Distraction levels.

Look, a Swainson's Thrush.

Yup.  There it is.

Everything is so weird right now.  When I start to think too much about all my mild annoyances (or worse, my major annoyances) with the state of affairs I have to stop myself and get back into my crime novel. Or check the bird feeders or start a new game of Candy Crush or go for a walk or start a new garden project or get another cookie or whatever.  It's a game of distraction these days.

5MR Mountain Quail = Distraction level 10

 When the beach access parking lots all closed (but beach-walking still permitted) because of the coronavirus I thought the silver lining would be shorebirds partying hard on the beaches.  Nope.  In talking with another local birder a few days ago at a six-foot distance we learned this has probably been the worst spring shorebird migration in recent time. 

This Black-bellied Plover (Distraction level = 9) at the 15th Street access was the most interesting shorebird I saw during the prime weeks of migration, a 5MR/county bird combo to boot. Yesterday Jacob and I got another 5MR/county combo shorebird in the form of a recently reported Long-billed Curlew at Schooner Creek.

Aside from these birds my many beach trips have turned up very little: a handful of Leasts and Westerns, some Sanderlings, a dozen or two Whimbrels.  Hardly the variety and volume I had anticipated. 

Whimbrel/TUVU/dead pinniped combo

 Same vultures, different angle (D level = 8)

 Glaucous Gull glowing at D River (Distraction level = 9)

The beach is rarely boring though with all of it's weird critters and shells and things to poke.

California market squid egg sacs have been abundant lately on the shore (D level = 10 the first time I saw them, dropping a little each time after)

This thing (D level = 8)

Pacific sand lance 

Spring migration earlier this month was solid with good birding in the yard and neighborhood.
 Common Loon, yard bird #73

Western Tanagers, yard bird #74  (Distraction level = 9)

Olive-sided Flycatcher, yard bird #75 

A couple days after first seeing a flock of Greater White-fronted Geese heading north over the yard I spotted another flock.

It was a typical flying V but I quickly realized only some of the birds were GWF Geese, the rest were Double-crested Cormorants.  I had never seen such a combo flock.  Distraction level= 10.

Two days after seeing this flock I felt inspired to try a 5MR big day for eBird's Global Big Day.  Of course I remembered quickly how much I hate big days and lost interest after lunch.  Before that in the morning  Jacob and I stopped at the beach and saw a flock of Canada Geese with a corm in the mix. 

Corm/goose combo flocks are apparently normal.  Distraction level decreased to 8.

I spent some of that not-so-big-day in the yard watching this lady crane fly hopping around sticking her ovipositer into the ground, laying eggs all around the back steps.

Relaxed pose

 Egg-laying pose with lots of vigorous ground poking (Distraction level = 9)

Recently Band-tailed Pigeons have become a most conspicuous yard bird.  We saw them regularly last year but this year they've increased their numbers as well as their boldness.

Distraction level: decreasing, boldness level: increasing

With Black-headed Grosbeak

They are getting better at landing on this feeder.


Hopefully the next distractions to come are baby birds.  Many of our local birds have been busy getting busy, building nests, or gathering food lately. 

Western Gull sex (D level = 9)

Northern Flicker in a nest hole (D level = 8)

Robins running around the yard grabbing baby food (D level = 10)

Take care of yourselves out there, wear your masks and stay just distracted enough.


  1. The egg-laying pic is great, as is the accompanying caption (Caption level = 10).

  2. I love the combo flocks! Also I'm glad you got some nice shorebirds even if it wasn't quite as many as you were expecting. Hope you can keep finding nice distractions. Take care. ♡

  3. Hi Jen, I didn't do the big day either, we have too many rules in our lives right now to be told when, how and where to bird...so I was like Nope not doing it. You had some really interesting fly overs!! The migration has been seemed slow and dispersed this yr, we had a very cold spring! In fact I had the heat on in yesterday morning in my house today I have the AC on. Many of my yard birds have fledged a brood already they did a good job cause with lower tempts not as many insects out to feed the babies!

    1. Jealous of your yard bird babies! We still haven't seen any youngsters in our yard even though it seems like *everyone* else has. Fingers crossed we'll see some soon!

  4. Good post. We all need our distractions right now. I do this loop of activity: reading, staring at IG, eating salty snacks, watching birds in the yard, wandering around the yard, working in the yard, repeat. I have been spending lots of time gazing at tiny pollinators and enjoying the bumble bees.

    1. Your activity loop is very familiar! The tiny pollinators are excellent distractions.


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