Posts Tagged ‘Trips’


I spent the 4th of July weekend camping with my family at one of my favorite spots. Domingo Spring in Lassen National Forest. I first visited this site during my graduate school work where I was recording the calls of Evening Grosbeaks, and I have returned regularly ever since. The campground, set among jumbled piles of volcanic rocks and large conifer trees, is immediately beside a wet meadow that Domingo Creek runs through. Near the entrance of the campground is the source of Domingo Creek, and the campground’s namesake, Domingo Spring. This spring is one of the few places I know of where one can drink right out of the land. In my mind, that makes this a very special spot, indeed. We also drove to Willow Lake for part of one day which was lovely. Willow Lake has a floating sphagnum bog where a couple of native species of carnivorous plants grow wild.


My brother birding Domingo Spring

The days we spent camping were filled with birds, a lake visit, walks throughout the surrounding meadows, lots of cooking over the fire, singing, talking politics, reading the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July, drawing, and so much more! One bird encounter that was really wonderful was our neighbors in the campground. A pair of Cassin’s Vireos had a nest about 25 feet up a ponderosa pine tree at the edge of our campsite where four nestlings eagerly gobbled down each of the insects their parents delivered. Many Western Tanagers, including a lot of newly fledged birds, were also around this year.

The full species list for birds included: Mallard, Common Nighthawk, Anna’s Hummingbird, Turkey Vulture, Great Horned Owl, Black-backed Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, White-headed Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Western Wood-Pewee, Stellar’s Jay, Common Raven, Tree Swallow, Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, House Wren, American Robin, Cassin’s Vireo, Evening Grosbeak, Purple Finch, Cassin’s Finch, Song Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Orange-crowned Warbler, MacGillivray’s Warbler, and Western Tanager.


My daughter holding a Pacific Tree Frog

We also had some nice herpetological encounters. I caught a small Mountain Gartersnake, and my wife and daughter caught a Pacific Tree Frog. Oddly, we did not see any gartersnakes are Willow Lake. In the past we have often seen them swimming in the lake as they hunt for minnows in the water, sometimes around our feet. This year, the water was much more turbid that it usually is (a result of the fairly recent snow melt?), and maybe this made the water less appealing as hunting grounds for the snakes that are pretty visual predators.

Mountain Gartersnake - Domingo Spring - 20190705

Mountain Gartersnake

Mammals we saw included Mule Deer, California Groundsquirrel, Golden-mantled Groundsquirrel, Douglas Squirrel, and Allen’s Chipmunk.

I very much look forward to the next time I return to Domingo Spring to enjoy the mountains and drink from the rocks.




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Parasitic Jaeger

Parasitic Jeager. One of the early names that the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings tried out was The Jeagers.

Dear Friend,

For more than 15 years, the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings have participated in the Point Blue Conservation Science Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon. During that time, dozens of young birders have had the opportunity to learn about birds, bird conservation, and ecosystem stewardship.

The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings was the first youth bird-a-thon team supported by Point Blue Conservation Science. Over the years, this extraordinary team has helped to foster a deep seated passion for wildlife and conservation in young people. These young people have then carried that passion and knowledge into the world with them as they have spread into a wide range of endeavors.

Last year, in 2016, the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings birded for over 14 hours, covered over 100 miles zig-zagging across Marin County, saw a total of 131 species of bird, and raised over $3,000!

This year is going to be the same in some ways, and very different in others. Some of the similarities are that the Sanderlings are going out again, this year on the 23rd of September, to crisscross Marin County. We will be visiting all our favorite spots, and probably a few new ones, to find as many species of bird as we possibly can. One of the biggest differences is going to be that this is not an official Point Blue bird-a-thon! Due to staffing issues, among other things, Point Blue Conservation Science will not be able to support and run the Bird-a-thon. This is only a temporary situation, and Point Blue is fully planning on reinvigorating the bird-a-thon in 2018. However, it means that those of us who are still committed to the bird-a-thon cause are going rogue this year. It also means that we really need your help! With no support from Point Blue, we are on our own conducting outreach, and generating enthusiasm and dollars, for bird research and conservation!

Sanderlings Team 1

The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings birding Drake’s Beach during the 2016 bird-a-thon.

