Warblers on the move

During my Half Moon Bay birding walk last week, we saw several warblers on the move (always): some fall visitors, some spring visitors, and a few elusive residents. My thanks to local guides Slow Adventure and Alvaro’s Adventures for a great week.

Townsend’s Warblers winter along our coast and then fly north for summer breeding.

Yellow Warblers are here during the summer and then migrate to the south for winter.

Orange-crowned Warblers are here year-round. They move south during the winter and then north and inland for the summer.orange-crowned-warbler







Common Yellowthroats are supposedly here year-round, but during the spring walk I saw my first one (below). We mostly heard them during the fall walk and I didn’t get a photo.

Wilson’s Warblers migrate through between northern breeding and southern wintering. (This photo is from the spring walk, but we saw them briefly on this fall’s walk.)



Half Moon Bay surprise

One of the surprises on my birding walk around Half Moon Bay was this little cutie.

This long-tailed weasel popped out of a hole (squirrel? or gopher?) in the Coastside Trail along a shoreline cliff. We were looking across the ocean for seabirds and whales, and our birding guide, Alvaro Jaramillo, spotted the weasel at our feet. Adorable (except if you’re prey).

Half Moon Bay Coastside 4: How many?

Which of these birds doesn’t belong?
This photo was taken during day 3 of walking the Half Moon Bay Coastside Trail in Pillar Point Harbor (not far from the breakwater in an earlier post). It’s a good example of what you can find if you look closely.


And, here’s the list of birds along the breakwater in the photo I posted with Coastside 2, starting with the easiest to identify (see photo below). The dark bird at the top of the breakwater about 2/3rds of the way across is a Heermann’s Gull (there are more scattered throughout the rocks). At the base of the breakwater, about 1/3rd of the way across, the two large brown birds are Brown Pelicans. All the way across the top and scattered throughout, the black-capped birds with orange bill are Elegant Terns. At the top between the terns on the left and the Heermann’s Gull, if you look closely, there’s a sleeping Western Gull (white head with bill tucked under gray back).

Now it starts getting tricky, in part because the photo isn’t as clear as I’d like (more practice needed). But here goes. Follow along the water line at the base of the breakwater (starting with the pelicans and move left). To the left of an Elegant Tern almost to the end of the photo, is a round bird with a black back and white belly. I think that’s a Black Turnstone (but don’t quote me on that one).

Back to the pelicans, if you look straight up from them, you’ll see an all-white bird (head hidden) and another farther up to the left (preening so you can see its head with a black bill and a little yellow near the eye). Those are Snowy Egrets.


Now let’s tackle the birds on the right side of the image. Start at the Heermann’s Gull on the top and move down past the Elegant Terns. Below those about half way down are two birds with a long bill. The upper one is preening and the lower one is turned so you can see a white strip over its eye — those are Whimbrels. Just to the right of the preening Whimbrel, it looks like there’s a Black-bellied Plover (just the front half showing a short black bill, dark eye, and dark leg, non-breeding plumage). To the right of the plover are several Willets preening and sleeping (grayish-brown head and back, white belly, no distinguishing marks).

I think that’s it — nine species!
If anyone spots anything else, let me know. And, if I misidentified anything (which happens), let me know, too.

Answer: The answer to the riddle in the top photo — look at the fourth bird counting from the left along the water’s edge. It’s a Marbled Godwit hiding among the Willets.


Half Moon Bay Coastside 3

Yesterday was another long day (7+ miles) and so I’m a bit behind on sorting through my photos. We had sunny skies and very little wind in Pillar Harbor (Princeton-by-the-Sea), and so the shorebird sightings were varied. These first three were on the same rock paying no mind to one another.


Black Oystercatchers




Spotted Sandpiper

Across from the bayside rock was a breakwater (with a view of Maverick’s when it’s breaking – but not today). The breakwater was dotted with Black Turnstones (named for their habit of overturning stones for food). I counted about a dozen (but I could have double counted). This one was dodging a small wave.


Black Turnstone

Another good day… and more on the way.

Half Moon Bay Coastside 2

How many different bird species can you find in this photo? 

This is the breakwater at the Pillar Point Harbor. I’ve counted 8 so far, but I think I’ll find more when I look at it on a larger screen back home. I’ll let you ponder this and post the species list this weekend. We had a great birding day, seeing more than 50 bird species on an 8-mile walk, and a few humpback whales, too.