Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Once again an extreme high tide brought the dabblers into the pickleweed. Most of the birds in the scene above are Northern Pintail and American Wigeon. Male Pintail have a long slim tail and a white breast. Male Wigeon have a black rear and a broad whitish stripe on its head. I was looking for an Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope). What distinguishes it from the American is a red head. Among the thousands of migratory ducks that come to Morro Bay there may 2 or 3 Eurasian Wigeon. After standing in the wet pickleweed for about a half hour I was rewarded with an excellent view of a male Eurasian Wigeon.

My next birding adventure was directly across the road in the brushy area at the Quarry Trail head. And I thought due to being Christmas Morning there would be no traffic. Wrong. Where was everyone going? There were supposed to be home opening Christmas presents and drinking eggnog.

Finally managed to get across the road unscathed. I plunged into the brush (virgin territory). A good representation of chaparral birds including Hermit Thrush, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, numerous Bewick's Wren, and over head, the treat of the day, an immature Bald Eagle.

On the way home I checked out downtown Baywood. Both coffee shops were closed; both Mexican Restaurants were closed. The Baywood Market was closed and unbelievably, the Merrymaker Bar was closed. There was a disappointed customer trying the door as I passed by. Stopped at the pier. My last sighting of the morning was female Peregrine Falcon perched in an old Cypress by the Baywood Motel.

Monday, December 12, 2011


The morning was fresh. Our glorious sun was playing hid and seek with huge cumulus clouds; rain was on its way. The tide was high. Brant Geese were feeding along the edges of the pickleweed. Behind the Brant were many hundreds of Ruddy Ducks. Feeding nearby were Scaup, Pintail, Widgeon, and Blue and Green-winged Teal. Further out in the bay were huge flocks of mixed ducks and Cormorants. Over head flew the noisy Caspian Tern.

Sunday marked the end of the 30 day Brant hunting season, Yeah! It is rather disconcerting to hear the blast of shotguns when one is quietly checking out the ducks. The season for ducks runs through January 27th. Morro Bay is designated a "Bird Sanctuary." Seems rather odd that hunting is allowed in a sanctuary.
Brant (above photo) are vocally expressive - always murmuring to each other. Perhaps they are discussing their yearly migratory flight from the northern coast of Alaska to Morro Bay. Their gentle sound touches my heart and makes me feel that all is right. (for the moment)

As I was exiting Sweet Spring, heard the high pitched "tsee" of a Brown Creeper. With little effort saw two adorable little Creepers working their way up a Cypress. The sun was now hiding behind the clouds. Definitely time for a cup of tea.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Last weekend went on a field trip with Harry and Norma to Oso Flaco State Park located about a mile or so north of the quietly charming town of Guadalupe.

To birders, the main attraction at Oso Flaco (skinny bear) are the two lakes and the user friendly boardwalk that angles across the larger of the lakes. We were hoping to see an American Bittern. To say they blend in with the reeds is an understatement. First of all they are the color of reeds and when an observer is nearby, they will stretch their neck up, pointing their bill to the sky. As a consequence they look just like a reed. When we approached the area where the Bittern had been seen, people were putting away their scopes (not a good sign). The bird had disappeared into the reeds. We birded for about two hours and on our return we tried again for a view, but no Bittern.

What we did see delighted Norma and Harry. It was their first sighting of a Sora Rail. It was feeding along he edge of the reeds. Without effort we saw two feeding and one resting. The majority of the ducks were, of course, on the far side of the lake. We identified 20 species of the usual species. Cinnamon Teal were numerous.

The path into the lakes is lined with willows, and dense brush (photo). Yellow-rumped Warbler and Ruby-crowned Kinglet were numerous.

By the time noon rolled around were were not looking at a Menu, as they don't have one, in a unheated, down home Mexican Cafe in Guadalupe. We warmed up considerably when our delicious meal arrived. The Tortillas were home made and fantastic. The waitress was sweet and charming. I highly recommend the place, but unfortunately do not know its name. It is located in the center of town in the 900 block.

Local birding has been spectacular do to a few days of extreme high tides. As the tide moves into the pickleweed, the ducks come along for the ride - thousands of them. Along South Bay Blvd. you can to get an excellent view, as long as you do not mind cars racing by a few feet away. I could hold my binocs. stationary and watch scores and scores of Pintail, Shoveler, and Wigeon float by on the energy of the tide. Now, that is what I call fun!

