Tuesday, May 03, 2005

3rd May - Crested Caracara!

We were heading off to Yosemite today so the original plan was to set off very early. However getting out of bed was too great a struggle for Vitty so I nipped off down to Point Reyes for a last attempt at finding Grasshopper Sparrow. No luck there but there were now 4 Buffleheads and a group of waders along the way included a Lesser Yellowlegs.

On the way down to the point I stopped beside a large group of Ravens on roadside posts. I counted them, 1, 2,… 6, 7, hang on, that one’s a Crested Caracara! Sure enough this magnificent raptor was sat there right beside the road. Needless to say it flew a bit further off before I could get the camera ready, but at least it meant I got a good flight view. It continued to show despite the attention it was getting from the Ravens.

Now I’d been through all the likely species that I might see in California and this wasn’t one of them. A quick look in the guide (Sibley) confirmed that yes, it was a Crested Caracara and no, you don’t get them in California. An escape? A wild vagrant? They occur in southern Arizona and Mexico and from the map in Sibley it looked like they had turned up out of range to the north but not anywhere near here. There was no reason to think it wasn’t wild and it didn’t show any sign of captivity – I’d had a good look at its legs, no rings, no jesses etc.

Back at the cottage I tried to contact some local birders but to no avail. Problems with my mobile not working properly in America (despite buying one that would specially), payphones not accepting English credit cards and difficulty finding phone cards meant that I couldn’t get the news out until the following afternoon, and that was only leaving a message. Fortunately it hung around and I understand that a number of birders did manage to twitch it a few days later. Many thanks to one of them, Les Lieurance, for updating me with information about its status – apparently the species has only very recently been accepted on to the California list but there have been a few records in the state over the last couple of years.

This had delayed me somewhat so I returned in a hurry to Inverness to pick up Vitty and grab some breakfast. About 100 Double-crested Cormorants were in the channel opposite the cottage. We headed off to Sonoma and Napa Valleys, stopping off at Annadel State Park for a spot of birding.

Here I wasted time looking for an invisible vireo which I thought might just be Cassin’s, a species I never did find. It eventually appeared but was just a Warbling Vireo. I then wasted more time trying to get a look at an Empidonax flycatcher which eventually turned out just to be another Pacific-slope. After wasting even more time unsuccessfully trying to find the source of a singing warbler I finally saw something interesting. A very distinctive call had to be a Red-breasted Nuthatch and sure enough it soon appeared – a superb little bird. I had missed the only British record which wintered in my home county a few months before I moved there, so this was a bird I very much wanted to see.

We abandoned plans to visit some vineyards in Sonoma and Napa Valleys as we hadn’t room in our luggage to buy any wine and as I was driving I couldn’t drink any either. Better to push on to Yosemite before it got dark we thought. On the way an American Bittern flew up from a ditch beside the road at Bauldin Island.

At Yosemite we found another Red-breasted Nuthatch and a Brown Creeper but what were probably Pileated Woodpeckers calling unfortunately never showed.



Post a Comment

<< Home