Paul was a photographer from my old neck of the woods (San Diego area) who was just dipping his toe into birds, so I figured that going out to the Island where shorebirds are out the window, migrants are at arm’s length, and other water birds are right over the boardwalk might be a profitable place to go! We first stopped at Laguna Vista Nature Trail (where there are three blinds with drips), as I figured the direction of the light would be better first thing in the morning. It actually was rather overcast and gloomy, and things were pretty slow to start, but a stunning male Hooded Oriole did come in to take a bath! Both Buff-bellied and Ruby-throated Hummers visited their special feeders, and the only other visitors (besides a female Cardinal and a very brief Long-billed Thrasher) were grackles, cowbirds, and a Starling! L The middle blind (the one where distant houses are visible) was actually more exciting, as a Swainson’s Thrush made a very brief appearance, but a Veery came in for extended looks, as did a turning Indigo Bunting! Along the trail, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers kept bouncing in front of us, and an Olive Sparrow actually sat up on a stick! (I couldn’t figure out why Paul didn’t seem so keen on shooting the thing until he told me he got great shots of it at Laguna Seca Ranch!) A nice Caracara also flew over the trail, while Brown-crested Flycatchers and Kiskadees called in the distance. The third blind only had fleeting Buff-bellied Hummers, so we gave up and headed to the Island after that, pointing out a couple of Black Vultures overhead on the way out.
Even the ubiquitous Mockingbird gets in on the photo shoot!
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Female Brown-headed Cowbird
Indigo Bunting still coming into breeding colors
Veery (above and below)
Hispid Cotton Rat (token mammal)
We went straight to The Flats, where the tide was out, so Paul was able to get crippling shots of Royal, Sandwich, and Least Terns, Black Skimmers, Ruddy Turnstones, Black-bellied Plovers, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitchers, Sanderlings, Willets, and even Laughing Gulls and a Neotropic Cormorant! A lone Franklin’s Gull was on my side of the car, but unfortunately he flew before Paul was through with whatever he was shooting at the time. I was happy to get my FOS Common Tern, and a dancing Reddish Egret (of the dark flavor) was a big hit! The best drama was provided by a stately Great Blue Heron that had nabbed a huge fish, and after playing with it awhile he finally gagged the thing down! A pair of Semipalmated Plovers flew past, so they never made it to the photo shoot…
Ruddy Turnstone (non-breeding plumage)
In breeding plumage
Black-bellied Plover in full breeding plumage...
...and not-so-full breeding plumage
Great Blue Heron with prize
Common Tern (stretching below)
Sleepy Short-billed Dowitcher (above and below)
Showing white bar on wingtip
Several shots of a performing Reddish Egret
Paul was getting hungry, so we made a detour to DQ (I was sorely tempted to get that Chocolate Cake Shake they were advertising…), had lunch, then decided to go to Sheepshead since we were so close. I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t be conducive to photography, but it actually turned out to be quite productive: Catbirds were all over the place, and a brilliant Indigo Bunting was sitting on the fence and chowing down on grass seed! A snazzy Rose-breasted Grosbeak came in and finally gave great views as well! The “dark side” was indeed too dark for pictures (although the Northern Waterthrush had returned), but I was able to take a video of the waterthrush in the same field of view as a bathing female Painted Bunting and female Indigo Bunting!
Eurasian Collared Doves
Several shots of the Indigo Bunting chowing down on grass seed
Male and female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
You can see where they get the name!
We eventually made it over to the Convention Center (which was packed with cars due to an event; thankfully whatever’s going on in the actual Convention Centre building rarely bleeds over into the “birders’ territory”), where I dropped Paul off to start shooting while I found a parking spot. I also ran into my friend Norma and her friend Linda (who were staying on the Island at Casa Mariposa with a bunch of ladies), and while she got her eBird list started I went to find Paul, where he was hanging at the water feature! Nothing was coming in at the time, so we headed to the “back yard”, where he stopped me short: the (very tired-looking) male Scarlet Tanager was right in front of me! He was a great model (as another birder commented J), and even a female came in over his head! As we made our way to the middle tree that had been popular with the warblers the last several days (and another gal told me that the Townsend’s was still there -!-), a little guy came in close that turned out to be a little “gal”: the female Cerulean Warbler that had shown up Saturday (but I missed)! We dipped on the Townsend’s this time but did enjoy the friendly Black-throated Green, a Yellow, a Blackpoll, a Chestnut-sided, and of course the ubiquitous Baltimore and Orchard Orioles. Dickcissels were feeding on the ground along with the whistling and Mottled Ducks, and a Blue-headed Vireo bounced around while a Warbling sang softly in the background. Norma had her crew on the Blackpoll Warbler when a female Summer Tanager darted in, and an Eastern Wood Pewee was showing off its flycatching skills as well! An Eastern Kingbird sat up against the sky, and we got a brief glimpse of a male Painted Bunting.
Paul at the water feature
Scarlet Tanager (female above, male below)
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler (above and below)
Dickcissel (above and below)
After we finished up there we headed over to the Birding Center, and while Paul took care of things I stood out back for a while, where a lovely Magnolia Warbler came to visit! Things were “seeping” all over the place, but with the wind, it was hard to zero in on anything. When Paul came out to join me, he was the one who spotted the Green Heron that had been “skeowing” all along! Out on the sand were the usual Coots, Common Gallinules, more Great Blues, and the Khaki Campbell Duck J, plus the Osprey on a post, but the Mangrove Warbler was quiet today. The Tricolored Heron posed on the railing, but we were looking for a Clapper Rail family that my friend Alicia had photographed the day before, and indeed we heard two pairs sound off, but we never could spot them. Instead we had great looks at Pectoral and Least Sandpipers in with the whistling ducks, plus an elegant Black-necked Stilt and a not-so-elegant Willet! Paul found a skulky Yellow-crowned Night Heron, but he missed the Sora that went scooting across… L The Oystercatcher cried and zipped past behind the mangroves, and I heard a Least Bittern sound off but they remained invisible. Sadly the spoonbills had vamoosed, leaving only a handful of Stilt Sandpipers and a Blue-winged Teal in the “East Pond”, but at least a Killdeer preened and showed off his plumage for Paul’s camera! The grackles were very friendly as usual, and this one almost let me pet him!
Paul's lens is always a conversation-starter!
Pectoral Sandpiper (above and below)
The superficially similar (but much smaller) Least Sandpiper
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Black-necked Stilt (above and below)
We had to scoot after that (a shrike on the way out enticed Paul to drag his camera out again, only it left the minute he was ready to shoot… L), but we ended up with an impressive 94 species for the day! Bird list:
Black-bellied Whistling-DuckBlue-winged Teal
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
Great Blue Heron
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Green Warbler