I'm a herpetologist by training but a naturalist at heart. My masters thesis is looking into the Panamint alligator lizard, Elgaria panamintina. In particular I'm focusing on identifying its range and testing out a variety of novel techniques which may benefit the field of herpetology as a whole. I post things that interest me and often post updates on what I'm doing in the vertebrate museum, in the field, or in the lab.

 

Tentative plan to do a pelagic birding trip in two weeks!

Just heard back from the company and they say there’s space available so I’m going to go ahead and book a spot on a pelagic out of half moon bay on May 4th. 

I’ll be in the bay area the 2nd and 3rd for the CSU state research competition (presenting my research on Elgaria identification)… and figured… why not. I’ll be sort of near by, and can just book a hotel room for the night in that area. 

I haven’t been on a pelagic birding trip before… so it should be fun (and hopefully not sea-sick-y).

Yay birds!

Just picked up my lifer glaucous gull in the rain on the big day field trip!

It’s that big white dot in the middle.

Just picked up my lifer glaucous gull in the rain on the big day field trip!

It’s that big white dot in the middle.

Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis) Solano County, California.
Megararity: ABA Code 5 (Accidental), 2nd CA record (probably the same bird, 1st one was last fall), 1st spring observation in western hemisphere, ~10th North American record.
Breeding range: Eastern Europe to Central Asia
Wintering range: Africa, India, some to Australia and Southeast Asia.

Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilisSolano County, California.

MegararityABA Code 5 (Accidental), 2nd CA record (probably the same bird, 1st one was last fall), 1st spring observation in western hemisphere, ~10th North American record.

Breeding range: Eastern Europe to Central Asia

Wintering range: Africa, India, some to Australia and Southeast Asia.

I took probably thirty pictures of this bird because I couldn’t figure out what it was. 
I feel kind of (really) stupid now that I know the ID after asking on whatbird, but its interesting how I never gave this species a second thought. I just needed to see it out of context of its usual urban habitat  to appreciate its beauty. I mean look at its back and that gorgeous white eye stripe.
…
I admired a house sparrow.
I don’t think I’ve ever looked closely at a female house sparrow before.
They’re pretty.
They’re also horrible birds and I hope to never, ever ever see one at yolo bypass ever again.

I took probably thirty pictures of this bird because I couldn’t figure out what it was. 

I feel kind of (really) stupid now that I know the ID after asking on whatbird, but its interesting how I never gave this species a second thought. I just needed to see it out of context of its usual urban habitat  to appreciate its beauty. I mean look at its back and that gorgeous white eye stripe.

I admired a house sparrow.

I don’t think I’ve ever looked closely at a female house sparrow before.

They’re pretty.

They’re also horrible birds and I hope to never, ever ever see one at yolo bypass ever again.

Twitch success!!!!

There’s something so incredibly rewarding about arriving knowing the bird was last seen four hours prior and waiting for a half hour or so until suddenly you see it fly by not ten feet away and land a hundred yards down.

We eventually snuck to within 20 feet and I have some great photos! (Not counting this phone scoped picture).

Yay ABA code 5 marsh sandpiper!!!

Twitch success!!!!

There’s something so incredibly rewarding about arriving knowing the bird was last seen four hours prior and waiting for a half hour or so until suddenly you see it fly by not ten feet away and land a hundred yards down.

We eventually snuck to within 20 feet and I have some great photos! (Not counting this phone scoped picture).

Yay ABA code 5 marsh sandpiper!!!

The ONE day I forget to check the birding listserve… A code 5 sandpiper shows up less than three hours away.

Going to try for the marsh sandpiper tomorrow before work. It was spotted Wed. evening and well seen today, hopefully the people didn’t spook it and it can be seen tomorrow. Goal of arriving right around sunup means leaving here around 430.

Amazing year for rare shorebirds in CA so far…

Llano seco keeps yielding spectacular birds!

Today’s excellent find by a fellow birder was a snowy plover! Eventually someone showed up with a digiscoping rig and shared the voucher picture with those of us who were tracking the bird as it roamed about on the far shoreline.

Excellent bird.

Llano seco keeps yielding spectacular birds!

Today’s excellent find by a fellow birder was a snowy plover! Eventually someone showed up with a digiscoping rig and shared the voucher picture with those of us who were tracking the bird as it roamed about on the far shoreline.

Excellent bird.

