Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Birding Bob Jone Trail and Beyond

 Sunday - Avila Beach, Ca. - Bob Jones Trail - Mike Baird and I were standing on the foot, bike and golf cart bridge that crosses San Luis Creek hoping to see the Common Goldeneye, a sea-duck, native to the lakes and rivers of Canada, the northern U.S., Scandinavia, and Russia. (female on left)  About three minutes after we arrived on the bridge the fog lifted.  The Goldeneye were close and we got great views.  They are a large duck and very beautiful.  The male's eye is a bright orange; the female's eye is a soft golden color.
 On either side of the bridge is the Avila Beach Golf Course where hundreds of Canada Goose, one Cackling Goose and multitudes of Coots were feeding on the grass.  As we progressed up the trail, actually it is a road/trail for about a mile, we came upon an unusual sighting.  A family of Western Bluebird were taking turns drinking from little pools of water that had accumulated on the yellow seats of a maintenance vehicle.  (trail is above the maintenance yard)  Two other birds of note, an Acorn Woodpecker perched atop a tall Red Cypress and a Great Blue Heron looking for edibles on a dry hillside.   

Miscellaneous Sightings in the Great Beyond of Morro Bay 
 In a Eucalyptus tree a Turkey Vulture was doing her pre-flight warming exercise.  At night the body temperature decreases.  To fly they have to increase the body temperature.  By spreading their wings, they increase the area the sun will be warming.  The spread wing stance is called the "Horaltic Pose."  Not only does the Pose dry the wings and warm the body, it also bakes off bacteria that forms on the legs from feeding inside a carcass.
Lately I have been fascinated by the movement of Ruddy Ducks.  A couple thousand spend the winter on Morro Bay.  They are always accompanied by a scattering of Greater Scaup.  They are usually in a large spread out flock, appearing to be resting, but in motion.  By expanding the photo you will notice the perky tail of the Ruddy and the bright white cheek of the male; upper left is a Bufflehead; the Scaup is the darker duck with the larger head. 

Below is a Google Map that shows the location of the Avila bird sightings, from left to right -  1) X is where the Goose were located.  2) bridge over creek, Goldeneye, 3) Bluebirds, Woodpecker, 4) Great Blue Heron.    

Monday, January 1, 2018

Audubon Overlook

Audubon Overlook.  The day was tranquil - no one in sight; the melodious chatter of several hundred Black Brant Goose welcomed me.  The tide was at a perfect level for viewing shorebirds, wading birds, and a variety of water fowl.
To the right was a flock of about 40 Long-billed Dowitcher, I think.  When their bill is deep into the mud, up to and passed their nostrils sometimes, and they are at a distance, it is rather difficult to tell the difference between a Long-billed Dowitcher and a Short-billed Dowitcher; especially when the male Long-billed Dowitcher’s bill is the same length as the Short-billed Dowitcher’s bill.  (photo taken near the Baywood Pier)
 Taking advantage of whatever foods were abundant, four Green-winged Teal and a pair of Cinnamon Teal were feeding in shallow water along the shoreline. (male below)
 Along the edge of the bay Willet, Godwit and one Black-bellied Plover; as the tide receded American Avocet and Northern Pintail appeared.  In Morro Bay Pintail often feed by dabbling.  They will also feed in fields eating rice, wheat, corn, and barley.  Bottoms up!
Across the bay many Snowy and Great Egret accompanied by a few Great Blue Heron.  Overhead low flying Forster’s Tern looked for small fish.  They hover for a few moments before plunging into the water.

All of a sudden I noticed that the water was gone and so had the birds.   As I experienced the magic of nature, I was unaware that time had passed.  

Monday, December 25, 2017

An Unusual Sighting At Montaña de Oro

Sara and I, volunteers at Montaña de Oro State Park, were on the Bluff Trail headed toward Spooner's Cove Overlook.  The day before, Sara with her photographer husband Gary, experienced an unusual bird sighting. 

