Thursday, December 26, 2013

Cloisters Pond - Pre-Birding

Christmas Morning - Cloisters Pond - On the 17th of January I will be leading an "Easy Birding" walk in the Cloisters Park.  My goal this a.m. was to find out what birds to expect on the day of the walk.  Due to a total lack of rain, the pond is shrinking, and the vegetation along the park paths is extremely dry and birds are scarce (nothing to eat I figure).  The park lawn and some of the plants are watered which helps in providing habitat and insects for the warblers and flycatchers; the number one attraction for the birds is the pond.  The majority of the 26 species I observed were in or around the pond or on the lawn.

The above photo was taken from the overlook; as I approached, a family that had been feeding the ducks crumbs, were leaving.  The Mallard Ducks, being more skittish, moved closer to the water which left the Sparrows pecking at the crumbs.  As I was watching the little darlings, a California Thrasher came into view - a most unusual sighting.  Ca. Thrashers are usually off in the distance singing from atop a tall bush.  I am hoping this Thrasher will appear on the "Easy Birding" walk in January.   For a 24 second, could stand improvement Thrasher video, go to
 On my last visit to the pond I saw a male Northern Pintail Duck - a first-time Cloisters sighting (photo from wikipedia - with tailfeathers).  Male Pintails have long, pointy tail feathers, and this fellow was missing his tail.  He was probably hanging around the pond waiting for his tail feathers to grow back.  And sure enough his pointy tail feathers were sprouting, but they had a looong way to go.  I am hoping this handsome male will make an appearance in January.

Since the majority of the Cloisters birds are located in and around the pond, it looks like "Easy Birding" will be easy birding.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Front yard birding has been excellent of late.  One and sometimes two male Townsend's Warbler are feeding at the suet that hangs in a scraggly Mallow Bush in my front yard.  This morning, flitting in the Mallow, were two male Townsend's, plus Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Chickadee, and a perky Oak Titmouse.

Occasionally the Townsend's takes delicate sips of water from the bird bath.   I was trimming a plant near the birdbath today when he came in for a sip, nearly close enough to touch; he lingered on the edge for a few moments, and of course I did not have a camera.  Taking a decent photo of the little darling is difficult, as this colorful little warbler is never at one location for more than a second.

From tiny birds to much larger birds - A few days ago, on a very cold morning was able to get a photo of Turkey Vultures warming up before flight. Unlike the fast moving Warbler, these guys were nearly stationary.  A photo op. I could not pass up.  A friend of mine whose living room window looks out at this old tree, called to let me know about the vultures.
Turkey Vultures are non-aggressive and contrary to common belief do not circle dying animals, although sometimes, while out in the wild, I feel they are giving me the eye.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Monday morning - Only a few feet into the Marina Boardwalk, when from overhead, came a pesky squacking - a Peregrine Falcon with a small bird clutched in its deadly talons was being chased by a Red-tailed Hawk.  Then from out of the blue, came three Red-shouldered Hawks.  The falcon with its prey sped off over the bay with Hawks following.  The entire drama happened in about a minute. (note: try not to blink when birding, you might miss the action)

Due to the morning's high tide White Pelicans were fairly close. (photo by Mike Baird)  They usually hang out on Grassy Island in the middle of the bay, but during high tides they can be seen floating in the estuary channels or resting on the Pickleweed.  Directly across the channel from the Pelicans were a huge flock of Willet, Curlew, and Godwit.

Several Birders were clustered together looking intently into the brush for the Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow.  Do hope they were successful.  Best sighting from the Marina Boardwalk:  Lincoln Sparrow, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Yellow Warbler, and a hovering Kingfisher.

Sweet Springs never disappoints; observed a male Downy Woodpecker, the Smallest North American Woodpecker.  Its drumming sound, compared to other Woodpeckers, is quite delicate.  And from the overlook watched a flock of about 200 Brant Goose swoop in for a landing along the edge of the pickleweed.

The highlight of the week was a Red-breasted Nuthatch in my front yard.  It landed at the top of a bottle brush tree, crept down, flew over to the bird bath, took a few sips of water, flew back to the top of the tree, foraged around and flew off.  Hope the little darling makes a return visit.

Monday, November 4, 2013


The Brant is a small goose that feeds in Morro Bay during the winter and breeds on the high arctic tundra during the summer.  At the time I moved here, about 17 years ago, there were a couple thousand Brant wintering on the bay.  Unfortunately, the number of Brant overwintering in Morro Bay has steadily diminished over the past decade (last year less than 200).

