California – Dry Land
The pelagics were done! I was so relieved I’d made it out alive. And with new birds? Best case scenario. Now I had a day to look for more. I spent a lot of time at Lands End looking for a reported Parakeet Auklet.
But it was nowhere to be found. I checked on the rocks down by the water, and was greeted by a friendly Black Oystercatcher instead.
Behind me in the bushes was this fun quiz bird. Answer at bottom.
I watched a Pigeon Guillemot try to down a fish bigger than its head.
Before giving up on auklet dreams and moving on with my life. I didn’t move too far, about an hour south to Santa Cruz to look for a reliable Red-footed Booby. It’s favorite place is at the end of a pier next to this neat sunken war ship, the SS Palo Alto.
I looked for a long while and asked around.
But as it turns out, the booby broke its pattern and while we were standing in the place it was supposed to be, it was 20 minutes away, chilling on the beach with some gulls. Seriously, look at this checklist with the best Red-footed Booby pics.
I saw that report too late. But I still tried. I returned to the beach, and ran into Alex Rinkert, the birder who’d reported it! We exchanged contact info and with his encouragement, Tomas and I returned to the original pier to try again at sunset. Right on time, after staring at gulls for a while, Tomas said, is that it in the middle?
It wasn’t but then I looked at the bird to the right. There it was! Red-footed Booby!
It was after sunset and the light faded as we left happy it had all worked out. I thought it was a life-bird, but I forgot I’ve seen them in Hawaii. Oops. Clearly it’s been too long, and it was still totally worth it. We got a bonus Great Horned Owl as we drove back to Pacifica in the dark. No pics of that one.
The last few hours of California were spent looking at mudflats.
I had time to look for one more lifer, a Ridgway’s Rail. They’re as sneaky as any rail and I wasn’t sure I could find one in time. I picked the wrong park first, Preserve Park, which was amazing, but huge. There was so much habitat and too many places for rails to hide.
I gave up, but not before seeing dozens of American Avocets.
Long-billed Curlew and Marbled Godwit.
Black-crowned Night Heron.
It was very birdy but I made the executive decision to leave and try smaller Bayfront Park. And I’m so glad I did! Minutes after arriving I saw a chunky rail running away.
It made it to a clump of grass and never came out again. And Tomas and I had just enough time to get ice cream before catching our flight back to Portland.
Fun times in California! From sea to land.
Tweets and chirps,
Quiz Answer: Lazuli Bunting