Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Wild Bird Wednesday: Common Yellowthroat

Since I first started birding in 2015, one of the birds that has really frustrated me is the Common Yellowthroat.  As its name suggests...it's common.  In fact, it's "witchety-witchety-witch" call is one of the few bird calls that I can easily recognize and learned right away.  However, since it has a tendency to stay hidden deep within the reed beds or only pop out for a half-second (just long enough to get the camera trained in and focused, but not long enough to actually get the shot!), it has been difficult for me to get any decent photographs.

Finally, I found a cooperative male who left the reed beds and took up position in this tree to sing.

They are striking-looking little birds with their black bandit masks.

This male is singing his "witchety" song.

And now he's cranking up the volume.

Gotta hit that high note!

Not sure why this bird was willing to hang out and let me get so many nice shots of him, but as long as he was willing to cooperate, I was willing to go with it!

After singing, he got hungry and started hunting for bugs on this branch.

Hope you enjoyed meeting the Common Yellowthroat.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Wild Bird Wednesday - California Least Terns

I've posted previously about one of our local beach bird species that is on the endangered list due to loss of dune habitat - the Western Snowy Plover.  Sadly, though, that is not the only species affected.  The California Least Tern also utilizes the rapidly-disappearing dune habitat for nesting and is similarly threatened.   The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and nearby Bolsa Chica state beach have both set aside protected nesting areas for the Terns and Plovers.

After watching the adult birds fly back and forth diving for fish during breeding season, I was lucky enough to witness the successful results below as a Least Tern fledgling waited for its parent to bring it a meal...except it wasn't quite ready for the meal it got...

Here's the fledgling, patiently waiting to be fed.


Parent shows up with a fresh-caught, delicious fish...
However, like many children, this kid is a picky eater and loudly protests not receiving any more "pre-digested" fish...

The parent bird continues to patiently offer the fish...

...but Junior is having none of it and continues to squawk.

Junior eventually turns his back and walks away...

...in fact, he takes his first short flight in attempt to get out of eating fish for dinner.

He only makes it a few feet away...

...but poor Mom or Dad is left behind...still holding the now much-less-fresh fish.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Wild Bird Wednesday: Costa's Hummingbird

Love getting to travel outside of my normal stomping grounds to see different birds.  Last fall, I had a work conference in Palm Desert and since the last session ended at mid-day, I was able to sneak in a visit to The Living Desert - one of the best small zoos I've ever been to.  Seriously, it is WELL worth it if you are in the area to stop by.  Not expensive and in addition to all the exotic zoo animals, the place is a mecca for wild hummingbirds of all varieties. 

One type that I don't get to see near my home on the coast is the Costa's Hummingbird, but they were sure putting on a show during my time at the zoo.  I think I spent more time photographing them than I did looking at the giraffes, cheetahs, etc.

This is a young male - his purple throat feathers are just starting to come in.

The energy output of a hummingbird is truly astounding to watch.  No wonder this little guy is trying to catch a few ZZZs...
This mature male has the full complement of purple head feathers.  I just couldn't get the right angle of light to make them all appear, but you can see a few.  There's an amazing hummingbird documentary on PBS that shows how these birds use these feathers in mating displays.  The head and throat feathers flare out and make it look like the bird's entire head is a glistening purple flower as he hovers in front of a female. 

Here are few more looks at this pretty little bird.
Does anyone else ever silently chant in their heads "C'mon, just look over here" while photographing birds?  Or is it just me?

Because...sometimes it works!!  Finally got him to turn and show off those gorgeous feathers!
If it works...you can't call me crazy, right?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Wild Bird Wednesday - Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

I was introduced to this sweet little bird last fall when I caught a quick flash of blue out of the corner of my eye.  Realizing it was too small to be either of our other local "blue" birds (Western Bluebird or California Scrub Jay),  I thought I might be on to something new.  Once I got home and compared the photos to my birding guide...yep, new bird for me:  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

They are more blue than our endangered California Gnatcatcher (still hoping to see one of those!) and have that distinct white eye-ring.

He was definitely keeping an eye out for the local Cooper's Hawk who flew over while I was taking these photos.

Such a pretty little bird.
And feisty, too!
Woops!  Gotta watch out for that hawk again!

These little guys are back in town now that it's fall again, but I have yet to get shots any nicer than these from last year.  I must've had a little bit of beginner's luck going!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Wild Bird Wednesday - Ridgway's Rail

Well, that turned into an unintentional blog hiatus.  Wow...can't believe my last post was in July!  I guess I've been busy!  The summer seemed particularly short (thanks new school starting date that takes away 3 weeks of our summer vacation)...because...it was!  We took a fantastic vacation to Santa Barbara and Morro Bay in early August (from which I'm STILL processing the photos! Hope to have them in a future post).  Then school started and the reality of 8th grade homework (geez there's a lot) hit us and then Ryan got sick and missed almost the entire second week of school...which required a LOT of catch up time (see previous comment about massive amounts of homework) and work was crazy that whole time (of course). 
This all left me with no time for birding and even less time to process photos or write blog posts.  Hopefully, I can get back on the horse now!
This is my one and only encounter (thus far) with a Ridgway's Rail.  Found this shy, secretive bird poking around the mussel beds below the bridge at the Bolsa Chica wetlands.

Only got a few shots before it disappeared into the vegetation...

...this is my favorite one...look at that foot!

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Wild Bird Wednesday - Black Oystercatcher

Had some great birding this weekend thanks to the holiday allowing me some extra time.  Am still processing all the photos so thought I'd share something from last fall.  This was my first sight of a Black Oystercatcher on a Southern California beach (had previously seen them up north).  Shots were taken at Crystal Cove, CA on 10/10/15:

With their pink legs, orange/red beaks and yellow eyes, these birds are quite dramatic-looking.

Here he is patrolling one of the tide pools...with lots of barnacles on the rocks.

Love that beak color!

Catching some spray!

Stopping to pose...

...and then grabbing a snack.

Somebody needs to work on their leg tan.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Wild Bird Wednesday: Northern Red Bishop

This past fall, I was pulling out of the parking lot at my regular birding spot in Irvine when a brilliant flash of orange caught my eye.  Due to other commitments, I was unable to turn around to see what it might have been and wondered all the way home what I'd missed.

A week later, I discovered that a small flock of unusual birds had made a temporary home at this spot.  Northern Red Bishops (also known as Orange Bishops) are actually from Africa!  However, they are one of a multitude of non-native species that has escaped and taken hold in the Southern California environment.

The males are a brilliant orange/red with black faces and chests.

This small flock hung around for about 2 months on this same grouping of dead branches.

Their brown wings look almost like a sparrow's wings have been grafted on - I always thought they don't match the rest of the bird.

As I watched them over time, it was easy to pick out their dominance games...always trying to be in the "top spot" on the branch.

The orange feathers on the backs of their heads can ruffle up to appear almost like a hood.

This set of photos was taken two weeks later than the ones above...and the birds were still on that same group of branches!

This time, I was able to get a few shots of the females...who really do look like sparrows! 

I had to do some research at home to make sure these weren't just sparrows hanging out with the Bishops.

There's quite a lot of controversy regarding these non-native species (especially those that are nest parasites like the Whydahs) and whether they should be allowed to proliferate.  I'm a little on the fence - would not want to see a native species displaced by these birds, but on the other hand, if there are enough resources for them to co-exist, then maybe it's okay.  We've lost so many species and so much habitat...if something can manage to survive, maybe it's Nature's way of moving a new game piece onto the board.  In any event, I'll be interested to see if this flock returns this fall or if this was a one-time deal.