Today was the start of our 12 day tour holiday. We all met up at a hotel and introduced ourselves. On our trip were our leader/driver Joelle, 3 Kiwi's Conrad and his wife Robyn and Greg who had just arrived from a few weeks in Canada! Eva from Germany and the rest of us were Brits. Gill, Emily, Phillip were singletons and another couple Julie and Brendan. Once all the intros were done we loaded up the van and set off over the Golden Gate bridge. We were dropped off and walked back over it. It was slightly misty and very windy and quite cold. But from the bridge 25+ Brown Pelican, 40+ Brandt's Cormorant and 2 Turkey Vulture were noted along with my first ever PIGEONGUILLEMOT. Back at the van and while having a quick cuppa I found 3 Anna's Hummingbird, Brewer's Blackbird and a juvenile White-Crowned Sparrow.
It was back on the van and a long drive to Yosemite NP. After many hours we arrived on the edge of the park and stopped for a photo next to the sign. While waiting for all the photos to be taken I found a WHITE-HEADED WOODPECKER feeding at the top of a tree. The drive to our home for the next 3 nights took us alongside the river. This helped me add Great White Egret and Great Blue Heron to the ever growing list and once at the digs which turned out to be a hippy commune I saw my first ever ACORN WOODPECKER.
As our body clocks were all over the place we were both awake around 6.30am but while still in bed checking through our phones at about 6.50am all of a sudden the room started to shake violently and did so for 5 or so seconds! We both turned to each other and said I'm sure that was an earthquake! I turned on the telly and sure enough it was a 4.0 earthquake! One off of my bucket list.!!
As we were up early we got up and headed down to the west coast. Once on the beach the first of 6 Raven were seen but I then clocked a large group of gulls congregated on the beach. I lifted my bins and was pleased to see that the majority of them were my first ever HEERMANN'S GULLS. I then scanned the rest of the flock and picked out another 30+ Western Gull and 5 CALIFORNIA GULL just on the edge. I then noticed behind the flock was a single ROYAL TERN. I then had a few minutes of sea watching and picked out 2 more lifers with 3 ELEGANT TERN and many BRANDT'S CORMORANT flying past. 5 lifers before breakfast!
Next stop was Golden Gate Park. Within a minute of stepping into the park I picked up my next lifer with a lovely BLACK PHOEBE flicking around the picnic tables. It was only another few minutes before a CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEE got onto the list. As we had pre booked a visit to Alcatraz we were limited to time in the park so frustratingly I couldn't dawdle and have a good look at all the birds I came across but even so they kept falling. A female Brown-Headed Cowbird and Red-Tailed Hawk were seen and then a small flowering bush had attracted 4 ANNA'SHUMMINGBIRD to it. A small pond held a female Belted Kingfisher and my first GREAT BLUEHERON. A bit further up the path I found a female GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE next to a couple of House Finch. Soon after a lovely stripy bird of prey flew over my head and landed in a tree. It was a gorgeous RED-SHOULDERED HAWK. I then walked past a small bird feeding under a tree and was delighted to find it was a White-Crowned Sparrow. The first I'd seen since the famous Cley bird. The last good bird of the park before we left was an 'Oregon' race Junco.
Next stop was Alcatraz Island. After walking round listening to the guided audio tour I had a few minutes to look for birds. One part of the island smelt like a seabird colony which was created by a good size flock of Brandt's Cormorant. I then walked past a small clump of trees and found 5 SNOWY EGRET. Down by the jetty a juvenile Night Heron was seen and from the boat on the way back were 15 Guillemot, 3 Elegant Tern, 2 Heermann's Gull and the first Caspian Tern of the trip.
As I was turning 40 this year a plan was hatched to do a big holiday to celebrate it. After just over 2 hours in the shop it was booked and the West coast of USA was waiting for us. The day arrived and off to Heathrow for our 10 hour flight. It didn't start off to good as the flight was delayed by 90 minutes and once we were on the plane I realised that the backs of the headrests didn't have a small TV on them. According to United Airlines the way forward now is to make passengers use their own devices (phones/tablets) to watch films! The tannoy announcement when we were waiting to set off told us that we needed to download the UA app which I just managed to do before I had to switch to airplane mode. It then took me 4 hours to finally connect to the planes Wifi and another hour to get a film downloaded to watch. During the 90 minute film it cut out 5 times and then to add insult to injury 15 minutes before the end of the film my phone battery died! Could I then charge my phone on the plane? Could I Fuck!! Should UA ever read this section of the blog then please re-think your ideas as they are shite. Rant over!
Anyway! Due to the delayed start we arrived just after 3pm and once in the hotel and our bags had been dropped off we headed out for some dinner and to explore what San Francisco has to offer. We caught one of the famous trams up to Pier 39 and almost straight away scored with my first lifer of the trip when the first of around 80+ BROWN PELICAN flying just offshore. The next lifer was even more numerous with over 100 WESTERN GULL dotted all over. 4 American Crow and a few BarnSwallow were noted as was a single Double-Crested Cormorant perched up next to the famous Sea-Lions. The last lifer of the day was a single BREWER'S BLACKBIRD feeding on a roadside verge.
Another good wader turned up on the patch with a Wood Sandpiper. It was unfortunately over the far side of the reservoir and too far to get a photo. 2 Green Sandpiper, 6 Common Sandpiper and a Greenshank were also seen.
Mid afternoon news broke of a Pectoral Sandpiper on the mud at Startop's Reservoir so 30 minutes lter I was on site watching the bird as it mingled with BH Gulls. I saw my first ever Pec Sand in pretty much the same spot back in 1989! This bird becomes my 3rd in Herts and my first 3 pointer for the patch challenge.
With photos appearing on Twitter of what looked like a very good candidate for Hudsonian Whimbrel at Pagham Harbour I had hopes of getting both the Hudsonian waders within 2 months. After a few nail biting few days I finally had a chance to head down for it and in doing so I could brake in my new car! I arrived in good time but while reversing into a space I hit a small wooden post and moved it slightly. Thankfully there was no damage to my new car!! I walked down towards Church Norton picking up a rattling Lesser Whitethroat and joined the gathered crowds. A couple of Whimbrel were added to the year list but after what seemed an eternity but really was only an hour a bird flew out of a ditch and into full view. It was the HUDSONIAN WHIMBREL. The pale more stripy looking head was quite evident as was the brownish underwing and dark rump. I watched it for a further 30 minutes before I had to head home. On the drive home I had the weird sight of a Kingfisher flying ove rthe M25 with a fish in its mouth!
I started off at Startop's Reservoir in the hope of seeing one or both the Spotted Flycatchers that had been present for a few days. It took a while but eventually I did manage to see one of the birds perched briefly and found it was ringed on one of its legs.
Next stop was Wilstone where 5 Hobby were busy catching insects, a Little Egret was on a nest and a Yellow Wagtail was on the path near the jetty.
College Lake was the last stop where after a bit of a walk I added Garden Warbler to the list. The strangest sight was an adult Snow Goose in with a few Canadas! On the scrapes was a LRP and a Willow Warbler was singing from the upper path.
Born and bred in Watford,Herts, I started birding when I was just 8 years old because the old next door neighbours garden was very overgrown and attracted birds to his and our gardens! I first went to the Watford RSPB group at 15 and then I joined the Herts Bird Club in the same year. I was on the Herts Bird Club committee for 3 years. I started twitching in September 2001 after i'd bought my RBA pager and within a week of owning it i'd added Red-Necked Stint and American Green Heron! I keep 2 main lists which can be seen above.