There is more to see along the coast of Montaña de Oro state park than just the park’s generous 8000 acres. The utility company (PG&E) maintains land on Point Buchon that abuts the park to the south. It is open to only a limited number of hikers daily, but has some of the most dramatic scenery and abundant wildflowers in this area.
Here are a few more photos at the local beach in Cayucos CA of some of the shorebirds darting in and out of the waves. The birds seem to be used to the people walking the beach, but not the dogs running in and out of the waves. However, dogs chasing birds gave me a chance to get some good flight shots.
A third and regular visitor to this particular beach in Cayucos was the Whimbrel, easily recognized by its bold striped head and long, down-turned beak.
The series of images below shows one Whimbrel’s successful capture and ingestion of a small crab it found in the seaweed. Use the arrows on either side of the image to advance (or reverse) the slideshow. (Note: if you’re reading this post in your email, the slide show may not be accessible, so click on the title of the post in your email, to go to the blog website.)
We’re on a short excursion to CA to celebrate a birthday and hopefully experience the amazing super-mega-wildflower bloom that is taking place there this spring. But first, a trip to the beach where we found some shorebirds probing the sand for invertebrates.
We made brief visits to the Paton Center for Hummingbirds in Patagonia and the Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson while camping at Catalina State Park to enjoy some of the spring delights of southern Arizona.
Desert wildfowers were plentiful, especially along the roadside where we saw dense swaths of orange Globe Mallow, yellow Bitterbush, pink Parry’s penstemon, and short purple lupines.
At our spacious campsite in Catalina State Park, we had room to spread out and time to take a walk before sunset. Quite a few birds were singing and displaying right at our campsite.
Snow or not, the birds are “springing” into action. Decked out in their newly refurbished plumage, males are returning from “down south” to establish territories and are advertising their stuff to potential mates.
And if this attractive male does everything right, with appropriate attention and head bobbing, etc., he may be acceptable to the female.
In celebration of what is to come in the not too distant future…a shock of green to help you think “spring!”
In elementary school we learned that to get green color you mixed yellow and blue — and that’s just what birds do. There is no blue pigment in birds’ feathers either, but incoming light scattered off air pockets in the feather structures can be reflected to our eyes and appear blue. By adding this reflected light to the yellow light reflected from underlying (carotenoid) pigments in the feathers, the birds are doing just what we did in mixing our paints. This is illustrated below by a Broad-billed hummingbird as it approaches a feeder.
As they say in Eire-land
“May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow. And may trouble avoid you wherever you go.” –Irish Blessing
The birdies seem to think it’s spring — cardinals and chickadees are singing in the backyard. A pair of Cardinals were courting on the tree outside my porch window yesterday morning, even while it was snowing.
Northeast of the copper mining town of Bisbee, Arizona and west of the Chiricahua mountains in the southeastern corner of the state is the Sulphur Springs valley, which has recently become a birding hotspot because of the huge numbers of overwintering cranes, geese, ducks, waterbirds of all kinds, and assorted other small passerines.
Originally this area was a cattle ranch with springs and runoff from a part of the Chiricahua mountains that run through the middle of the valley and eventually end up in the Gulf of Mexico. But since the late 1990s, the land has been managed by Arizona Fish and Game and is designated a state wildlife IBA (important birding area). Tens of thousands of Greater and Lesser Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese spend the winter here foraging in nearby crop fields and wading in the 1500 acres of streams, marshes, and ponds.
You can see some variation in the amount of red on the forehead of the cranes. The forehead is actually bald, devoid of feathers, and the red color is due to blood flow in this area. In territorial disputes or during courtship, the forehead may be flushed with blood and be a much bigger area with brighter color.
The Snow Geese were unusually quiet on this morning, resting on a small pond, rarely making a sound, and just sitting or sleeping. Perhaps they were digesting their early morning meal.
What an incredible morning of birding. It was amazing to see how many people knew about this place and were walking slowly around admiring the birds.
We’re on the road again, sadly on our way back to Minnesota, where I’m hearing winter weather is raging. We’ve decided to try to visit as many new places as possible on the trip east.
Running from the Mexican border to the tiny burg of Arivaca in south central Arizona is a 117,000 acre grassland preserve — the Buenos Aires national wildlife refuge, where the deer and the antelope definitely roam in numbers. An occasional jaguar has even been sighted here. And it also seems to be a haven for wintering raptors.
Buenos Aires NWR is a grassy, semi-desert landscape, but has some woodland features along the creeks and in draws. It supports quite a variety of large mammals (deer and antelope), and a great diversity of bird life that is attracted to the various water landscapes.
Amidst the vast expanse of California’s breadbasket of agricultural production in its Central Valley there are numerous “refugia” for wildlife. I was surprised to find that there are dozens of wildlife refuges scattered near the main artery of Interstate-5 in the Central Valley. We made a brief stop at one of these, the Kern National Wildlife Refuge, on our way north to the Bay Area, two weeks ago.
Kern NWR is at the south end of what was once a huge (at least 625,000 acres) wetland complex in the Tulare Lake Basin that was inhabited by hundreds (if not thousands) of migratory water birds during the winter. Today, 11,250 acres are protected in this area just north of Bakersfield, and visitors can drive a loop road around much of the open wetland areas.
But the most exciting find of the morning was the male Northern Harrier that we found coursing over the tops of some orchard trees along the roadside. We followed it along the road for quite a way, and I got several shots of the bird in flight.
What a beautiful little oasis among the crop fields. I would come back here (on a sunnier day)!