Cali Day 3: Stanford and Radio Road

After my day out with Patty and Al, I had to start the real reason I was in California to begin with: the Mobile Health 2010 conference. It was tough to sit through a two hour workshop after getting up at threw crank of dawn and walking around all day, although I’ll say the presenters did a great job. And the birding was nice as I got to see a black Phoebe doing its thing in the parking lot.

The next day, the conference began in earnest, but since I decided to walk from the hotel, I was treated to a short nature hike. In a short span I saw both red-tailed and Cooper’s hawks, acorn woodpeckers^, chestnut-backed chickadees and a small troop of bushtits^. And I heard a bunch of others I couldn’t ID by voice alone.

After the conference, my walk back was even more fruitful, as I saw many more birds, including my lifelist Oak Titmouse*. But I had places to be, as Patty had told me I was likely to see one of my main goal birds – Cinnamon Teal – at Radio Road, and I was quickly losing light between the hour and the encroaching clouds. Finding the place was pretty simple, but my apprehension was growing as I watched the golden afternoon light flitting in and out grim the clouds, finally I arrived and found that karma was giving me some dues.

One more quest down

Right in front of me – and bathed in a wash of golden light peaking through the clouds – was a gorgeous male Cinnamon Teal in breeding colors. He would turn out to be a single specimen, making it even more beautiful to have seen him at that moment. But he wasn’t alone in the grand scheme of birds in this little retention pond area.

Stilt-style Feeding close by were a few Black-necked stilts and American Avocets, far closer even than they were at the Baylands. Further out, numerous waterfowl including Gadwall, Northern Pintail and Northern Shovelers swam about eagerly eating the bounty in the shallow ponds. But a site in a second pond caught my eye, dragging me away from that gorgeous rust-colored duck – a Ruddy Duck, as a matter of fact. A single male with that unique baby blue bill was courting a number of females. Seeing his beautiful colors close up was great, but the real fun was watching the mating display. He would swim up toward one of the females, put his bill against his breast and then begin this stuttering call as his head jerked up like it was on a gear sprocket. He did this repeatedly though the hen acted as though they’d heard it all before.

Blue Bill

After a short while, and numerous pictures, I decided to peer around to see if anything else was interesting. While there was nothing close by, there were a few cool birds, namely single canvasback and Lesser Canada Goose specimens. But it was the teal, avocet, stilt and ruddy duck that were the highlights of the visit.
Nosing around Stunning Cackling or Lesser Goose?

Bird List

* = lifelist, ^= first of year, italics = sub-species

  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Mourning Dove
  • Acorn Woodpecker^
  • Black Phoebe
  • Western Scrub-Jay
  • American Crow
  • Common Raven
  • Swallow sp.
  • Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  • Oak Titmouse*
  • Bushtit^
  • American Robin
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Spotted Towhee^
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Brewer’s Blackbird
  • House Finch
  • House Sparrow
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