Tuesday, December 25, 2012


What Birders do on Christmas Day.....
They bird and sing  "The Eleven Birds Of Christmas"

     Twelve Mallards Preening..
     Eleven Whimbrel Feeding..
     Ten Birders Birding..
     Nine Teal a-Dabbling..
     Eight Grebes a-Diving..
     Seven Eagles a-Soaring..
     Six Gulls a-begging..
     Five Golden Warblers......
     Four Fussing Jays..
     Three Snowy Plover..
     Two Precious Finch....
        And a Wrentit in the Scrub Brush......


Sunday, December 23, 2012


Rain or shine I was determined to go birding.  A huge flotilla of ducks was floating peacefully on the bay.  Brant Goose, Blue winged Teal, and the largest flock of Dowitcher I had ever seen were in the vicinity of the Baywood Pier. (photo - rainy Baywood)

Next phase of birding in the rain - Turri Road.  Northern Shoveler were feeding in the ponds.  Say's Phoebe and two American Kestrel were perched on fence posts, a few White-crowned Sparrow, and a flock of Lark Sparrow were in a recently plowed field.  Overall, very quiet and peaceful - a beautiful ride.

 Wishing for a bit more excitement, my thoughts turned to the nearby Sea Pines Golf Course where I had recently seen two species of goose. On the edge of the golf course I found a swarm of American Coot investigating ponds that were forming from water draining off the grass. The dips in the road were several inches deep, allowing the Coots to swim.

 I was marveling at the opportunistic nature of birds when a Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk swooped in. With deadly talons extended, the Hawk snatched up a coot and settled down by the fence to eat his/her meal (photo).  The close presence of the Hawk caused the Coots to close ranks (defensive positioning). They nearly flooded the street with their presence, causing sensitive motorists to take a different route.  The Hawk, intent on consuming its tasty meal, allowed me the opportunity to take photos through the chain link fence. Never let a little rain dampen your birding spirit. Additional Hawk photos may be seen on

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


While on my walk this morning I heard a flock of Canada Geese heading south in the direction of Sea Pines Golf Course.  Suddenly I remembered a Greater White-fronted Goose (photo left) and a Cackling Goose (photo right) had been seen in the vicinity of the ponds at the Sea Pines Golf Course. Hurried home - five minutes later was peering through the chain link fence at a large flock of American Coot plus two charming geese.  The geese fed in close proximity to one another; perhaps an example of cross species friendship.

In spite of the very grey morning I saw 40 species - Thousands of ducks and shorebirds.  In various pines were Red-breasted Nuthatch, Chickadee, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Favorite sighting of the morning was of two local photographers with their tripods and humongous cameras waiting for the Peregrine Falcon that sometimes perches in the dead cypress near the Baywood Pier.  They were not having any luck; as I continued on I spotted the Peregrine in a nearby Pine, clearly visible to the men with cameras.  I do think this Peregrine is a tease.

Monday, November 26, 2012


In my last blog I said I would return to the boardwalk the next morning to experience the 6.8 tide (photo - Black Phoebe on posts). At 9:00 I was the only person on the boardwalk  As a result of this tide, the birds such as Savannah Sparrow and Yellow-rumped Warbler, that forage in the pickleweed (now flooded),  were in the brush along the boardwalk; as a consequence they were very easy to observe.  A major treat was seeing two pair of Palm Warbler.

Now, we need to fast forward - Yesterday I introduced 4 friends, two from out of town to the cornucopia of birds that can be seen from the boardwalk and trail.  Before we had set one foot on the boardwalk we had already seen 3 species of Grebe and a Kingfisher.  Thousands of shore birds were feeding and resting in the estuary.  A large flock of Brant Goose kept us company with their constant chatter.  Cormorants and assorted shorebirds swirled overhead. 

Three perky Blue-gray Gnatcatcher entertained us and, to our amazement we had wonderful sightings of two Palm Warblers - look for the bobbing tail.  As we exited the boardwalk onto the tail that runs along the marina, there bobbing along, was my little darling, the Spotted Sandpiper. One and a half hours of birding netted us 31 species, that is without a scope.  At the end of our walk we were in total agreement that we had just experienced birding at its best.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Morro Bay State Park Marina - A totally accessible loop boardwalk and trail was completed about a month ago. The trail section goes along the marina to the point where it merges into a redwood boardwalk that follows the edge of the estuary, in a gentle meandering loop, back to the parking area.