Sunday, November 13, 2011


To the rear of the Spooner Ranch House is an old Buckeye shrub, grown into a tree. The tree may look scraggly, but there is always bird activity in and around it, regardless the time of year. The dense twigs provide little birds such as Warblers and Wrens a save haven, and many places to perch.
This morning tiny flying insects had hatched along the edge of the road beside the tree. As I approached, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Townsend's Warbler (photo), and Bewick's Wren were feasting on the insects. From a perch in the Buckeye they would dart out to catch insects in the air or on the ground and then fly back to a perch. Within a few minutes, a pair of Western Bluebirds and a couple of White-crowned Sparrow joined in on the feast. I could hear their teensy beaks clack as they snatched the insects out of the air. (I do love that sound) For several minutes I was in the midst of a these adorable birds. A Townsend's brushed right over my head and back the same way. They were landing inches from my feet (unfortunately too close for a photo). Needless to say, I was a happy camper.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Morro Strand State Beach - North Point - Sanderlings (Calidris alba ), visitors from the high Arctic tundra, are constantly on the move. Their feeding strategy is to feed in the shallow water left by receding waves; the waves never stop and neither do the Sanderlings; following the movement of the waves, they race back and forth.

Today was warm and magnificent with few people on the beach. From North Point I walked south to the Strand Lagoon, which amazingly, due to high tides and a slight amount of water in the creek, continues to exist. Along the western edge of the lagoon was a flock of 60 Black-bellied Plovers (unusual), a mixed flock of Elegant and Royal Tern, and scads of Long-billed Curlew and Whimbrel.

Next stop, The Cloisters - Maybe one or two birds. Intense growth of reed and willows make it impossible to see into the pond; does bother me a tad, for in mid January I will be leading in the Cloisters an "Easy Birding" walk for the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival. Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival - California Bird Watching at its Best

After a perker upper at Starbuck's I headed out on Turri Road. About 2 miles east is an old windmill. Attracted to the water were American and Lesser Goldfinch (photo - click for larger image), Western Bluebird, Black and Say's Phoebe. Moving around in the dry grass a flock of Meadowlark, and perched upon an old fence post sat a colorful Kestrel.

Final stop - Audubon Overlook. Tide was perfect for viewing a few of our winter guests - No. Shoveler, No. Pintail, Bufflehead, American Wigeon, Ruddy Duck, Green, Blue and Cinnamon Teal - a never ending treat for me to see 3 species of Teal feeding together. Bird count for the day was 58. My next quest - an Eurasian Wigeon.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Another ideal morning at Montana de Oro, perfect for birding the bluff (photo Corallina Cove). On the rocks at Spooner's Cove (lighting was not good for a photo) were hundreds of Brant Cormorant, and scores of Brown Pelican; in the water were Eared Grebe, and a large flock of Western and Clark's Grebe. This gathering of birds meant that a feeding frenzy had recently occurred. There goes another lost opportunity.

Along the dusty trail House and Bewick's Wren were active. Occasionally a White-crowned Sparrow showed its handsome head. On the rocks to the north of Corallina Cove one can always count on seeing Pelagic Cormorant. I found it interesting that there had been no Pelagic at Spooner's Cove; perhaps they do not associate with Brant.

After crossing the rickety bridge I headed up toward the Eucalyptus Grove. Had great fun enticing a Golden-crowned Sparrow (saw few last year) and a couple of Spotted Towhee to come out in the open. Both species were cooperative. Managed to get a photo of the Towhees, an immature and an adult. It is my opinion that many of our local species had late clutches, perhaps due to the prolonged spring rains.
Tomorrow will check the Cloisters for Golden-crowned Sp.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Rounding the gentle curve to Spooner's Cove I was struck by the beauty of the scene (photo-Spooner's Cove-Montana de Oro). The Pacific, a tranquil deep blue, air warm; with barely a breeze. House Wren, Song Sparrow, and busy Black Phoebe were my only sightings at the creek. Continued onward, parking in front of the Ranch House. Checked out the Native Plant Garden, keeping an eye out for Rattlesnakes and Wasps. A Kestrel was perched on a utility pole and a Sharp Shinned Hawk flew by.

In the fall, native brush becomes woody, making it easier to see the usually secretive Wrentit. WRENTIT (Chimaea Fasciata) | Flickr - Photo Sharing! (Photo by Maggie Smith) While in the garden I observed two Wrentit cozy up to each other, wing to wing. They preened their chest feathers a few moments, then preened each other. This behavior continued for a few minutes until a 3rd Wrentit came upon the scene. As per my usual, the camera was in the car.

