The Excellent Adventure begins with an unsuccessful chase of the mystery shrike in Mendocino County, CA.
Our plan was to start in Southeastern Arizona and “follow the migration north.” But, the Brown or Red-backed Shrike was still being seen in California so we decided to chase it instead. Does that story sound familiar? How often have I said that I was not going to chase things far away … only to do it again and again? In fairness, the shike was on our way to Washington, the destination of the first segment of our adventure, but chasing it would mean that we would bypass most of the birding stops along the way and our trip list would surely suffer from that. A smaller trip list was a small price to pay for getting such a rarity, however.
Except that we did not get the rarity. Once again, after the bird had been seen for weeks prior to our arrival, and after it was seen the morning immediately before our arrival, we missed it. I swear that the birding gods are keeping track and sending the rarities on their way as soon as they see that I am coming to chase them!
All was not lost, however. We did not see the shrike but we did meet some very nice people at the stakeout site and we did add 66 species to our trip list while we were in northern California. Our list now stands at 246. (We’ll update that list later when we get a better internet connection.)
Our plan to “follow the migration north” suffered a setback when we rushed to northern California for the shrike. In fact, it was not a very good plan in the first place. We need to leave for Alaska in late April to make it to Homer in time for their shorebird festival. Late April is too early. Most of the migration will still be far south of us at that time. It certainly has not arrived yet and we are already in Oregon now. There are some early migrants and some of the birds are starting to breed (pictures to follow) but there has been nothing like a migrant wave for us to follow north. Our Alaska plans seem to be good, but our Lower 48 plans could have used a little more thought.
What does that mean for our trip list? I think it will be very difficult to reach my rather arbitrary goal of 500 species now that we have bypassed most of the southern habitats and most of the California specialties in favor of chasing the shrike. We also have moved north of the migrants that were starting to arrive in the south and they may not catch up to us before we leave for AK. We’ll miss some of those unless they make it all the way north with us or unless we see them on the way back south. I estimate that we will fall 25 species or more short of the goal.
Now for a few photo highlights of the California portion of the trip. Please excuse the quality of some of these shots. I got a new camera and I have not figured out how to get the best quality with it yet. Plus, most of these photos are hand-held grab shots just meant to document what we are seeing.
Wrentit, one CA specialty we did not miss.
Marsh Wren carrying nest material.
Black-capped Chickadee at its nest hole.
Ditto for a Tree Swallow.
And one mammal, a pocket gopher at its burrow.
We’ll be exploring the coasts of Oregon and Washington for the next week. Let’s hope the migration catches up to us during that time.