Friday, May 30, 2008

Bulletin #40 – Monterey CA birds

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
May 30, 2008

Bulletin #40 – Monterey California area birds

Hello friends,

There are fewer and fewer birds for me to photograph on vacation in the Monterey area, but still I always manage to find some or improve on photos that I had taken earlier.

The first birds I photographed when I arrived Saturday afternoon were some that I had heard on the Monterey rare bird alert the day before I left.

The Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster) is a member of the Sulidae family of large seabirds. There are 10 species of this family worldwide. This bird breeds in Mexico in the Gulf of Cortez, but some birds wander north up the California coast, but rarely as far as Monterey.

On the rare bird alert, a juvenile Brown Booby had been found on a large offshore rock just off the famous Pebble Beach golf course. It was reported 2 days before I left on vacation, so I headed there immediately upon arrival and he was sitting on the rock, just as reported. He was about 60-70 yards away, so I took the photo with stacked 1.4x and 2x extenders giving me an effective 1400mm lens.

Additionally on the rare bird report were a large number of Red Phalaropes (Phalaropus fulicaria). These birds are members of the sandpiper family, but mostly swim, picking food of the surface of the water. These birds normally migrate far out to sea, but several days of intense storms had blown thousands of the birds onshore all along the California coast. I found several ponds along the Pebble Beach golf course with dozens of the birds and got my photos.

As you recall from previous bulletins, the phalaropes are unusual in that the female is the brighter colored and the male tends the eggs and feeds the babies.

The first photo is the female and the second, the duller male – both in full breeding plumage. click ‘next’ once

Monterey harbor again produced some great birds for me.

Here is a Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica) in full breeding plumage with gray head and black throat.

The Common Murre (Uria aalge) is a large alcid that you saw in previous bulletins, in winter plumage. All these birds appear to be black and white in the field guide, but after getting some close-up photos, the bird has a decidedly brownish color. I rechecked the Sibley guide and he does say ‘browner’ on the back in this breeding plumage with an all dark head.

Here are 2 photos of the same bird in early morning light beside a dock. The first was in the shadow of a boat and he looks black and white, but he swam under the dock and out into the sunlight and he is much browner! This is the same bird – just a change of lighting conditions and 4 minutes apart in time. click ‘next’ once

The Pigeon Guillemot (Cepphus columba) is another alcid that I have photographed before, but as they nest under the pier in Monterey harbor, several were swimming close by. This one was bathing and I caught him with his tail feathers fanned apart and water drops flying everywhere. His white flank patch and red feet are clearly seen.

I was hoping to get several of the grebes in breeding plumage on this trip, as we don’t usually see them in Houston in their fancy dress.

We drove north to Half Moon Bay (just south of San Francisco) along Highway 1 and had lunch beside the harbor. There was a long pier that pedestrians could use for fishing etc and so I went out after lunch to see what was out there as I had not found the grebes in Monterey.

Well both my target birds were there. The first is the breeding plumage Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis). In Europe this bird is known as the Black-necked Grebe. He has a black neck and wispy yellow feathers over his ears. The bill is all black.

The other is the Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus). He has a red neck, and a solid yellow patch behind ears that extend behind his head (horns). His bill is black with a white tip.

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2008 David McDonald

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