Beginning in June I documented the construction of the boardwalk - the result, 5 little YouTube videos. I have included a link to part 5, the final video on the construction  http://youtu.be/wt2Vvbt6udA

Today, around noon, I walked the loop boardwalk and trail. The weather, totally divine, the birding great!  In the marina were numerous Western Grebe, Pied Billed Grebe, and one Clark's Grebe. Definitely a good Grebe Day!  Along the edge of the marina was the Spotted Sandpiper, a winter resident at the marina.  From the point, hundreds of shorebirds could be seen. - Sandpiper, Sanderling, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer; many Egret and Great Blue Heron. Dabbling and Diving Ducks in the channels.

Passed several birders that were delighted with the boardwalk. Along the estuary, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Black Phoebe chasing flies. Yum!  Did not see the Palm Warbler that had been seen this morning but did see a lone coyote stalking something way out on the estuary.  Hopefully, I will be back on the boardwalk at 9:00 Wed. morning to see the effects of a very high tide.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Arrived at Laguna Lake about 10:30 - the air was still, sun was bright; ideal conditions for checking out the birds.  About 100 Canada Goose (photo) were on the lake.  Separate from the Geese was a juvenile Snow Goose trailing 4 domestic white geese. Over the lake a couple of boisterous Caspian Terns were making their presence known.  Ruby-crowned Kinglets (most prevalent this year) and Yellow-rumped Warblers were flitting about in the trees.
The open space was delightful, only one doggie walker passed by.  Loggerhead Shrike ( photo), well known for its innovative use of barbed wire to impale its prey, was doing what it does best, catching insects.  A few posts down from the Shrike, was another insect eater, Cassin's Kingbird.  Saw several Meadowlarks in the fields, and circling overhead was a White-tailed Kite.  My cup runneth over.

Next stop Costco with its burgeoning population of Parking Lot-Boat-tailed Grackle.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


This morning a bevy of birds, migrating in for the fall/winter season, greeted me. Reliable old friends had, once again returned to the Central Coast. (photo - Sweet Springs High tide)

To the west of the Sweet Springs boardwalk leading out to the overlook was a White-tailed Kite sitting atop a shrub, Snowy Egret and Gr. Blue Heron, and a resident Bewick's Wren singing.  On the bay about 30 Ruddy Duck; many of the males still sported their breeding plumage, 5 Western Grebe, and 3 Scaup.

A mixed flock of ducks rested in the pickleweed along the main channel - Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Blue and Green-winged Teal. In the vicinity of the ponds, many Mallards and a Female Kingfisher.  Flitting about in the Cypress trees were Yellow-rumped and Townsend's Warbler. Oh, nearly forgot - the morning's weather was warm to hot - unusual to say the least.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Having never crossed over the Sierras on Hwy 120, I was looking forward to the experience. On Sat. at 5a.m. headed east, following Hwy 41, passed Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite and finally came to the turn on to Tioga Pass Road.  Pulled off the road numerous times to ooh and ah over the massive granite slopes, the acutely blue lakes, and the rugged mountain peaks. By the time I arrived at Tioga Pass, elevation - 9,943 ft. (3,030 meters), I was starving, as I had not wanted to take time to eat. As I was setting up my picnic on a rock (photo-yes the sky is that blue), saw a Stunning Black-backed Woodpecker on a nearby pine tree.  He sported a yellow cap and a long stout bill (very masculine).  His drumming sounded like a jackhammer. (hard not to miss). First time sightings are always exciting (camera was in the car).
 From Tioga Pass to Hwy 395 it is all down hill, 3,044 feet in 13 miles, about 7 miles at a 7% grade and on some of the sharper curves, no guard rails (Yikes!!).  Next stop Mono Lake's South Tufa State Park Reserve.  Fortune shined when I walked down to the water with the park interpreter. She was an avid birder and a few days ago a seldom seen bird had arrived.  A precious little Sabine's Gull (another first) was at the end of the boardwalk feeding on Alkali Flies, of which there are trillions. In the dense brush we got a glimpse of a Brewer's Sparrow.  White-crowned Sparrows were numerous.  On the lake were thousands of Eared Grebes and Ruddy Ducks feeding on Brine Shrimp.

Next stop was Niceley's Restaurant, the only open Restaurant in Lee Vining.  Fortunately, the food was good.  Sunday's destination was Devil's Post Pile, above Mammoth and Hot Creek, south of Mammoth.  Quite a few international tourists at Devil's Post Pile.  I looked at the rocks, took a few photos, and then concentrated on birding along the absolutely, glorious Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River; found an area where birds were dashing back and forth across a quiet flowing stream - the water was crystal clear. Was able to identify Hutton's Vireo and MacGillivray's Warbler. In the pines were numerous Red-breasted Nuthatch, a Brown Creeper (my favorite), and a White-headed Woodpecker.  Overhead Ravens soared.

