Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Wild Bird Wednesday: Whimbrel

Although beach fog and overcast are not ideal for taking pictures, there's just something so iconic about a foggy California beach morning.  Whenever I see that certain background to a photo...I can immediately see and feel exactly what the conditions were like.  One foggy morning, I was taking photos of gulls and turnstones at Main Beach (or as the rest of the world calls it Laguna Beach) when I spotted this foursome of odd-looking birds running around.  Long, down-curved bills...but not as long as those of a Curlew.  This turned out to be my first encounter with Whimbrels.

Here are two of the four...showing those distinctive beaks.

We'd had a lot of heavy surf earlier in the week, and in this shot's background you can see some of our California kelp forest that has been pulled loose and washed up on shore.

All of that debris makes a great attraction for bugs for the Whimbrels to eat.

One of this bird's other distinctive field marks (as if that beak wasn't enough) is that center stripe on the crown of its head.

I had a hard time actually getting just one bird in the frame - they all bunched quite closely together most of the time.  I thought this behavior was interesting as I'm used to seeing larger shore birds like Curlews and Willets have a little more space between themselves and other birds.

This one of the four was a bit braver than the others about the water so when he ventured a little closer to it, I was able to get a few shots of him alone.

This one shows that crown stripe pretty well, too.

And then his buddies came to test out the water, too, to see what all the fuss was about. 

Unfortunately, a few minutes after this, some people let their dog off leash and sent it barreling down the beach and that was the end of bird photography for that morning.  So, I headed off to grab breakfast.  Saw these birds at this same beach one more time a couple of weeks after this and have not seen them since.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Wild Bird Wednesday - Spotted Towhee

I often hear Spotted Towhees, but getting a good shot of them is usually tough.  They like to hide in the center of trees or, when on the ground, they scoot deep under bushes.  I managed to get lucky one day last year and get these few shots.

Their red eyes are particularly striking.

I found this guy by listening for his call...

...it's one of the few that I have learned to identify by ear.

He gave me one last look at those crazy eyes and then he was gone.


Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Wild Bird Wednesday - Green Heron

Last summer, I came around a corner and surprised this beautiful Green Heron.  Usually, when I do that, the bird flies off, but this one was cooperative and stayed to pose for a while.

These birds have such beautiful colors and markings...

...and yet they still blend perfectly into their environment.

Even the orange legs don't look out of place.

They are also able to freeze into stillness for such long periods of time and then move ever so slowly while stalking prey...and then BAM! they strike like lightning.


Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Wild Bird Wednesday - Dana Point Harbor

Spent a day at Dana Point Harbor last summer looking for birds and other critters.

Here's one of our local Brown Pelicans hanging out on the dock.

California Sea Lion enjoying the late afternoon sun on a raft.  I believe that's a Western Gull behind him.

Here's a Snowy Egret looking for munchies amongst the rocks of the jetty.

Ground squirrels were everywhere...

...including these unusual partially white ones.  At first we thought there was just one unique individual, but the more we looked...

...the more we saw.  I would have thought the lighter coloring would make them easier for predators to spot, but apparently not (at least judging by their numbers).
Black-crowned Night Heron hanging out on the dock fence waiting for the fishing boats to come in.