Friday, September 28, 2007

Bulletin #13 - Monterey CA

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas

Bulletin #13 – Monterey CA birds

Hello friends,

I was back in California on vacation over the week of Labor Day. Despite vacationing there for the past 25 years, I always seem to pick up new birds!

The first lifer for me was the Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis). I saw this unusual bird on the Carmel River mouth beach in the washed up kelp. I took some photos. When got back to my hotel and looked at them carefully, I was convinced that it was this species. This is a common migrant spring and fall on the upper Texas coast, but in 15 years had never found it. It is a rare migrant along the California coast and is a reportable bird! I saw the bird 3 days in a row and got many photos of it. In the Peterson’s western birds, it says that most of the birds found in California are juveniles. This bird was a juvenile. I called the bird in to the Monterey bird hotline and others came and saw it!

There are a couple of species of gulls and terns that breed in Mexico and then disperse northwards along the coast after breeding. These birds are only seen in the fall in Monterey County.

The first is the Heerman’s Gull (Larus heermanni). This is the most distinctive of all the ABA area gulls with its dark gray coloration. I was able to find several different plumages in the large flocke of these gulls.

Here is the adult non-breeding plumage.

The next is 2nd winter plumage. The face is darker and the plumage has some brownish feathers.

Lastly is the 1st summer plumage with a pinkish bill and very dark all over.

The other bird that breeds in Mexico and also extreme southern California is the Elegant Tern (Thalasseus elegans). Again, despite birding Monterey for 15 years, I had never found this bird until this trip. Actually, there are few terns along this area of the California coast. I found a flock of them at Moss Landing harbor. They are mid-sized terns (17”) with a long slender bill, bushy crest and a pinkish wash on the breast in some plumages.

Here is the adult non-breeding with black legs, orange bill and the pinkish wash on the breast.

The juveniles have a yellow beak and orange legs. These 2 photos seem to show a couple of juveniles with partial adult features. The first has a yellow beak but the black legs.

This next one seems to be a juvenile who has an adult orange beak, but still has the orange legs, although they have black patches starting.

If you remember an earlier bulletin (#3) about the Alcid family of seabirds, I found this Common Murre (Uria aalge)swimming just off the beach. This photo is the non-breeding plumage with white on the face

The very large Western Gull was featured in bulletin #3 as well. On this visit I found some babies. It was sort of strange to see this huge 24” dark baby gull following its parent around on the beach begging for food. Here is the baby in the begging posture on the beach.

And here he is getting regurgitated food from the parent.

The last new bird I found on this trip (a lifer) but it isn’t ABA countable yet, is the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus). These magnificent birds have been brought back from the brink of extinction with captive breeding programs at the San Diego and Los Angeles zoos. They are now being released back into the wild in Big Sur area and along the Grand Canyon in Arizona. They are all labeled and tracked. Also, the released birds are starting to pair up and have some wild offspring! What a success story.

Here is the adult with pink neck. Notice the tag #13 (same as this bulletin #!) on the wing. A number of them also have transmitters on their back so they can be tracked.

Here are a couple of juveniles. They have black necks. This photo sort of reminds me of an Edgar Allen Poe story with the carrion birds hanging around the house.

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy Birding,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2007 David McDonald

Monday, September 17, 2007

Bulletin #12 - Texas birds

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas

Bulletin #12 – Misc Texas birds

Hello friends,

Summer is a slow time for birding. However with the babies and juveniles, there are some new plumages to photograph.

July 4th weekend found me in the Texas Hill Country west of Austin. I was able to pick up several new species and some improved photos of species of which I already had photos.

The first is House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus). A pair were very cooperative on the bird feeder. First is the male.

Here is the female.

The local hummingbird in this area in the Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri). The male has a purple throat patch with black above. It is very difficult to see the purple gorget on this bird, but with flash, the camera picked it up rather nicely.

The female has no throat patch, just some dark spots.

Another local bird I was able to photograph just before leaving the area was the Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)

The last bird of note is the distinctive Lark Sparrow. The facial pattern and clear breast with central spot are diagnostic of this species. This bird was on the ground under a feeder. This makes life simple for the photographer! The first photo is on the Houston Audubon web site. click ‘next’ once

The Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) nests in my yard and daily visits the sunflower seed feeders. The juveniles have black beaks rather than the red beaks of their parents. The juvenile male has considerable red on the breast.

The juvenile female is plainer.

A trip to Anahuac NWR in August produced some good photos. The first was a singing male Dickcissel (Spiza americana).

The next was a Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) perched on a fence post.

The last bird was a Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris). This secretive bird usually stays hidden in the reeds. However, that particular day there were many singing. I waited patiently, and finally he popped up to the top of the reeds to sing and I was able to get a couple of good photos. click ‘next’ once

As the summer is slow, and I was at Anahuac NWR I decided to try my luck with dragonflies. There were far more numerous than birds that day. I think they are rather colorful and interesting to learn about. I had to buy a guide book to see what species were in the pictures.

The first is Eastern Pondhawk (male).

The next is Four-spotted Pennant (female).

The last one is Needham’s Skimmer (male).

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy Birding,

David McDonald

Photos copyright David McDonald 2007