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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Rambling for a Brambling

Staring doesn't necessarily bring in the bird
Twenty fifteen seems a good year for bringing in the Eurasian vagrants. Hearing there is one in Arcata, got myself and birding buddy Don on the road. We joined loads of other birders in a sweet little neighborhood, in hope of seeing a rare vagrant bird, a Brambling. We searched all Friday afternoon. We stared at shrubbery hopefully most of Saturday. We gave up, shrugged and came home on Sunday. Hey, we gave it the ole' birder's try. Of course the bird popped up again after we left. Stupid birds. Really ought to give them up - but they're so flippin' cool.


While we waited, many other birds were far more sociable. The best one was a little hunting Merlin; a small falcon that perched high up in a pine and sat bobbing its head for a long time. I managed some digiscoped photos of it using my iPhone and my Kowa spotting scope.

I got a big surprise when a White-throated Sparrow popped up. They aren't exactly rare on the west coast, being common in the eastern states. I actually thought I must be seeing things when I noticed a 'weird' looking sparrow in a white bib. Great bird to see here in California.

White-throated Sparrow

A second 'surprise' was a beautifully dark & sooty Fox Sparrow. They too aren't rare but I don't see one every year.

Fox Sparrow looking all perky & handsome
On the drive home we stopped for some sight seeing in rainy Patrick's Point State Park. Don hiked out to view the ocean at Rocky Point for a closer view of ocean ducks and such. I refused to go out in the rain but did see a solitary dolphin passing the point. The whole of the park was alive with Varied Thrush which seem to be having a bumper crop year - these birds are being seen all over.

Varied Thrush

When not staring at shubbery in hopes of the Brambling, Don & I treked around the area in search of other feathered treats. We saw an imature Bald Eagle. I have seen more Bald Eagles in California over the past 2 years than I saw in the previous 2 decades. We also enjoyed fields and fields of Aleutian Geese, aka Cackling Geese.These once rare mini-geese grazed like sheep. There are always a few of them with heads up, keeping an eye on things.

So we did not see our target bird, the Brambling but we sure saw some splendid bits of California and its wildlife. Here are close ups of some lovely soaking wet, soggy elk we saw over the weekend.

Broke, busted, disgusted, tourists can't be trusted - Oy - Name that reference!
Damn rain. Damn tourists. Damn in general.
Never a curry comb when you need one
Real elk. Not Santa's throw rug.
 So it was a lovely weekend, even with rain and no sighting of a Brambling. The highlight turned out to be visiting Sunday evening with Don's daughter Rose & son-in-law Nate. That pair are awesome and they entertained us with their well trained pets. First there was little 'George', whom I swear is the only trained Chihuahua I have ever met. That pup sits, lies down on command, gives high fives and is cuter than any doggie has a right to be. Oh, and Nate & Rose have chinchillas - adorable, sweet, chinchillas that like to be held and will hold up an ear for you to scratch behind. *heaven!* Rose made us a wonderful home made soup & salad for dinner. A young couple that not only know where the kitchen is, but how to use it! Brambling, or no Brambling, it was a wonderful weekend.  

UPDATE:  Here's a gorgeous photo of the Brambling, taken by a premier California birder, Rob Fowler. I couldn't get a shot that good meself unless the bird in question were glued to a twig.
WAAAHHH! Why didn't we get to see this beauty?


  1. So it's a varied thrush. These (or something like them) have been showing up at my office recently but I've been calling them orange stripeys. Guess I'm just up Creeque Alley when it comes to birding, marginally better than Shit Creek. Yup I got your reference. DJ

  2. Hey DJ! "Orange Stripeys'... really a nice, descriptive name. Where were you when they were naming birdies? Glad you hear you're enjoying birds. : )