I went to Charleston Slough & Shoreline Park for the first time in many months, having heard that they’re done with the trail reconstruction that made the birding less than optimal last time I birded there.
This is a great place to bird, not least because many of the species are pretty used to humans, allowing for good viewing. Continuing to figure out the best combination of photography and birding gear, this time I brought my SLR w/300mm f/4L stabilized lens (and 1.4x teleconverter) and my shiny new Pentax 65mm spotting scope. Fortunately both can mount to the same tripod, and with the addition of a neck strap for the scope, it proved pretty easy to switch between them.
Somewhat to my surprise, there were very few shorebirds to be seen along the slough, mostly avocets and stilts, with no sandpipers of any sort, save for a lone WILLET and a single GREATER YELLOWLEGS on Shoreline Lake. No black skimmers were to be seen, and although I’d hoped for the local burrowing owls, none were found in the burrows by the entrance road.
In the smaller ponds west of the trail along the slough, I saw my first CINNAMON TEAL of the season, along with GADWALL and GREEN-WINGED TEAL. No sign of the elusive-to-me blue-winged teal, though.
The highlight of my day was definitely the sighting of not one, but two breeding-plumaged EARED GREBES. Although I’ve seen countless Eared Grebe, these were my first in breeding plumage, and wow – what beautiful and odd-looking birds they are! The scope acquitted itself very nicely, providing excellent views, and the sun even came out for a few moments, allowing me to get a couple of decent photos of them!
I scanned the numerous COMMON GOLDENEYES in hopes of finding a Barrow’s, but didn’t. An astonishing number of AMERICAN COOTS were foraging on the lawn by the boat launch.
The skies were darkening with an approaching storm, and raindrops began falling lightly, so I put my camera away and headed back toward the car. Naturally, since my camera was in my pack, a WHITE-TAILED KITE decided to do a close fly-by, and also predictably, by the time I’d dropped my pack and extracted my camera, it had flown off to flutter over a distant pond.
Since I didn’t see any burrowing owls at Shoreline, and there was still half an hour of light left, I swung by Byxbee Park in Palo Alto on the way home in hopes of catching a view of the Short-eared Owl that’s been there for a few months. The Owl deities were against me today, however, and I saw nearly nothing at all of any sort in the 15 minutes I walked around.
Today’s list du jour is:
– American Avocet
– American Coot
– American Crow
– Anna’s Hummingbird
– Black-necked Stilt
– California Towhee
+ Cinnamon Teal
– Common Goldeneye
– Eared Grebe (with 2 in breeding plumage!)
– Golden-crowned Sparrow
+ Greater Yellowlegs
– Green-winged Teal
– Horned Grebe
– Mourning Dove
– Northern Shoveler
– Pied-billed Grebe
– Red-winged Blackbird
– Surf Scoter
– Western Gull
– White-tailed Kite
+ = year bird, * = life bird, () = domestic/escapee