Friday, December 12, 2014

A Bit of Scouting Pays Off

Yesterday, December 11, was three days before the CBC. This defines the beginning of Count Week, the period during which we start keeping track of all species seen in the circle. Vagaries of bird movement and visibility, combined with the limited number of observers in any CBC circle, almost always means that some species are missed on Count Day. But it's assumed that any species at least within three days either side of that date reflects more closely the actual diversity present. There are many instances torturing CBC compilers throughout history when rarities were seen only the day before and after the actual CBC.

In hopes of preventing that with the long-staying Baltimore Oriole that has been at Sweetwater Wetlands (and seen by probably hundreds of birders by now), I rode my bike there yesterday about mid-day and impaled four orange halves on branches. I saw that someone else had thought of this, but that orange half was already consumed.

On my way down the bike path along the Santa Cruz River bed, just as I could first see Sweetwater's recharge basins, I stopped to pish at some sparrow activity in the brushy bottom. Instantly came the sharp "pink!" of a White-throated Sparrow, distinctly different than the many White-crowned Sparrows.

I got this bad photo of it, perched below a female Vermilion Flycatcher. (By the way, I'd be surprised if we get as many Vermilions as last year's phenomenal count, but there are a lot around, this one in atypical habitat symptomatic of big numbers.) This is the only White-throated Sparrow that has been reported from the circle so far this winter, though there are certainly more, and there's a good chance one or more will be found on count day. (One found by Paul Suchanek in Ventana Canyon last week was probably just outside the circle.)

Then on my way home, after a short stop at the hardware store, I passed by Jacobs Park where Keith Kamper and I had found Lewis's Woodpecker 15 days ago – with no other reports of it or any other in the circle. It's a rare bird here. Upon my arrival I found it in the same ornamental ash tree where I had first seen it. It then flew up to some palm trees in a nearby yard, also the exact same thing it did two weeks ago. This time it perched for at least a bad photo.

At least the team covering this area now knows visiting out-of-the-way Jacobs Park should be a priority in the morning (it will be busy with soccer games in the afternoon).

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