Saturday, June 7, 2008

Bulletin #41 – Monterey CA birds #2

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
June 7, 2008

Bulletin #41 – Monterey California area birds #2

Hello friends,

In the last bulletin, I mentioned that I listened to the Monterey County rare bird alert before my trip and also during the trip to pick up on any unusual birds in the vicinity.

The Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) is a split from Canada Goose. There are numerous races, and the smaller ones became the Cackling Goose. They often feed together and can be seen side by side. The race of Cackling Goose we have in Texas is Richardson’s. In California, the Aleutian race winters and this is a distinctive bird. It was mentioned on the rare bird alert that an Aleutian Cackling Goose was in a field just south of Carmel. I looked for it, but it wasn’t with a group of 6-8 other geese. However, many of the geese spend the night on the lagoon nature preserve at the mouth of the Carmel River by the beach.

The preserve and lagoon is a favorite birding spot for me and one evening I was there and looked for the goose but didn’t see it in a flock of 20 Canada/Cackling Geese. A short time later I saw a small waterfwol swimming towards me and looked at it with the binoculars and realized this was the bird. He swam right over to the edge of the lagoon and started to preen and bath. I was able to approach him with my camera to 20 feet and he was completely unperturbed with my presence. I felt like I could have walked over and picked him up.

So what is distinctive about the Aleutian race? Well, besides being a threatened subspecies, they have a white collar at the base of the neck. Most other Canada and Cackling Geese have a black neck that meets the gray-brown back and breast. I was completely unaware of this information and only learned of it from the description on the rare bird alert.

So here is the Aleutian Cackling Goose swimming and neck detail along with a third photo showing the Richardson’s Cackling Goose for comparison. click ‘next’ twice

Also on the Carmel River beach, I found this almost pure white gull. I didn’t know what it was, but was sure it was something unusual, as I had never seen a gull that pale before. I took multiple photos of it and sent them to the Monterey guide, Rick Fournier, whom I have used in the past. He readily identified it as a 1st year Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens). As you may recall from Bulletin #39, I photographed the second year GWGU on the pelagic trip.

If you look at the Sibley guide, the bird is quite brown, but he adds that it often bleaches to white! So it is no wonder I couldn’t ID it myself. click ‘next’ once

I visited the Ventana Wilderness Society bird banding location at Andrew Molera State Park in Big Sur, once again. The staff, under Josh Scullen, were very helpful and kind once again to allow me to photograph the birds they had caught for banding.

The first is a Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus). The western birds are the ‘red-shafted’ form, with bright red underwings. This is a large (12.5”) strong bird, so you can see the way the handler grasps the bird to prevent any injury, if it were to struggle. This is a male with the red malar stripe. The second photo shows the beautiful underwing. click ‘next’ once

The next bird is the Wrentit (Chamaea fasciata). I photographed this bird on a previous visit to the banding location, bit this is so much better. This is a bird that can’t easily be classified. It used to be in the ‘Old World Warbler’ family. The new IOC classification places it in the ‘Babblers and Parrotbills’ family. I still have not photographed this bird in the wild - another item for the ‘to do’ list

The last captured bird I photographed is the Nuttall’s Woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii). There was also a nest hole in the parking lot at the bird banding station and I got some photos there as well.

The first photo is the male. He has the red on the back of his head like most woodpeckers. He has a mouthful of what looks like ants that he was taking to the nest to feed the young. The babies were very loud and could be easily heard. The second photo is the female in the nest hole. The third photo is a female that had been caught and banded. click ‘next’ twice

I will also photograph other wildlife when the opportunity presents itself.

At the Ventana site, I also had a chance to photograph this common lizard. It is seen everywhere along the CA coast, but usually scurries on the ground under brush and thus can’t easily be photographed. This one climbed the base of a tree into the open and stayed still. This is the Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis).

Also, I found this beautiful orange, black and white butterfly, the Lorquin’s Admiral (Limenitis lorquini).

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2008 David McDonald

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