Thursday, 21 February 2013

Californian goose fest

Yesterday, we were birding inland in California - remarkably like the Lincolnshire/Norfolk fields where the geese hang out. And instead of the Pinkfeet you'd expect, these were replaced by goose flocks of a different colour - a big flock of Snow Geese (2,000+) near Rio Vista and then 20,000+ Ross' Geese at Merced National Wildlife Refuge were proper special despite absolutely appalling weather. Also some intriguing Canada Geese too.
blue morph Snow Goose amongst a load of Ross' Geese
a cloud of Ross' Geese
Nice to see lots of Sandhill Cranes, and some Pacific Whitefronts for the first time - pale, large with tepid pinkish/orange bill and really bright orange legs.
Pacific White-fronted Goose
The whole area was stacked full of birds that, on the other side of the Atlantic, would make your day even in their ones and twos. All nice and close too. American Wigeon, Cinnamon and Green-winged Teals, Ring-necked Ducks and Canvasbacks, Whistling Swan, Killdeer, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitcher, Least Sand and Wilson's Snipe and also good to see the fine flank streaking on Hudsonian Dunlins.
Hudsonian Dunlin - showing those fine lines of flank streaking leading off the breast
My real target for the day was Mountain Plover, and we located 16 of these Caspian Plover-style birds in short turf off Sandy Mush Road. This type of habitat was pretty prevalent and birds such as Ferruginous Hawk, Western Meadowlarks, huge flocks of Tricoloured and Red-winged Blackbird, Lark Sparrow and one of these lovely Burrowing Owls.
Just a shame about the weather - the abysmal grey and torrential rain meant it wasn't just the landscape that reminded me of home. Today, however, has made up for it with bright blue skies with snow in the mountains, Californian Condors in dramatic coastal scenery, more gull action and finally our first cracking meal of the trip, in Monterey. More of this sometime soon. 

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