 Onward and southward to my favorite place on the Eastern side of the Sierras, Hot Creek Geologic Site. The area is highly unstable.  At any time a scalding Geyser can erupt  in the creek or from one of the thermal pools.  There is some fencing which is in dire need of repair. Water temperature in the pools 93c/200f.  Along the edge of the creek are numerous steam vents and small bubbling hot springs.  A Great Blue Heron appeared focused on the abundant population of crickets.  Downstream were several Eared Grebe, a Lincoln Sparrow feeding along the edge of the creek, and a precious Rock Wren.

Due to the rutted gravel road back to the highway, I was driving slowly, which was fortunate, because I had another first sighting, three Black-billed Magpie sitting on a water tank - a very nice way to end the day.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Morro Strand Beach - Weather, overcast, temperature mild, no wind, and few people; in other words, Perfect!  My desire was to hone my Tern identification skills.  As far as I am concerned, definitely not an easy task. My problem is sorting the Elegant Tern from the Royal Tern.

The Elegant is larger than the Royal, and its bill is more orange-red and thicker and less down-turned; even knowing this, when I look at a flock of Terns, they look alike, unless there is a larger Royal Tern (the bigger one) standing next to the smaller Elegant Tern. Recently, a very talented birder told me, if I am remembering correctly, to look at the eye. On the Elegant Tern the black touches the eye, whereas there is a slight space between the eye and the black on the Royal Tern. In the above photo the three Terns, to the rear, appear to have a slight space between the eye and the black, so they may be Royal Terns (I think). My Tern ID skills still need honing.

Included in this flock was a most unusual Tern, one with red legs (right center). Elegant and Royal Terns have black legs. Unfortunately, I only noticed it when reviewing my photos. The sleeping birds are Long-billed Curlew (rear), Heermann's Gull (front).

Enjoyed seeing an Black Oystercatcher among a flock of Heermann's Gull.  Other birds of note - small flock of Sanderling and thousands of Sandpiper with a sprinkling of Semipalmated Plover resting on the beach. While observing the sandpiper, a small raptor sped causing the sandpipers to rise into the air in several swirling masses; they swooped back and forth in tight circular motions, much like a school of fish fleeing a predator. Just hearing the sound of thousands of tiny synchronized wings was an unbelievable treat,

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Montana de Oro State Park - 9:00 am - The Weather was less than optimal, gray sky and drizzle. Fortunately, no wind. I had come out to see a rare migrant to our area, the Red Crossbill. This is one bird I thought I would never have a chance to see. Fortune shined!

A flock of a dozen plus were busily feeding in the Monterey Cypress on the south side of the Visitor Center. The odd shape of their bill allows them to extract seeds from tightly closed cones, such as those of the Monterey Cypress. They will feed hanging upside down like a Chickadee.

Other birds around the Visitor Center, Steller's Jay, Northern Flicker, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Bushtit, Wrentit, and Western Bluebird.

The Crossbill is not the only unusual bird in our area. An American Golden Plover had been seen along the edge of the bay near Cuesta Inlet. Within a few minutes of arrival I spotted her feeding cautiously in the pickleweed. There was no one else around, no dog walkers, which was nice. I was able to look at this graceful, solitary beauty with ease. I am including a barely acceptable photo. Clicking on the photo will give a slightly better image.
The American Golden Plover is amazing. It breeds in Arctic Tundra and has a migratory route of 25,000 miles; of this 2500 miles is over open ocean. Unlike the Black-bellied Plover who forages along the edge of Morro Bay, the American Golden Plover prefers pastures and dryer areas, so having the Golden Plover visit our area is indeed a treat.

Two new species in one day; be still my heart!

Saturday, August 25, 2012


The most exciting event of the week were Whales lunge feeding at Pismo. Photo by Mike Baird. I am also including a link to Mike's slide show on the Humpback Whales feeding at Pismo.

There are thousands of birds feeding at the same time as the whales. Pelicans are diving into the water as the whales lunge up. Unfortunately, many a Brown Pelican has gone down the gaping maw of a voracious Whale. I viewed the feeding phenomena from the Pismo Pier a few days a go.

Today, from Morro Rock, observed more of this fascinating feeding behavior. The whales and birds were feeding on bait balls, which are huge masses of bait fish packed into a globular mass. I do believe there were trillions of birds, Cormorant, Pelican, Sooty Shearwater, Gull, feeding along with three whales. The action was taking place on the Montana de Oro side of the breakwater, but was able to get an excellent view with binoculars.

