Sunday, December 25, 2016

Birding the Elfin Forest on Christmas Day

 Looking down on the Elfin Forest from the top of the Elfin Forest boardwalk.
 December 25th, 2016 - The last birding blog of the year.   The Elfin Forest Preserve is densely populated with California Native plants.  Due to recent rains, the preserve flora are cheerfully expressing themselves with new growth. 
 The preserve's abundant Coast Live Oak has produced a robust crop of male catkins from which bees were gathering nectar and pollen.  Hear bees gathering nectar.      Video also captured sounds of people walking by on the narrow boardwalk.   Many families were out for a walk.
 In the same area of the flowering oaks were flowering Fuchsia-flowering Gooseberry, a favorite of Anna's Hummingbird.  Several Anna's Hummingbirds were zipping back and forth, defending their territory.

As I meandered along the boardwalk, I spotted not one but two Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.  Not far from the Gnatcatcher, a California Thrasher and an Oak Titmouse were singing a duet.  Actually, they were making call sounds, perhaps establishing their territory.  
 Mixed Flock of ducks Year 2006 - The Eurasian Wigeon is circled

Morro Bay Estuary Birds -  The Elfin Forest offers excellent overlooks where one can observe ducks, raptors, and shorebirds, and with a scope, the entire estuary.  From the overlook I could see a variety of water fowl, shorebirds and wading birds.  Birds of interest were Dowitcher, American Avocet, Black-bellied Plover, and an Osprey eating her prey while perched atop half a sunken tire.  This proved to be my lucky day as I managed to get a clear and precise view of an Eurasian Wigeon.  Finding an Eurasia Wigeon is similar to finding a needle in a haystack. The male Eurasian looks exactly like the Northern except the Eurasian has a red head.  I was delighted! 

Elfin Forest Birds - White-crowned Sparrow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Scrub Jay, California Thrasher, Bewick's Wren, Oak Titmouse, Bushtit, Anna's Hummingbird, California Quail, Turkey Vulture.

Morro Bay Estuary Water Fowl - Brant Goose, Green-winged, Blue-winged and Cinnamon Teal.  Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Eared Grebe, American Wigeon.  Thus ends the last Birding Blog for 2016.
                                 Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Birding the Last King Tides of the Year

                             Sweet Springs Wetlands
King Tides occur when the Earth, Moon and Sun are aligned at perigee (when the moon is nearest the earth) and perihelion (when the earth is closest to the sun), resulting in the largest tidal range seen over the course of a year. In other words King Tides occur when the Earth is closest to the Sun.  * 1 (see end of blog for more on tides)

Yesterday's morning tide was 6.8, the highest of the year.  I arrived at Sweet Springs at 9:45.  The tide was moving into the ponds.  From the small bridge I watched the water slowly cease its forward movement. For several minutes it was still, as if it were resting. Slowly the water began its journey back to the sea.  Within an hour the tide will be moving swiftly.  The higher the tide, the swifter the tide moves out of the bay. I have watched kayakers trying to paddle against the tide.  With great effort they make no progress.
     Two male Blue-winged Teal, one female Mallard
Blue-winged Teal and Mallards were the only ducks feeding in the flooded pickleweed.  There was a Song Sparrow singing which was delightful.  Watched a deer grazing on the far side of the wetlands.  Out from the overlook was a huge flock of resting winter ducks, primarily Ruddy Duck and Greater Scaup with a few Western Grebe on the periphery.  The below photo only shows a small section of the ducks.  Can you find the a Western Grebe?
 I could not linger at Sweet Springs, as I wanted to get to the Morro Bay Marina to get a photo of the  Winter plumage Red-throated Loon that had come in on the tide the day before. Seeing the Red-throated Loon, who may have just flown in from its Arctic breeding grounds, was quite exciting as I have seldom seen one and only at a distance.  (below photo by Roger Zachery.  I did get a photo, but Roger's photo was better than mine.)
 My faithful friend, the Spotted Sandpiper who usually probes in the wet sand along the edge of the marina was sitting on a post.  There were several Pied-billed Grebe,  two Common Loon, a pair of Red-breasted Merganser, and a Partridge in a pear tree.  In the below photo can you find the Red-throated Loon.  It does show, if you squint when you look at the expanded image.
The diving ducks, Brant Goose, and the Avocet were further out.  Most of the shore birds were clustered on patches of pickleweed waiting for the tide to go out.   My last bird of the morning was an Orange-crowned Warbler flitting through the brush. 