Chasing after ground insects were Yellow-rumped Warbler and Western Bluebird. House Wren, Townsend's Warbler in the Cypress. The tall pines in the campground were busy with Yellow Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Junco, Chickadee, Flicker, Nuttall's Woodpecker, and more Townsend's. (I'm sure I missed half the Warblers that were darting about)

I did take a photo of Mr. Townsend's Warbler. The out of focus yellow and black smear in the below photo is proof that I actually saw a Warbler. The camera was pointed straight up, hopefully sort of focused on something I thought was a Warbler.

Take a moment - Now stand up; put your head back as far as it will go; hold that position for five minutes; not losing your balance. That little exercise will give you an idea as to how it feels to look for Warblers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Fall is our summer season; we have less fog, more sun, and not much wind; perfect conditions for my favorite pastime - birding. On the weekend I ventured into Pecho Marsh (aka, Pecho Willows). To be honest I have been avoiding it, as I can spend hours and not find any of the wonderful little migrant Warblers that everyone else is seeing.

An avid birder with a scope took off on the left trail; I took the right. Not wanting to break my leg (again), I proceed carefully over the vines and fallen limbs. I was looking for a Chestnut-sided Warbler. After an hour of intense peering into the tangle of trees, vines, and Poison Oak, I saw numerous Yellow-rumped Warblers (first of season sighting), several Orange-crowned Warblers (have yet to see an orange crown), Chickadee, but not the Chestnut-sided Warbler. Wanting a change of scenery I checked out the Cypress and a willow thicket down by the bay.

On the way back to my car, the birder who had preceded me into the willows, was coming out. He asked me if I had seen anything interesting. "Nothing special," I said. He said he had seen the Chestnut-sided Warbler (3 had been sighted the day before), and told me where to find them. I took the trail to the left, walked in about 50 feet and there were two flitting about. My very first sighting of the Chestnut-sided Warbler - Yeah!

Checked out the Audubon Overlook earlier in the day - Western Sandpiper, Greater Yellow-leg, Black-bellied Plover, Long-billed Curlew, Dowitcher, Marsh Wren and Bewick's Wren. (photo - Black-bellied Plover, center; Greater Yellowleg) A word of caution - In the last two weeks I have experienced two wasp stings, one on the earlobe (not fun), the other on a knuckle. So, watch your step when you are out and about.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Spooner's Cove Lagoon, Montana de Oro State Park (photo) - Beautiful, mild morning. Due to recent high tides, a wide lagoon has formed. I enjoy watching the seasonal changes on the beach. I also enjoy watching birds, but the only bird that was in view was a Black Phoebe.

Behind the Ranch House in the Willows and Cypress along the creek a couple of House Wren were busy scolding. Darting thru the vegetation were two Townsend's Warble, several Orange-crowned Warbler and a Hermit Warbler (first Hermit of the season) and Chickadees.

Yesterday stopped by the Audobon Overlook. All was quiet. Decided to stir things up a bit with a few iPod bird calls. Marsh Wren came out, Song Sparrow and White-crowned sang, Common Yellowthroat showed his pretty face, and the Red-winged Blackbirds were dashing back and forth, (Some of them still had their brilliant red shoulder patches.) and somewhere in the brush a Spotted Towhee called. Now, that is my idea of fun. Just as I was leaving, seven Blue-winged Teal paddled slowly by - my first sighting of these little darlings this season.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Morro Strand Lagoon - For at least several days a White-faced Ibis (photo) has been seen foraging in the Morro Strand Lagoon. The lagoon (below photo) is easily accessible. I take the little trail at the south end of the campground that follows the creek to the beach.
No sun and a wet drizzle did not dampen my birding spirit. I was happy not to be looking for Warblers in a willow thicket. The White-faced Ibis was engrossed in feeding and paid little attention to the people on the beach. See video White-faced Ibis - Plegadis chihi | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Besides the delightful Ibis, there was a mixed flock of Elegant and Royal Tern with a few Caspian Tern, several Black-bellied Plover, numerous Semipalmated Plover, a few Whimbrel and scads of Long-billed Curlew - Without a doubt, this morning's birding was perfect!!

