Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Trying Something New, Part 1


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

Buff-bellied Hummingbird

Female Cardinal

Hooded Oriole

European Starling

Female Brown-headed Cowbird

Olive Sparrow 
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

Least Tern


Black-bellied Plover in full breeding plumage...

...and not-so-full breeding plumage

Great Blue Heron with prize

Sandwich Tern

Common Tern (stretching below)

Sleepy Short-billed Dowitcher (above and below)

Franklin's Gull 

Showing white bar on wingtip

Black Skimmer

Neotropic Cormorant


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

Black-and-white Warbler

Several shots of the Indigo Bunting chowing down on grass seed

Gray Catbird

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

Baltimore Oriole

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!

Green Heron

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-Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Mottled Duck
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
Eurasian Collared-Dove
White-tipped Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Clapper Rail
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Black-necked Stilt
American Oystercatcher
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Ruddy Turnstone
Stilt Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Lesser Yellowlegs
Laughing Gull
Franklin's Gull
Least Tern
Common Tern
Royal Tern
Sandwich Tern
Black Skimmer
Neotropic Cormorant
Brown Pelican
Least Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Tricolored Heron
Reddish Egret
Green Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Crested Caracara
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Tropical Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird
Loggerhead Shrike
White-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Marsh Wren
Swainson's Thrush
Gray Catbird
Long-billed Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Olive Sparrow
Orchard Oriole
Hooded Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Bronzed Cowbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Northern Waterthrush
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Cerulean Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Summer Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Painted Bunting
House Sparrow

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