When Sara and I reached the overlook we could see a wake (group of Vultures) about 17, peacefully perched at the end of the bluff.  Fortunately the area was cordoned off with single wire fencing which kept visitors on the trail and away from the Vultures.
On the jagged rocks below perched 8 more Vultures.  Lower down the rocks a lone Vulture was pecking on a deer carcass.  The carcass was in the shadows and nearly impossible to see from the top of the bluff.  Fortunately, the day before Gary had taken a photo.  Notice the beautiful deep brown feathers.  Vultures have a keen sense of sight and smell.
What we wondered was why only a single feeder, and what had caused the deer to fall off the cliff? Our best guess - the deer was chased by Coyotes or a Mountain Lion.  What ever the cause of the deer's demise, the Turkey Vultures, natures recyclers, had a fine feast.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sweet Springs Expands It’s Horizons

Yesterday was the Grand Opening for the "Accessible Trail and Viewing Platform" at the new Sweet Springs East.  The trail and boardwalk is about 2/3 of a mile round trip.  The boardwalk ends at the beautifully constructed viewing platform.
The viewing platform gives visual access to a section of the bay where migratory ducks and shore birds hang out, an area that has hitherto been out of sight.  (I can hardly wait to return for some serious birding.)

Earlier in the day, I birdied the usual Sweet Springs (above).   In the thickets of brush, digging thru leaf litter, were Junco, Song Sparrow, and White and Golden-crowned Sparrow.  The Golden-crowned Sparrow is a rather feisty feeder.  If another Golden-crowned gets too close, the interloper gets a quick peck on the butt.  
In the Eucalyptus trees, vivid black and yellow Townsend’s Warbler, Northern Flicker, pert Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and a sweet little Downey Woodpecker.  Belted Kingfisher was perched on a branch overlooking the pond.
 On my way to the overlook I heard a sound that was music to my ears, Brant Goose (about 100); the first of the season.  Along the edge of the bay, Blue-winged Teal Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Greater Yellowleg, and a beautiful Great Blue Heron.  Seeing the Brant and hearing their magical sound made my day.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Estero Bluffs State Park - Villa Creek Beach

Estero Bluffs State Park begins directly after the community of Cayucos.   The park follows along Highway 1 for about 5 miles until the road takes a slight curve inland. 
Between the highway and the Pacific Ocean is a vast grassland dotted with a few greenish serpentine rock clusters and the occasional clump of brush. 

Destination of this morning’s birding adventure, Villa Creek Beach, located at the northern end of the park.  Several days ago migrant Mountain Plover had been sighted.   I had high hopes that at least one of the three that had been seen by local birders would appear in my binoculars.  
 As I was following the trail to the beach, I asked a gentleman birder if he had seen the Plover.   He said he had and that it was easy to see. 
                             Mountain Plover
After walking a few yards along the beach, I spotted the Mountain Plover, (first time sighting) chasing flies with her cousins the Snowy Plover.  I was delighted to get a photo of the Mountain Plover, as it was constantly on the move chasing kelp flies.  While watching the Plovers two of the Snowy got into a rough and tumble disagreement, feathers were actually flying.  (Photo - Snowy Plover often rests in small depressions.) 
Other birds on the beach: American Pipit, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Godwit (below photo), Whimbrel, and of course, my faithful friend, Black Phoebe. 
After the beach I walked through a few acres of the Grasslands:  Red-tailed Hawk, Loggerhead Shrike, a very cheeky House Wren, Western Meadowlark, American Pipit, numerous White-crowned Sparrow, excellent sightings of Savanna Sparrow, and Black Phoebe.  Birding Villa Creek Beach and the grasslands was absolutely "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

Monday, October 2, 2017

Morro Bay Estuary - Return of the Winter Birds

  The photo shows the estuary as the tide is ebbing.  The marina is center left in front of the trees.