With the help of sponsors like you, we have helped to raise tens of thousands of dollars for environmental stewardship and conservation of the ecosystems on which we all depend. Your support of the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings encourages young people to go out and engage with birds and the natural world, and work for a better future.

So join us and donate a fixed amount (like $15.00) or an amount per species (like $0.25/species). Your support provides opportunities for young and old to engage in environmental stewardship, experience the rewards of connecting with their environment, and make a real difference in their communities and the world.

And donating is easy! Just mail a check, made out to Point Blue Conservation Science, to me at: 203 Touchstone Pl, West Sacramento, CA 95691

We very much appreciate your support for the Sanderlings Bird-a-thon: The Rogue Year. If you have any questions about The Drake’s Beach Sanderlings, the Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon, or our any other aspect of this event please e-mail or call me at aaron.haiman@deltaconservancy.ca.gov or 510-289-7239.


Aaron N.K. Haiman

Drake’s Beach Sanderlings Team Co-Leader

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Dear Friend,

Fifteen years ago, I was one of the founding youth members of a youth bird-a-thon team. The team was organized and lead by birding greats Rich Stallcup and Ellen Blustein as the first youth team for what was then, the Point Reyes Bird Observatory and what is now Point Blue Conservation Science (PBCS). It was an amazing experience, and has turned into a recurring amazing experience every year since. We are now preparing for the youth bird-a-thon, again, and since this year is our 15th, it makes it a particularly special one, or at least note-worthy.

Over the past 15 years, this team has taken to the field alongside so many amazing birds as they get restless and begin to move on their fall migration. For the birds, fall migration has been happening almost exactly the same way for millions of years, and it is still a feat that boggles the human imagination. For our bird-a-thon team, the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings, fall migration has come to include this exhilarating day to witnesses the birds as they move through central California.

Each year many bird-a-thon teams ready themselves for the fall. These teams pick a day and go out in search of the avian wanderers as they pass by; keeping tallies of who stops to visit. On September 26th 2015, the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings will be doing just that, and we are lining up another great group of youths (in age and spirit)!

As in past years, this is not only an opportunity to see beautiful birds, learn as much about migration patterns and identification as possible, and spend time in great company. It is also a time to give. The PBCS is a recognized leader in conservation of avian biodiversity and the ecosystems that they, and we, depend upon. To do this requires money. It takes money to keep the banding stations running as they monitor population trends. It takes money to assess the loss of habitat that urban development causes. It takes money to set aside critical habitat and so insure that future fall migrations will continue this millions-of-years tradition. Funding is often hard to come by, and so we ask you, birders, environmentalists, friends, to become sponsors of our team and PBCS. Now, don’t think we won’t work for those donations. You can pledge a fixed sum, or you can tell us that you will give a small amount for every species we see. That way we will have a large incentive indeed to try our hardest to find every last species we can. In the past we have seen around 150 species, so a pledge of $0.20 per species will mean a total donation of around $30. Any amount that you can give will be valuable and tremendously appreciated, and donating is easy. Just go to: https://www.kintera.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=1144989&lis=1&kntae1144989=C5D14E3E269D41A49AD34C0C31A09C59&supId=425784227&team=6495414

and click on the ‘Donate Now’ button on the right side of the page. In this time of drought, the conservation of habitat and bird populations is all the more challenging and critical. Your donation will aid the cause of bird conservation throughout the western hemisphere, and you will join a fifteen year long tradition of helping to inspire the birding leaders of tomorrow!

Thank you for your support,

The members of the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings

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My wife, young daughter, and I just got back from a road trip up to Seattle, WA with a stop in Ashland, OR on the way back. As we drove and drove, we had the good fortune to see eagles on a number of occasions and they were especially spectacular in the behaviors we got to witness.

Our first eagle encounter was just as we drove past Ashland, OR on our way north. My wife spotted two birds that seemed to be struggling, mid-air. They were two Golden Eagles, and as we watched they opened their wings and began to spiral downwards, feet locked together in a talon grapple! The drop was spectacular as they spun around each other and plummeted towards the earth. As we drove closer, they came to the end of the fall and let go of each other. Both huge, adult birds then flew right over our car.