Possible explanations include climate change and a reduction of the amount of eelgrass, the birds main food source.  And due to shifting storm patterns, in some years, a third of the population may winter in Alaska.

Yesterday about 130 Brant were seen in Baywood Cove.  This morning I was determined to find the Brant.  It might be my only chance to see them this year.  My first stop was Sweet Springs, where one can get a good view of the Baywood Cove - no Brant.  I did observe a small flock in flight that was moving south toward Shark Inlet.

Shark Inlet, the most southern section of the bay, was beautiful.  About a mile out was a large flock of Scaup, Ruddy Duck, and Bufflehead - no Brant.

I headed into Morro Bay; last year the Brant fed on eelgrass in the channel - no luck.  Last stop was the Marina where one can get a broad view of the bay and the estuary - no Brant.  On the little hill directly above the marina is the Museum of Natural History.  They have a scope and also a view of Grassy Island where Brant are known to haul out.  The scope made all the difference; on a narrow sandbar, the one in the foreground of the photo, were 50 or so Brant.  Success!!
Unfortunately, at the southern (left) edge of the island, the broadest dark area of the photo, a hunter had set up his decoys and was waiting for an unsuspecting Brant.  It seems a crime to take the life of a small goose, that mates for life, and has just flown nonstop from Alaska to Morro Bay. 

(note:  a portion of Morro Bay is designated as a state and national bird sanctuary.  This means it is illegal to kill or harm a bird in that portion of the bay.)  I feel it is time to extend the sanctuary designation to the entire bay.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow's primary winter habitat is the pickle weed of the Morro Bay Estuary.  The only time one can see this little, three to five inch beauty, is when a very high tide covers the pickle weed and forces the Sparrow to fly inland.  Sunday morning at 11:00 the 5.8 high tide was perfect for a possible viewing of the Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow.

Fortunately for birders, this little darling seems to prefer the brush located at the eastern end of the Marina Boardwalk (just around the first bend).  After a bit of looking at White-crowned and Savannah Sparrow, the little darling popped out of the dry brush and posed for a couple of minutes - the view was perfect.  I have to admit that this sighting was a "birding moment."

Friday, October 11, 2013

OCEANO LAGOON: A Warbling We Will Go!

The Oceano Lagoon Trail - Try to imagine you are looking in this tangle of willows (above photo) for a song bird that ranges in size from 4 1/2 inches to 5 1/2 inches.  These swiftly moving little Warbler could be clad in greenish/yellow, white/yellow/black, yellow and black, brightish yellow, black and white, yellow/greyish, etc; they blend in with the vegetation.  Willow leaves can turn a bright yellow in the fall which makes it easy to mistake a falling leaf for a Yellow Warbler. (help!)

I do prefer Warblers that have unique identifying marks, such as the Black-throated Gray that has a tiny yellow spot in front of its eye (see photo).  One does not always see the yellow spot, so at a distance and with poor warbling skills, such as I have, one could be looking at a Black and White Warbler instead of a Black-throated Gray Warbler.  (I know that from experience.)

Keep in mind Warblers are seldom at one spot more than a second or two.  Once you see movement, which often is directly overhead in the top branches of a huge willow, you must bring your binoculars up, adjust focus then attempt to locate the bird that a moment ago was flitting through the trees but now is nowhere to be seen and has probably flown to the other side of the lagoon. Warbling takes great patience and a versatile neck.

We (Harry, Norma, and I) arrived at the Lagoon about 9:00.  Conditions were perfect, clear blue sky, mild temp., and no wind.  After three hours of Warbling we had identified 26 species (not all Warblers).  The most notable were four species of Warbler, Black-throated Gray, Black and White, Blackpoll and Yellow.  There were also large flocks of Yellow-rumped Warbler and Townsend's Warbler.

Nearing the point of Warbler overload, we returned to the car, refreshed ourselves with coffee and homemade brownie tidbits.  Not yet finished with our birding extravaganza, we checked out the pond across the road from the lagoon.  Grackles were in the reeds and hanging out with the domestic geese was a snowy white Snow Goose.

