Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Pickleweed - A Yummie Treat!

First, a little information on pickleweed.  Photo of Black Phoebe - Note the pickleweed turning red.

Morro Bay Estuary - Pickleweed, is ideally suited to the estuary as it can survive periodic inundation by salt water; saltwater travels up through the pickleweed roots where it is stored in the top of the plant.  In the fall the top sections turn red and fall off, and the cycle begins anew.  Pickleweed which covers most of the estuary provides habitat for many species of animals, such as insects, crabs, a variety birds, including shore birds, song birds, wading birds, ducks and geese. 

Morro Bay Marina Boardwalk - Yesterday morning - An extreme high tide silently pushed many species of the bay birds to the edge of the pickleweed, and as a consequence making them much easier to observe from the boardwalk that I was standing on.

"Much easier to observe," is rather an understatement, for only a few feet away were eight Brant intently feeding in the pickleweed.  Usually, Brant fly if you are within 500 feet.  A boy rolled by on a scooter and the geese didn't even raise an eyebrow.  I watched them for about an hour and as the tide ebbed and hundreds of Avocets, accompanied by three Caspian Tern, moved into the shallow water, the Brant continued browsing through the pickleweed.  For me and two out of town birders this was a rare sighting.  

 Now I am faced with a question, what were they eating?  Ah, a bird related mystery that bears investigation.   Oh, oh, it's getting late, had better finish this blog and get my stocking hung on the fireplace.  Do not want to miss Santa.  Merry Holidays.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Birding Morro Bay Beach

Morro Bay Beach - Weather coolish, cloudy and breezy.  As you can see in the photo the beach was very quiet.  I was hoping to see two winter visitors, Bonaparte's Gull and Mew Gull.  Fortunately there were only a few gulls on the beach, making it easier to spot the little migrants as they moved between a small beach pond and the edge of the surf. 
Bonaparte's Gull at 12-13 inches in length is the smallest gull (photo above).  Both gulls breed in Alaska and Northern Canada and winter along the west coast.  A fascinating aspect of the Mew Gull (photo below) is that it is the only gull that nests in trees.  And you will never guess who Bonaparte's Gulls are named after  -  Napoleon's brother, Charles Lucien Bonaparte who was a leading ornithologist in the 1800's. 

When trying to ID the Bonaparte's Gull and the Mew Gull keep in mind they are about 1/2 the size of a common Western Gull and are often alone or on the edge of a group of Gulls. 

Other beach birds - Feeding in the breaking surf was a mixed flock of Surf Scoter, female Bufflehead, and Eared Grebe.   Farther out was a flock of Western Grebe.   After a chilly hour of birding the beach it was time for a cup of tea.