camera and see an endless variety of birds. On our first stop I was able to spot Red Crowned Parrots, Chestnut backed Chickadees, three types of Goldfinches and sparrows, and an Anna's Hummingbird. Flying overhead I saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk. And that was just the beginning of what turned out to be a very big day for me. Now, I know, experienced birders would laugh at a 80 bird big day, but for me, including 56 new Year Birds, it was huge. 

Along the way I saw more types of gulls than I thought existed. It was probably not that long ago that I just assumed, as most people do, that there were just seagulls and that was it. What an eye opener. From the Western Gull I saw on my first day, I added Herring and Thayer's and Mew Gull, amongst others.And there were the grebes and cormorants, Pelagic and Brant's.But the three I was most excited about were all found in Golden Gate Park. A Great Horned Owl, only visible through a spotting scope, way up in a tree, a Varied Thrush, a beautiful orange and black bird, and Dusky-capped Flycatcher, a rarity for the area, who had somehow made it's way up from south of the border. It really was exciting to find these birds, both common and rare and Noreen and Edgar were amazing teachers.

They would show me the bird we were looking for in their field guides and then have me see them though their scope or help me find them with my binoculars. And even though they have been doing this for years, I could sense they were as enthralled and excited at seeing the birds as I was, seeing many of them for the first time. It was a Big Day and a day of birding I shall never forget, which is good, since I had to recreate this blog entry from my somewhat swiss-cheese memory. 

I am not sure if I have done the original blog entry justice, but I hope I have. It was a beautiful day to be out. Warm enough temperatures, hardly any wind and a cloudless sky. 

I can't thank Noreen and Edgar enough for their kindness, attention to detail and, mostly, for putting up with an amateur Big Year Birder.And I can't wait to do another big day like that again.

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