Back to birding - Red-necked Phalarope has returned to the Turri Rd. ponds. There were about 40 or so spinning so fast it nearly made me dizzy. Churning up the water brings their microscopic food to the surface.
Tide was just right to see a variety of birds at the Audubon Overlook - Virginia Rail, 6 Greater Yellowleg, Dowitcher, and a very difficult bird for me to identify, Baird's Sandpiper; there were three, two immature and an adult. I spent at least an hour identifying them as they look so much like Western Sandpiper. Nearly forgot about the Spotted Sandpiper at the Morro Bay Marina. Every year one adorable Spotted Sandpiper takes up residence at the marina - was delighted to see it had returned.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Yesterday I had the pleasure of participating in the release of a rehabilitated juvenile, female Peregrine Falcon. The Peregrine was found on the sandspit on June 26; one of her wings had been broken. She was rehabilitated by Jeri Roberts' at her raptor rehab center. Peregrine photo by Mike Baird. It is not the bird that was released, but could be kin.

Arrangements had been made with the Morro Bay Harbor Patrol to take the Peregrine to the area where she had been found. Jeri arrived with the Peregrine in a cooler, which was just the right size to keep the raptor confined but safe. One end is wire. The ride to the sandspit was delightful. No wind. The Peregrine exited the carrier with great power and soared across the bay. There was some speculation that she was one of the four Peregrines that fledged on the south side of Morro Rock this year. For your viewing pleasure have a less than a minute vide of the experience.  http://youtu.be/M0aC3V7fWAc

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Morro Strand Beach - North Point - The morning could not have been more beautiful. No wind, sun breaking through the fog, tide coming in, and a variety of shore birds. What more could one ask for.

On the rock formation (photo) were two Black Oystercatcher, a Western Gull and several Black Turnstone (not visible). Counted 12 Black Turnstone feeding and preening on rocks near the shore. May take a little patience to see Turnstone, as they blend in beautifully with their rocky habitat. (Photo)

Turnstones usually travel in flocks, making them easier to see once you have finally located the first one. Another identifier is their song that sounds like a grating rattle; often calling out as they fly between feeding areas.

My birding euphoria was disturbed for a few moments as a mother videoed her son chasing the shorebirds. The boy was running after Long-billed Curlew, Whimbrel, Godwit and Willet. Fortunately I was able to get a Whimbrel photo before the birds were disturbed.

During the summer months, it is nearly impossible to go to the beach without seeing an ignorant tourist.

Whew! The sun was warming the beach. Time for an iced Starbucks.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


A bit it of an introduction is needed to explain how this photo came about. For a couple of months I have been working on "Part 3" of what I call a "documentary" of the building of the Morro Bay State Park Marina Sandspit Boardwalk. The boardwalk is near completion and I wanted to get a few more photos of the men and women of the Calif. Conservation Corps at work.

I had told myself that I did not need binoculars, as I was going to focus my efforts, such as they are, on photography. In the distance I could hear Elegant Terns. Rounding the point I saw, along the edge of the bay, a small flock of terns. Although distant, two of them looked like Black Skimmers. In "Sibley's Guide to Birds," he describes the Black Skimmer as "unmistakeable," definitely my kind of bird. Took a photo, zoomed in, and sure enough they were Black Skimmers. Most every year a few are seen around the bay, but they are usually seen by scope.
(Photo - Black Skimmer, to the left, Elegant Tern)

What makes the Skimmer so unique is their mandible; it is sizable and a bright orange, and the lower mandible extends past the upper mandible. They forage mainly at night, flying over shallow water with the lower mandible skimming the surface. Am I lucky or not?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


It was back to Turri Road this morning. Of course I wanted to check out the birds, but I was also in need of a dose of globally warmed sun. In the ponds, full due to a high tide, noticed a pair of Greater and a pair of Lesser Yellowleg. In the shrubbery along the road, a Gnatcatcher and a Wren let me know I was invading their territory. Above, looking for something to eat, a White-tailed Kite hovered (Photo by Kevin Cole) . Watching this bird hover, then to pause in mid-air, its glorious white tail spread out like slim fingers, is an amazing sight.

About 1/2 mile up the road the sun magically appeared. Between the ponds and the pea field, still in bloom and looking beautiful, managed to see immature Western Bluebird and Cassin's Kingbird feeding on tiny insects; at the rusty corral more Cassin's Kingbird, a female Blue Grosbeak, and a family of Indigo Bunting, mom dad and the kids, dashing back and forth across the road. If I were to rate today's birding, I would give it a perfect 16.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Suprise At The Baywood Pier

About 10:00 I started out on my birding walk; as I approached the Baywood Pier there was the usual flock of Western Gulls. A few ducks were feeding in the muck. I wondered if the Blue-winged Teal had arrived. I swung my binoculars into action; the ducks were Mallards. Thinking there might be a Glaucous Gull among the Westerns I check the gulls, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a little Cattle Egret, so dear. ( photo) I think it was an adult transitioning out of its breeding colors.

