Sunday, February 28, 2016

Get Rhythm

Big Year Days 57-59

Big Year Total:  462
Coded birds:  31
Cool animals: Bobcat, Harbor seal, gray whale, California sea lion, pronghorn, porcupine, sea otters, Island gray fox, 

Miles driven.  13,300
Flight Miles 38,200
flight segments: 42   Airports: 23
Hours at sea: 25
Miles walked 63
Miles biked 2
states/ prov. birded:15

After a near crash of Southwest Flight 578 in Midway, I took a couple of days off before trying this again.  I was shook up but like passed.

As I headed to the airport on February 26, the birding song came on the radio, it was play of Ex's and Oh's number was a good sign.  We were heading west, California, and we were Getting the Rhythm and this trip, my son, Allwin, the one that damaged my car had to come with as penance for the insult to my car.  Allwin is a traveler but no birder.  I had been looking forward to this trip for months since he has been abroad studying since May and we needed time to bond.

My Favorite Johnny Cash song is Get Rhythm, which was released in 1959 by the artist.
here it is,

Also in 1959, Johnny Cash decided to go fishing.  Unfortunately while driving up a mountain pass in the Las Casitias NF his truck overheated or so he said, and started on fire and Cash just took out his fishing stuff and still went fishing, ignoring the inferno.  In the forest fire that ensued, 49 of the regions 53 California Condors disappeared or 50% of all of them and were never seen again, no one knows if Cash actually killed 1/2 of the condor population in order to get a few trout...but he was fined a million dollars although no one knows exactly how much he paid.  Cash oddly started a second forest fire in 1965, one in which he almost died....Cash and the ring of fire....odd, well as as far as I can tell, the condor is countable now so this was designed to be my Condor trip.


Let me do a little provisional discussion here

Provisional 1A.  I have counted the hoary redpoll and if as expected, the AOU lumps the two redpolls together, and the ABA drops it from the checklist, as per the rules, I get to keep it.  The example used was the Northwestern Crow but it is on point.

Provisional 1B.  My counted western scrub-jay is a "Coastal" or California subspecies seen in Irving, CA, on Martin Luther King Day in January.  On February 19, in Davis Mtns Texas, I spotted a "Woodhouse's" subspecies so if it is split by the AOU, and this is also up to a vote, I will add one via the old armchair tick, we will wait for their summer checklist changes.  No other splits/ lumps, look to affect the checklist this year for me.

Day 1 A Ruff time
Central California


Allwin and I drove out to Merced NWR after some concern over bedbugs at the hotel in Merced, I am not sure if it was real or a mass hallucination.  A day later I had no bites.  We got there at first light and found the pond the Ruff, a sandpiper, had been seen even the day before we got ruff.

we gave it three hours and even endured NWR Rangers yelling at us for being more than 25 feet from out car, we were about 50 at the time.  I was trying to get a better angle on a shore of the pond but I just had to move the car and block traffic and THEN get out to look through my scope....why?

We saw the hoard of Ross's Geese and decided to punt.

we'd have to return another day.

PANOCHE RD, California

I studied the map and this road looked good, it went from I-5 to Hwy 25 and had all the requisite ticks of birds I needed, so after cruising through the farms of the San Joaquin Valley we found the road and quickly it changed to dirt.  All along the road, people had set up makeshift shooting ranges, it was sort of odd in a way, even to a gun owner like me.  The road got worse but stayed okay and so we kept going.  Finally, I came to a year bird on a fence.

#456  Mountain Bluebird

always a pretty bird and then we continued on, got across ruts and then we came to a water hole.  Allwin took his shoes off and waded across, it was way too deep for a Ford Fusion.  This is the second time water has impeded my progress, damn.  Maybe a SUV next trip?  Two hours later....we were back on this road.  What a detour...I did drive past a hot springs that looked interesting.

