Monday, January 18, 2016

Big Olaf of Catalina

1/16-18/ 2016

Dana Point, California and offshore to Laughlin NV

Big Year Day 16-18

Big Year Total:  354
Coded birds:  17
Cool animals: Bobcat, Harbor seal, gray whale, California sea lion
Miles driven.  5680
Hours at sea: 14
Miles walked 34
Miles biked 2
states/ prov. birded:8
Flight miles:12500

26 years ago, while visiting my godparents with my new fiance, I caught the biggest bonito I ever caught right where I'm standing.  A few minutes later, I got on an even bigger one, it puledl and tugged and pulled again.  Then it just took off, and all I got was slack.  I looked out to see a huge bonito in the mouth of a California sea lion.   It was almost like he was thanking me for tethering his prey, Bonito on a rope they say.
         A lot has happened in 26 years....I went ahead an married Silja, and now we have three wonderful children, one of them, Lena, accompanied me on this voyage into my past.

It was her first pelagic and I had made some promises a dad probably shouldn't have made like....we'd see whales and sea lions.  Whew!  Luckily, the sea lions are still here, the gray whales where still here.

And for doing a big year, the birds were still here.

I went out with the Sea and Sage Audubon Group from Orange county and we went looking for seabirds.  We found them.  I also found some famous people in the annals of birding.  Dorian Anderson the Self-powered Big Year man was there.  He said since his 18000 mile biking days are behind him, he is not as fit since he moved to California.  He is obviously more fit and spry than I.  John Dunn called out the birds, a real sage of birding.   Thomas Ford-Hutchinson took amazing pictures and even scoped me out despite my usual low profile. I never know if I should wear a disguise of a name tag.  I am NOT a famous person. I feel odd autographing my own books.
       I even ran in to Dez the 2015 ABA Jr. Birder of the Year, he had the key spot all day in the bow of the boat. Biil from a local traveling ground called the Trogonistas actually told me of the group.  We had met him in Key West back in 2014.  Thanks Bill!

Nearby my bonito spot, we found a code 3 bird sitting on Edith the northern-most oil derrick of the three. (well the middle one is a double platform).

There were twelve of them up there and right next to a natural gas flare.  Ecology meets.... well, lack of ecology.  

Old Edith's eternal light.  On the Oil and Gas Industry in California.  Gas prices here, $1.20 higher than Texas.  One does wonder how that affects the local economy with almost double the cost of transportation.  Maybe Californians just don't care?  Do they live in a bubble or are we the ones toiling and supporting them?  It isn't the poor people that are getting the difference, it is the oil companies.

Besides the boobies, other seabirds were also still out there.

 We saw a few rhinoceros auklet.

Common Murre in both plumage's

Another view of a Brown Booby, it was a good bird.  More boobies more often, I always say but well that was from the punniness of my past adventure.

Black oystercatcher on the jetty leaving

Heerman's gulls flew over their harbor.  I find these gulls fascinating and enjoy seeing them every time I do.  They have bright red bills and have very white heads in their breeding plumage

There were two types of shearwaters

Black vented shearwaters were all over

We saw one Pink-footed shearwater

The first northern fulmar of the season

Pomerine jaegers flew by, landed chased murres, chased shearwaters chased gulls, dove at Cassin's murrelets, and generally tried to bully and eat everyone, except us on the boat.

It was a fun pelagic and not too rough and a good first seabird excursion for my daughter.  I met some nice people and had a few tips

Jim had a little issue when he woke up before us and walked across the street to McDonald's for the birders breakfast and then ate it on the step of the hotel.  As we were getting ready to go, he couldn't find his bag including his wonderful new hat.  We suspected a homeless person had a new backpack complete with a new hat from Mt Laguna's roads, but later that night Jim came over and admitted it had never left the room, he had some sort of false memory of even having it with...too many McDonald's and too many birding trips no doubt.

Day 2  Catalina Island

We headed to Catalina Island on the express and it booked across.  Jim and I spent the passage on the side lower front deck, watching.  As if it wanted to be counted an all black seabird flew up along side the boat matching the speed and the closer it came the more I realized it was a shearwater and had no white on it at all, a sooty!  yea.  It passed eventually over the bow and then flew like shearwaters do.  It was sort of odd, the only sooty we saw in a sea of black-venteds.  Now for other birdlfe, it was sparse but both Jim and I spotted a scripps murrelet as they tried to get out of the way of the fast boat.  Little thing with a white underside, and smaller than a murre.

