Scope Gull

To the naked eye they are white specks on a rock. With binoculars you can discern the white front and grey back, the yellow beak (with maybe a smudge of red on the lower mandible) but the iris and orbital ring color are unknown at this distance. But with a scope the smaller gull,  just on the right, with a yellow bill, dark “earmuffs”, and black feet turns into North American Lifebird #510!

I set out on Saturday morning ,  heading south on Highway One with binos, scope, and tripod stowed in the back. My first detour of the day was in Pacifica to the Sharp Park Golf Course to check on the continuing emperor goose. A short walk south down the berm produced the rare goose, loosely feeding on the fairway with a group of Canada geese. Check.


Journal page from the Emperor goose I saw at Seven Mile Slough, Lifebird #500. March 12, 2016.


Digiscope shot of the goose in the rough, at Sharp Park Golf Course, January 29, 2017.

The next stop was Pillar Point Harbor to see if anything interesting had blown in. I checked the creekmouth and beaches for any interesting gulls with not much luck. I then returned to Highway One. My plan was to head to Pescadero to scope the rocks and sea to find something interesting.

On my way to Santa Cruz, I frequently stop here, scanning the rocks for one of my favorite rock dwellers, the black oystercatcher. Most times it’s banshee wail, issued as it flies, calls attention to this cryptic colored bird, especially when it tucks its bright orange-red bill into its feathers. I scoped the rocks from the Pescadero State Beach pockmarked parking lot.  I counted 11 oystercatchers among the gulls and pelicans.

I slowly picked through the gulls, noting the beautiful plumage of the Heerman’s gull that were preening near the brown pelicans. As I panned to the left I saw a small gull, one with dark earmuffs, that I had missed on my first pass. This gull was different. Through the scope I ticked off the details: black legs, earmuffs, yellow bill. This was my target bird: an adult black-legged kittiwake! Lifebird #510!


A not so wonderful digiscope photo of the preening kittiwake (the top gull).

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