Sometimes serendipity is super sweet.
Wednesday, September 26th, we were pondering two trips, either to New Mexico for the Piratic Flycatcher or to Monterey CA for a pelagic promising the Flesh-Footed Shearwater. Even though John had no reservation, he decided to try for the boat trip. The flycatcher hasn't been seen since!
We picked up the car with its new transmission Wednesday night, packed and left about noon the next day. John decided to go up the 5 to Jayne Road through Coalinga to the 101. In Priest Valley by a water trough (I love those things) there were several Yellow-Billed Magpies. John had seen them before, this time, he got photographs. Returning home on this same road about the same time a few days later, no magpies! Serendipity
Early Friday morning, I dropped John off near Fisherman's Wharf with all his gear and cash to pay for the boat. He called later and said he had gotten on. John got pictures of the Flesh-Footed Shearwater 655 and the South Polar Skua he had seen on the last pelagic. The seas were MUCH calmer. No one got sick.
Even better, someone on the boat was notified about the COMMON CUCKOO just up the road in Watsonville. Extreme serendipity that we weren't in New Mexico! John was tired so we went back to his sister's, John napped and went to bed early. We took time to have pancakes the next morning. THEN we drove up the 101 to Watsonville Slough. What a ZOO! At least it was easy to find the last spot the bird had been seen. Over a hundred people were spread along the path next to some willows south of the bridge. It hadn't been seen for awhile, we sat down for a vigil. Then I noticed a few people following a guy on a cell phone. As they passed through the crowd, people began grabbing their gear and joining the parade heading north under the bridge. The bird had flown out to a willow covered island. People could see glimpses of it moving through the scrub. The crowd sloshed and surged along the bank. We ended up at the far north end and John saw the bird fly across from the back of the island to another inaccessible row of willows. The Big Wait.
Then, 'There it is!", the Common Cuckoo 656 came out and perched on the last willow on the left for a few minutes. Back it dove into the thicker thicket. "Its down on the right', "I see it moving in the back", "It was just by that thin vee on the middle left below those greener leaves". Each 'sighting' provoked waves of excitement and demands for better directions. Then, after about a half hour of paroxyms of delight and despair amongst its acolytes, the bird sat out again in plain view and everyone got great views and pictures.
Also, on the boat, a leader told John (serendipity) about a possible Lawrence's Goldfinch spot on Gloria Road, just north of Pinnacles. We headed for Hollister then down Hwy 25. But first, a side road Debi Shearwater had told John about, Quien Sabe, where there were resident Prairie Falcons. What a cool area! We happened upon a Ferruginous Hawk 657 , serendipity again, lots of kestrals, shrikes, Red-Tailed Hawks and several Golden Eagles!
Back to the 25 and down towards Pinnacles, we missed the turn, consulted the IPhone, and turned back. Gloria Road was just a dirt track. Not far down it, I spotted a water trough, called out to John to stop! Sure enough, there were around 30 Lawrence's Goldfinches perched in the trees, taking turns at the trough. 658 A car full of birders pulled up to ask about the road conditions. I asked them if they wanted to see Lawrence's Goldfinches. They piled out of the car delightedly. It doubles the fun for us to be able to share a sighting. Turns out they were on last week's pelagic out of Half Moon Bay with John. One of them had tried to read my blog when it was down, so I explained about the incompetent doohickey that wanders around the blogosphere looking for spam.
Now, we were ready to start home. As we drove down the 25, there was a Prairie Falcon, perched on a pole, preening and happy to pose for pictures. Serendipity again! The birding gods were smiling down on us.