Friday, September 23, 2011


I wish I was more adept at identifying Warblers and other little migrant passerines. Trying to identify one, as it rapidly moves thru dense vegetation, is a real challenge to my birding skills. At Islay Creek (photo), after spending 2 hours and nearly bleary eyed, I managed to see a female Lazuli Bunting, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow Warbler, and a Clay-colored Sparrow.

In the campground I spotted a pair of Townsend Warbler. I am very fond of the Townsend as they are easy to see and linger longer in their pursuit of insects. In the same tree was a Hermit Warbler. Bewick's Wren seemed quite upset at this Warbler invasion and gave them a thorough scolding. Do enjoy the feisty little Wren.

Other birds of note were a pair of Western Bluebirds hanging around the restrooms and a late batch of baby quail about the size of walnuts - so precious!!

Popped by Sweet Springs. Great sighting of one of my most favorite favorites, the Brown Creeper. The little darling was working his/her way up a gnarled old cypress trunk, stopping every few moments to gobble down a tasty insect.

Stopped by the Audubon Overlook at the end of 4th. The tide was perfect for viewing shorebirds. Birds of note: 20 or so Semipalmated Plover, two Dowitcher, Virginia Rail in the reeds, and two Black-bellied Plover (wearing their winter plumage).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


The morning was warm, barely a breeze, the birds were most cooperative. (Photo - reflection of Morro Rock in Morro Creek Lagoon.) In, on, and around the Morro Creek Lagoon, much large than the last visit due to high tides, had great sightings of one Pectoral Sandpiper, four Baird's Sandpiper, scads of the Red-necked Phalarope, three Avocet, one Spotted Sandpiper, Royal and Elegant Tern, and Willet, Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew.

The Terns, mostly Elegant with a few of the larger Royal, were hanging with a flock of Heermann's Gull. (They do compliment each other. I wonder if they know that.) I am feeling more confident with Tern identification and believe, am not 100% positive though, I know the difference between the Elegant and Royal. The Royal is a couple of inches larger than the Elegant and the Elegant has a pointier, slightly drooping bill. I believe the photo shows the difference between the two species. The Royal is the larger bird in the foreground.

Next birding adventure will be looking for early fall migrants in the willows at Islay Creek.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Morro Creek Lagoon, Morro Bay. Weather, cool, and cloudy, just perfect for birding. The photo was taken from a parking area above and to the south of the Lagoon. If this was a panoramic photo, Morro Rock would be on the left. On its way to the sea the Creek forms a couple of wide, yet shallow pools that provide bountiful habitat for a variety of shorebirds.

Fortune shined, and the birds were most cooperative. In and around the Lagoon were about 200 Red-necked Phalarope (spinning and probing), two Wilson's Phalarope, one Dowitcher (short or long-billed - hard to determine), several Killdeer, Semipalmated Plover, Western Sandpiper, and the shorebird I was hoping to see, the Pectoral Sandpiper.

It's not like I have not seen the Pectoral before; I just wanted to get a really good look at the little darling. Well, actually, it is not that little. It is a couple of inches larger that a Western Sandpiper, and it is usually (anyway when I have seen it) apart from the other sandpipers. I was focusing on a little cluster of Western when the Pectoral strode out of the reeds. Yes!!

As I neared my car, I noticed, perched atop a tall shrub on the bank of the creek, a Cooper's Hawk. Directly below him were four young house finch that were waiting for their parents to feed them. I have a feeling the hawk was thinking about breakfast.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


The morning was perfect, sunny with a slight breeze. I parked at the fig tree (will get back to the fig tree later in the blog), and walked north along the bluff looking for shorebirds. Many Black and Ruddy Turnstone feeding among the rocks and on the colorful kelp that washes ashore this time of year. (photo-Black Turnstone) Feeding on the kelp were Turnstone, Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew, Brewer's Blackbird, Savannah Sparrow, and many ground squirrels. On nearby rocks a Spotted Sandpiper bobbed.

An extra fine treat was seeing the Ruddy in its breeding plumage. (photo by R0ger Zachery) It was a perfect day for photography and I did not have my camera (bad decision).

Eventually I looked out to sea. Thousands and thousands of Shearwater were streaming south and about a mile out was a giant area of them - looked like an oil slick.

