CAL-GAL #2

September 26, 2014

More fine work from the lens of Barbara Bens on our PIB trip along the California Coast earlier this month:BP FLIES LOW
Brown Pelicans at ease around the ocean.
BP ON WATR
PELINE
Pair of Condors high over the ridge at the top of Pfeiffer-Burns State Park, Big Sur.
CONDORS OVR COAST
Elephant seals scuffling at Piedras Blancas.
ELESEALS FITE

ELSEALS FITE2
Not all elephant seals are warlike all the time: PECEFUL PILE

Great Horned Owl in flight at Drake’s Beach, Pt. Reyes
GHO FLIZ
Heermann’s Gull thinking deeply. Could be anywhere in coastal California this time of year.
heerm

IMG_3791

PAC SLOPE

California Quail at Pt. Reyes National Seashore visitors center.
QWAL MALE
Rockpipers: Surfbird on left, Black Turnstone on right. Asilomar State Beach.
ROCKPIPERS
Red-shouldered Hawk in fog east of Morro Bay.
rsh  n fog
Western Scrub-Jay:
SCRUB FACE
Warerfall at Pfeiifer-Burns:
WATR FALL
White-crowned Sparrow in flight:
WCS FLITE
Flying Willet
WILLET FLITE

CAL-GAL #1

September 25, 2014

Here is the first gallery of California photos (hence Cal-Gal) from birder Barbara Bens, one of the folks on my recent California Coastal birding trip for Partnership for Interantional Birding.
Female California Gnatcatcher near Pt. Vicente, LA County: CA GNT (1178x904)
Ruyfous-crowned Sparrow, also at Pt. Vincente: RC SPARO-GUD (1280x888)

Hiding Cal Towhee:
cato hides (1101x1124)
Curlew in the fog, Morro Bay.
curlu (1280x914)

Diving Brown Pelican, Morro Bay State Park.
pel dive1 (1280x853)
pel cive2 (1280x853)

pel dive3 (1280x853)

Santa Cruz Island:
island (1280x853)is scrub1 (1280x853)Above: the endemic Island Scrub-Jay.

Banded Song Sparrow on Santa Cruz Island off Ventura:
sosp banded
Willet and friend at Moss Landing:
willet walx (1280x877)
OTTR-WILL
Yeloow-billed Magpie up Pine Canyon near King City in southern Monterey County.
yb mag in mont

Two of three Great Horned Owls in Monterey cypress trees, Pt. Reyes. GHO IN TREE (1280x569)
On this trip we got both North American endemics: Island Scrub-Jay and Yellow-billed Magpie, the latter requiring us to drive far from the coast in search of dog in an outdoor location. When we inquired about the species locally one woman told us she can only feed her dog at night because the magpies onto the food instantly in the daytime. These are farm dogs not fed in the house. Neither, presumably are the magpies fed indoors, though if you left the door open…

GONE, NOT FORGETTABLE

September 24, 2014

The destructive history of humanity’s war against nature stretches from the woolly mammoth to the tar sands of contemporary Canada and the increasing use of neo-nicotinoid poisons. The battle that led to the extermination of the Passenger Pigeon in North America lasted a few decades. No single battle in the war against nature was more ignominious. None was more fulsome with heedless human greed.
In his fine book on the Passenger Pigeon, Errol Fuller (no relation) describes the skirmish near Petoskey, Michigan, in 1878. A local musician, H. B. Roney, was concerned that the bird was disappearing and he tried to expose the market hunting slaughter of the birds that had come to the area to nest. This pigeon nesting colony was estimated at 100,000 acres in extent. It would be one of the final large nesting colonies seen by man. Despite a state law supposed to protect the birds the slaughter by gun and net went on for days. Nest trees were chopped down to get at the chicks. Roney estimated a billion birds died.
The hunting and gun interests of the day immediately published a rejoinder to Roney’s outrage and exposes. Propaganda wars of the type we all know all too well in this age.
The startling parallel between those who warn and those who refuse to see has continued since the market hunting of the Passenger Pigeon through to today’s continued worship of petroleum and fracking and profits they bring. As the gunners who slaughtered the Passenger Pigeon by the millions, so do today’s energy corporations see profits…and little else matters.
This annihilated nesting attempt by the pigeons in Michigan is just one of the episodes gathered together in Fuller’s newly published book, a centennial remembrance in print. The book also reproduces fine drawings and paintings of the Passenger Pigeon from the 1700s on to today.
It was exactly one hundred years ago this month that the final, captive, Passenger Pigeon died in the Cincinnati Zoo. Today she and her kind are immortalized by a gigantic downtown mural there. But wouldn’t we prefer to see, instead, a couple hundred million of these birds fly across the sky, once again blot out the sun and leave behind pigeon poop a foot deep? I would.

passpig-wilsonWhen Alexander Wilson drew this image of the Passenger Pigeon it was the first decades of the 19th Century and the birds were still legion in the forests of North America. He once estimated seeing a flock overhead of more than a billion birds. Just over a hundred years later they were all dead.

The Passenger Pigeon By Errol Fuller (no relation).
Princeton University Press. Hardcover | 2015 | $29.95 / £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691162959. 184 pp. | 7 x 9 1/2 | |eBook | ISBN: 9781400852208 |
PP BOOK

CALIFORNIA COASTING

September 24, 2014

Can birding the California Coast be called “coasting?” That’s what I was doing last week with a group of clients from Partnership for International Birding.CATO GLANCCalifornia Towhee…in California.

CATO PREEN

curl in fog (2)Curlew in the fog, Morro Bay.

dive
Diving Elegant Tern, Morro Bay.
pelican rock
Pelicans on rock northof Gorda, where we also saw a passing California Condor pursued by Peregrine.
pelican slope

sleeping sausagesThus is what a sleeping sausage would look like…these happen to be only young elephant seals on the beach near Piedras Blancas.

waterfall
Pfeiffer-Burns waterfall into the sea.
wcsp-cu
White-crowned Sparrow adult.
wcsp-socal

whale spoutThe spouting whale off Pfeiffer-Burns State Park in Big Sur. It was a humpback whale surrounded by attending Heermann’s Gulls and Sooty Shearwaters.
Above the park we saw a pair of soaring condors, giving us three on the day.
California zebra, a rare breed…actually exotic livestock on the Hearst Corporation property at San Simeon.
zebra

TRULY ELEGANT

September 22, 2014

Our recently-completed PIB birding trip along the California Coast had many highlights…here are about five hundred in one single frame. Elegant Terns loafing on a sandbar at Moss Landing in Monterey County.
ELEGNT CROWD

ELEGANT BECHD (1280x654)

ELEGNT CROWD2
No far from the madding crowd with its squawks and boistrous shoving, there was this contemplative soul having a snooze on the incoming tide:
OTTEREST2

VAUX’S SWIRL SWIFTLY

September 21, 2014

The evening of September 19th I got the chance to show some PIB clients the Vaux’s Swift phenomenon at McNear’s Brickyard in San Rafael, CA. I think the count that night exceeded 19-thousand birds…plus one Kestrel who didn’t apparently catch a swift.vaux's kest

vauxs kest2

vauxstreams

vauxswerve1

vauxswerve32

vauxswirl1

vauxswirl2

vauxswirl3
As the light drops the swirling swifts become literally a blur to my camera:
vauxblur

vauxscene

Rusty Scalf was tere doing his count and said the Kestrel is rarely a successful swiftp-hunter, unlike his bigger, faster cousin, the Merlin.

McNear Brick and Block, Marin, US-CA
Sep 19, 2014 6:15 PM – 7:45 PM. 6 species

White-tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus) 1
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) 1
Vaux’s Swift (Chaetura vauxi) 15000
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) 1
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) X
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) X

THE FEW AND THE ONLY

September 17, 2014

The U.S. has two endemic species. They are both Corvids. They are both California-only birds. Yesterday our PIB trip to the California Coast got close to one member of the Island Scrub-Jay species. This immature bird wanted to be fed in seems. He or she cam overhead and whispered sweet songs to us in the baked scrub on Santa Cruz Island off Ventura.IS-SCJA BANDS (1025x1280)IS-SCJA FACE PROFILE (1280x962)

IS-SCJA GLINT (1280x960)

IS-SCJA IN SHADE (1265x1280)

IS-SCJA JAW (1280x1074)

IS-SCJA LONG1 (696x1280)

IS-SCJA SHADE2 (1280x1235)

IS-SCJA-FACE1 (1197x1280)

IS-SCJA-LONG2 (770x1280)

THE CULINARY CONCEPTS OF GULLS

September 16, 2014

gull chips1

gull chips2

This incident of gull vs. tourists took place at Limantour Beach, Pt. Reyes, a few days ago.

gull-chips3

gull-chips4gull chips5

Today I was leading a group of birders and we stopped for dinner at an outdoor seafood cafe in Ventura. Some other diners left their table and a first-year Western Gull quickly swooped down to empty the small container of tartar sauce left on the table. That very same gull also proved adept at catching French fries with his beak.