The Christmas Bird Count is Saturday, the 17th.   I will be counting yard birds.  Last year I had 23 species.   I have high hopes the local Bald Eagle will fly over.  That would be a real feather in my Bird Count Cap.

1. Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun combined with the rotation of the Earth.

                                   Merry Holidays

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Birding There but Mostly Here

Atascadero Lake, Atascadero Ca.  A short jaunt over the hill, about 25 minutes, brings you to Atascadero Lake Park. The photo was taken three years ago when the lake was full.  Last year due to the drought the lake dried out, as a result all the feathered inhabitants moved on.  Fortunately this October rains filled the lake enough to bring back some of the birds.

The air was crisp when my friend Mike and I arrived.  We went for a brief walk to check out the best spot for viewing, as there is quite a bit of vegetation along the edges.  Upon returning to the car we spotted Roger Zachary, one of the top birder/photographer in the county, setting up his scope.  Oh my gosh, what great fortune to come across Roger who had been posting to the slobirding yahoo group the birds he had been observing at the lake.

 Roger took the scope down near the edge of the water to show us 5 Common Snipe that were feeding in a slightly moist area along the weedy fringes of the lake.  Prior to Roger's arrival we had been looking for them but to no avail.  We also had fabulous sightings of Ring-necked Duck, male and female. 
The memorable sighting of the morning was of a Bald Eagle as it flew over the lake.  Photo was taken by Roger Zachary at Atascadero Lake.

 Birding the King Tides in Morro Bay - Very high tides cause the migratory shore birds to seek out higher areas when they can wait till the tide goes out.  Thousands of shore birds are densely packed on thin strips of pickleweed far out in the bay.  Most of the water fowl are in the shallower areas where it is difficult to view them.  As the tide goes out the birds move into their favored feeding areas.  The tide was at its highest when I arrived.  From the Marina boardwalk could be seen about 40 Brant Goose and a few Northern Pintail and Northern Shoveler.  Many Snowy and Great Egret were feeding along the edges of the high tide.  There were 20 Avocet close enough to get a great photo, if only one had remembered to bring her camera.
                                 Morro Bay Marina
On the narrow boardwalk a cluster of birders were taking photos of the seldom seen Nelson's Sparrow whose habitat is somewhere out in the pickleweed.  The Nelson's only comes into view when the tide is extreme.  A photo of a Nelson's Sparrow is a feather in a birder's cap. 
The best time to bird the Morro Bay King Tides is an hour or two after the tide begins to ebb. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Baywood Morning Birds

Yesterday a Red-necked Grebe, and seven Brant Goose, were seen in Baywood Cove in the area of the little pier and the Back Bay Cafe.  This morning at 8:00 I headed out the door with binoculars, camera and high hopes that I could find the water fowl that had been sighted yesterday. 
Luck prevailed.  The first birds I saw were 27 Blue-winged Teal (above photo and center of top photo). Along the edge of the sandbar (the tide was going out) were two Black-bellied Plover, a very Long-billed Curlew, several Marbled Godwit, and a Ring-billed Gull.
Tiny fish were jumping and 2 Eared Grebe were diving every few moments.  Seven Brant were moving in a straight line across the bay. One was in the lead. It was a beautiful sight.  Out a little further were, not one, but two Red-necked Grebe (above photo by Caleb Putnam) and two Pied- billed Grebe, plus 17 Western Grebe, and a Kingfisher perched on the top of a mast (below photo). Saturday, October 22, 2016 will go down in history as the "Day of the Grebe."
All these great sightings in just a few minutes.  With the beautiful morning came the people, dog walkers, children playing on the sand bar, dogs in the water, and a line of people waiting for coffee.  The old adage, "The early birds gets the worm," was certainly true this morning.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Birding Near - Birding Afar

