The sun came out, the temperatures moderated, and I just needed to get out of the office for a bit, so I ran down to Redwood Shores for lunch and a birding run. I hit three spots, the front lagoon where a long-tailed duck has been reported hanging out with the scaups, and then on to the Davit lane lagoon, and the radio road ponds.
It took me about 30 minutes, but I found the long-tailed duck, which at first glance, looks somewhat like a young scaup, somewhat like a young scoter, somewhat like a — oh, hell, I don’t know what I find more challenging, young and female ducks, sandpipers, sparrows, or juvenile gulls. Choose one, they all drive
you crazy. (probably sandpipers….)
Of course, once I saw it, it was painfully obvious what it was, A younger bird without the long tail feathers, but with more white on the sides of the head and a different bill than the other birds. Of course, after 30 minutes of scoping the lagoon, I noticed it about 15′ out on the water, preening. Other birds in the area: pied-billed grebes and one western grebe, scaups, buffleheads, common goldeneye, and a few of the other random usual suspects like cormorants, gulls, etc. Nothing too unusual for the time of year.
Davit road was about normal; the redhead that’s been there for years was out with the mallards, hanging. One Barlowe’s Goldeneye in with the Commons, a brown pelican hanging out with the cormorants on the cormorant dock, and the pied-billed grebes were pairing off and vocalizing to each other.
Then on to radio road. Hit it during a rising tide, so lots of shorebirds coming in and hanging out. In the flooded areas behind the dog park, lots of stilts, marbled godwits, willets, and a nice flock of whimbrels. Out on the southern pond, I checked out the long island and saw nothing unusual. Scoping the water and the other islands I found a pair of black turnstones hanging out in a group of willets; not unheard of at this location, but not common. Then a smaller sandpiper scooted through, wandering in and around the sleeping willets and looking really skittish. At first thought I was thinking lesser yellowlegs, but it was smaller than that, more like the size of a spotted sandpiper. There are spotted sandpipers in the area, if not at that location.
Then I noticed the greenish legs. It gave me good, long, clear looks in the scope, and I did a comparison check with the guide. After I was sure I’d seen what I thought I saw, I headed back to work and pulled up flickr to do some more research. After doing that, I was convinced I was right, and I’d happened to run into a solitary sandpiper. Also not unprecedented there, but rather notable. I sent along the report to ebird and pen-birds; with a bit of luck, it’ll stick around and be confirmed. Even if not, for once I’m comfortable with the ID of a bird this unusual.
Update: Ron Thorn thinks this was a red knot. He’s probably right, I need to do some research to make sure I understand how I got the call wrong. Back later.
The long-tailed duck and solitary sandpipers are lifers for me, and (a bit to my surprise) black turnstone is a year bird. That’s a nice, pleasant surprise for a couple of reasons. The two lifers take my life list to 218, and my year list to 197.
When I started 2008, I set myself a couple of goals. First, to hit 200 species on the life list, which I actually hit early in the year, and adjusted it to 225 to keep it a challenge, and to try for 200 species for the year. With everything that’s gone on this year, birding turned into an escape more than an initiative and I really didn’t push on the goals, and missed large parts of both spring and fall migration completely. Last weekend, watching the rain come down, I’d come to terms with not hitting the 225/200 goals this year. Now, suddenly at 197 for the year, there’s a chance I might be able to hit that number again. Just maybe.
The other goal I’ve had for a while was to actually discover (and have confirmed) a notable species. It’s one thing (and I’m not being negative here) having someone find the long-tailed duck and chase it down and say “yup, that’s a long-tailed duck!” — that can, in fact, be a significant challenge (just try it with, say, Northern Waterthrush, like the one in Mountain view that sometimes cooperates and sometimes doesn’t). But to be able to find a rare species, to really add to the knowledge of the local birder community — that’s something I’ve wanted to do (plus, it’s a nice indication of how my ability to ID birds is progressing. In the last year, I’ve progressed to “only kinda suck at it”).
The solitary sandpiper qualifies as that bird, at least it will if someone else confirms the ID. I’ve come close a couple of times before, last spring when we had what we believe was an Orchard Oriole up here in the San Mateo hills during spring migration, but we never refound the bird for confirmation.
So maybe I’ll hit these goals this year, magically. Be nice. If not, there’s always next year…
Hmm. where can I find three more species for the year list? there’s that damn waterthrush, maybe, and…
Location: Redwood Shores
Observation date: 12/17/08
Number of species: 36
Canada Goose 6
Eurasian Wigeon 1
American Wigeon X
Cinnamon Teal 12
Northern Shoveler X
Northern Pintail X
Green-winged Teal 6
Lesser Scaup X
Long-tailed Duck 1 re-found near sofitel hotel among the scaups, continuing bird.
Common Goldeneye X
Barrow’s Goldeneye 1 found on davit road lagoon
Ruddy Duck X
Pied-billed Grebe X
Western Grebe 1
Brown Pelican 1
Double-crested Cormorant X
Great Egret 2
Snowy Egret 12
Turkey Vulture X
Red-tailed Hawk X
American Coot X
Black-necked Stilt X
American Avocet X
Solitary Sandpiper 1 Found on the radio road ponds about 12:30 among a flock of willets sleeping on the first round island in the southern pond; greenish legs, smaller than a lesser yellowlegs, greyish coloration. Same rough size as a spotted sandpiper, very skittish and active, darting in and around the sleeping birds. very similar to this bird:
Lesser Yellowlegs 2
Black Turnstone 2
Ring-billed Gull X
Black Phoebe 6
Common Raven 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)