After our visit in Seattle, we decided to hit the road quite early. This meant that I was driving south on I-5 as dawn was spreading her rose-red fingers across the sky. As the day brightened in central western Washington, I got to watch several Bald Eagles fishing in the various waterways we passed over. It was a truly beautiful sight with the morning light just touching the tree tops and these large, dark birds circling over the sky-reflecting water and dropping low to strafe the surface for fish.

Our final eagle encounter was back in the Ashland area. We took a side trip out to the little town of Jacksonville and on our way back stopped at a gas station. As we waited by the pump, a Golden Eagle started circling overhead. It was a very nice look, as the bird was not too high and there were no trees blocking our view. The sight got even better when the eagle climbed in altitude and then began a series of dramatic pendulum flights! Pendulum flights are where the bird flies in a number of roller-coaster-like arching dives, one right after another. At the top of each arch, the eagle would close its wings and dive, picking up speed. At the bottom of the dive, it opened its wings and used its momentum to coast up to the top of the next dive. A wonderful show, indeed!

So, for eagle watching, I would highly recommend the I-5 corridor! We certainly had a great trip!

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It is bird-a-thon season at Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO Conservation Science)!  A bird-a-thon is where a team of observers go out into a particular geographic area, usually a county, to see as many species of birds as possible in a 24-hour period!  It is a big day, fundamentally, but with a twist.  PBCS organizes the bird-a-thon as a fundraising event.  The teams collect sponsors who donate a fix amount or pledge a certain amount per species seen on the bird-a-thon.  This acts as an extra drive for the team to find the maximum number of species they can.  Over the course of the last couple of decades that the bird-a-thon has been taking place, teams have raised over 2 million dollars!  Every cent of this money has gone straight to the bird conservation efforts of PBCS.

I have been a member of one team for over a decade now.  It is the PBCS Youth Bird-a-thon Team,  called the Drake’s Beach Sanderlings.  This team was founded and led by Rich Stallcup and Ellen Blustein, and I was one of the original members.  Even now that I am not a ‘youth’ I have continued to participate as a mentor.  We go out for a whole day and drive back and forth across Marin County, CA to find as many species as we can.  We usually find about 150, and our all time high was 172!  It is always an incredibly fast-paced and exciting day!   Rich passed away last December, and so a new leader was needed.  Actually two new leaders were selected to fill Rich’s shoes: Bob Battagin and myself.  We will be joining Ellen as co-leaders this year.  I am very excited and honored to be participating in a new and more involved way in this event that is so near and dear to me.

One of the many reasons that this is such an amazing bird-a-thon are the youths.  These are kids who have a strong interest in birds and birding and who simply have a love of going out into nature.  They are the conservationists of the future, and by supporting this team, you can help to support and inspire this next generation of birders and bird conservationists.  You can help to insure that there will be people  who care about birds and will work to protect them tomorrow and the next day and the next.  And making a donation is easy!  Just go this link:


and click on the ‘Give Now’ button on the right side of the page.  I hope you will choose to support this team.  It generates money for bird conservation, it supports young birders, and it helps to insure the future of birding.  By making this year a success we make sure that this important event will continue.

Thank you!

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This past weekend, my wife and I joined the rest of the graduate group that I am in for our annual retreat.  The retreat was a camping trip to Boca Spring campground.  It is a great campground in the eastern Sierra Nevada between Truckee and the Nevada State boarder at about 5900 ft in elevation, and set amongst Ponderosa Pines and the occasional Lodgepole Pine.  Each morning I got up early and went out to do some birding!  On Saturday morning, I walked along forest service roads through the pines and around the edges of wet mountain meadows amidst the sagebrush.  It was simply lovely.  And there was some great birding to be had!  At one point, I heard a Northern Pygmy Owl tooting away not far from me, though I was never able to actually see it.  On a small ridge line, I found a mixed flick that included Mountain Chickadee, Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Pygmy Nuthatch.  From what I can remember, this is only the second or third time I have had a three nuthatch species day!  I was quite thrilled!  This flock was moving through the forest along the ridge.  What really struck me was how unevenly the birds were scattered across the forest.  I had found this fair sized flock of birds all in one place, but before and after, walked through forest that looked the same to me and had the same topography, but had no such flocks.  What made that particular small ridge-line so much better than the one to the east or west of it?  On my way back to camp, I got an additional thrill when I heard, and then saw, Evening Grosbeaks in the area!  Back in the campground, there were White-headed Woodpeckers and a small flock of Western Bluebirds.  Also back in camp, a group of Evening Grosbeaks flew right into the trees above us.  There were about eight birds and all the flight calls that I heard were Type 2, which is the dominant Sierra type.
In the afternoon, we visited the Sagehen Creek Reserve.  This is one of the nature reserves run by the University of California.  We were joined by my advisor who gave us a introductory presentation on the birds and habitat of the high Sierra, and then we all went for a walk to see what we could see.  I added Red Crossbill, Pine Siskin, Hairy Woodpecker, and MacGillivray’s Warbler.  We also found an adult Caddisfly.  Not sure of what species, but I am sure that is this first adult caddisfly I have ever seen!  We also found a Comma which is a species of butterfly.