A note about Cattle Egrets. They are an Old World Species, coming to South America from Africa. They reached Calif. in the Mid 1950s. Cattle Egrets are not bay birds. They usually forage in small flocks in association with livestock. It goes without saying, this little Egret made my day.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Phenominal Week For Birding

About 2 miles east 0n Turri Road, in the area of the windmill and the pea field, birding mania was in full bloom. I believe it all began with the appearance of an Indigo Bunting in the latter part of June (see June 23 blog). Then on July 5th an Eastern Kingbird, rare to our area, was seen. Birders flocked to the site.

In the same clump of Willows, alongside the road where I had first seen the Indigo Bunting, a male (below photo) and female Blue Grosbeak had taken up residence. Two days ago the male sat at the top of the willow singing his melodious song while the female dashed back and forth across the road with insects for her brood, clasped tightly in her beak. Today, the male was singing from a tree across the road and the female was feeding 3, maybe 4 youngsters, that were waiting impatiently in the brush on the edge of the pea field - most delightful to view.

A Lazuli Bunting was feeding along the fence across from the windmill, and the song of an Indigo Bunting could be heard coming from the willows across the field (I hope I have all these names right). Up the road a few yard were several Cassin's Kingbird and a Lark Sparrow. By the old corral a female Bluebird was gathering insects for her nestlings. And perched on barbed wire was a juvenile Cassin's Kingbird fussing for food. Thank you Maggie Smith for use of yourIndigo Bunting and BlueGrosbeak photos.

As of Monday, I had yet to see the Eastern Kingbird. The most success at seeing the bird was early morning or early evening. Yesterday, I set my alarm; at 6:30 I was looking for the Kingbird and there it was sitting on the barbed wire directly across from me. I, per my usual, got a fuzzy photo, but it is proof that I saw the little darling (below photo). He was making his call sound and flying out for insects and back to his perch. Eventually he flew out of sight. I did get caught up in the birding mania and loved every minute of it. Below is a link to a video on my latest birding adventure.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Happy days are here again. This morning, resting along the edge of the bay, were about 300 Willet (photo), 80 or more Black-bellied Plover, and one peep (species undermined).

The Willets were observed from the Audubon Overlook in Baywood (my usual haunt). I have included a video of their sound. http://youtu.be/4FrwjbSX70Y

In mid bay a feeding frenzy was in progress - Brown Pelicans, Cormorants, Gulls, eight Elegant Tern, and two Caspian Tern. I really enjoy the Caspian Tern as they have a harsh guttural sound that makes them easy to identify. Looks like there will be no birding doldrums this summer.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


For the last few days a handsome Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) has been seen in the area of a glorious pea field about a mile and a half up Turri Rd. from So. Bay Blvd. When looking for a rare bird, the easiest way to find it is to first find the birders. As I rounded a curve in the road, up ahead was a cluster of parked cars and a covey of birders, one with sound recording equipment and a scope. I had arrived.

The Bunting was singing from atop a cluster of willows that was located along the edge of the narrow, two lane road. The scene could not have been more beautiful, for the willows were located in a vast field of flowering peas. Notice, in Maggie Smith's photo, how the subtle color of the peas sets off the deep blue of this precious song bird.

I did a little research and discovered that Indigo Bunting's are actually Black; it is the diffraction of light through their feathers that makes them look blue. It goes without saying that this beautiful Bunting made my day.

(I apologize for the fuzzy pea foto, wrong setting on camera)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


El Chorro Park - Audubon year end BBQ - Definitely, a happening event with many enthusiastic birders attending. The weather, as you can see by the vivid blue sky, was devine. At 5:00 Mike Stiles, one of the top birders on the Central Coast, lead an hour birdwalk (photo). All he needs to ID a bird is a flick of a feather or a tiny peep.

I was surprised at the variety of beauties we saw. (birds, not birders) Best birds were a pair of highly visible, White-tailed Kites sitting in a tree, and an Ash-throated Flycatcher - most handsome with a perky crest and a long reddish-brown tail. Below is a link to the Ash-throated Flycatcher on Wikipedia (photo by none other than Joyce Cory). Ash-throated Flycatcher - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Great birding, delightful shared food and drink, and splendid comradery. What more could one ask for?

Thursday, June 7, 2012


A few days ago a Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) was observed in willows which are located on Audubon property near Cuesta Inlet in Los Osos, Ca.  As the crow flies, the inlet is across Morro Bay from where the Catbird was last seen (on the south side of Morro Rock) in December 2008.  Needless to say the local birders were all a flutter.

 The Gray Catbird belongs to the Family Mimidae which also includes Mockingbirds and Thrashers - all notable singers, able to mimic other songbirds.

