Saturday, March 07, 2015

San Diego Bird Festival--Lake Murray

Peg and I went on a great half-day trip to Lake Murray today as part of the San Diego Bird Festival. Our guide was Eitan Altman, who did a great job of finding some interesting birds for us and explaining what to look for to make quick distinctions in the field between similar birds. That's Eitan (pronounced "Ay-ton") in the light-colored plaid shirt in the middle of the picture. Peg is in the blue cap and white shirt in the center.

The bird I was most interested in seeing was the scaly-breasted munia--previously known as the nutmeg mannekin. It's a introduced species that recently was designated as "countable" by the powers-that-be in the birding world. Which means that it's official recognized as a North American bird. It's unclear how the bird arrived here, but it is believed to be cage birds that were either released or escaped. It's also known as a spice finch in the pet market.

Here's a link for more info:

We did see some munias, but they are very active little birds that jump around a lot, so no pics. But I did get some nice pictures of other birds using my iPhone and scope! You can tap on the picture to see them larger.

We saw a lot of California Thrashers. Here's a shot of a California Thrasher having lunch:

Hermit thrush:

California Quail


Osprey having lunch:

When we got back from the trip, we drove the short distance over to the San Diego River to check out the white pelicans. Most were asleep.

And one last stop to check out the roosting great blue heron at the exit to the marina.

Complete bird list from the day:

Lesser Scaup
Ruddy Duck
California Quail (San Diego Bird Festival Lake Murray)
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Western Gull
California Gull
Forster's Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Cassin's Kingbird
Western Scrub-Jay
American Crow
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Northern Mockingbird
California Thrasher
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Song Sparrow
Brewer's Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
Nutmeg Mannekin

It was a great day--small group, good birds and great weather.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Love my new Swarovski adapter for my iPhone 5s!

I recently purchased the Swarovski iPhone adapter for my scope from Eagle Optics. Tried it out for the first time, and I'm more than thrilled. Here are a couple of photos I took at Famosa Slough in San Diego: Having a good time birding here--though I haven't been working too hard at it. Saw lots of waterfowl at Famosa Slough. A high point was seeing two crows mob a raven at a park in one of the foothills here. More later!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Great Egret at Chula Vista Nature Center, Chula Vista, CA

Fred and I visited the Chula Vista Nature Center yesterday.  It's a wonderful site, run by the city of Chula Vista, and located on the 316 acre Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge.

The Nature Center has a clapper rail breeding program and a wonderful educational exhibit on raptors, consisting of captive birds who cannot be released into the wild due to injuries.  They also have several aquatic tanks including one with sea turtles visible from outside the center.

It was a cool day with rain threatening, so after the tour of the Nature Center, I only got a quick walk around the marsh.  I saw a northern harrier, three osprey flying in formation, a northern shoveler and some American widgeons.  The only clapper rails I saw were in the exhibit area, but they were calling quite loudly.

While we were waiting for the tour to begin, a Fish & Wildlife Service employee pointed out a great egret eating what she thought was a rat and asked me if I wanted to put my scope on it.  When I did, we found that the egret was eating, or trying to eat, a white crowned sparrow!  Unfortunate for the sparrow, but we were fascinated as we weren't aware that egrets ate birds (nor is it mentioned in my field guide).  It took the egret about ten minutes to figure out how to swallow it.  He(?) would get it entirely in his mouth and then move it back to his bill.  Pictures follow.  If interested and not squeemish, you should be able to click on any image to see the full sized version.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sketching at Famosa Slough

I'm taking an online watercolor and sketching class. The idea is to go out on location and sketch and paint what you see. This week's lesson was to do animals. I decided the birds at Famosa Slough woild be perfect!

Though the Slough wasn't as birdy as other times, an American Avocet and a couple of American Coots cooperated by staying fairly close, though I still needed my binoculars, which added a degree of difficulty! The Marbled Godwit will be added at another time.

It was interesting to learn how many little details I wasn't aware of until I had to draw these birds. No wonder David Sibley is such a good birder--though I'm not in any way comparing myself to Sibley.


-- Posted from my iPad!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Duck Hunting

While I'm out in San Diego, I subscribe to and read SDBIRDS, the San Diego Birding List. People post the locations of interesting or rare birds that they see. For the last couple of weeks, people have been posting about a Long-tailed Duck in Mission Bay, right where we're staying.

I don't normally "chase" birds, as it's called, but this one was tantalizingly close. And so many were seeing it. And it would be a life bird (meaning I hadn't seen it yet). The long-tailed duck summers and breeds in northern Canada and in Alaska. It winters along both coasts, but I hadn't yet seen one in Virgina. For you old timers, until 2000, the long-tailed duck was called the "oldsquaw."

(I think I probably saw it earlier in the week, before I read the reports. I had seen something that generally looked like a pied-bill grebe, way off in the distance, but with a lot more white on the head, swimming with a flock of surf scoters in the bay. Couldn't get a picture and didn't have my binoculars, so at the time I chalked it up to one of those mystery birds I would never identify.)

Fred humored me in my quest by going out three times to look for it. The first two searches, in two different parts of Mission Bay, proved fruitless. Chasing one bird in an area the size of Mission Bay is a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack. I pretty much didn't think that I would ever see it, and thought of giving up. But those reports of sightings kept coming!

So we went out a third time. I looked for specks of white in the Bay. Lots of loons, buffleheads, surf scoters...wait--what's that white thing? Get the scope! There it is--the long-tailed duck, swimming just a bit too far out for a good picture, but I did get this record shot of a female, winter plumage, long-tailed duck.

I was glad that my hunt was successful. Fred was glad that he didn't have to go out looking for the duck again. It was a good day for both of us!

Next: Sketching Birds at Famosa Slough....

-- Posted from my iPad!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bewick's Wren at Marston House, Balboa Park, San Diego

Fred and I went to the Marston House to look for the Hepatic Tanager that had been reported there. No luck, but I did get a couple of record shot of this Bewick's Wren. Not a great shot, but the wren is identifiable!

Also saw a whole mess of bushtits. Where there is one bushtit, there are a couple of dozen more.

-- Posted from my iPad!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Famosa Slough, San Diego (Friday, Feb 4, 2011)

I've been meaning to post about our trip to Famosa Slough. Here it is, better late than never! For more about our trip to the Slough, see my trip blog.

The Slough is one the San Diego's birding hotspots. I can't believe I hadn't been there before this. Here are pics of some of the birds we saw. (I didn't realize some of the settings on my camera were off, resulting in some over exposure, sorry!)

Snowy Egret:

Belted Kingfisher (female):

A scaup parade led by an American Coot. I think that the 3rd scaup from the left is a greater scaup, the rest definitely are lesser scaup.

Black Phoebe:

Little Blue Heron:

Lots of ducks: Coot, American Wigeon, two Gadwells.

(We also saw northern pintails, ruddy ducks, blue winged teal, northern shovelers and some mallards.)

Say's Phoebe:

Red-tailed hawk:

Great Egret:


Greater Yellowlegs:

Pied-billed grebe and horned grebe:

Blacknecked stilts, american avocets, northern pintails among others. The stilts and the avocets have successfully bred in the Slough the last few years.

Aside from the birds already mentioned, we also saw:

Anna's Hummingbird
Marbled godwit
House finch
House sparrow
Song sparrow
Orange crowned warbler
Yellow rumped warbleer
Northern mockingbird
Mourning dove
Western gull

It was indeed birding heaven. If you are in San Diego, definitely worth a visit! See their website for more information.

-- Posted from my iPad!