To celebrate our success at finding a variety of Warblers, we drove into San Luis Obispo where we enjoyed a scrumptious lunch at the Natural Cafe . . . . .  (Note: proper nutrition is necessary after a morning of intense birding)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


This afternoon around 2:30 visited Cloister's Pond.  I had heard from a friend that the reeds blocking the view of the pond had been trimmed.  The above photo was taken from the main overlook.  The reeds had been trimmed, a more complete job than last year, and the refuse removed (yeah!).  The trimmed area, the brown in the above photo, appeared to offer much to eat.  Two Sora, a mature and a juvenile were foraging and swimming back and forth - great sighting of both birds.  Busy seeking out tasty items were Song Sparrow, White and Golden-crowned Sparrow, and 2 Orange-crowned Warblers. On the sand peninsula a beautiful Killdeer was busy feeding.  In the reeds were numerous Red-winged Blackbirds; on the water one Pied-billed Grebe and numerous Mallards.
The viewing area to the north had also been trimmed - a real treat, as the reeds totally blocked off the view of the water (above photo).  At the present time only Mallards were to be seen, although in the far section of reeds several Black-crowned Night Herons roosted.  I am greatly appreciative for the reed trimming, as I will be leading a bird walk at the Cloisters for the Morro Bay 2014 Winter Bird Festival.

Might you be interested in  Attending the festival is a great way to spend a winter day or weekend.

This is the time of year for Warblers to be passing by.  Get out your binocs. and check out your back/front yard and any nearby park or moist area with trees and shrubs.   Enjoy!!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Fall winds were churning up the bay this morning.  At the Audubon Overlook was a assortment of shorebirds.  Most notable was a Black-necked Stilt (photo taken on Parkfield Road in SLO County).  The Stilt was a beauty; her graceful long legs were very pink.  She was among a mixed flock of Greater Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitcher (photo), Western Sandpiper, and two Black-bellied Plovers.

The wind was such, that as the graceful Stilt attempted to move and feed in the shallow water, the wind blew her sideways.  The other birds, not having the height of the stilt were not blown about.  Black-necked Stilts have the second-longest legs in proportion to their body of any bird, exceeded only by Flamingos.
 Working my way through the Los Osos sewer construction, managed to get to Cuesta Inlet and Pecho Willows.  Although quite windy on the west facing side of the bay, it did nothing to hamper a feeding frenzy that had just begun.  The first to arrive were the Terns, next Double-crested Cormorant, and finally Brown Pelican.

I find the intense noise of the sewer construction extremely distracting on my limited birding skills.  Tomorrow morning; no later that 8:00, I am promising myself, that I will bird in peace and quiet, Islay Creek mouth, and the campground at Montana de Oro St. Park.

Friday, September 13, 2013


I had to post the sighting of this adorable beauty.  On a little side street across from Sweet Springs I spotted this little darling working a shrubby oak.  I was very close to it and got a great look.  This is the time of year the migrant warblers come for a brief visit.

The photo is borrowed from the internet,; it looks exactly like the bird I saw. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Passed through Pacific Grove on the way home from a visit with relatives. (The photo is much to blue. I was experimenting with a new photo App. ) Birds were few and far between.  Although, along the road, feeding in the muck of a golf course pond sprouting numerous golf balls, was a small cluster of shorebirds - one Whimbrel, 4 least Sandpiper, and a bird I had not seen for several years, a Dunlin; it has a slightly thicker, down turned bill, and is a little larger than a Least Sandpiper.

Meandered down fog shrouded Hwy 1 -  Pulled off at Piedras Blancas.  No view of lighthouse due to dense fog.  On the beach, Godwit, Willet and a large flock of Heermann's Gull - nothing to write home about.
This morning checked out the low tide at Morro Strand North Point.  Low tide is the perfect time to see the Oyster Catchers, Turnstones and Surf Birds feeding on the rocks, but to my amazement, there were no rocks, as they had been completely covered by sand, which goes to prove the adage, "nothing stays the same."  I was enjoying the scampering of Semipalmated Plovers when a woman with a unleashed dog appeared. Obviously she missed the "No Dogs Allowed on the Beach" sign.

Oh well, I'll check out my home turf.  Along the Baywood boardwalk grows a couple stands of blooming Fennel.  Feeding in them were four Yellow Warblers.  Now that was a major treat.

Not far out from the pier, a feeding frenzy was in full progress.  Elegant, Royal, and Forster's Tern, along with Brown Pelican were diving for the little fish.  There were scads of Double-crested Cormorant, Harbor Seals, and gulls, looking for leftovers.  Sound of Feeding Frenzy

 If I had to rate the last few days of birding, foggy Baywood would be numero uno.  

