Half-time; Big Year 2000

Harry Fuller <harry_fuller@...>

This is rough draft for article in "Gull" ayt mid-point. RSVO on any mistakes.
And who is "Karennani" from the BT PIgeon email? I couldn;t figure it out from
my email collection which is not complete. Any huge oversights? lemme know

Half-Time: Big Year 2000

Well, the crazed San Francisco birders are at it again...a city-wide Big
Year contest. There are seven contestants this time around, including three
veterans of the 1998 showdown. Some people never learn,. My excuse is that I
finished last in '98 and had to do a little better this time, but Hopkins won
and Murphy got sucked in because it was his suggestion that we start the
Millenium with a Big Year to establish the expected species for the next
thousand years of San Francisco birding.
"The purpose of this competition is to generate some competitive interest
in birding in the city but to also improve on the understanding of species,
distribution and occurences within the city."
A modest proposal, that.
The official participants are Stephen Davies, Rich Ferrick, Harry Fuller,
Alan Hopkins, Kevin McKereghan, Dan Murphy and Jay Withgott. Jay described
himself as "new in town, having just moved up from Tucson AZ, and just gotten
onto SFBirds [the email list]." By now Jay is just another wind-burned face
squiting into the fog off the Cliff House, or trudging up Mount Davidson for
another vagrant. That is one of the best stories of this Big Year:
non-combatant, Paul Saraceni,
has staked out Mt. Davidson as his regular nieghborhood birding spot. As a
result all the competitors have been forced to chase species he's been reporting
there: Merlin, Band-tailed Pigeons all winter long, all three western Swift
species on May 19th, House Wren, Spotted Towhee, Lazuli Bunting, then in late
spring Hammond's, Dusky and Ash-throated Flycatchers, a singing male
Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Add Brian Fitch's Townsend Solitaire found on Davidson
on April 10 and you have a pretty active hot spot. It is the same spot the '98
BY found it's only Solitaire. Mt. Davidson is an island of trees and grassland
in a sea of roofs and pavement.
Well, it is not a tight contest as it was in 1998. Kevin McKereghan early
established that he had the time, energy and skill to get nearly every gettable
bird in town. He was ahead at the end of January with 148. He still leads with
204 through the first six months. Second is Rick Ferrick with 192. After a
slower start, Ferrick rallied with a prodigious 30 new species in April. Kevin
is running several species ahead of Alan Hopkins' record-setting pace for 1998.
Alan ended with
243. The overall Big Year total in '98 was 280 species. So far the BY2K total
is 223, five ahead of the '98 cumulative pace.
Here are some of the highlights so far, with thanks Mark Eaton, a retired
vet from the '98 Big Year who is acting as this year's scribe.
Jan. 2 Reigning BY champ, Alan Hopkins does mini-Big Day and claims the
record for the new millenium with 103 species for himself and Calvin Lu (another
'98 retiree). They bagged Loggerhead Shrike and Harrier at Candelstick,
difficult city birdsin most years.
Jan. 3, Saraceni issues his first of many daily reports on the birds of
Davidson: includes House Wren and Lincoln Sparrow, must-get birds for all BY
Jan. 5, Ferrick finds exotic Kingbird at south end of Lake Merced, setting
off the first lengthy email debate over a bird's ID. It turns out to be a
Tropical Kingbird who will hang around for weeks, finally being ticked by every
BY birder and dozens of others.
Murphy bags a Marbled Murrlet off the Cliff House. Everybody has the
Eurasian Wigeon wintering at Stow Lake.
A debate rages over supposed Glaucous Gull at south end of Merced. Biggest
email debate of the year so far. It is finally presumed that there were a
series of legit Glaucous Gull sightings of one or possibly two individuals in
the dense flock of Western, California, Mew and Glaucous-winged that are
normally on Merced during stormy times.
During January Merced also yields Swamp Sparrow, Nuttall's Woodpecker,
Cinnamon Teal, Tennessee Warbler--all difficult S.F. birds.
This is also the first full year for the newly recreated Crissy Lagoon.
