Goin’ Back to Cali

Puffball The end of May was a flurry of activity: lots of work, and then I was asked to fill in for a co-worker at the Mobile Health 2010 conference out in California. It meant missing out on my long- awaited Phils-Red Sox game but I was excited because I’ve been doing a lot of mobile stuff lately. Plus, since the tickets were for Saturday and the conference didn’t start until Sunday, I would have some time to explore the area (read, bird).

After getting into town and checking in, I immediately went out to the Palo Alto Baylands up the road to see some of the specialties there. I wasn’t disappointed.  As soon add I got there I saw two of my primary goals: American Avocets and Black-necked stilts, right up against the shoreline, closer than I’ve ever had the chance to be. Creeping up to the protective barrier along the road (I needn’t of bothered), I crept closer to a single stilt and a pair of advocates who were feeding peacefully in the beautiful afternoon light. Dozens more of both species lingered in the background, going on their noisy ways through the thin marsh. I was amazed at how closer they let me get and I snapped away happily. Another photographer caught my attention and motioned me over, then pointed out a nest with a pair of stilt chicks in it. Those fuzzballs were extremely cute, and evidently were ready to investigate their surroundings.

After spending an hour with the nesting birds, I wanted to move on. Crossing the road and heading toward the nature center, I was treated to the sight of an adult stilt leading around three juveniles, puffballs of a slightly larger variety who were seemingly oblivious to my presence. It was a thrill to get to see this species so closely and in such nice light. A nearby ruddy duck wasn’t nearly as congenial, only briefly peeking his head out, never long enough for me to get my first shot of one in breeding plumage.

Other birds were also in the area, but none that I couldn’t see at home so I moved along to the duck pond to see if anything interesting was hanging out. For the most part, the standard duck pond species were there: mallards, domestic ducks and hybrids, a couple of geese and pigeons. But a little bit of wandering revealed some hidden treasures in thus alcove of mundanity.

A pair of California gulls* (1 adult, 1 immature) flew in later, a black phoebe was checking out the mud flats across the parking lot, while several nesting snowy egrets and black-crowned night herons croaked at each other from the branches of a nearby tree. A one- legged ‘grackle’ sat on a part nearby, hopping occasionally in the breeze (it turns out that grackles are rare in this area – it was actually a Brewer’s blackbird). Across the street, I was surprised by a large flock of what I thought were dowitchers, but turned out to be willets and marbled godwits* (my second new species of the day).

All too soon, it was time to get some food – it had been almost twelve hours since I ate, so I decided to hit a California tradition: In N’ Out Burger.  It was good but I don’t know that I’d call it legendary – about the same as a Five Guys burger, I’d say.

Anyway, here are some photo highlights of day 1 of my trip:
Umm, yeah ... you have something there ... yeah, on your ... uh, nose? In Need of Stilts ...and I missed lunch Contemplating One's Own Shadow No, my name is not Pinocchio.  Why do you ask?

Birding List:

*= lifelist, ^= first of year

  • Canada Goose
  • Gadwall
  • Mallard
  • Ruddy Duck^
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Snowy Egret
  • Black-crowned Night-Heron
  • Northern Harrier
  • Black-necked Stilt^
  • American Avocet^
  • Willet
  • Marbled Godwit*
  • Long-billed Dowitcher
  • California Gull*
  • Black Phoebe^
  • American Crow
  • Barn Swallow
  • Cliff Swallow^
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Brewer’s Blackbird^
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Mourning Dove
  • House Finch
  • House Sparrow

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