This was a great trip with great birds and other wildlife, and I even got some scouting done for my own research!  I will definitely be returning to the Boca Spring Campground in the future to find my Evening Grosbeaks.

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Two friends, my wife, and I escaped the burgeoning heat of the central valley for the cool of the mountains to spend a beautiful weekend camping in the Sierra.  We drove up CA-4 Friday evening to the Pine Marten Campground on the east side of Lake Alpine which is at just over 7300 ft.  It was late by the time we arrived, and so we set up our camp in the dark and fell asleep listening to the hooting of a Great Horned Owl.  Set in Pines and Firs, this lake was a lovely spot to spend some time.  The first morning, I was walking at the edge of the lake and listening to the dawn chorus.  The American Robins started first.  There must have been several hundred of them in the area because the cacophony of their singing was amazing!  The next to join in was the trilling of the Dark-eyed Juncos.  Then came Mountain Chickadee, Pine Siskin, Brown Creeper, Western Tanager, and Mountain White-crowned Sparrow.  A few minutes later these were joined by Red-breasted Nuthatch, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Stellar’s Jay.  The last to make themselves known were Mourning Dove and Douglas’s Tree Squirrel!  On the lake were several pairs of Canada Goose with young goslings in tow and a flock of maybe 30 Common Merganser, and over the lake I saw an Osprey searching for its breakfast.  I also saw a Bald Eagle who was sitting about 20 feet up in a tree when I came around the side of a large boulder, and was just as surprised to see it as it was to see me!  I also saw a Stellar’s Jay, across a narrow arm of the lake, that was carrying a stick in its beak.  As I watched, it flew to a cluster of small Lodgepole Pines right at the lakes’ edge.  It then dropped deep into the middle of the stand of trees to a mass of stickes that was its nest.  The nest was only about 15 ft off the ground.  Somehow, I expected it to be much higher.

We took a drive up to Highland Lakes which are just below tree line at about 8600 ft.  The road up to these spectacular lakes and the lovely campground between them is very rough, certainly needing a 4WD vehicle.  It passes the Bloomfield Campground, which is another lovely looking spot, and also passes a cluster of cabins high beside a wet mountain meadow.  On the way up, we saw a pair of Pine Grosbeaks, a Willow Flycatcher, a Yellow Warbler, and a flock of Cassin’s Finches.  The female finches were furiously gathering nesting material, and in the short time we stopped along the road, I found two of their nests!  Up at the lake I also found a Mountain Bluebird nest.  We also saw a number of butterflies: Mourning Cloak, Western Tiger Swallowtail, a Question Mark, and some species of Sulfur that was bright yellow with a very distinct, dark trailing edge to it’s hindwings.

Back at Lake Alpine, we settled in for a relaxing evening in camp.  As we made a fire and cooked dinner a pair of Western Tanagers came working their way through the campground.  First the female appeared, foraging for insects in the lower branches of the trees an on the ground.  The male followed close behind her spending most of his time watching her, and only occasionally grabbing an insect for himself.  They both came quite close to us and our camp which allowed us to get a wonderful look at them.

The next morning was largely devoted to packing up camp and heading back down out of the mountains.  A great trip and certainly an area that I will revisit soon.

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