Friday, August 30, 2013


Yesterday, about 11:30, made a quick jaunt up Turri Road (photo).  I was hoping to see the thousands of tiny sandpipers had been seen resting in the ponds.  All the ponds were empty of bird life.  My only sighting was of a cheeky Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.  Continued up the road, about a mile, saw several Western Bluebirds and a Loggerhead Shrike; as I was turning around, caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a mostly white hawk; stopped in the road, fortunately there were no other cars in sight.  Was able to get a good view of this unusual beauty soaring over the fields.

The hawk was mostly white, with black wing tips and a slightly reddish tail.  This condition is called Leucism, which is caused by defects in pigment cells - a different condition from albinism. 

This rare Leucistic Red-tailed Hawk was seen in the same area in early July, and I had forgotten all about it.  Needless to say this unanticipated rare sighting was an enormous treat. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013


First stop - Turri Road Ponds - In the farthest pond from South Bay Blvd. several hundred Least and Western Sandpiper (photo) and one Spotted Sandpiper.  It is hard to imagine, that these precious little sandpipers have recently flown in from their breeding grounds in Alaska.

Back to Baywood - I was focused on the ponds this morning and neglected to check out the action from the estuary access path at the north end of 4th St.  Wonderful sighting of 4 Black-bellied Plover in their breeding finery.  Another week or so, their breeding colors will change to a soft sand color.  Also present were Long-billed Curlew, Godwit, Willet, 2 Greater Yellowlegs, and numerous Semipalmated Plover who breed on mossy tundra from Alaska to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. (the Semipalmated Plover photo was taken on Morro Strand Beach)
Checked out the mouth of Morro Creek.  Nothing notable. Could hear the grating "karreck" of the Elegant Tern - a sound that is music to my ears.

On to the Marina Boardwalk - slim pickings - Black Phoebe and one White-crowned Sparrow, who looked like he wished it was spring again.
 Along the edge of the pickle weed, nearly lost in the fog, was a large flock of sandpipers, Dowitcher, Curlew,  and Godwit.  Further along, a huge flock of Brown Pelican and Egret.

On the way home stopped by Sweet Springs - 20 species - scads and scads of Chickadee, and a noisy Kingfisher - a pleasant end to a wonderful morning of birding.


Monday, July 29, 2013


Following Google maps, Lassen is 444 miles from home to park entrance.  Arrived at our no frills motel, got our key and then headed into the park.  Every inch of the way, spectacular scenery - rushing falls, gurgling creeks, vibrant pines, fantastic firs, and huge patches of colorful wildflowers.  At 10,457 feet, Lassen Peak (photo), one of the largest plug dome volcano in the world,  dominates the landscape.
At 8:00 the next morning fellow traveler, Phoebe and I were on the trail to Bumpass Hell, Lassen's largest hydrothermal area.  Much to my delight we sighted a Female Sooty Grouse; they breed in the Park.  She stood still and looked at us for at least a minute, which allowed me the time to get a photo - my second sighting of a Grouse.  Yeah!

 As we progressed along the trail, I must admit my focus went from birds to surviving the hike.  At 8,220 feet, going up and down hill in the sun for 3 rocky miles, took a bit of an effort, but we survived and were mighty proud of our accomplishment.  
The next morning, after a great night's sleep, we took off for Manzanita Lake (5,890 ft.), known for great birding.  Immediately saw a Bufflehead family, several teenage American Coot, and 2 Canada Goose.  Met a friendly birder from Redding who led me to a Red-breasted Sapsucker and a White-headed Woodpecker.  Steller's Jay, Mountain Chickadee were everywhere.  Heard many Brown Creeper and Flicker.  Was hoping to see a Pileated Woodpecker, but no luck.  Did hear one though. 

After lunch, walked along Manzanita Creek looking for an American Dipper.  They are one of my very favorite birds, as they frequent icy streams and walk under water to feed.  They are equipped with an extra eyelid called a nictitating membrane that allows them to see underwater.  When I heard a sweet tweet I knew one was near and sure enough there was the little darling standing on a rock.  In a moment it disappeared under the water.  A most amazing bird.

Our last sighting was of three Osprey, a fussing adolescent, and 2 adults soaring over the lake.  A fitting close to a wonderful day.  

