I love Bodega Bay, get there several times a year. But yesterday I would much rather have been banding. However, thanks the ongoing tantrum by the GOP, the shutdown made that impossible. We operate in a National Recreation area and are not allowed to access the banding blinds. We have lost nearly two weeks worth of data at the peak of the season. People doing informal counts around the area during this period have recorded several days with huge flights. We can go back to banding, hawkwatching and telemetry when the shutdown ends, but we'll never get this peak back.
So time for Plan B.
"Plan B"odega wasn't so much a plan as a direction... North(ish). I met up with my friend Walter (we were supposed to be banding together yesterday) and set out on an alternative adventure. We looked at the email lists and saw a few interesting things in Bodega Bay; he hadn't been to Bodega Head before so that seemed like a good thing to do.
This was also going to give me a chance to try out the scope adapter my friend just gave me - she bought it for her scope, but hadn't noticed it was for an iPhone 4, not the phone she has. Even though I don't have a Kowa, it worked just fine - even with my binoculars. (more about this in comments)
The coast was pretty still pretty foggy, and Walter wanted to try for some raptor photos so I decided to try the roundabout inland alternative - taking Marshall-Petaluma Road to Chileno Valley Road, and back to the coast.
As is our tradition, we go birding and don't see many birds. The kite above was from a fairly birdy stop at Millerton State Park along Tomales Bay, but for our whole inland detour we saw only a handful of birds, hence no photos. However, it's beautiful country so it's not like it was wasted time.
We stopped in the town of Tomales at the totally excellent bakery, got some goodies and pressed on. At Bodega, we were greeted with sunshine and a mild breeze - perfect birding weather. Sometimes when I've been at Bodega Head I've had to keep a hand on the scope the whole time, for fear the wind would knock it over.
Out on the rocks of Bodega Head, we watched a Western Gull with a fresh capture. Any fish people here? I would love to know what he's got - it was red/orange, with really stout front fins. Some kind of rockfish? One more thing to learn more about.
Attempt at video with the adapter thing. It's ever so slightly larger than my scope eyepiece, so I need to be aware of that. I did more video later where I managed to get it right, but this one shows enough detail on the fish that maybe someone can ID?
We broke our rule of not seeing birds and saw lots of gulls besides this one (including a few Glaucous-winged), a pair of Marbled Murrelets offshore, flocks of Surf Scoters, Western/Clarks Grebes and others.
We stopped at the Hole in the Head - an interesting little spot. There's a freshwater pond there that attracts lots of birds - it's a good warbler spot, and a few rarities had been reported there Friday. But it's remarkably and unnaturally deep, like a man-made cenote. There has always been a small freshwater spring and pond there, but in the early 1960s, PGE bought the land and started to build a nuclear power plant there. Great location - surrounded by water on 3 sides, so all the cooling capacity you could ever want. Work stopped when it was pointed out that it's within a couple miles of the San Andreas Fault, so maybe not an ideal location after all. The hole they dug (90' in diameter by 120' deep) filled with with the springwater.
We started our drive back and kept an eye to water. A flock of shorebirds looked interesting, so we pulled over. Some Dunlin, a few peeps and a bunch of Black-bellied Plovers. This time of year, it's always worth checking to see if a stray Golden Plover is in the mix. There was also something large and white beyond them at the water's edge.
It was a white pelican, and it became obvious that it was dead. From my time working with the collections at California Academy of Sciences (while working on book illustrations), I knew that this bird could potentially be very useful to them, and called a friend to see if they might be interested in a very fresh pelican. Yes! So we gathered up the bird, and packaged it for the ride back.
As it happened, when we got back to Bolinas, I parked right in front of the home of Peter Pyle, who wrote the molt book I illustrated. He was outside, and took a quick look at our bird - and we documented the molt. Of course.
In the old days, if museums wanted a specimen, they just went out and shot one. These days, many of the new additions to collections are actually "found" specimens like this one. (I have a collector's permit, so I am legally able to salvage birds like this. More in comments if anyone is interested.) This bird had clearly died within the previous few hours and was in great condition other than a wound on its neck. It will make a wonderful addition to their collection.
So I started the day bummed that I couldn't go out and do my part to help science. I ended the day happy that we'd been able to do a little thing to help science (not quite as uplifting as banding a hawk, but useful nonetheless).
Walter and I managed to keep intact our record of not seeing very many birds when we go birding, but having interesting adventures anyway.