Regular reports on birds there came from Josiah Clark: Red-necked Grebe, Merlin,
Peregrine, large flock of Greater Scaup (numbering of 340 at one point), Snowy
Egret. In spring the list included Western Kingbird, a regular city transient
that can be hard to find.
Mid-Jnauary a Loggerhead Shrike set up a hunting territory at east of the
Buffalo Paddock in Golden Gate Park. At the end of the month there was a report
of a Northern Goshawk in San Francisco, but the bird could not be re-found.
Also, several birders found the Baltimore Oriole wintering in the Arboretum.
spotted a Harlequin Duck off the Cliff House. Good find.
February was lively though only 15 new species were added by the whole
On Feb 10 Saraceni saw 400 Band-tailed Pigeons pass over Davidson. The
next day, Karennani wrote: "I'll see your 400 and raise you 1075." That's how
many BTs she counted in two hours atop Twin Peaks on February 11.
Mid-month Dan Murphy reported Yellow-billed Magpies had been seen in Daly
City, four miles south of San Francisco. Prescient.
On Feb. 14, Hopkins and McKereghan spot Peterodroma off the Cliff House,
species not determined. None of the petrels are considered anything less than
rare for San Francisco shoreline. The same morning Kevin had two Northern
Fulmars, another difficult onshore bird. Same date Davies had two Marbled
Murrlets overhead at night.
Feb. 18 Hugh Cotter, not in this year's contest, reported a Murrelet swarm
off Cliff House. In addition to Marbled, one possible Anicent and a Cassin's
Feb. 21, Murphy and Fuller got small flock of early Vaux's Swifts over
south end of Merced
Feb. 23, Davies gets an Oldsquaw off Land's End. In early March an
Oldsquaw joins the Scaup off Crissy Field for several days.
Feb 24, Saraceni has Longspur flyover on Davidson
Feb. 29, Barn Owl spotted at Merced near Golf Club House
McKereghan ends February at 157, way ahead.
March 6, Andrew Rush creates a rush with report of Black-and-white Warbler
in willows at east end of Mountain Lake Park. Bird is hard to find but is seen
repeatedly over the next two weeks.
Mid-March a few sightings of Yellow-biulled Magpies occur around Sutro
Heights. Murphy warns Fuller, who lives in that area, "You don't get to see any
of the great birds that show up on your doorstep park. Sorry, that's just how
it is..." At least Murphy missed 'em, too. Davies sees the Magpies on March 20
at the Veterans Hospital. First sightings in S.F. since 1991-2.
March 26, Alan Hopkins' Bird Blitz finds Wrentit in McLaren Park. The Blitz
totals 121 species in S.F.
April proves to be the busy month that was expected. Many north-bound
migrants: Western Kingbird, smaller flycatchers, Gnatcatcher, vireos, western
and vagrant warblers, a Ross's Goose spends several days in Golden Gate Park.
McKereghan, Withgott, Ferrick and Saraceni do a Big Day, getting S. F.
record of 134 species.
The first week of May brings unusual storms, catching many northbound birds
beneath heavy fogs and hard rains. Big spring fallouts noticed along western
edge of San Francisco. Dense flocks of Orange-crowned and Wilson's Warblers,
knots of Tanagers, Warbling Vireos, Grosbeaks, flycatchers of varous kinds. A
Dusky Flycatcher lands on Davidson. Chat show up in Glen Canyon and Golden Gate
Park. A Red-eyed Vireo is found near Middle Lake. The group adds 16 new
species in the month. Then another 17 in May when Saraceni gets his Swift
trifecta on Davidson, Willow and Hammond's Flyctachers show up, a Northern
Parula takes to singing west of West Wash, White Pelicans check out Crissy
Field, Magnolia Warbler is found by Davies near Vet's Hospital, two Hooded
Warblers found in city.
June brings an Ash-throated Flycatcher through town, along with the first
American Redstart of the year.
To follow the action, here's Eaton's webpage for the San Francisco BY2K.
July brought the several post-breeding migrants. Elegant Terns are back
in numbers, Sanderlings arrive wearing brown. Murphy had his first Tattler of
the season on Seal Rocks. Wish me luck in September, I'm 19 species behind
McKereghan, but at least I'm way ahead of where I was in '98. We are all
looking forward to a big and busy fall: send those raptors, Waterthrush,
Pectoral Sandpipers, Common Terns, vagrant warblers and wayward migrants this
way, please.