The Catbird, most distinguished, as there is only one species in North America, was playing hide and seek with the birders and photographers.  (photo taken at Morro Rock in 2008).  I never saw the little gray darling, but was able to record its sound.  Much like our local Mockingbirds, the Catbird song is composed of a variety of sounds, including a cat-like meow.  I do not believe I heard a meow, but I could be mistaken.  I have included two YouTube videos - The sounds of the Catbird, and for comparison a neighborhood Mockingbird who does a marvelous imitation of a Scrub Jay.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


A few days ago a friend mentioned hearing an unusual bird song in Sweet Springs. (photo - Eucalyptus reflected in pond)  The morning was lovely, partially sunny, with a soft fog over the bay and the distant dunes.  Perfect conditions for checking out the action in Sweet Springs.  Numerous songs could be heard but nothing unusual.  To my delight, observed Willow Flycatcher and Pacific-slope Flycatcher in the Eucalyptus trees.  Had not seen either one of these little darlings for at least a year.  Both the Flycatchers have unusual songs, but they were not singing, just darting about eating insects.

To my added delight a couple of  the resident Common Yellowthroat, one on each side of the pond, were having a song fest.  Recorded a short video of a Yellowthroat song.  In the background may be heard (besides the swoosh of automobiles) Song Sparrow and White-crowned Sparrow.  http://youtu.be/YKgMfhwaKiQ
The Juncos were lively - youngsters chasing after parents in hopes of getting a handout. Hmm, sounds familiar. Thank you Sweet Springs.  You never disappoint. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Making the Best of Difficult Circumstances

Turri Road Pond

The difficult circumstances this morning was an overcast, gray sky with light drizzle. My limited birding skills were put to the test, especially when looking into the glare, but I persevered; managing to identify 41 birds in 3 hours.

Little birds, especially if they were at a distance or on a utility line, all looked alike, but due to the season of spring many were singing which helped considerably in their identification. My goal this morning was to see how many birds I could identify along the road.  Fortunately traffic was very light with just a few bicyclists.

First stop was the main pond (Photo).  3 Northern Shoveler, 2 Semipalmated Plover, and a Killdeer.  In the brush were Common Yellowthroat, Red-winged Blackbird, Wrentit, and an Anna's Hummingbird. Overhead, moving at sonic speed, were three species of Swallow and a bird that I adore, the White-throated Swift.

This week, Lazuli Bunting, Purple Martin, Blue Grosbeak, and Grasshopper Sparrow (most adorable) had been seen. I found 2 out of  4 - Lazuli Bunting and Grasshopper Sparrow. As soon as the sun comes out, usually after 1:00, I'll make a return trip to Turri Road to look for the Martin, which I have yet to view. 

Friday, May 4, 2012


"Birding Here" - Last Saturday Norma, Harry and I checked out the birds on Dairy Creek located 5 miles east of Morro Bay in Chorro Regional Park (photo). The dense trees and shrubbery along the creek provides prefect habitat for migratory song birds. The air was alive with song.
As we entered the park we saw a male Turkey strutting after 2 females - most amusing. The gobble, gobble of Wild Turkey followed us as we very slowly meandered up the creek. Total identified species, 30 - best birds - Chipping Sparrow, Lazuli Bunting, a brilliant Bullock's Oriole, and a Lark Sparrow (managed to photo the Lark Sparrow which is amazing, above photo)
"Birding Afar" - Monday 5:00am.on the road to Yosemite. First to Glacier Point for the breathtaking views of snow capped peaks and foamy white waterfalls furiously rushing down granite slopes. Had a first time sighting of a Sage Sparrow singing merrily atop a Manzanita shrub. Could hear many songs but saw few birds due dense, tall trees, and my basic ignorance of mountain birds . In the Valley, the falls were breathtaking, the upper Merced, a rushing torrent. Spent some time in the area of the Fen at Happy Isles. The Piliated Woodpecker was a no show. Stayed the night in Oakhurst at a motel I would not recommend. Round trip 520 miles. If you are planning a visit to Yosemite, sooner is better than later, as the snow pack is 40% of normal and melting fast. The following link is to my latest effort at a youTube movie. http://youtu.be/KD8HzMuPYcI

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


 Barbie (no relation to the doll), Helen, and I birded around the neighborhood.  We stopped at 3 sites -  Sweet Springs, (photo) 3rd St., and Audubon Overlook. Even though it was overcast, we managed to identify 23 species.  Still a few winter migrants enjoying our mild climate - No. Shoveler, Cinnamon and Green-winged Teal, and a large flock of Avocet.  The Avocet  were quietly feeding when a another flock of Avocet flew in.  They became very vocal and moved toward each other as in greeting.  Below is a YouTube of their vocalizations.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


The majority of the winter migrants have left for their breeding grounds. The Blue-winged Teal (photo) from my observation are often the last to go. They breed throughout the western U. S. Their preferred nesting habitats include marshes and shallow ponds.

