Sunday, January 4, 2015

The lark that is pursuing new birds

Despite the less than fabulous weather this afternoon, Scott and I set out in pursuit of the surfbird (who knew there was actually a species of bird called a surfbird?) said to have been seen near Alki recently. "Less than fabulous" means it was coolish, with a light rain. We dressed appropriately and endeavored to keep the camera and the binoculars relatively dry. It was a pleasant walk during which we took some streets we haven't been on before. Having just calculated the miles I find that we went just shy of 6.5 miles in a couple of hours which I'm calling pretty impressive for an impromptu outing.

 For those who just can't wait for the suspense to end, I post the following photo of, I believe, a surfbird:

The joke, for there must be a joke, is that for the longest time we looked at the bird below, convinced that it was the rare surfbird, hiding out amid a flock of black turnstones:

This bird, you see, was smaller with an all-white belly and pink-orange leg whereas the other larger, more numerous birds were more speckly, with yellow legs, and different eyes. The more numerous birds we knew to be black turnstones, for that is how I recorded them after our walk on New Years Day.

 So we came home and checked the bird books to learn that our surfbird was, in fact, a young black turnstone while our flock of ho-hum turnstones were, in fact, the surfbirds in which we had gone in pursuit. Scott had suggested early on on our walk that I could claim "intermediate" status in the birding world, having successfully defended two "rare" sightings recently. I'm pretty sure the whole getting my birds entirely backwards here cements my rank beginner status.

At least I realized this was a lovely quartet even when they were "just turnstones."

 But I continue on, nothing daunted. We also saw both common and red-breasted mergansers, both common and Barrow's goldeneyes, some buffleheads and western grebes, and, I am saying, a pelagic cormorant.

What I'm calling a pelagic cormorant until convinced otherwise.

 All in all a fine outing, even if the roof of my mouth is *still* damaged from the would-be restorative hot chocolate purchased at the Marination Ma Kai.


  1. What lovely Surfbirds (and ever-so-exciting turnstone...)! And yes, Pelagic Cormorant. Good job! Gee, that's a lot of mileage. I am envious of your stamina, as a mere 2 miles in the Skagit wore me right out, though at least 1 mile of it was over frozen, bumpy, tundra-like ground. My back is still sore.

    I would be happy to hear you call yourself an intermediate birder so long as you take field notes. Cameras don't always work out, and real birders take notes of habitat, behavior, and field marks such as the presence/color of superciliums, extension of primaries, malar stripes, vent colors, and the like. Since you mentioned the possibility of keeping a physical journal instead of an online one, surely this presents the obvious opportunity. You can also get larger ones for sketches and more extensive notes if you like.

    Glad I was able to point you to a great birding spot, albeit via someone else's flickr post!

  2. At least we were able to spot that the turnstones were different birds from the turnstones. Maybe beginning/intermediate. You're funny with your "field notes."