Twitched after this guy in some of the worst weather I’ve birded in. 
My birding friend spotted the bird and sent me a text around 1:30, I wasn’t able to leave until 2 (had to finish up my 5 hours of teleworking) and I raced the latest storm to try to get to the bird before the weather turned too horrible.
I arrived at Llano Seco at around 2:20pm, parked next to the viewing platform and headed straight to where my friend said he had seen the bird an hour earlier.  The weather was holding, strong wind bringing dark clouds at a fast pace, but no rain to speak of as I scanned the water looking for a small little bird spinning in circles that was last seen around 100 yards out.  It was hard to not get distracted by the violet-green swallows swerving around in the wind a few feet from my face (or at one point about a foot away from my face), but after five minutes of intensive scanning I saw a little bird spinning in circles tucked behind a pair of northern shovelers. 
In my binoculars I could tell it was a lovely phalarope in breeding plumage… and I struggled to get my scope steadied on the bird.
The instant I saw it in my scope, I knew it was the bird.  I was in agreement with my friend that this was a rare bird for the area, but about a second after I spotted him, before I could raise my camera and get a good photograph, the rain hit. I’m not talking about a light drizzle, the sky just cracked open and poured buckets of water as I rushed back to the truck with just a brief glance at a lifer bird hoping to not drown my camera or scope.
I managed to get in my truck (which was parked at most twenty feet away), totally drenched and flipped through the field guide to verify my split second ID while carefully eyeing the sky and weather as the rain turned sideways and the wind began shaking the car to the point where I couldn’t easily open the door.
At that point the debate began, would anyone believe us if we didn’t have a voucher photo of the bird? How mad would I be at myself if the bird left before I could get a photo? So I began internally debating if it was worth the risk to me and the camera if I went dashing out into the intense rain to try to grab a photo before the bird flushed like the many ducks jumping up and blowing away. In the end the birder in me won over my more sane self and out into the storm I ran.
The bird had moved in about fifty feet and luckily hadn’t flushed, but was often obscured by the waves (waves on a foot or two of water? insane) and I was getting buffeted around by the wind trying to get my camera on the bird. In the end I managed a dozen low-quality photographs (of which this is the best), but I was able to get some better looks at the bird and was able to verify the id:
Red-necked Phalarope (lifer!)

Twitched after this guy in some of the worst weather I’ve birded in. 

My birding friend spotted the bird and sent me a text around 1:30, I wasn’t able to leave until 2 (had to finish up my 5 hours of teleworking) and I raced the latest storm to try to get to the bird before the weather turned too horrible.

I arrived at Llano Seco at around 2:20pm, parked next to the viewing platform and headed straight to where my friend said he had seen the bird an hour earlier.  The weather was holding, strong wind bringing dark clouds at a fast pace, but no rain to speak of as I scanned the water looking for a small little bird spinning in circles that was last seen around 100 yards out.  It was hard to not get distracted by the violet-green swallows swerving around in the wind a few feet from my face (or at one point about a foot away from my face), but after five minutes of intensive scanning I saw a little bird spinning in circles tucked behind a pair of northern shovelers. 

In my binoculars I could tell it was a lovely phalarope in breeding plumage… and I struggled to get my scope steadied on the bird.

The instant I saw it in my scope, I knew it was the bird.  I was in agreement with my friend that this was a rare bird for the area, but about a second after I spotted him, before I could raise my camera and get a good photograph, the rain hit. I’m not talking about a light drizzle, the sky just cracked open and poured buckets of water as I rushed back to the truck with just a brief glance at a lifer bird hoping to not drown my camera or scope.

I managed to get in my truck (which was parked at most twenty feet away), totally drenched and flipped through the field guide to verify my split second ID while carefully eyeing the sky and weather as the rain turned sideways and the wind began shaking the car to the point where I couldn’t easily open the door.

At that point the debate began, would anyone believe us if we didn’t have a voucher photo of the bird? How mad would I be at myself if the bird left before I could get a photo? So I began internally debating if it was worth the risk to me and the camera if I went dashing out into the intense rain to try to grab a photo before the bird flushed like the many ducks jumping up and blowing away. In the end the birder in me won over my more sane self and out into the storm I ran.

The bird had moved in about fifty feet and luckily hadn’t flushed, but was often obscured by the waves (waves on a foot or two of water? insane) and I was getting buffeted around by the wind trying to get my camera on the bird. In the end I managed a dozen low-quality photographs (of which this is the best), but I was able to get some better looks at the bird and was able to verify the id:

Red-necked Phalarope (lifer!)

The Great Backyard Bird Count is near! - Because Birds

becausebirds:

Are you going to count backyard birds this weekend? I sure wish I had a backyard to do so. Anyone with a feeder want to offer theirs? ;)

The Great Backyard Bird Count is near!

Reminder about the great backyard bird count- really cool project that doesnt take much time to participate in.

252!!!

I didn’t think I’d break 200 in January… and I just broke 250!

I had my lifer townsend’s solitare today, which was spectacular and we were able to get a visiting New York state birder his lifer yellow-billed magpie.

We ended the Butte County Big Day with a short-eared owl, making today’s bird total 112 species. 

Yesterday’s Yuba County Big Day netted a little over 80 species.

By the way- two big days in a row is rough. Really really rough, but the spectacular birding was… spectacular.

I had a fun time with the wildlife in Florida… for the most part they didn’t seem to care that there were people around which allowed for great photo opportunities.

Top left: Ring-billed gull

Top right: American alligator

Bottom: Black vultures & double-crested cormorants