Now, back to the Fig Tree. It is a landmark of sorts, as one can see it from Hwy. 1., and it is often where birders park. Due to all the rain the tree has been reborn. The Fig is huge and lush. As I climbed up the path to the parking area, a cacophony of sound was eminating from the tree. A large flock of busy Bushtit had arrived causing Bewich's Wren and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher to become highly agitated. California Towhee began chipping and sitting atop the shrub, oblivious to the melee, were a couple of House Finch merrily singing. A most delightful conclusion to a great morning of birding Estero Bluffs.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Destination this morning was the Old Creek Lagoon on Cayucos Beach. Stopped at the Turri Road Ponds en route. Spinning around to churn up itty-bitty insects were two Wilson's Phalarope (first sighting of the Wilson's this season), and 18 Red-necked Phalarope (photo). Click on the link for a short video on Phalarope feeding behavior.

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Very foggy when I arrived at the Old Creek Lagoon. Many Long-billed Curlew and Whimbrel, a couple of Killdeer, 4 Red-necked Phalarope, one Semipalmated Sandpiper, and over a ways was a cluster of gulls with Royal and Elegant Terns. When Royal and Elegant are together I can usually tell the difference as the Royal are larger than the Elegant, but their bill similarity continues to drive me to distraction. I will persist!

Friday, August 12, 2011


For over a week a Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) has been seen along Pismo Creek. The creek meanders south (photo), veers west (right) and empties into the ocean. As I meandered along the creek I spotted, in the dim distance, an Egret. Anyway, I thought it was an Egret. After a thorough examination, I came to the conclusion it was a Juvenile Great Blue Heron. Other birds were, Caspian Tern, scads of Mallards, numerous Pied-billed Grebe, the occasional Double-crested Cormorant, and a handsome Turkey Vulture dining on Heermann's Gull. (photo)

I had a feeling that I was going to see this little darling. The Reddish Egret, though a different species, resembles the G.B. Heron, particularly at a distance, and on a very gray day, and particularly to a fledgling birder, such as myself.

On my return trip, I studied the edges of the creek. Finally spotted the Reddish Egret across the creek, directly below an R.V. Park. This time of year they are more grayish than reddish. (photo - pardon the poor quality). He preened for awhile which allowed me an excellent look. Now the Reddish Egret is engraved in my birding memory bank.

No Starbucks around, so went to Trader Joe's for a miniature cup of free coffee. My next challenge will be the Pectoral Sandpiper.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


We made four stops on our morning birding adventure. The first stop was along Estero Bluffs (photo). The fog was lifting and the sea was beautiful. Harry and Norma Catchpole knew where to find a young Black Oystercatcher. They have been following its development since it was one of three eggs. The nest was a slight depression in the rocks.

We followed the trail along the cliff a short distance. We saw both adult Oystercatcher, but it took Harry a bit of time to locate the youngster which was tucked into a slight depression, not moving a feather. Both Norma and I looked but could not see it. Juveniles are gray with brown eyes and a dark bill, and as we can testify, they can be difficult to locate.

Old Creek Lagoon - Cayucos State Beach - Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Western Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew, and after much pondering and comparing, 3 Semipalmated Sandpiper.

Morro Strand Lagooon - Morro Strand State Beach. The lagoon is extensive, but due to the Snowy Plover (an endangered species) fencing, a portion of the lagoon is inaccessible. Norma spotted the first treat - a mother mallard with 4 ducklings. Four American Avocet in breeding plumage were feeding. They thrust their bill under water and swing it from side to side along the bottom to stir up aquatic insects. Fascinating to observe.

Morro Creek Lagoon - Morro Strand State Beach. Three Red-necked Phalarope feeding. They spin quickly to create a vortex that churns up tiny invertebrates. Most entertaining to watch.

Successful morning of birding. We ended the day with a yummie lunch at the Blue Sky Cafe on the Embarcadero in Morro Bay.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Morro Strand State Beach. The sea was azure, swells gentle, and the sun warming. My birding/photographer friend Mike, and I were looking for Terns, in particular the Royal Tern. I usually have difficulty identifying Terns (above photo). The Royal Tern and the Caspian Tern are nearly the same size. The Royal has a bright orange red bill (can vary). The Caspian has a dark red bill (mostly). How does one tell the difference? There is also the smaller Elegant Tern that has a more slender pointier, red to orange bill. And then there are the immature and sub adults. I have spent hours pondering over the Terns without coming to a firm conclusion. This year I am determined to become an expert in Tern identification.

No pondering today, as there was not a Tern to be seen. We did see large flocks of Heermann's Gull and numerous Whimbrel (photo). Long-billed Curlew were abundant, and there were a few Godwits. Killdeer, Black Phoebe, Mallard and a Pied-billed Grebe were in and around the lagoon on the south side of the Morro Strand Campground.