The second stop was near a ranch, and I found my first key bird for the trip

#457  Yellow-billed Magpie

Nothing to say about this but tick!  Then we got behind a camper pulling a Jeep.  It was 10 mph for a while, but it all worked out when I saw blackbirds near the end in some trees.
The right blackbird...

#458  Tricolored blackbird

These birds have a red patch on their wings which they frequently hide, and all of these birds in these trees hid theirs.  Things were starting to roll, I had the two birds I needed and so off we went in search of Cash's cursed Condors


In 2014, the ABA clarified their rules on counting Reintroduced endemics and if the bird is found in its former range (like ever or in the last 200 years?), and the population (not defined) has reproduced (how many?) it can be counted.  This rule only really covers 4 species, so the ABA could have just discussed each one separately, but they didn't.  Also, Condors live so long that ones taken into captive breeding have since been released and for a birder like me, I don't know where these birds are and so that is the third part, if unable to know which can be counted and which can't they can be counted. I feel I need a PhD in this bird to understand how to count it.   So I think Pinnacles Condors can be counted.  I have made my best effort to decipher it all and if I need correction....say it!

#459  California Condor

My son and I had a fly-by so close you could hear their wings.  It was cool.  We saw 6, even one way out of the park feeding on a dead something in a field, and as was Allwin's rarest bird.  We had a really nice hike up here.  I really like this park and the valley near here.  It is a cool place that makes you think of Montana, not California.

oh Johnny why?

#460. California Quail

We heard 2, and to show my son, that was their call, I played it and instantly one answered me down below me in a little draw.  

Allwin looking sharp..

As it got dark, we drove out of the park and had to make tracks for Ventura, 200 miles away.  Driving between the valley and Hwy 101, I flushed a common poorwill at 10% light, it flew in front of my car and I didn't hit it!  I could count it even if I did but who would want to?  bird #461.

We drove like maniacs as my son directed and then he told me he had a short cut.  It would save time and miles as 101 makes this loop before turning on the coast to Santa Barbara.  It was just as we were coming down the mountain to 101 again when the traffic just stopped--apparently a terrible accident.  We waited.  It was after a few cars turned around and went back up, when Allwin told me he had another shortcut so we turned and found San Marcos Road, it looked on paper to go directly to Santa Barbara...problem was it was a 10-12% grade down....narrow, tightest turns ever, most marked at 5 mph and with the grade, and total darkness, my headlights were too high and as many cars from town were coming up to avoid the bypass, it was beyond treacherous.  Allwin stated that the Saint must give out medals personally to whomever safely makes it to the bottom of this road.  That was one road, I never ever want to go on again, even in daylight.

I am not Catholic and I kind of wanted to say a little prayer to old St. Mark  

Day 2.  The Big Blue Tick.

Santa Cruz Island

This isn't my name for the ritual to come and see this bird only found here, but three years ago, I said, I would never need to come back here again and three years to the day, here I was, taking a Island Packer boat in rough seas to Santa Cruz Island, but it was a Big Year and I had to go.  It was really rough this time....

Everyone writes how easy it is to find this bird...IT IS NOT THAT EASY!

In 2013, I spent three days at Scorpion (well I had clothing issues to worry about too) and I only saw 5 of them, and this time we had to hike and well...we saw three, and only one was photogenic.  We were the only birders there is we had no one to complain to BUT I found the bird...

#462  Island scrub-jay

I don't know if it is just me but this bird never is anywhere near the landing spots.  We came to Prisoner's Harbor because it seemed that this area had more of them but alas no.  It was a good hike though, to Pelican Bay.

I showed Allwin Bewick's wren

After the fist bump when we lEft the jay, Allwin said, jay down fox to go.  I then saw a fox come down the trail to us.  "We need to find a fox."  He said again.

"Like that one?"

well, we had the big blue tick and the big gray tick, but as we weren't counting mammals, we had nowhere to mark this tick.

The ride home on the boat was better and flatter and there was a veritable pelagic of seabirds, lots of Scripp's murrelets and a pink-footed shearwater plus all of the other expecteds...unfortunately having done a pelagic near here a month ago, there was nothing new for me to tick.