Teals are dabblers. They feed in shallow water, either skimming the water or dabbling below the surface. This lovely morning, Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, and Northern shoveler were feeding out from the Audubon Overlook. In the shallower water a large flock of Avocet fed, bills swaying rhythmically. Many in transition to their breeding colors - their head and breast turning from white to a deep cinnamon.

On the bay was an Eared Grebe, looking exotic in its breeding plumage. Total species for this morning's birding, 27. Sweet Spring was alive with sound. Heard Pacific-slope Flycatcher (a spring migrant), Kestrel, Chickadee, Common Yellowthroat, and Kingfisher. The Kingfisher will soon be heading out. They usually nest in a tunnel which they excavate into a riverbank.

I have done much fiddling with youtube. Here goes another try. This movie is a semi-humorous attempt at birding around the Phoenix waste water treatment facility. Some of the photos are fuzzy (due to using an iTouch), but the music is jolly.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Destination - My brother's house in Avondale, Arizona. First stop - Palm Springs. Purpose? Certainly not the golf courses. (Per Wikipedia there are 125) I had stopped in Palm Springs to experience a Palm Canyon. It was most fortuitous that Cathy (below photo), whom I had met on a Morro Strand Beach walk several years ago, is a Palm Spring's resident and is very familiar with the Indian Canyons. Our canyon of choice was Andreas. (photo) It is one of the three Palm Canyons located on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. A scenic trail leads through the canyon, passing through dense groves of California native fan palms (Washingtonia filifera).
The first bird we saw was the White-throated Swift. They nest deep in cracks or crevices of rocks. The rugged granite formations of the canyon allow the Swift numerous nesting sites. The palms, clad in long dense skirts of frond, made birding a wee bit of a challenge, but after we crossed the creek, birding looked up, as were out of the canyon, looking down into the Palms. We saw Verdin, Wilson's Warbler, 3 Nuttall's Woodpecker, Black and Say's Phoebe, Phanopepla, and Cactus Wren. Most memorable was a bright orange House Wren whose coloration matched that of one of the desert's most colorful and abundant plants, Desert Mallow. Thank you Cathy for a memorable walk.

Avondale, where my brother lives, is a suburb of Phoenix. To the south east is the Phoenix Waste Water Reclamation site. A huge pond complex, creek and wetland (not open to the public) is across the road from the industrial site.

As I was peering through the fence at the teeming throngs of Ruddy Duck, Northern Shovelers, a flock of Cattle Egrets, and more Yellow-headed Blackbirds one could possible see in a life time, a worker gentleman drove up; we started talking about the birds. He showed me where one could get partial access to this fascinating area. He said a permit was required, but I did not need one. What a nice guy.

As one walks along the road, to the right is the fenced pond complex. To the left are native plants, the waste water creek, and endless open space (This area was once were three rivers: Gila, Salt and Agua Fria came together). The creek is not accessible due to dense vegetation. The first item of interest besides the trillions of birds in the ponds and reeds, was an old Cottonwood Great Blue Heron Rookery (photo). I counted 18 active nests. Following the road were shallow ponds and dense reeds. Birds were easy to see: Numerous Black-necked Stilt (photo below), Dowitcher, Canada Goose, Cinnamon Teal, Common Moorhen, Greater Yellowleg. Not not bad for the Arizona desert.

On the way back, was thoroughly parched due to leaving my water bottle in the car, I looked up. Soaring overhead, with two Turkey Vultures, was a flock (9 or 10) of Black Vultures. They have silvery white wingtips and appeared a tad smaller, and blacker than the TV. Unlike Turkey Vultures the Black vulture depends on vision to find its food. Terribly thrilling for a fledgling birder, such as myself, to have a first time sighting. Thank you City of Phoenix Waste Water Facility.

Below is a link to a simi-humorous youtube on birding around a water treatment facility. Keep in mind I am a novice.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Spring was in full bloom (photo) this Morning. Common Yellowthroat and Song Sparrow were singing their little hearts out. A pair of Red-shouldered Hawks were noisily chasing each other through the trees. Wildflowers were blooming - Humming Bird Sage, Wallflower, Phacelia, Coreopsis, Chinese Houses. Floating along in the bay was a large flock of Ruddy Duck; many of the males transitioning to their breeding colors - dark head, vivid white cheek, blue bill, a ruddy cinnamon body, and of course their "piece de resistance," perky tail feathers.

