Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Birding Change of Pace

Since June, I have been a participant in the docent rover program at Montaña de Oro State Park (MdO).  "What is that," you ask.  Roving is a fairly new program at MdO.  Rovers either rove the trails or people an information table at a trail head.  I rove the trails,  answering questions, interpreting nature, and have a cell phone if an emergency should arise with visitors or wildlife; sometimes, the visitors are the wildlife.  (click on the photo for a larger image)
 On June 27th. a dead Humpback Whale came ashore at Hazard Beach, one of the more remote beach areas of MdO.  The following morning Mike, a fellow rover, and I were down at the site.  Two whale researchers from Santa Barbara were gathering data.  It appeared that a severe wound to the tail, above the flukes, contributed to the death of this peaceful denizen of the deep.  For a brief video on my observations go to

 Observing this magnificent mammal was, to say the very least, an experience of my lifetime.   A few days after the first visit I was back at the site, along with many photo taking visitors (the teens were being photographed by their mother).  News of the whale's arrival had spread fast.  In the process of decomposition, gases such as ammonia, methane, and sodium nitrate build up causing the whale to bloat and turn over; now its under side was exposed and the severity of the wound to the tail could be seen.  More than likely the humpback had become entangled - a recent study showed that entanglement in fishing gear is the primary cause of Humpback Whale death.  I have a one minute video that shows the whale in the process of decomposition.

While on the beach had the pleasure of seeing a few Snowy Plover, Oystercatcher, a large flock of Heermann's Gull, Willet, Whimbrel, and a Great Egret feeding in the surf.  Oh, I must not forget the 50 or more Turkey Vultures circling over the area.

I have not been active at MdO for a couple of years and it is good to be back.



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