This weekend I will conduct a more thorough search for the Royal Tern.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


So happy to be out and about. Weather overcast, no wind - a perfect Central Coast morning. San Simeon Creek flows by the campground, under Hwy One and ends in a small rocky lagoon on San Simeon State Beach. A berm of sand prevents the creek from flowing into the sea. I was looking for a Semipalmated Sandpiper - nearly identical to a Western Sandpiper. It had been seen among a small flock of Western Sandpipers. I am not very adept at finding a needle in a haystack. The area the peeps were feeding in had moist ground, small round rocks, and bits and pieces of kelp (see photo). Yikes!!
First I saw the obvious - Handsome Semipalmated Plovers in breeding plumage, Killdeer, 2 Short-billed Dowitcher, Caspian and Elegant Tern, 4 Snowy Plovers (always a treat), Grackle, Western Sandpiper. Finally spotted the Seimpalmated Sandpiper. Its bill is a little shorter, straighter and thicker than the Western. Anyway I think I saw it. Below is a link to a photo by Roger Zachery that shows the difference between the two sandpipers. The Semipalmated is upper right.
Western Sandpipers and Semipalmated Sandpiper | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Stopped at a few spots to check for Turnstones and Tattlers. Did see a couple of Oystercatchers and numerous Long Billed Curlew and one Whimbrel and many Heermann's Gull on Cayucos State Beach. Unaccustomed to the fresh air, I was overcome with a yearning for a Starbucks. Thus my first real day of birding, in nearly a month, came to a most pleasant end.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Klamath California

My friend Linda got a 6 month job as one of the hosts in an RV Camp located on the Klamath River in Klamath Calif. To say she is in paradise is a gross understatement. We spent a day together. The Bald Eagles were in a very tall tree, across and up river a bit from her camp. Look carefully and you can see the chick in the nest. In a willowy area along the Klamath, near one of the many Yurok fishcamps, we saw Am. Goldfinch, Kingfisher, Yellow Warbler, White-crowned Sparrow. Osprey are common. Saw several nests.

Upriver a bit farther, driving on the beach gravel along the river, Linda is fearles; she showed me where a Spotted Sandpiper was nesting in tall grass. As soon as we neared the area of the nest, the Sandpiper became agitated. Spotted Sandpipers are one of my favorite birds. Directly after laying her eggs the female takes off to find another mate. The male does the brooding and feeding of the nestlings. No wonder he was testy. (the Sandpiper was nesting to the right of the gravel)

The most common birds of the area were Swainson's Thrush, Varied Thrush, American Robin, Raven, Purple Finch, Song Sparrow.

In the afternoon we took a 2 1/2 jet boat ride up the Klamath. Saw numerous Osprey, several Bald Eagles, and Red-breasted Merganser. This ride is not for the faint of heart.

Spent some hours in the woods of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Heard bird sounds, but not a feather did appear. Dense flora and verrrrrry tallllllll trees tests my birding skills, so I concentrated on the flora, banana slugs, snails, and larger animals such as Elk. Perhaps the starling is related to the Ox-pecker? I wonder if Google has the answer.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Walked to Sweet Springs. The morning was sunny with a slight breeze. Took the path to the right that loops around the pond. Nine turtles were sunning themselves on a board in the pond. I believe the board was placed there just for the turtles. For awhile I was the only person enjoying the preserve. Birds twittering and singing - music to my ears. Saw or heard 21 species. (Photo - Black Phoebe)

I was sitting on a bench rebooting my iPod, which now serves as my bird book, when Teddy, a photographer/birding friend happened by. She mentioned the Great Horned Owls that live in the preserve, and asked if I had seen them. Last year I had seen them, but was not quite certain where to look this year. Teddy had taken photos of them and said she knew where they were. There were two fluffy teenage owlets, so very precious, and a parent. A real treat to see them.

Another treat was finally getting to see a Pacific Slope Flycatcher. I often hear them, but had not seen one this year. How fortunate I am to have this wonderful birding area so close to home.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Unbelievable as it may seem I was on the Islay Creek Trail a tad after 8:00 a.m. In the morning there is less wind, better lighting, and the birds are active. The day was sunny with a deep blue sky.

The top photo is the view from the beginning of the trail. Actually, the trail, for the first couple of miles, is a narrow dirt and rock road.

