I am on the balcony of a very cool inn in northern California called the Benbow Historic Inn, after a great meal at the bar, doing something I’m not supposed to be doing within 25 feet of a building per California rules, celebrating hitting a milestone a few hours ago: identifying 700 species of birds in what’s called the ABA (American Bird Association) Area, which is the U.S. and Canada, not including Hawaii. After arriving in San Francisco yesterday and heading north last night, today was able to find a Code 4 (Code 6 being extinct so you get the idea) vagrant, a Brown Shrike from Asia, just north of Manchester, right near the ocean. Was with four other birders, Adam and the Willets (I presume you can Google this), so it was a group high five when I found the bird (an added bonus). Photo of bird courtesy of Google Images, although I am assured by Adam he will send me a photo he digiscoped of the actual bird we saw today on the hillside. Ready for this beauty? Here it is, my #699:
I then travelled three hours north, along the coastal highway, to a place called Garberville, and headed east to scope out a place where Sooty Grouse (not a rare bird, but one I needed after the Blue Grouse had been split into two species awhile back) had been heard along this country road in the last couple of weeks. I had already made a reservation at the Benbow Inn, with the plan that I would get up early tomorrow and get out and hope to hear the male calling, and maybe, just maybe, track down the bird and see it.
But nope, the Bird Gods had different plans for me, and as I was heading back as the sun was setting, I saw a pair of grouse fly into a tree in front of my car. I stopped, got my scope out, and got great looks at bird #700! This photo below will always mean something to me. The grouse landed toward the top of the first tall tree on the left, then headed over to the tree on the right, then after about five minutes, flew off. (Note how fried my eyes are after driving the curviest roads in California and birding hard all day)!
Two final photos before I turn in and a quick comment: the coastal areas north of San Francisco have perhaps the best Natural Beauty/People Ratio on the planet. It’s just extraordinary to be in such great surroundings with such few people (you guys who know me best will get this)!
Time for a party!