        Sweet Springs Pickleweed at Low Tide 
Birding Near - Sweet Springs, a beautiful misty morning with an incoming tide.  The only sounds were those of the birds.  High in a tree came the penetrating sound of a Northern Flicker - music to my ears.
In the flooded Pickleweed 10 newly arrived Blue-winged Teal fed; with endless patience a Great Egret sought its prey.  (below photo)
 Along the edge of the bay Great Blue Heron and Snowy Egret.  Four Greater Yellowleg arrived, calling as they come in for a landing; Black Phoebe flycatched from a partly submerged snag.

In the reeds, Common Yellowthroat and Song Sparrow.  From a Eucalyptus on the edge of the water came the grating call of a Belted Kingfisher.   My euphoria was interrupted as an Osprey silently passed by - always a pleasure seeing this powerful raptor.  (photo by Jerry Kirkhart)  
Birding Afar - Mono Lake - Located on the Eastern side of California's Sierra Nevada mountain range, depending on road conditions 5 to 6 hours from the Central Coast. 
Mono Lake is a vital stop on the Pacific Flyway.  There is a possibility that some of the migratory birds that arrive in Morro Bay have stopped at Mono Lake to rest, molt and feast on the abundant alkali flies and brine shrimp that inhabit the lake. 
On the lake were thousands of Eared Grebes in winter plumage (above) and thousands of Ruddy Ducks.  Eared Grebe arrive at Mono Lake in greater numbers than any other species. Surveys have shown that there are nearly a million Grebe on the lake in the fall; they may double or triple their weight as they feast on the brine shrimp.  Some get too fat to fly and must lose weight before departing for their winter destination.  It is difficult to imagine an overweight Eared Grebe.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Birding Laguna Lake Park

This morning I thought it was about time I birdied Laguna Lake Park in San Luis Obispo.  The last time I visited the park was January 13th when winter rains were just beginning to fill the drought stricken lake.   Link to blog of January 13, 2016.

At 10am the lake was beautiful and the sky very blue - marvelous conditions for birding with two exceptions.   1) There was an Ultimate Frisbee competition going on, making it impossible to bird much of the park.   2) Wind!  Strong wind!  The wind made it difficult for the smaller birds and the Hawks to reach their intended destinations.  A Red-tailed hawk, pushed by the wind was moving sideways.
Cassin's Kingbird (above), about six of them, were attempting to perch in a old California (native) Walnut tree (below), but the wind was making it difficult.  Cassin's Kingbirds are flycatchers (eat insects, also berries and fruits).  They are known to be talkative which is helpful in identification, especially when the wind is blowing them hither, thither, and yon.  
 First sighting of the morning was four American White Pelicans (below) with an 8 - 9 ft. wingspan, coming in for a landing.
They landed gracefully near a large flock of Canada Goose.  Fortunately, I was standing by the edge of the lake when they flew over - a magnificent sight!
In the Eucalyptus trees (above) were Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawk.  Black Phoebe, always a favorite, was everywhere.  I think she was following me.  On the lake, American Coot, Mallard and Double-crested Cormorant - a flock, of Bushtits accompanied by a two Chestnut-backed Chickadee were flitting thru lakeside willows.  The wind eventually slowed down to a light breeze.  As I walked back to my car, I counted 8 Cassin's Kingbird in and around lakeside willows.  This was the first time I had seen a flock of Cassin's.  Perhaps they had come to Laguna Lake Park for the Ultimate Frisbee competition.  Personally, I prefer dog Frisbee.  (Google Image)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Birding Oso Flaco Lake