During my walk, I was accompanied by a choir of bird songs. Swainson's Thrush, Wilson's Warbler, Wrentit, and Song Sparrow. Cliff Swallows swooped over my head. Spotted and California Towhees were everywhere. A Great Egret flew up the creek - such a beautiful bird.

Meandering through the center of the willows and oaks on its route to the sea, is Islay Creek. (see photo) Reservoir Creek Trail is on the left side of the creek and Islay Creek Trail is on the right. The dense vegetation provides nesting and resting for many species of birds, including Owls.

All along the trail and particularly in the shaded areas were wild flowers and flowering shrubs. Saw several little white-tailed rabbits. At one month of age they are ready to have a family of their own. Except for a couple of runners, I had the trail and Islay Creek to myself.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Weather this morning was cool, breezy and overcast. Singing deep in the willows of Islay Creek were Wilson's Warbler and Swainson's Thrush. Saw a few Quail but no little ones, yet.

In the creek also saw a Brown-headed Cowbird - the third this month. I had never seen a Cowbird in this area until a few weeks ago.

The Brown-headed Cowbird is a brood parasite. It lays its eggs in the nests of other small perching birds, particularly those that build cup-like nests. Brown-headed Cowbird eggs have been documented in nests of at least 220 host species. The young cowbird is fed by the host parents at the expense of their own young. Brown-headed Cowbird females can lay 36 eggs in a season. In a nutshell, the Wilson's Warbler and the Swainson's Thrush, may be raising the much larger and aggressive Cowbirds instead their own nestlings.

Pigeon Guillemots (see photo) were flying between their nests in the cliff and the water - delightful to observe. Seven Black Oystercatcher's on the big rock formation where the Pelagic Cormorants hang out.

Spent some time in the Native Plant Garden taking photos for the MdO plant book. Click on the link for a few plant photos. Flowering Plants of Montana de Oro State Park

Monday, May 9, 2011


Sweet Springs Nature Preserve , which includes the Willow wetlands on 4th near Ramona. Weather, sunny with a cold wind blowing off the bay. Precious little Juncos were busy doing what ever it is that Juncos do. On a narrow board in the pond were 6 male Mallards. Joining them on the board were 2 pond turtles. Bird count for the morning, 27 species.

It was much warmer at the entrance to the Preserve, so sat on one of the tree stumps and looked for movement in the trees. Within a few minutes saw an immature male, Western Tanager - not an every day sighting.

In the Willow wetland Mr. Wilson's Warbler was singing. In the distance could hear Common Yellowthroat, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, and Black-headed Grosbeak. The major treat of the morning was watching 2 Tree Swallows and a White-throated Swift consuming insects. The Swift was true to its name - flew higher and much faster than the Swallow.

Sunday morning a quick trip to Montana de Oro. I was standing outside the ranch house talking to a ranger when a bobcat ambled by. He turned and looked at us as he passed. A few minutes later he climbed into the old Buckeye tree in back of the ranch house. Two crows were very upset. Was able to get a photo and a short movie. I have included a link to the photo. Male Bobcat (Lynx rufus) Montana de Oro State Park | Flickr - Photo Sharing! May post the movie later.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Saturday was overcast, mild with no wind. Checked out the creek at San Simeon State Park. First sighting were two (photo) adorable Northern Rough-winged juveniles. There were also hundreds or thousands of Cave and Cliff Swallows nesting under the Hwy. I bridge that crosses the creek. In the reeds were noisy Great-tailed Grackles, Marsh Wren, and the precious Common Yellowthroat. In the Willows, along the boardwalk, saw a Hutton's Vireo.

Across from San Simeon State Park is a short road that ends at a trail head. There is an opening in the fence and a sign that says, "dogs on lease permitted." The trail goes about a mile to the little community of San Simeon. I had heard from a friend that there were some great wildflowers, and indeed there were. The trail follows the edge of the bluff, quite moist in areas. The only birds I saw were Cormorant, Oystercatcher, Meadowlark and Savannah Sparrow. I was enchanted by the flowers. The Coastal Dandelion, Blue-eyed Grass, Lupin, Sheep Sorell, Filaree, Thrift, and Scarlet Pimpernel were numerous. The majority of the plants I could not identify, but I certainly enjoyed looking at them. (photo - reddish plant, Sheep Sorell; blue plant, Lupin; yellow, Dandelion.)