Why Ventura? Tomorrow we take the Island Packers boat out to Santa Cruz Island for the endemic Island Scrub-Jay, an example of evolutionary giantism, like the Komodo monitor lizards, but not as dangerous.

If you;re interested in seeing some California specialties, PIB will work with you on a custom trip or you can join one of our standard ones. Just on this first day we’ve gotten California Gnatcatcher, Common Murre, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Royal and Elegant Tern, Black Oystercatcher and Turnstone, Marbled Godwit, Red-necked Phalarope, Heermann’s Gull, Black-bellied Plover and California Towhee.

COMING TO YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

August 19, 2014

Is avian keratin disorder headed your way? Here’s a blog I wrote about one case in my garden here in southwestern Oregon…then response from a USGS scientist tracking the problem.

I don’t know what’s happened to my Red-breasted Nuthatch. I say “mine” because he seems to live on my suet feeders…and seeing how deformed his beak appears, I can see why.
[SEE BELOW FOR LIKELY EXPLANATION]
How could this poor guy possible pry bugs out of bark crevices when his upper mandible is a half-inch longer than the lower. Any ideas about what’s happened here? Birth defect? Lower mandible appears normal size, while upper toooooo long.BEAK-ODD1` (1280x960)

BEAK-ODD2 (1280x960)

BEAK-ODD3 (1280x960)

BEAK-ODD5 (1280x960)
Help me solve the Case of Mismatched Mandibles.
Ornithologist Pepper Trail works at the U.S. Wildlife Forensic Laboratory here in Ashland (the only such lab in the whole world!). He has pointed me to what seems to be the explanation. Click for link to info on Cornell’s great website on birds.

HERE IS SCIENTIST’S RESPONSE:
I am investigating an epizootic of similar bill deformities in Alaska. This epizootic has recently spread to the Pacific Northwest, with a large cluster of bill deformities appearing in the Puget Sound region. Birds affected by this ‘avian keratin disorder’ have bills that are abnormally long and often crossed, such as in this nuthatch. We’ve determined that the keratin layer of the beak (like the material in a person’s fingernails) is growing too rapidly. Despite extensive testing, we still don’t know what’s causing the problem. We’ve documented beak deformities among a large number of species, including chickadees, crows, nuthatches, jays, woodpeckers, ravens, and several raptors. We are very interested in receiving reports of any birds with abnormal bills such as this one. Please visit our website at the USGS Alaska Science Center or contact me directly:

http://alaska.usgs.gov/science/biology/landbirds/beak_deformity/index.html

Colleen Handel
Research Wildlife Biologist
USGS Alaska Science Center
cmhandel@usgs.gov

FOLIO ON FOLIAGE FOR FOLLOWERS OF THE FEATHERED

July 30, 2014

TREES OF WESTERN NORTH AMERICA. By Richard Spellenberg, Christopher Earle, Gil Nelson. Princeton University Press. 560 pages. $29.95.tree bk covr This book was just published.
If you live anywhere in the western U.S. this book has any tree you might see. Whether you’re on the pacific Crest Trail, hiking Glacier National Park staring at some odd tree across the street from your nearest parking lot, the trees you see you’ll see in this book.
All the natives are here, of course. So are all the exotics whether from South Carolina or South Africa.
Good illustrations and range maps. Color depictions of leaves, bark and flowers.
And without all those trees, where would our birds be?P2090066 (1280x960)P2090078 (1280x960)
This field guide is small enough to fit into a large coat pocket or any backpack. About the size of the regional National Geographic bird guides. Has the same plasticized jacket so it will withstand your leaking water bottle or a bit of rain.
Here’s a sample of the entries on specific tree species:
tree book page
The book includes not just towering trees but many woody shrubs such as sagebrush.

P2090081 (1280x960) This last photo is a madrone going through its annual bark and leaf shedding in late summer. Did you know there are other species of madrone native to the U.S.? I had no idea until I got this book. They are the Texas and Arizona madrones and have tiny ranges compared to “my” Pacific madrone which is found from Big Sur north to British Columbia but never far from the ocean.


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