Friday, January 20, 2012

Tufted Duck and other good birds at Abbott's Lagoon

Today Cory and I had a day off, and even though it rained, we trekked through wind and rain to hike around Abbott's Lagoon in Point Reyes.  We first arrived at the trailhead around 9:30 in the morning.  We hiked by the lake finding birds such as Mute Swan, Cinnamon Teal, Ruddy and Ring-necked Duck, Thayer's Gull (and six other gull species), Wilson's Snipe, Pacific, Red-throated, and Common Loon and Black-crowned Night-heron among other birds.

Although it was overcast, it was relatively calm and rain-free for the first hour or so of our hike.  Albeit, by the time we got to the lagoon the wind was gusting strongly and whipping rain at our faces.  It was the kind of rain that stings a little as it blows into your face - small, thin drops that come almost sideways.  Eared Grebes were the most common grebe on the lagoon.  American White Pelican, Sanderling, plenty of Ruddy Ducks, Canvasback, more gulls, loons, and grebes, and some American Pipits, Yellow-rumped Wablers, and several sparrow species were all present.  Our main target species, though, was Tufted Duck, and we couldn't seem to find it.

Hiking around the lagoon was arduous to say the least, and the apprehension of missing our target bird almost caused us to turn around at several points.  Instead we complained profusely about the rain, wind and long walk through soft sand.  However after walking all the way around the lagoon and scoping time and again, but not seeing anything that so much as resembled a Tufted Duck (except one Ring-necked Duck which caused us to doubt the presence of the bird at all!), we came to a bench.  So we sat and scoped.  Visibility was moderate at best, but we scanned across our side of the lagoon looking at Common Goldeneye, Canvasback, Green-winged Teal, and the lone Ring-necked Duck.  Finally we spotted the bird.  "Oh my god," I said, "I'm looking at the Tufted Duck!"  The bird was diving actively, spending only a few seconds above water at a time, making it extremely difficult to follow, and get Cory on.  Eventually we were both looking at the bird.  A small, although obvious, tuft hanging off the back of the head, whitish-gray flanks with a dark-brown to black back were the field marks we used to ID this bird.

We sat for a while in the rain, water soaking through our rain gear in parts, and watched the Tufted Duck.  Eventually we stood up and hiked all the way back around the lagoon.  On the way back a flock of Black-bellied Plovers set down for a few minutes on the beach.  Finally we got back to the car exhausted and soaked.  On the drive out we had a Ross' Goose and four Snow Geese in with a flock of  Canada and Greater White-fronted Geese.  Then we headed to Marin Sun Farms in Point Reyes Station and ate the best cheeseburgers of our lives!!!

Good birding!  Sorry about the severe lack of photographs but unfortunately cameras and rain don't mix too well.  Our complete list is below.

Pt. Reyes--Abbotts Lagoon, Marin, US-CA
Jan 19, 2012 9:20 AM - 1:35 PM
Protocol: Traveling
2.5 mile(s)
Comments:     Rainy, windy, and poor visibility, but we still managed to find some good birds!
61 species (+2 other taxa)

Greater White-fronted Goose  15
Snow Goose  4
Ross's Goose  1
Canada Goose  75
Mute Swan  1
Gadwall  2
American Wigeon  10
Mallard  20
Cinnamon Teal  1
Northern Shoveler  20
Northern Pintail  7
Green-winged Teal  50
Canvasback  40
Ring-necked Duck  10
Tufted Duck  1     small, though obvious, tuft, whitish flanks, dark back, no spurs - originally found on Point Reyes CBC (?)
Surf Scoter  35
Bufflehead  40
Common Goldeneye  10
Red-breasted Merganser  6
Ruddy Duck  150
California Quail  1
Red-throated Loon  1
Pacific Loon  1
Common Loon  5
Pied-billed Grebe  10
Eared Grebe  25
Western Grebe  5
Western/Clark's Grebe  15
Double-crested Cormorant  1
American White Pelican  19
Great Blue Heron  3
Great Egret  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  2
Osprey  1
Northern Harrier  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
American Coot  50
Black-bellied Plover  20
Killdeer  1
Sanderling  18
Wilson's Snipe  1
Mew Gull (American)  3
Ring-billed Gull  5
Western Gull  20
Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)  2
California Gull  40
Herring Gull  10
Thayer's Gull  2
Glaucous-winged Gull  35
Northern Flicker  6
Black Phoebe  2
Western Scrub-Jay  20
Common Raven  1
Bewick's Wren  1
Marsh Wren  2
American Robin  23
European Starling  4
American Pipit  16
Yellow-rumped Warbler  10
Spotted Towhee  2
Song Sparrow  12
White-crowned Sparrow  25

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

By Luke Musher and Cory Ritter

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