Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bulletin #82 – Monterey California

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
June 21, 2009

Hello friends,

I had a vacation in the Monterey California area last month. I have photos of most pf the land birds to be found there, but needed to improve on some of them, so these were the birds I was searching for this trip.

The first of the birds is the Chestnut-backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens). This is our smallest chickadee at 4.75”. It has the typical black cap and throat, however the afternoon sun gives this bird a brownish looking cap. The rufous back in unique. The birds along the coast south from San Francisco have gray flanks as does this bird. Birds from further north have rufous flanks.

His cousin there is the Oak Titmouse (Baeolophus inornatus). This small plain gray crested bird is an easy ID. Here are a couple of views of this bird.

The next tiny (4.25”) bird is the Pygmy Nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea). As its name implies, it is our smallest nuthatch. It is normally found at elevation in mountains of the west, but does occur along the coast of central and northern California. It is usually found in pine trees. It has a dark gray back, light gray head with faint light spot on the nape of the neck. The breast is white with a tan wash. There is a black stripe through the eye.

The Wrentit (Chaemaea fasciata) is a bird of scrubby brush in California. It is small and gray-brown in color. The iris of the eye is white. It is difficult to see as it stays hidden in the brush, but it has a unique call like a bouncing ball. It is more often heard then seen. I was able to coax this bird into the open with a tape.

I was there in mid-May and migration seemed to have passed. I only found a few shorebirds. However, I did get some nice photos of a Whimbrel (Numensis phaeopus). This bird is brown with a long down-curved bill and central stripe on top of the head.

The most difficult birds for me to photograph are the swifts. They are common and easy to see flying around, but they do not perch except on vertical surfaces like cliffs or inside chimneys. Thus, one is left trying to take aim at a rapidly flying bird and hope to get it somewhat in focus.

The local swift in the southwest is the White-throated Swift (Aeronautes saxatalis). There was a flock of swallows along with a few swifts flying above a 50’ cliff. I focused the camera on a tree on top of the cliff and started snapping pictures as birds flew into the viewfinder. I spent about 15 minutes with mostly blurry photos and many were the swallows rather than a swift.

So here are 2 reasonable photos of this bird. It is dark with a white throat and white rump. A swift has much narrower wings than a swallow and they almost appear sickle shaped as in the second photo.

A small flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls (Larus philadelphia) flew into the lagoon at Carmel River mouth. These small (13.5”) dainty gulls feed in an unusual way. They stand in very shallow water and stomp their feet up and down several times to stir up the algae etc and then they pick up the food on the water’s surface. Here is an almost completely molted breeding adult plumaged bird. The head is almost entirely black. You can see the movement of the water around his feet.

Here is a 1st winter bird with the black on the tail and also notice the black wing tips.

Here is another bird bathing vigorously. It is hard to make out which feathers are wing and which are tail, as the water droplets fly everywhere.

Lastly are some seals. There are 2 broad groups of ‘seals’. The first are the fur seals or eared seals. They have back flippers that can rotate frontwards allowing the animal to ‘walk’ on land. In California, the familiar California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) belongs to the eared seals. They have a small externa ear or pinna. This pup I photographed close up at Moss Landing shows the tiny ear.

The so-called true seals or earless seals have fixed hind flippers, so they just wiggle to move on land. They don’t have external ears, only openings in the skin. The common Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina) shown here with brownish adult and gray pup both are spotted. The external ear opening is seen on the adult.

Here is another pup swimming in shallow water.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2009 David McDonald

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