Archivos de diario de octubre 2013

11 de octubre de 2013

How Little I Know -- Moonglow Dairy, 10/8/2013

The Monterey Bay birding community has been all a..let's say buzz, about Blue-footed Boobies and Sharptailed Sandpipers recently. Since I have a penchant for absurd-looking animals, and there few birds as absurd-looking as a Blue-footed Booby, I did my best to locate one in the several places people have seen them. No joy.

The Sharptailed Sandpiper I was less excited about, mainly because sandpipers, like sparrows and gulls, seem to exist primarily to confuse me. It's not like they all look the same...really. Nonetheless, when a friend asked if I was game to tag along while he looked for it, I went eagerly. There have been several ST Sandpipers in the area recently, but the one we wanted to find has been hanging around Moonglow Dairy in Monterey Co. That this is a spot that I've been eager to see for a while added to my interest. Moonglow is adjacent to Elkhorn Slough, and shares many features with the Research Reserve, but also has two ponds, one fresh water, and one brackish. The place is pretty famous among birders, but I've never been clear how to access it.

The Sharptailed Sandpiper has been keeping company with a number of Pectoral Sandpipers, which it looks very much like. This actually worked to my advantage, as I've never knowingly seen a Pectoral, either, and so even if we couldn't pick the ST out of the pack, I'd still see at least one new bird.

Moonglow didn't disappoint. There were hundreds of birds, of many different species. We saw American Avocets, Red-necked Phalaropes, Black-bellied Plovers, Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, Long-billed Curlew, Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Savannah's Sparrows, and many ducks that I couldn't get a clear look at. The bit of the Slough accessible from the property had Clark's and Western Grebes, CA Brown Pelicans, and what I thought was a Pacific, but turned out to be a Common, Loon. There were also a couple of Southern Sea Otters visible, although they were too far out for a photo. One stretch that was pockmarked with little pools had many dead or dying Pacific Sea Nettles.

The Pectoral Sandpipers turned out to be easy to pick out of the crowd, as they were bigger than any of the Sandpipers near them. Mixed in with the Pectorals were a number of Western Sandpipers, another new species for me. Both birds were exciting to see, but I was really impressed with the marbling on the back of the Pectorals. Very beautiful birds.

We weren't seeing the Sharptailed, though. Or at least, we didn't know if we could see it. We zeroed in on a number of Pectorals that we thought "looked a little different" but which all turned out to be Pectorals. Finally, some better equipped birders turned up with a scope, and managed to pick out the Sharptailed pretty easily. We were looking in the wrong spot. I got to observe the bird several times through the scope, and even pressed my lens up to the eyepiece to get the rather awful voucher shot in the iNat record. The owner of the scope turned out to be an employee of one of the Sierra National Parks, and while he's furloughed he's traveling around the state, seeing interesting birds. So I owe my Sharptailed Sandpiper sighting to a very friendly, helpful, and above all patient federal employee, and to the childlike intransigence of the nitwits in Washington. Strange world.

Publicado el octubre 11, 2013 04:17 TARDE por jmaughn jmaughn | 16 observaciones | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

25 de octubre de 2013

How Little I Know -- Undisclosed Location, San Mateo Co. 10/11/2013

One of the great thrills of my naturalist year thus far came back in July, when, after 10 years of hoping to spot them, I happened upon a location where it's relatively easy to see San Francisco Garter Snakes out in the open. Those who know me know that in the last two years I've dedicated myself to becoming a well-rounded naturalist, albeit one who still can't memorize all the scientific names. Still, herps have been, and continue to be, a passion. The SF Garter Snake was one of three species of herptile in the SF/Monterey Bay Areas west of the Coast Ranges I haven't seen. (The other two are the SC Long-toed Salamander and Gilbert's Skink. ) It was the one I was most eager to see, but it had always eluded me. Then one day Jessica and I decided to drive north to go for a walk, and before we'd even gone very far, there were the snakes. I saw four that day, all at a safe distance (for the snakes) from the path.

Yesterday, suffering from my annual cold and its attendant asthma, I decided to revisit the spot, since it doesn't require much physical exertion. I didn't expect much, as the weather has turned colder and it was windy, but the sun came out, and so did the snakes. I saw a total of six, from juveniles to adults. It's such a thrill to see these beautiful reptiles, and to see them in a way that doesn't distress or disturb them. I had my new 75-300mm lens, which meant that I could stand quite far back from the snakes, and still manage my usual photos-of-dubious-quality. In addition to the Garters, there was a lot of other things around, as well, ranging from a young Bobcat, to three different species of warbler, to other herps, including a young Coast Garter Snake, several treefrogs, and many fence lizards. All in all, it was a very enjoyable day, even with a cold.

One thing I particularly like about this spot is how aware the park staff is of the snakes, and the care they take to make sure that the animals are not harassed or absconded with. Although habitat destruction is the greatest threat facing the San Francisco Garter, poaching is a real and significant concern. I'm not naming the spot in question, because I feel it is better not to post locations for the San Francisco Garter Snake on public forums. It makes me hopeful, though, to know that this particular population have some very conscientious custodians.

Publicado el octubre 25, 2013 04:28 TARDE por jmaughn jmaughn | 12 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

How Little I Know -- Capitola Beach, Santa Cruz Co. CA 10/24/2013

It's been a wild Autumn on the Monterey Bay. For most of October, record numbers of Humpbacks have been hanging around close to shore, feeding on huge numbers of anchovies. With the whales are large pods of porpoises and dolphins, and massive numbers of birds, esp. CA, Western, and Heermann's Gulls, but also CA Brown Pelicans, Elegant Terns, all three Cormorant species, etc. Capitola Beach has been an epicenter of the activity, and I when I stopped there yesterday, I was amazed by the sheer number of gulls and pelicans that were on the beach, and floating just offshore.

Within a few minutes of arriving, I saw some gulls that i didn't recognize. They were very small, and were keeping to themselves, floating right in amongst the breakers on the beach. They were Bonaparte's Gulls, Chroiocephalus philadelphia, a new species for me. I watched them for quite a while, marveling at how different they were from any of the other gull species present. They looked downright...dainty. I'm a beginning birder, and trying to tell gull species apart is usually beyond my skill set, but these stood out. It was a pleasure to watch them bob about.

The odd thing is, these gulls show up here every winter, so when I say the birds were new to me, that's not quite right. I've probably seen them before. I've just never noticed them before. And really, that's what 's been so interesting about this effort to be come better versed in the natural world. I've had to confront how little I've noticed, much less taken the time to try and know better, at other times in my life.

In addition to the gulls, there were a couple of Humpbacks a bit further out than usual, and a small pod of Bottlenosed Dolphins came by. There were also two Southern Sea Otters that I didn't photograph, and the rocks I was sitting amongst had Black Turnstones and Surfbirds picking around them.

If you live anywhere near the Monterey Bay, and haven't been down to check out what's happening there, do yourself a favor. I've had great looks at the whales from Westcliff Drive, Capitola Beach, and New Brighton Beach. Who knows how long this will last, so have a go. I've talked to people who've lived in Santa Cruz for thirty or forty years, who've spent countless time down on the bay, and they all say they've never seen anything like what's out there this Autumn.


how many angels
can elbow onto the point
a view brings me to?
I'd leave an eye to bear so
to see the better I lose

Publicado el octubre 25, 2013 04:44 TARDE por jmaughn jmaughn | 7 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario