Monday, March 17, 2008
There's the proof: my trusty steed carried me about sixty miles today, all the way to Crystal Cove State Park and back. I was lacking some key coastal birds from my Bigby list, ones that I couldn't find at Upper Newport Bay. I set off from home early and pedaled steadily until I reached Crystal Cove in the mid-morning. I locked up my bike and practically sprinted down the boardwalk to the rocky beach. I arrived, panting, and started scanning. Where were all the birds?! Nothing seemed to be in sight. However, I quickly noticed a team of tightly-packed Sanderlings running in and out of the waves. I smiled - one of my favorite birds, and a new Bigby bird at that. I scrambled through the slippery, sharp rocks looking for more shorebirds. A gaggle of Black Turnstones suddenly ran ahead of me in the rocks. They're amazingly well-camouflaged amongst the rocks!
As I continued on, I noticed a big Whimbrel resting on a large rock. He paid no attention to me as I crawled closer rather ungracefully through the rocks. A Black Turnstone joined him. I liked this shot of the "shorebird buddies".
I walked up the beach, scattering hyperactive packs of Sanderlings everywhere. A movement among some dried kelp turned out to be a Black-bellied Plover. It was just starting to get some black on its belly.
As I picked my way back through the rocks, a small group of Surfbirds flew in. I couldn't help but let slip a loud "Woo-hoo!", much to the bewilderment of other people in the area. The Surfbirds were partially in breeding plumage and were very handsome. I had to wade through very chilly knee-deep water to get most of these photos...
Finally, I headed back up the stairs toward the parking lot. I paused at the nearby vista and scanned the ocean. It was almost as still as a bathtub, and it was very clear. I couldn't pick out any Black-vented Shearwaters, but I did see singles of Pacific Loon and Royal Tern. Butterflies distracted me on the way back to my bike, including this Western Pygmy-Blue (Bredphidium exile), the world's smallest butterfly.
On the way back, I stopped by Little Corona City Beach, which is located at the end of Poppy Avenue. It is a delightful little beach with lots of rocky shorebird habitat, but there were not very many shorebirds there. I did find a first-cycle Glaucous-winged Gull and several Surf Scoters there.
When I finally arrived back at home, I was stunned to find that I had seen 108 species. That tied my biggest biking day ever. I don't like tying records - I prefer breaking them. I had a couple hours of light left, so I ran over to Irvine Regional Park to find a few last species. I ended up finding nine more species for the day, giving me a total of 117 species for the day. Twelve of these were new Bigby birds: Surf Scoter, Pacific Loon, Brandt's Cormorant, Virginia Rail, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Black Turnstone, Surfbird, Sanderling, Glaucous-winged Gull, and Royal Tern. That gives me 165 for my Bigby list... only 35 more species to go to 200!
Posted by Neil Gilbert at 8:53 PM