I arrived to Catalina and it was just like I had already been part of it all.  

Big Olaf of Catalina's Ice cream, and...I still have my cherry...

One of my son's (Tyko) college roommate is Mason Sanchez of the island and works at the bike shop.  He is a good guy and set us up with bikes and told me where to find doves and hummers.  For the hummers...they are everywhere.

It took us a bit of a bike ride and out of breath I spotted my Life bird #722, a spotted dove, and bird 350 of the year.

These doves are exotics established 100 years ago that are retreated and I assume eventually only here on Catalina will they continue on, where to my eye they appear to be the predominant dove.  It counts and I saw them.

The second island bird worth seeing is the Allen's Hummingbird which we found first and was bird #349 and the one here doesn't migrate and are a little larger than those on the northern coastline.  They were also easy to find.

After birding was pretty much over, we road around the roads with our rented bikes with or tired bodies.  Many of you know, I'm a big fan of the Art Deco movement of the 1920s and 30s and our house has art to prove that.  One of the best buildings of that period is the Catalina Casino

It is a theatre and has never been a sight of gambling.  Casino means meeting place in Italian.  It is adorned by very gorgeous period tilework on the outside, the fully naked mermaid is a theme on many of the signs in the shopping area as well.

William Wrigley's Memorial sits at the top of the gardens to him and it is where he was buried from 1933-1942 (ish?) when his remains were moved from the top of the huge structure to Forest lawn cemetery due to security concerns?  Why you might ask?

It is not a bad little place, the problem was, I put too much hot sauce on a very good burrito which just about killed me.

There is also tourist stuff on the island, like even a yellow submarine, which apparently you can go for rides on.

We bid the island adieu and then watched Pittsburgh screw up their football game on the way home.

Day 3  Irving Regional Park

My daughter needed some local birds and I needed an oak titmouse and we found them and it, 
Bird #351

My photo of the Lewis's woodpecker #552 was bad and  #553 Wood duck, would require no photo as they are backyard birds but here is a nice photo of a nuttall's woodpecker 

and off course parrots were everywhere

While the search for the titmouse and unsuccessful search for owls was ongoing, the non-birder wife of mine was screwing around on the playground equipment which had that soft mat stuff on the ground and she stepped wrong and sprained her ankle and then when going home later had to be pushed around in a wheel chair.  Sick the first trip and hurt the second, it wasnt looking good for me.

Well, I took everyone to the airport, thanked Jim, and sent the family home, and in Silja's case limping severely but before that it was a good trip and nice to see them.  Jim's help was invaluable..

I drove hard for Davis dam and follow up on a lead for a yellow-billed loon, it had been a NARBA report and a AZ list-serve but I got an email of a closer spot, the dam.  This is a bird I just never see, seen it once on a seawatch fly-by, on St. Paul but it wasn't optimal.  I found it quite easily there swimming with 4 common loons.  It was a nice obviously yellow-billed loon, and with commons around, a nice contrast.  Why he was in Laughlin NV?  It wasn't for the gambling as no loons are allowed.  Everyone knows that.

The picture?  Yea...I need help learning how to digiscope

the scenery is nice.  

In a novel I'm working on, alien invaders destroy this dam as they blow up Glen canyon and Hoover up stream and the torrent just washes this earthen dam and the casinos of Laughlin away  The first casino is peeking behind that hill.  They purposely have the stop lights in town times so you can't really leave town.  Why would anyone come here?  We'll leave that for another day.

All I can say is that the Yellow-billed loon was now the second best bird I've seen by a dam site.

Heading back east after a night in Wickenberg and will find my car in Texas and work my way home for winter birding but fist another go round for the warbler in Refugio

Big Olaf wants you to enjoy my Ice Cream



Pelagic Dana Pt 1/16

338.  Herman's gull
339. Pomerine Jaeger
340.  Rhinocerus Auklet
341.  Cassin's murrelet
342. Black-vented shearwater
343.  Pink-footed shearwater
344.  Northern fulmar
345.  Brown Booby
346.  Red-throated loon

Catalina Is  1/17
347.  Sooty shearwater
348.  Scripp's Murrelet
349.  Allen's Hummingbird
350.  Spotted dove

Irving reg park 1/18
351.  Oak Titmouse
352.  lewis's Woodpecker
353. Wood duck

Davis Dam, Laughlin NV 1/18
354.  yellow-billed loon


  1. Replies
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