In the pickleweed, along the channels, were resting Shoveler, Cinnamon, Blue and Green Winged Teal, a solitary Canada Goose, and an assortment of Egrets and shorebirds. Above, a pair of Tree Swallows dashed about.
On the far side of the wetland two White-tailed Deer (photo) were quietly feeding. Fortunately for the deer, the boardwalk keeps people out of the wetland - has been at least three years since I had seen deer in Sweet Springs.

As I was leaving, I came upon a couple of friendly out of town birders. They had many questions. They asked me if I lived nearby. I said, "Yes." "You live in paradise," said the gentleman. I had to agree.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Yesterday Bob, the Peregrine Falcon guy (south side of Morro Rock), Peregrine Falcon Perches - So. Side Morro Rock | Flickr - Photo Sharing! told me that brooding is in its 6th day. If all goes well hatching should occur in the first week of April. The nest is located in the area called "The Diving Board." Last year's successful nest was in the mail slot. Peregrine Falcon Aerie - "Diving Board" "Mail Slot" | Flickr - Photo Sharing! (move cursor over photos)

Bob said the other day, when the wind was fierce (40-50 mile per hour), a female Peregrine flew into the area. The parents went ballistic, an aerial battle ensued. The unwanted female finally got the message and flew off. When I head the story; I wondered if the interloper could have been the female that perches in the trees behind the "Back Bay Inn." She was in her tree when I walked by this morning.

Cool, windy weather this morning. Had a heck of a good time listening to an Oak Titmouse. I heard it for many minutes before I could find it. This little bird has a variety of calls. At first I thought the sounds might be coming from a talented Mockingbird. I played a Titmouse call for about 3 seconds and the little fellow went into overdrive. The following is a brief recording of his vocalizations. OakTitmouse - Baeolophus inornatus | Flickr - Photo Sharing! Do love the perky little passerines.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Spent a delightful day in Paso Robles birding with Harry and Norma. Moments after arriving at Harry and Norma's, their resident Phainopela made an appearance. The male is glossy black with red eyes and a perky, up-swept hairdo. Phainopela eat berries, and can consume more than 1,000 Mistletoe berries in a day. (photo - deciduous Cottonwood - green patches are Mistletoe)

We birded in three locations: along the Salinas River Bed, an Sycamore/Oak Woodland, the Paso Robles Cemetery.

Our first sighting at the Salinas River was of Turkey Vultures warming their wings. They flew off before I could get their photo. (the more focused I am on birding, the fewer the photos) White-breasted Nuthatch were active in the trees and in the grassy area were many Western Bluebird and White-crowned Sparrow. We saw 11 species.

Next stop, the Sycamore/Oak Woodland. Acorn Woodpeckers were prolific and very talkative. Our most fun was with the perky, little Oak Titmouse. I recorded its call, then played it back. Several responded.

In the bushes along the creek, that meanders through the woodland, were scads of Lesser Goldfinch and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Overhead soared Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawk.

Our final birding hotspot was the Paso Robles Cemetery. Best sighting was a small flock of Cedar Waxwing - They can become intoxicated from eating fermented berries in the winter.

Highlight of the day was lunch. Harry and Norma introduced me to the La Reyena Market on the corner of Oak and 24th. in Paso Robles. They have the best soft taco I have ever had the pleasure to consume.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


In the last few days have seen three species of Falcon - Peregrine, Merlin, American Kestrel. This morning spoke with Bob (Peregrine Falcon Expert) at Morro Rock. He said the Falcons are mating several times a day. As I stood looking at the rock looking for a Peregrine, the male, at Mock speed, flew over my head. Bob said the male strafes the gulls which makes them dive under water.

The Merlin was on a Eucalyptus Branch in Sweet Springs, perhaps eying the sandpipers that were feeding in wet sand as the tide receded. It had been several years since I had seen one; I was thrilled to see this little beauty.

The American Kestrel, out smallest Falcon, was perched on a fence post in the open space area of Laguna Lake (photo). I often stop by there on the way to Trader Joe's. The morning was glorious. Horses were quietly grazing on the trail (photo). They did not even look up as I passed. In the vast fields were flocks of Meadowlarks; their white outer tail feathers flashed as they fluttered about the tall grass.
On the way to Trader Joe's, directly after the Costco/Home Depot shopping area is a field which usually has horses or cattle grazing. This morning, as I sped by, I saw what I thought were geese. When traffic allowed, I turned around and pulled off by a private road that goes into the property. Definitely, Snow Goose; they were going down a berm and out of sight. Slowly I edged along the private road to get a closer look as to were they were going, and there, in a depression was a pond with Snow Goose, Canada Goose, and many Northern Shoveler. I felt like I had found the goose that laid the golden egg.
(caution to novice birders - birding while driving can be hazardous to your health)