Thousands of birds winter on the Central Coast.  Primarily, the first of the winter arrivals are the shore birds.  Then come the Terns, gulls, Geese, White Pelican, water fowl, and much to the delight of the birding community, the occasional rare or seldom seen bird.  Oops, must not forget the songbirds, such as Warblers, and my favorites, the White-crowned and Golden-crowned Sparrow, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  By the first of October large numbers of shore birds can be seen feeding in the Pickleweed and along the edges of the bay.  
 A few days ago Mike Baird and I went to the Morro Bay Marina (above photo) to check out the birds.  The Marina is located across from the entrance to the M. B. State Park Campground. The loop boardwalk/Trail is at the east end of the parking area. The weather was delightful.  We were hoping to see a true rarity to the Central Coast, actually a first time visitor to our county, a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea).  It is thought that this Night Heron may have come up from Santa Barbara.
Last week I had seen the Yellow-crowned Night Heron perched on the stern railing (above) of one of the marina sailboats.  Mike and I checked out the boats and the Eucalyptus trees that line the parking area.  Unfortunately success alluded us in locating the Night Heron.  

From the boardwalk we observed numerous, Willet, Godwit, Long-billed Curlew, and two Greater Yellowleg feeding in the pickleweed.  Mike spotted a small flock of White Pelican.  (photo by Mike Baird)
 They appear completely white except in flight when one can see their 9 ft black and white wings - a most impressive sight. 
The Spotted Sandpiper that returns to the marina in late summer was exactly where I expected it to be.  She bobs her little behind as she walks, and there she was bobbing along the sandy edge of the marina.  I love that bird!

As we came off the trail and headed to the car 🚗 we noticed a women looking through her camera into the trees.  Her face was hidden by her hat and her camera.  We were nearing the car when she called out, “Joyce, is that the Yellow-crowned Night Heron?”  As soon as she spoke I knew who she was.  I looked into the area she was focused on and sure enough there was the Yellow-crowned Night Heron, perched nearby was a Black-crowned Night Heron.  “Yes,” I said.
 A difficult shot for my little camera.  But there he/she is, napping in a Eucalyptus tree.  Night Herons often hunt at night and sleep during the day.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Terns by the Thousands

"One good Tern deserves another."  And another, and another.  The plan for the morning birding was to look for shore birds that had been observed in the vicinity of the lagoon that spreads on to the beach at the south end of Morro Strand campground.  Our view as we (Mike Baird and I) neared the beach was of thousands of extremely vocal Elegant Terns.  We were in total amazement, momentarily forgetting about shore birds.   
 The sound of a giant flock of Elegant Tern chattering is a "wonder" of the birding world.

On this overcast August morning the beach was quiet.  To the north and to the south flocks of Elegant Terns.   Moments after we arrived we saw a Caspian Tern.  Following the Caspian was a fussing adolescent.  I clearly heard it say, "Feed me, Feed me."
On the fringe of the Elegant Tern flock was a smaller flock of Heermann's Gull; along the outer edge of the Gull flock were two Royal Terns (above), an adult and an adolescent begging for food.

I watched an adult Elegant Tern with a small silvery fish gripped in her bill circle over the flock, calling and calling.  She circled many times.  Finally her youngster rose into the air and followed her away from the flock. They landed and the youngster took the fish.

Eventually, we birded the lagoon. Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Wilson's and Red-necked Phalarope, Semi-palmated Plover, Western Sandpiper, Killdeer, Long-billed Curlew, and here and there Ring-billed Gull (below).
 We met up with Meg, who monitors nesting Snowy Plover.  She said a Black Skimmer had been seen on the edge of a flock of gulls. As we stood talking, suddenly she pointed up.  A Black Skimmer was flying over us.  They are a seldom seen bird on the central coast.  Before landing it swooped over the lagoon to skim the surface for edibles.  Skimmers feed by flying low with bill open, dipping the lower mandible into the water.  Super treat seeing the Skimmer.  First time sighting for Meg and Mike.
The Black Skimmer is in the center of the photo, to the left is a Willet.  On the Morro Strand State Beach, the nesting Snowy Plover is protected and watched over by State Park monitors.  Dogs are not allowed, and the dunes are cordoned off.  Temporary wire cages protect the Plover nests from predators.  In the background of the photo is a nesting cage.  The Snowy Plover (below) can go in and out at will, but predators cannot. 
The highlight of the morning -- being surrounded by thousands of swirling, swooping clouds of excited Terns and Gulls -- one moment they were resting and preening on the beach, the next moment they were in flight.  After a few minutes they landed and they were back to resting, preening which they do with gusto, and feeding their offspring.   Click on the link to see the swirling mass of Terns.