I am not a huge county birder, that is a birder who is obsessed with added as many species to certain counties within the state as possible. For me I set the modest goal of reaching 200 species in the counties that I bird the most: Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz.
In San Mateo, the county in which I work, I was sitting at 199 species. And I planned to make number 200 a rarity in the county. So I headed out with Grasshopper Sparrow on our third attempt to get the wintering male harlequin duck at the Coyote Point Recreation Area.
Unfortunately planning anything involving birds means that you have to be prepared to whiff out on your expectations. And so we did, for a third time, fail to find the harlequin, amid the water and surf scoters of San Francisco Bay.
So as a consolation, we headed over to the other side of the park to look through the flocks of grazing Canada geese for a few smaller cackling geese. This species was recently split and recognized as a separate species rather than a subspecies of Canada goose. This is one way in which your life list can grow but I did not have cackling in San Mateo County.
Grasshopper was easily able to pick out the five smaller geese with tiny bills and a white collar making it an Aleutian subspecies. San Mateo County bird number 200! We watched the cacklers grazing among the larger Canada geese, which provided a great contrast between the two species.
We birded the trees that border the field and in a pine, I was able to pick out a much sought after lifer for Grasshopper, the beautiful western warbler: Townsend’s warbler. This is a common winter warbler of the California coast but somehow this species had eluded us on our previous birding adventures.
We next went to Sawyer Camp Trail to finds some more county birds for me and lifers for Grasshopper. I added wood duck, wild turkey, acorn woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, golden-crowned kinglet, and varied thrush. I ended the day with 206 San Mateo County species!