Thursday, December 8, 2016

American Pipits in Imperial Beach

A rare Red-throated Pipit had been spotted at the baseball fields on Sunset Avenue. Several birders had searched unsuccessfully the next morning. I joined them for a while. And while no Red-throated Pipit, with their strongly striped backs, was present I did have an opportunity to photograph American Pipits. These turned out to be some of the best photos of these birds I've yet taken of these hyperactive birds.

American Pipit

Breeding on mountaintop snowfields, in winter pipits feed by chasing insects on the bare ground or short grass fields or shorelines. They merge and split into flocks of various sizes on the ground, but easily take low flight together when approached too closely or alarmed by a bird of prey flying overhead--when they may flush high and away completely.

Here, however, they've grown accustomed to dog walkers and others using the fields when no games or practices are occurring. As they walk quickly forward with horizontal posture they jerk their head forward with each step and constantly bob their tails. Thus, many of my attempted photos have been blurred by the movements of head or tail.

Sometimes, though, they pull up suddenly, raise their heads erect, and freeze--but just for a second.

American Pipit

American Pipit
American Pipit. Imperial Beach, California. November 25, 2016. Greg Gillson.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Grackle bath time

I recently came upon a Great-tailed Grackle taking a bath in the lagoon formed at the San Luis Rey River mouth.

He had waded belly-deep into the shallows and spread his tail widely...

Great-tailed Grackle bath
Great-tailed Grackle. Oceanside, California. November 6, 2016. Greg Gillson.
He made an amazing splashing...

Great-tailed Grackle bath

How? He opened his wings slightly, rocked side-to-side and flapped his mostly-closed wings, dipping his head underwater, bringing it out and shaking it. Notice the nictitating membrane covering his eye...

Great-tailed Grackle bath

Now, not quite so violently; letting the spray settle...

Great-tailed Grackle bath

Resting before starting again...

Great-tailed Grackle bath

It feels so good!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Great Horned Owl at San Elijo Lagoon

On a recent hike at San Elijo Lagoon, on the Nature Center trail, I was alerted to this sleeping Great Horned Owl by a couple of hummingbirds buzzing around it like mad bees.

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl. San Elijo Lagoon, California. November 6, 2016. Greg Gillson.
Great Horned Owls begin their nesting season early--often by late December. They are frequently heard calling during this period. They don't build their own nests, but use the old nests of Common Ravens, Red-tailed Hawks, and Red-shouldered Hawks.

These owls are uncommon but spread out over the entire county--even in the cities. People in general are more tolerant of birds-of-prey than in the past. Thus, ravens and hawks are thriving in urban and residential areas, and the old raptor nests that the Great Horned Owls need are readily found.

Great Horned Owl