Oso Flaco Lake is a small fresh water lake tucked inside the vast Oceano Dunes.  The lake is located about 4 miles northwest of the town of Guadalupe, California USA.  Since it is a state park there is a $5 fee, but free parking is available before the entrance.  photo - Cormorants perched on posts - the dunes are behind the trees.  The lane that leads to the lake is dense with willows and is the habitat for numerous resident and migratory species.
For the last two weeks birders and photographers have been flocking to the lake, primarily to view two species, one quite small and one quite large, Sternula antillarum, and Egretta rufescens commonly known as Least Tern and Reddish Egret.   Reddish Egret photo by Roger Zachary
The seldom seen Reddish Egret is a great attraction.  It's feeding behavior is amusing, as it runs through shallows with long strides, leaping and raising one or both wings.  It does not appear to be bothered by the birders and photographers on the boardwalk.
The California Least Tern is local and endangered.  It is the smallest Tern in North America (above - Least Tern chick).  Like the endangered Snowy Plover, the Least Tern nests in depressions in the sand dunes.  Every year the Tern chicks perch on the boardwalk railing while they wait to be fed by a parent.  Between the parents and the chicks, the sound can be quite raucous.  Below - chicks waiting to be fed.  To the right adult Terns.   
Another fun sighting was watching three Green Herons, 2 juveniles and a parent.  The juveniles were fussing at the parent who was letting them know, in no uncertain terms, that they were big enough to feed themselves.
I doubt anyone could have imagined how important a boardwalk railing would become to an endangered species.

I highly recommend birding Oso Flaco Lake, as it is one of the premier birding areas on the Central Coast.  


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Birding Baywood

Birding Baywood - Weather perfect, slight breeze - The Audubon Overlook is located at the north end of 4th St.  Below is a view of Morro Bay taken from the overlook, when it is not foggy of course.  Morro Rock, to the far left,  and the hills are remnants of volcanoes created about 20 million years ago.
Four Greater Yellowleg, looking positively splendid in their transitional plumage, were preening themselves by the waters edge.
Six Whimbrel were sleeping, eight Godwit and a Long-billed Curlew were looking for edibles in the pickleweed, and a Black-bellied Plover accompanied a small flock of Western Sandpiper.  Dependable Black Phoebe was busy flycatching. 

Next stop, the 3rd St. Coastal Access, a sweet little path takes one down to the bay.
The path is lined with pink blooming mallow and blooming fennel which smells like licorice.  The fennel bulb can be grilled or braised.  I have yet to try it.  From here one can walk, if the tide is not high, to the Baywood Coffee shop and the Baywood Pier.  Forster's and Elegant Tern were, with great gusto, diving for fish.  Elegant Tern has a very piercing and sharp kee-rick call where as the Forster's has a loud, heavy k-yarr call.  The sounds coming from the Terns were positively delightful. 
Migratory Terns, mainly Elegant, with a smattering of Royal and the occasional Caspian, gather in large flocks on the Morro Strand Beach.  The adults are kept busy feeding the fussy juveniles.  Can you find the Royal Terns?

While the feeding melee was going on a Double-crested Cormorant and a Snowy Egret were having a disagreement over feeding rights.  As I walked along the edge of the bay, a Cooper's Hawk sped by and four Canada Goose honked as they passed overhead.  In the area of the Baywood Pier were eight Ring-billed Gull.  Birding Baywood was delightful!  Now, isn't that interesting, my walk ended at the coffee shop.

 Спасибо за чтение моего блога бирдинг.
Spasibo za chteniye moyego bloga birding.
Merci d'avoir lu mon blog d'observation des oiseaux.
Vielen Dank für meine Vögel beobachten Blog zu lesen.
Thank you for reading my birding blog

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Early Birds

This weekend I had the pleasure of birding the Montaña de Oro Sandspit (above) and the Marina Boardwalk.  I was looking for Early Birds, birds that breed elsewhere and come to the Central Coast for the fall, winter, and early spring.

 Sandspit - A flock of 30 Brandt's Cormorant were resting on a rocky point.  Brandt's can be seen on the central coast all year, but they have been missing from Montaña de Oro's rocky shoreline.  I was rather happy to see them.
 On the beach 40 adult and one immature Herrmann's Gull (above).  Heermann's is classified as "Near Threatened," as 90% of their breeding is confined to Isla Raza in Baja California.
 At the edge of the surf about 30 Whimbrel (above) fed, dashing hither, thither and yon. 
Whimbrel breed in Alaska and Arctic regions of Canada and Greenland.