We got back, drove to In-and -Out Burger, and drove to Glendale.  The blue tick in my book and now my count up to 462...then Elle King sang her little song and I sang my own words...

Well, I had me an owl, turned up a common crane
I just scoped all the birds that no one could believe
Whoa, and then I had to go
Now, there's one in California that's been easily tame
'Cause I found me a better bird out in the A-K
Hey, hey, until I made my getaway
One, two, three, they gonna fly up to me
'Cause I'm the best birder that you'll ever gonna see
One, two, three, they gonna fly up to me
They always wanna come, but they never wanna leave
Ex's and the oh, oh, oh's they haunt me
Like ghosts they want me to see 'em all
They won't just go
Ex's and oh's

I had a summer tan'ger down in New Orleans
Kept him warm in the winter, let him migrate in the spring
My, my, how the seasons go by
I look high, and I love to look low
So the chases keep commin', and the ticks just roll
You know that's how the story goes
One, two, three, they gonna fly up to me
'Cause I'm the best birder that you'll ever gonna see
One, two, three, they gonna fly up to me
They always wanna come, but they never wanna leave
Ex's and the oh, oh, oh's they haunt me
Like ghosts they want me to see 'em all
They won't just go
Ex's and oh's
One, two, three, they gonna fly up to me
Climbing over mountains and a-sailing over seas
One, two, three, they gonna fly up to me
They always wanna come, but they never wanna leave
My ex's and the oh, oh, oh's they haunt me
Like ghosts they want me to make 'em all
They won't let go
Ex's and the oh, oh, oh's they haunt me
Like ghosts they want me to count 'em all
They won't let go
Ex's and oh's

Now I don't have any rhythm but If I could get someone to sing the parody, I'll make it into a music video.......anyone?

X's are successful ticks and the O's not seen birds that haunt you...AND ME!

Okay, Johnny Cash, this song is for you, the man who hates birds...



  1. The official ABA big year rules state that any bird that is on the list at the start of the year can be counted, even if it is lumped during the year:

    So you can keep Hoary on your list, even though we will all lose it from our life lists.

    Condor is now countable but they have not changed the code. You may be the first big year birder to get a code 6 bird on their list!

    1. I've been very unnerved since the ABA has never changed that code. I've been told the opposite for the checklist, so great, i was looking for that ruling, so thanks, Google gives so many responses......

  2. Too bad you missed the Blue-footed Booby that was seen on Anacapa Island the day before you were there.

  3. Yes rules are rules but doesn't seem right that you count a lumped species as it appears on the checklist Jan 1 and a split species as it appears on Dec 31? Sounds like a bit of selective-retroaction that does not sit well with me. With the exception of the retroactive addition of first ABA records (which by their nature CANNOT be added to the checklist until accepted later), it would seem there should be a single ABA checklist a big year effort should be measured against, not an amalgam of all the pre-lumps going into the year and the post-splits going out of the year.

    1. It is the way it is I guess checklist Kees getting bigger.

  4. Yeah I saw you were in Ventura County yesterday. Not sure what you were looking for, but hopefully you enlisted the help of some locals. Good luck on your journey. Rootin for ya. If you find yourself back here in the fall for migrants, let us know ahead of time on the list serv.

    1. Been up in San Gabriel mountains digging up stuff north of la. I have birder up there and got a couple of leads. Thx.

  5. I lived on San Marcos Road for 25 years, I sympathize. Be very thankful it was not foggy.

  6. Glanced through your list and I believe you don't have long eared owl. You passed by Mercy Hot springs on your way between I-5 and 25, always a owl there. My buddy showed Vanderpoel his long eared there near the end of his big year a few years back.

    1. Thanks for the FYI. That is a good owl and I would go back for it but stumbled upon a roost of them south of Tucson. It was owl city even got pictures of one. Not sure how many in thst patch of brush but many.

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