Friday, July 5, 2013


 Wanting to avoid the crush of the 4th of July tourist traffic I birded close to home.  Migrants are returning to the bay (photo - Morro Bay at low tide). About 90 White Pelicans have arrived from their inland breeding areas.  Soaring on a 9 foot wing span, a flock of White Pelicans is an impressive sight.  Large flocks of assorted shore birds are now feeding in the mud flats.  In and around Baywood yesterday observed 26 species.  Best sighting was a Black-bellied Plover in partial breeding plumage (always a treat) and 3 Greater Yellowlegs.  My favorite sighting was of a Long-billed Curlew probing in the mud for little crustaceans.  Before swallowing the crustacean the Curlew rinsed it off - a behavior I had never observed before.

 This morning checked out Turri Road.  High Tides had brought water into the ponds by South Bay Blvd - moist mud brings the shorebirds, and sure enough, seeking breakfast were 4 Killdeer and a female Wilson's Phalarope.  Unlike the other Phalaropes, the Wilson's seldom swims and is often easier to observe.  Up the road in the area of the old pea field and the windmill, sighted Blue Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Lark Sparrow, and a family of Western Bluebird.  Total mileage for 2 mornings of birding, 6 miles.

In my last post I mentioned that I would include in this post the video on Montana de Oro's "Reservoir Flats Trail."  Enjoy!!

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Islay Creek in Montana de Oro State Park (above and below) is a haven for nesting song birds; the creek flows through a canyon dense with willows and riparian vegetation, so dense that the creek cannot be seen unless you are standing on its moist bank.  Last weekend I meandered along the Reservoir Flats Trail until I found the path that went down to the creek.  To say the bird songs were intense is an understatement.  Boldly singing were Swainson's Thrush, Song Sparrow, Wilson's Warbler, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Flicker, Wrentit, and California Quail.
I have to admit, I do have a favorite songster, the Swainson's Thrush, whose song is an upward series of musical, whistling notes.  On the following minute YouTube Swainson's Thrush comes through loud and clear.

I was in high hopes of including a "Reservoir Flats Trail" video, but its extreme length at 1.38 min. is causing me to do more tweaking.  Will include it in the next posting. 


Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Weather mild with overcast gray sky - Oso Flaco Lake (skinny bear)  - 3 miles north of the farming community of Guadalupe - a delightful 35 mile drive from home.  The lake is nestled on the verdant verge of the Oceano Dunes. A riparian lane (above), dense with willow, wax myrtle, stinging nettle, and poison oak, leads from the parking area to the bridge (below) that crosses the lake, and then continues on as a boardwalk over stabilized dunes to the ocean.
Walking thru the riparian area was a treat - Immediately heard and fortunately saw, Yellow Warbler and Wilson's Warbler.  The singing was intense! The songs of Marsh Wren, Common Yellow-throat, Song Sparrow, and Yellow Warbler may be heard in the following 13 sec. video.
I was hoping to see the smallest member (1.5oz) of the gull/tern family, the Least Tern.  They nest in the dunes and feed on small fish in the lake.  There were about 20 Least Tern dashing about, and every once in a while perching on the bridge railing (below).  The young Terns wait on the railing to be fed.  Can get quite noisy as youth and adult are constantly chattering; sounds I find most delightful.
On the lake - Rudy Duck in breeding plumage, White Pelican, Gadwall (a duck I seldom see),  4 species of swooping Swallows, a Common Moorhen, and a mom Mallard with 7 adorable ducklings. 
After 3 strenuous hours of birding, it was time for coffee and an enchilada from my favorite, down home, Mexican Cafe in Guadalupe.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


First on the agenda was Cuesta Inlet.  The morning was sunny, tide slowly moving in. I was hoping to see or hear an Olive-sided Flycatcher.  Took only a few moments to locate the Flycatcher, as the little darling was doing what it does best, flycatching.   From a perch the Flycatcher flies off to catch an insect and then flies back to the same or nearby perch.  I just stood still watching; eventually it was perched in an oak, close enough to see without binoculars.  What a treat!!
Sweet Springs Preserve could not have been better.  I was surrounded by a plethora of bird song; didn't know where to look first.  At least 4 Pacific-slope Flycatcher.  Juncos were very active.  From the quaint bridge that spans the two ponds, watched a Western Tanager, with his black and white wings, yellow body, and red head, harass a Song Sparrow that was bathing along the edge of the pond.  Mrs. Tanager and Mr. and Mrs. Common Yellowthroat were nearby watching the action.  Overhead, a flock of Cedar Waxwing fed on Eucalyptus blossoms.  Sweet Springs at its Best!