Although the morning was heavily overcast, fortune shined.  Above the high tide line were two endangered Snowy Plover.  In the wet sand, feeding on a bird carcass, were two Turkey Vultures.  Diving in the rugged surf about 10-15 Surf Scoter.
 Marina Boardwalk - Feeding in the pickleweed was a mixed flock of several hundred Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew, and Willet (above).  Many were in transition between their breeding and winter plumage.  In the center of the bay rested about 50 amazing White Pelican (below).  They can weigh 30 pounds and their wing span can exceed nine feet.  They are fabulous to see in flight.
 In the brush two Bewick's Wren were active, heard White-crowned Sparrow and House Finch.  Black Phoebe was sallying forth from her perch on the boardwalk to snatch unsuspecting insects.  I am seeing fewer birds everywhere.  Unfortunately drought and global warming is taking its toll.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Islay Creek Riparian Habitat - Birding by Ear

Montaña de Oro State Park - Islay Creek is located in a lush Canyon.  From the road one is looking down into a creek that is dense with Willows, Oaks and occasional Sycamores.  On the other side of the road, the north side, are the chaparral covered hills, favored habitat for the entertaining songster, the California Thrasher.  The above photo was taken at the only access point on the creek.  It allows one to cross from the Reservoir Flats Trail to the Islay Road.

If you enjoy birding by ear, spring is the perfect time to hike up the Islay Creek Road.  The male Swainson's Thrush flute-like sound can be heard throughout the creek.  It is difficult to describe the beauty of two miles of Swainson's Thrush song.

The birds that nest in Islay Creek may be difficult to see as the trees are dense with spring growth, and you are standing above them, looking down.  Once you hear the Swainson's Thrush song you will never forget it.  In the video, accompanying the Thrush is the male Wilson's Warble, whose song is not exactly dramatic, but it is persistent, forceful, and also not easily forgotten.  In the first frame of the video you will hear Swainson's Thrush, accompanied by Wilson's Warbler; second frame, you may need to turn up your sound to hear the quiet Pacific-slope Flycatcher, accompanied by the call of a California Quail and the song, once again, of the male Swainson's Thrush.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Birding Turri Road

Turri Road* gracefully meanders over low hills to the Los Osos Valley agricultural area.  The road is narrow with few areas to park.  With several attempts I managed to back off the road into an unused overgrown lane that leads to private property (above). Willows were dense, a brushy field on the east, open fields to the north.

I had been birding about 20 minutes; experienced an excellent view of Mr. and Mrs. Blue Grosbeak, and a Common Yellowthroat; identified the distant chatter of a Western Kingbird and the persistent song of a Black-headed Grosbeak, but that was it.  I was about ready to try another location when one of the best birders in the county, drove up. 
Immediately, and I do mean immediately, she spotted a Warbling Vireo, Swainson's Thrush, Ash-throated Flycatcher (below) on a twig of a Coyote Bush, and a Lazuli Bunting by the edge of the road.  Her speed of identification was a sight to behold. Unfortunately, she was pressed for time and left after a few minutes.  Needless to say, I was delighted at my good fortune.

Continued on down the Road.  Perched on barbed wire fencing were two Cassin's Kingbirds, a Lark Sparrow, and Say's Phoebe.  In the fields -  Meadow Lark, Red-winged Blackbird and Western Bluebird.  For a complete list see bird list at end of blog.  Once again this peaceful country road proved to be a birding goldmine.  As soon as we get a sunny morning, I will return for another look at these beautiful little darlings.

 * Turri Road is located on the Central Coast of California between the Communities of Morro Bay and Los Osos.

Bird List:  American Kestrel, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Black-headed Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, Cassin's Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Common Yellowthroat, House Finch, Lazuli Bunting, Meadowlark, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Red-tailed Hawk, Song Sparrow, Swainson's Thrush, Turkey Vulture, Warbling Vireo, Western Bluebird, Wilson's Warbler