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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

In Search of bOObys!

Early morning on the Marin County coastline
 Twenty-thirteen has been a great year for vagrant birds, that is, little lost birdies that wind up where they do not normally visit. This year's lost vagrants were - Boobys! Sure, most years you can find a Brown Booby or two somewhere along the California shores, but this was a bumper crop year for Boobies; Masked Boobys, Brown Booby showed up, and an unexpected surprise, a Booby that hasn't graced California since the 1979s: the Blue-footed Booby. The odd invasion began in September, and so far this fall the Blue-foots showed up in at least a dozen coastal spots, and even some inland lakes.

Well, I wanted to see my lifer Blue-footed, and originally planed to haul down to Salton Sea where for a while some fifty Blue-foots were loafing about. But before I a chance to go down there the Booby number dropped to only one or two. Rats! This week, a Booby (actually two as of today) showed up in Marin County, which is as far north as the Blue-foots seem to want to travel. So, all enthused, I meet up with Birder Buddy Don and early yesterday morning we drove north, just south of Point Reyes National Seashore. 

Around 9AM, Don and I arrived at a little pull out, on Highway 1, north of San Francisco in Marin County by the big briny. There were already several birders, peering through their spotting scopes, all pointed at a big white rock 

Gull Rock, just off HWY 1, Marin County, CA
"Is the Blue-footed Booby still here?", we asked, and heard the happy answer: "Yes."!

Up went the spotting scope and sure enough, way down below on the big white rock, a mile from shore, there it was. The black specks on the rock below are mostly cormorants and Brown Pelicans.

 So what... you want a closer look?  OK, OK. I managed a so-so series of shots of the little guy, taking pictures with my iPhone camera, through the eye piece of my spotting scope.

Yay! A lifer Blue-footed Booby for
all the happy birders, including me.
The Booby is the brownish bird with the snowy white breast. It looks sort of like a penguin. 

If you're disappointed you can't see its blue feet, you'd be out of luck even if it was on the near side of the rock. This bird, likely a first or second year juvenile has grayish feet, which will be bright blue when it grows up.

Here's another Booby's tootsies; as bright a blue as you can get. Look kind of cold, don't they?

Some of the Boobies that 'invaded' California are adults and have blue feet. I could have seen those blue toes if I'd gotten to the Salton Sea fast enough, but there you go.

Aside from the Booby, there was also a Northern Gannet, which is a kind of Booby-ish bird, being white with a similarly silly Booby head of pale yellow. The bird had been present earlier, but took off from Gull rock at least an hour before we arrived. That was a bummer as it would have been a lifer for Don. As we watched the Booby and it's buddy Cormorants and Brown Pelicans, birders came and went in a steady stream. I'll bet 100 birders dropped by to gaze at the feathered migrant in the course of the day.
A few birders enjoying themselves some 'bOOby',
in broad daylight, in front of God & everybody.
When at last we'd had a good enough look at the Booby, Don and I headed north to Point Reyes. We stopped for lunch in the tiny town of Point Reyes Station for lunch as the Station House Cafe.

The Station House Cafe's 'Wild Mushroom Sandwich'
I wouldn't have mentioned this at all, but for the treat I had there - a Wild Mushroom Sandwich. It was a thick slice of bread, coated with a creamy local cheese and wild mushrooms, all topped with spinach in a bacon vinaigrette dressing with a big ole fried egg plopped on top for heaven's sake! Weird and quite tasty. The 'spinach' was some sort of exotic greenery I've never had before. Cool. Don had a salmon burger which he assured me was yummy.

After the nice lunch, we headed into Point Reyes National Seashore. The birding was plenty satisfying. We watched a Ferruginous Hawk on the ground, try to nick the food of a larger Red-tailed Hawk. The Red-tail wasn't having it, and chased the Ferruginous away. I got a bad shot of the Ferruginous as it flew away. If it could have held its tail between its legs, it would have.

Ferruginous Hawk
This photo, shot post haste, identified the bird as a genuine Ferruginous Hawk, but otherwise the photo is horrid. As a matter of unfortunate fact, all the pix I took with my canon yesterday were godawful. I used a self-chosen setting that was horribly, horribly off, and all my photos were dismally under exposed. I shot pics of the over abundance of Mule Deer and of a herd of great-antlered Bull elk, and every last shot was pathetic. Pity me - I am not cut from the same bolt of cloth as Ansel Adams. 

Among the many Point Reyes Seashore sites was a little cove we stopped at. We looked down and discovered a sandy beach, full of lolling Northern Elephant seals. They looked like beached balloons

Looking down on the Elephant Seal Beach, where some 50 or 60 seals sun and snooze

The Seals were so far off, I only got some digiscoped shots that aren't terrific. However, as my coniving self would have it, I have photos of Elephant Seals I took a couple of years ago but didn't get around to posting. What do you say I show those photos and we can all pretend I just took them? Ok! 

I photographed all these Elephant Seals along the coast of Big Sur

I love how they come in several different colors, from black velvet to silver

Not buds! There were several bulls duking it out in the surf
I swear, I was up on a low, cliff about a story high when I got all of these shots.
So all in all, it was a nice day of roaming Point Reyes and that's a treat any time, even if one doesn't score a pretty cool new lifer bird.


  1. If I haven't told you.....Thank you for your Blogger Photos; ALL!