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


  1. Your birding skills are magnificent. We also enjoyed a peaceful respite at Sweet Springs during the king tide. No eagle, but many many ducks and grebes enjoying a float out there.

  2. Sara, truest, I wish I was a magnificent birder. Maybe in my next life. Thank you for the comment.