Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Wild Bird Wednesday - Heerman's Gulls

My favorite of the local gull species is the Heermann's Gull.  There's something so classic about their white heads, silvery gray bodies and lipstick red beaks.  Plus, I thought the red was a nice touch for Christmas!

Either he lost his keys, or he's checking to make sure he still has all his toes

And I guess he's taking too long about it because he's getting squawked at!

Merry Christmas from Southern California!


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wild Bird Wednesday - Brown Headed Cowbird

The Brown-headed Cowbird is definitely NOT the most popular bird on the street.  I've noticed people seem to get upset at the mere mention of them...and here I am not only mentioning them, but sharing photos!  These birds are nest parasites (sort of the ultimate delinquent parents).  They lay their eggs in the nests of other species like House Finches and Sparrows and the unlucky host species ends up raising a baby Cowbird instead of their own babies.

Here's a phot of an adult male that I took at Ryan's school one afternoon (and since the place is full of House Finches, Song Sparrows and other potential host species, I can only imagine it was either originally raised there or was scoping out future possibilities).

Either way, it was definitely giving me the eye...

...and eventually decided to yell at me.

Here's an example of nest parasitism in action...I took this photo back in July during our trip to Pacific Grove, CA, up in Northern California.  This is a juvenile Brown-headed Cowbird about to be fed by a White-crowned Sparrow.

First...the incessant begging...

...and then the sparrow uses its parenting skills on the other species.

Cowbirds may not be the most popular subject, but I do find their MO to be rather fascinating...makes me wonder about the very first Cowbird to do this in the distant past and what the circumstances were that led up to it.  



Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Wild Bird Wednesday - Spotted Sandpiper

Back in August, I met my first official Sandpiper since I started birding.  When I think of Sandpipers, I think of them on the beach and usually in groups, but Spotted Sandpipers are more solitary by nature.  It showed up at Laguna Niguel Park on the lakeshore one day.  I continued to check on it on all my subsequent visits and it was nearly always to be found along the edge of the lake, near sunset, and all alone.  It was so predictable that I even narrowed down its preferred area to the spot in front of a certain picnic bench. 

Even though it's normal for this bird to be by itself, I couldn't help feeling a little sorry for it being all alone and getting bullied by everything from Mallards to Egrets.  I got busy with work towards the end of October and haven't been back since then to check on it - I'm hoping to make it over there this weekend.  Wonder if any more have shown up...

You can just barely see a few of the spots that give this bird its name.  They are much more prominent during breeding season.  In the off-season, it reverts to a snow-white belly.

Yup...he knows I'm looking at him. 

This shot shows a few more of his spots. 

One of the few times I actually saw him venture into the water.  Right after this, a Snowy Egret came by and chased him back onto the shore.

So very cute!  I look forward to getting some photos when all his spots come back in (assuming he's still around then).



Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Wild Bird Wednesday - Laguna Niguel Park Birds

I have a wonderful regional park near my house that is an excellent spot for birds.  It has a nice creek running through it and a lake big enough for small boats and fishing as well.  Meet some of the local residents:

Male Mallard Duck with his pretty green head feathers.

Female Mallard Duck.

I have not been able to get a confirmed identification on these two girls.  The black beaks mean they are NOT female Mallards.  Consensus seems to be they are Teals - possibly Blue-winged Teals, but I am not 100% confident.

Male Ruddy Duck - it's hard to see, but his beak is a bright blue color in this photo.  Can you imagine if YOUR nose turned blue when you were "in season?"

Female Ruddy Duck

Here she is with her babies.

Soooo cute - I love the single water droplet balanced on this little baby's head!

And one more shot just because baby ducks are so irresistable!

A Snowy Egret showing off his yellow feet.

One of our local raptors making a fly-by...

This was my lifer for the day...

...a female Nuttall's Woodpecker!

She was nice enough to let me get quite a few photos...

,,,and even showed off her bug-catching skills!