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