My next stop was the hardware store to purchase peanut butter suet.  Tiny Bushtits are nesting in a brushy small tree in my front yard, organic peanut butter suet is their favorite,  Nothing but the best for my nesting Bushtits.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


A change of pace was in order.  Wednesday morning Phoebe Adams and I headed north on Hwy 101 to the Pinnacles.  Rock spires, ramparts, and crags that bear no resemblance to the nearby foothills, dominate the landscape  Massive monoliths, sheer walled canyons and boulder-covered caves define millions of years of erosion.

Traffic was light; from King City we headed East thru typical California rolling countryside; the hills turning yellow from lack of rain.  We meandered along looking for birds.  To our delight we saw Yellow-billed Magpie, Western Bluebird, Baltimore Oriole, Blue Grosbeak, and a Cottonwood populated with Western Kingbird.

After checking out the charming visitor center/country store we continued a few miles further to the Bear Gulch Day Use Area where we headed up the Condor Gulch Trail. . . .
 . . . . toward the Overlook - noted for its excellent viewing of soaring California Condors.

Birding along the trail was fabulous.  Several Ash-throated Flycatcher; one carrying nesting material.  Oak Titmouse and singing House Wren were numerous.  In the canyon, Pacific-slope flycatcher, Wilson's Warbler, Purple Finch, and overhead, White-throated Swift.  We saw many soaring Turkey Vultures, but no Condors that I could positively identify due to their altitude. 
Phoebe had made yummie burritos for lunch.  While we enjoyed our meal, a Steller's Jay (photo- crest does not show) kept us company.  I tossed him/her a morsel of burrito.  I do know not to feed the wildlife, but sometimes I just cannot help myself.  I clearly heard the Steller's say, "thank you."

Before leaving the park, we stopped back at the Visitor Center.  I must admit a most fortuitous decision.  Upon exiting the car I spotted a teenage Condor soaring over the parking lot, a great sighting as it was in view for several minutes.  The Ranger in the Visitor Center told us that the  Condors roost on isolated rocky outcrops and usually soar on the afternoon thermals.  I highly recommend a visit to Pinnacles National Park.  I can hardly wait to return.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


9:30 am - Weather perfect.  Met Harry and Norma at San Simeon State Park Lagoon.  Passing over San Simeon Creek is Hwy 1.  The bridge is ideal for Swallows to paste their mud nests.  Some swallows were actually nesting inside the bridge, entering thru small round openings.  Nest building was in progress by Northern Rough-winged (photo below) and Cliff Swallow.
As we approached the Lagoon we were met by a Song Sparrow who let us know, with his splendid song, that we were infringing upon his territory.   Great-tailed Grackle entertained us from the Willows (so much for peace and quiet).  A pair of Brant Goose, a pair of Mallard (photo below) plus a Double-creasted Cormorant, one Curlew, and a handful of Least Sandpiper were along the edge of the Lagoon.
We were hoping to see Snowy Plover (photo by Mike Baird).  When they are not moving they are nearly impossible to see, as they blend in perfectly with their environment. Fortunately we saw several fly; once they land they are invisible.
Nesting season has begun for the Snow Plover, "a species of special concern." Usually, nests are built on flat, open beaches or dunes.  Nests consist of a shallow scrape or depression lined with beach debris   (small pebbles, shell fragments, plant debris).  Driftwood, kelp, and dune plants provide cover for chicks that crouch near objects to hide from predators.  State Parks protects the Plover by fencing off the nesting area with a single cord and signs, and placing wire protection over the nests.

One of our best sightings of the morning was a Pacific-slope Flycatcher.  First we heard it, then saw it flitting about in Willows by the creek.  I have often heard the bird, but this was the first time in years that I have actually seen the little darling.   Our next and last stop was Lynn's patio in Cambria. Lunch and, of course desert, was Yummie!!

Friday, March 29, 2013


On a recent visit to family in the Phoenix area, I had the pleasure of birding the Tres Rios Wetlands. (above photo)  Much of the water in the wetlands is treated waste water that flows out of the Phoenix treatment plant into a large pond system, creeks, and man made water ways that meander through the desert, eventually terminating into wetlands.  In a few hours of birding I saw 48 species; not bad, considering most of the migratory birds had moved on.

