I'm getting to that point in my birding "career" where I've seen a lot of species. My total life list is almost 1300 birds. That's a lot of birds. Of that total, I've seen 669 species in the ABA area. The ABA (American Birding Association) area comprises the US and Canada. Traditionally, Hawaii is excluded but recently, the ABA allowed birders to include Hawaii in their totals but I elected to keep Hawaii separate. I have a goal of seeing 700 species in the ABA by age 60. That goal is not as easy as you would think.
When planning my trip to California, I looked up my "target list" on eBird to review any species that I could see in the San Francisco area and was surprised to find such a short list:
- Tri-colored Blackbird
- Lawrence's Goldfinch
- Cassin's Auklet
- Fork-tailed Storm-petrel
- Flesh-footed Shearwater
Other birds were on the list but had probability ratings of less than 1% which means that they are very rare.
We arrived in California around noon but had issues with the rental car and never got down to Monterey area until 4:00 or so. Despite the delay, we found our first target easily - Tri-colored Blackbird. They are easily found at the dairy farm.
Day 1, Bird 1 - check! We had the whole day on Friday to go birding around the area. We decided to take a drive out to Pinnacles National Park where bird #2 had been reported. Pinnacles is also a known area to see the very endangered California Condor. We arrived at the park around 9 AM and stopped at the Visitor Center to pay the fee. We met another birder who had his scope trained on some roosting Condors. The birds were in a tree at the top of a ridge. We asked if he had seen any Lawrence's Goldfinches. He said, "sure, they're at the pool". Dang if they weren't. We wandered over to the pool in the campground and viola. Day 2, Bird 2!
We found some other birds in the park but our big find was more California Condors. The park is surrounded by cattle ranches. We saw something in the field under the lone tree.
22 Condors roosting the shade. The calf wanted shade too but didn't dare to go too close to the huge birds. This photo shows the size comparison so that you can get a sense of how huge these birds are. Condors are the largest birds in North America. A member of the vulture family, they only eat dead animals. Unfortunately for the farmer, the flock had gathered to make the most of a dead cow in the field. Zooming in to the photo, we could see that the birds are tagged. Each bird was hatched in captivity and released into the wild with the wing band. We saw #97, 92, 58, 59, 31, 16, 40 and 78.
On Saturday, we booked a pelagic trip out of Monterey Bay. We boarded the boat at 7:00 and by 9:00, I had bird #3 - Cassin's Auklet! Now, I know it doesn't look like much but it is a really cute alcid. Day 3, Bird 3 - check. My Total Life List is now at 1299 and our ABA list is now 672.
I have more photos and stories from our boat trip that I'll share in another post.
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