Monday, July 22, 2013

Half Moon Bay Weekend, Days 1 and 2

My work partner and I finished surveys a day early so we could enjoy a 4 day weekend starting on Friday, July 19th. I signed up for a pelagic trip out of Half Moon Bay, so I decided I'd spend some time birding areas around there. Heading west from Bridgeport, CA, my first stop was Frank Raines OHV Park. This is along Del Puerto Canyon Road, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Recent eBird reports suggested Lawrence's Goldfinches could be found here. It took me longer to get there than I expected and when I finally made it, the temperature was already pushing 90.

I parked the car outside the park and walked along the road. Lesser Goldfinches were singing, but no sign of the Lawrence's. Finally, while standing around wondering why I drove into the middle of nowhere for one bird, three goldfinches flew low overhead giving some very quiet calls that sounded interesting. I followed them to where I thought they might have landed. Eventually, one female popped up at a distance and I started shooting. Then, a male joined. I hate to use such horrible pictures of a great looking bird, but it was the best I could do.

Lawrence's Goldfinchs
I followed the slow-going, windy Del Puerto Canyon Road west toward my next destination. Although it seemed like it took forever to finally make it out, the area looked great for Prairie Falcon. However, it didn't happen.

After battling some traffic and driving some more steep canyon roads, I made it to Loma Prieta Ave south of San Jose. Bell's Sparrows and Black-chinned Sparrows are said to inhabit the very steep mountainsides. I worked a great area of the road in suitable habitat, but I couldn't find either. They can be tough this time of year, and I was looking mid-day in the blistering heat. Bummer.

I cruised to the coast and sea-watched for an hour from Pigeon Point. Some distant Rhinoceros Auklets teased me as they flew by. Most interesting, however, were the three Pink-footed Shearwaters I saw. I've never seen them from shore before, and only had one Sooty Shearwater. It just seemed odd, but I loved it. 

I camped and tried all night for Western Screech-Owls to no avail. I woke early and tried everywhere for Western Screech-Owls with the same result. Having missed Bell's Sparrow, Black-chinned Sparrow and Western Screech-Owl, it seemed like my luck that has been with me all year was wearing off.

Once again I drove to the coast. This time it was still very early in the morning and I sea-watched for 2 hours from Blufftop Coastal Park in Half Moon Bay. There was a smattering of Pacific Loons too far out for pictures with the fog. Once the fog lifted a bit, one of the loons was close enough to shore to get yet another horrible, but identifiable picture.

Pacific Loon
I was extremely tired and had slept horribly the entire survey period previous to this vacation, so I decided to book a cheap hotel where I relaxed and prepared field gear/food for the upcoming pelagic trip.

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