Coast Sun Cup (Camissonia ovata) was prolific along the edge of the trail.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Cottonwood Creek Road above Whale Rock Reservoir. (photo - one of the many Turkey Vultures that were perched in a Sycamore Tree)

The weather could not have been finer. I was in paradise! The only sounds were the songs and tweets of many species of birds. After I turned on to Cottonwood Creek Road, crossed over the cattle guard (cattle wander freely), I stopped by a grove of huge old Oaks. A couple of House Wrens were in full mating mode, singing their beautiful song. Had no trouble seeing them as they were directly in front of me. Up the road a bit was another pair of House Wrens. I really like their cheeky nature.

Saw 30 species as I meandered about two miles up the road. Two mature Bald Eagles were perched in their usual oak tree by the water (Major Treat!).

The reservoir is about 80% full. On the water, near the reeds, were about 25 Western Grebe. Hopefully they will nest this year. The past few years the water has been too low for the Grebes to nest.

About a mile along the road is an open barn and corrals. A pair of Western Bluebird were once again nesting in an old post. An Ash-throated Flycatcher (a most fabulous bird) Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens) | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
was attempting to hang out in the same area as the Bluebirds. He/she was chased off several times by the Bluebirds. The Flycatcher finally realized, this was Bluebird territory.

List of sightings: Bald Eagle, West. Bluebird, Kingfisher, Red-winged Blackbird, Coot, Double-crested Cormorant, Calif. Quail, Say's Phoebe, Mourning Dove, Killdeer, West. Grebe, Am. Goldfinch, House Finch, Wrentit, Calif. Towhee, Wilson's Warbler, Bewick's and House Wren, White-crowned and Song Sparrow, Great Blue Heron, Northern Harrier, Red-trailed Hawk, Ash-throated and Pacific Slope Flycatcher, Acorn Woodpecker, Scrub and Steller's Jay, Cliff Swallow, many Turkey Vulture. Conspicuous by its absence was Black Phoebe.

On the way home stopped by Morro Rock to get a Peregrine Falcon update. There was a biting cold wind. In the channel were Eared Grebe and Common Loon both in breeding plumage, also a pair of Surf Scoter. Bob, the Peregrine guy, said that at about day 30 the Peregrine pair abandoned their nest, mated again, and are in a new nesting site located below the first nest site. I have included a Flickr link to the location of the new nest. Peregrine Falcon Aerie #2 - | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Wednesday enjoyed a most delightful field trip with Harry and Norma. Weather clear, and mild, no wind. We meandered around looking for birds and wildflowers. Our bird count came to 23 or so. Best birds - Raven, Yellow-billed Magpie. Northern Shrike (3), Western Kingbird. Red-tailed Hawks were numerous. We really enjoyed watching a pair of No. Harrier skimming along the hill tops looking for breakfast.

Lunched in Parkfield at a charming park shaded by cottonwoods. Parkfield is located in the Temblor Range between the San Joaquin Valley and the Central Coast - elevation 1,529ft. This quaint community of 18 also is located along the San Andres Fault, one of the longest and most active faults in the United States; it appears in the town as a dry creek bed (we drove over the fault). The fault marks the division between the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate. We ate lunch in Parkfield at a charming park shaded by cottonwoods. Acorn Woodpeckers were abundant and chatting up a storm.

We did not see any fields of flowers, but in the vast open space along Parkfield Road Norma spotted a herd of Prong Horn - a real pleasure seeing those splendid, animals.

Last sighting of the day was in Harry and Norma's yard, a handsome Phainopepla!!

Monday, March 28, 2011


Sunday - Montana de Oro State Park - Bluff Trail. Plan on getting your shoes wet if you go out on the Bluff Trail in the next few days, as the trail has many squishy areas. I was enchanted by the little streams that were draining in to the sea.

The day was warm and gorgeous!!

Oystercatchers were in full breeding mode, in groups of four to nine, noisily flying back and forth - most amusing. There were just a few Pigeon Guillemots diving in the breaking waves. Spotted Towhees were chasing each other, and a pair Red-shouldered Hawks were nesting in the stand of Bluff Eucalyptus.

Today - Laguna Lake - In the Willow/Reed thicket along the edge of Laguna Lake had a leisurely look at a male Wilson's Warbler. His BUTTERCUP YELLOW breast was a sight to behold. If I was a female Wilson's Warbler, I would be proud to feather his nest. The only gulls were a few Ring-billed.

In the thicket of willows and reeds along the edge of the lake were a raucous group of Red-winged Blackbirds. (click on the flickr link for a sound video) Red Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) | Flickr - Photo Sharing!