In the vast pond system, which is fenced off from the public, saw numerous Green Herons.  From my experience, a birder is fortunate to see just one of these little beauties.  And to see one sitting on bobbed wire is a most unusual sight.   Close to the ponds was a Great Blue Heron Rookery in an old Cottonwood tree.  Create a habitat and the birds will find it, and they will breed.
 Birds of feather, do flock together --- In an area of trees and reeds were hundreds of boisterous Great-tailed Grackles; many of the males were in breeding poses with their head point skyward.  Another section of reeds was occupied by thousands of noisy Yellow-headed Blackbirds; and on an island in one of the larger ponds were 50 or so White Pelicans.  I have a video on the wetlands (about 1.40 seconds). 

This was my second visit to Tres Rios and I was not disappointed.


Sunday, March 10, 2013


This morning's birding jaunt on Turri Road was delightful.  The sky was blue with a warming sun.  As soon as I turned on to Turri Road, I spotted a Wrentit.  Most of the year Wrentits are seldom seen, as they keep to the brush, but when the weather warms and spring breeding season begins, the perky little darlings can be seen and easily heard.  I had the pleasure of watching two of them darting about scolding and singing, their Wren tails vibrating as they sang (so cute!).  A Bewick's Wren was doing much scolding as the two Wrentits carried on. (photo - private road I would like to explore)

About a mile up the road, the creek is accessible.   The water was bank to bank as the high tide and recent rains had filled it. There were Cinnamon and Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Bufflehead and American Wigeon.  The thrill of the moment was watching a Green Heron fly by.
Another mile up the road is an ephemera pond (photo); though much used by cattle, there was enough water left for Green-winged Teal and No. Shoveler to be dabbling.  Along the mucky edge was a lone Greater Yellowleg and two Killdeer.

Using the barbed wire for a perch were Say's and Black Phoebe, and several Western Bluebirds.    On the way home stopped at the Audubon Overlook - on the bay floated a huge mixed flock of Scaup and Ruddy Duck (they travel together), along the shore all the various shore birds feeding in the wet sand.  In a few weeks the majority of  the ducks and shorebirds will take flight to their breeding grounds in the north. Takes awhile for me to adjust to the quiet emptiness of the bay.  Happy Birding!

Saturday, February 23, 2013


 Open Space - The morning was glorious - Clear blue sky - Cool breeze out of the west.  To the north rocky Madonna Mountain, elevation 1,292 feet.  A pair of Turkey Vultures soared over the open space.  A vocal pair of Red-shouldered Hawks were playing a game of mating tag.
 I stopped to listen to the distant song of a Meadowlark.  Nearby was the call of an American Kestrel, North America's smallest Falcon (photo by Linda Tanner), and there it was, only a few yards away, diving out of the sky at sonic speed to snag a small mammal with its piercing talons, and off it sped. This amazing scene lasted about 3 seconds.
Walked over to the lake.  A migratory Snow Goose (photo, right) was keeping company with its city cousins, 4 large and very vocal domestic geese.  The small Snow Goose followed the foursome at a discrete distance except when stale bread appeared in someone's hand, then the Snow Goose was right in the middle of the melee.   Laguna Lake Park never disappoints.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


This Morning drove over the hill to Atascadero to check out the birds at Atascadero Lake and the Sewer Facility.  Weather was cold, breezy, and as you can see by the photo, the clouds were fabulous.  Walked around the lake. Coots and Mallards were abundant.  Found interesting hybred Mallards.  There were two that had Mallard heads and totally white bodies (rather bizarre); another pair had mallard bodies and white head with a tuft at the top. (must be something in the water)
Around the lake are numerous Valley Oaks that supply the Acorn Woodpecker with acorns that the woodpeckers cram into the nooks and crannies of the tree's thick bark.  I could hear the Woodpeckers, but they were at a distance.  Yellow-rumped Warblers were busy and had a few sightings of the perky little Oak Titmouse.
The Sewer facility is located near the Salinas River bed.  In the past I had seen Wood Ducks in the filtration pond but today only one Mallard was present.  Nearby is the trailhead to a 5 mile segment  of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail.  The trail goes from Sonora Mexico to San Francisco.  It is a narrow dirt path, much used by horses which may have had something to do with cutting the walk short plus large rain drops that had begun to fall.  Checking out the oaks as I trudged back to the car, I spotted a Great Horned Owl.  Wow, he/she was a beauty.  I was a happy camper.