Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Rare bird: Neotropic Cormorant at Lake Cuyamaca

First found on April 4th, 2019 by Jim Pawlicki, two Neotropic Cormorants were at Lake Cuyamaca for several days. I was able to visit on April 7th and get the photos presented here.

Neotropic Cormorant with Double-crested Cormorants
From left to right: Double-crested Cormorant, immature Neotropic Cormorant, 2 more Double-crested Cormorants, 
and adult Neotropic Cormorant. April 7, 2019. Lake Cuyamaca, California.
I'm not sure I would have identified these birds if I didn't know they were there. Oh, I would have had I really looked at them. But I don't think I would have bothered looking closely at cormorants in the mountains! I would have counted the lumps as Double-crested, added them to eBird, and moved on. It's all about expectation. There are a couple of photos here of birds isolated that certainly would have broken through my expectation bias had I seen them--a bird only 2/3 the size, but perhaps only 1/4 the bulk of the Double-crested Cormorants.

Here are San Diego records of Neotropic Cormorant (from eBird photos):
1) October 12 to December 6, 2014 Lake O'Neill, Camp Pendleton.
2) October 3 to November 26, 2015 Lake O'Neill, Camp Pendleton (presumed same individual as above).
3) October 16 to November 2, 2016 Lake O'Neill, Camp Pendleton (presumed same individual as above).
4) March 6, 2017 Lower Otay Reservoir.
5) April 4, 2019 to April 9, 2019 Lake Cuyamaca.

So this is apparently the 5th record, but only the 3rd and 4th different individuals. October to April, with Double-crested Cormorants, anywhere on fresh water. You can bet I'll be more aware going forward. I suspect I'm not the only one.

This bird was quite distant and the low light made photography difficult. I ended up taking about 500 frames of the birds, changing settings constantly, in order to get these pics. You can click on any of the photos to bring up a larger size.

Adult Neotropic Cormorant among Double-crested Cormorants
Adult Neotropic Cormorant among Double-crested Cormorants
The adult Neotropic Cormorant on the right with wings open shows the characteristic small orange throat pouch
 shaped as a sharp point outlined with white feathers (especially on the bottom).

Adult Neotropic Cormorant among Double-crested Cormorants
An adult Double-crested Cormorant (right, wings open) dwarfs the adult Neotropic Cormorant (left).
Adult Neotropic Cormorant among Double-crested Cormorants
The size difference is obvious, but the shape of the throat pouch is easily seen and compared 
(pointed on Neotropic, left; rounded or squared on Double-crested Cormorant, right).
Interestingly, there were two Neotropic Cormorants together, an adult and apparent immature. The immature bird presented some problem as it appeared much more pale and faded than typical. There was some hesitancy about this pale second bird. Eventually, though, the "hybrid hypothesis" for this second bird was dismissed. Apparently, rarely, immature Neotropic Cormorants can be this pale.

Below are photos specifically of this pale bird. The size and throat pouch shape match those of the adult bird. Again, you can click on the photos to bring up a larger view.

Immature Neotropic Cormorant among Double-crested Cormorants
Immature Neotropic Cormorant among Double-crested Cormorants
Immature Neotropic Cormorant among Double-crested Cormorants
Click to enlarge. Compare the yellow throat pouches of the two immature birds together. 
Double-crested (swimming) has a broad throat pouch that also encircles the eye with yellow skin.
The Neotropic Cormorant (3rd from right, wings open) has a pointed throat pouch restricted to the lower face.
Immature Neotropic Cormorant among Double-crested Cormorants

Monday, April 22, 2019

Turtles at Kit Carson Park

I don't know that much about turtles (except for an Ogden Nash limerick).

Here is a great website on California herps. From this website I found out what I suspected. These turtles are all non-native escaped pets--or at least, their recent ancestors were. The big turtle showing some red stripes on the underside ("plastron"--new vocabulary word!) is the Western Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii). Most of the others here have yellow stripes on the plastron and a red mark behind the eye--the Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elgans).

Sunning Turtles
Sunning turtles. March 29, 2019. Escondido, California.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Mourning Dove at Kit Carson Park

Mourning Doves tend to be out in the open more in the spring when singing their cooing song. Thus, this species is represented more often in recent photographs.

Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove. March 29, 2019. Escondido, California.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Ring-necked Duck at Kit Carson Park

Ring-necked Ducks are quite photogenic with their tri-colored bills and purple head sheen. They aren't as wary as some ducks, and appear in smaller ponds where one can get close photographs.

Ring-necked Duck
Ring-necked Duck
Ring-necked Duck. March 29, 2019. Escondido, California.

Friday, April 19, 2019

American Coot at Kit Carson Park

An example of a more interesting pose, followed by the boring standard "field guide pose." Remember, I challenged you to find more interesting poses in this past post on coots.

American Coot
American Coot
American Coot. March 29, 2019. Escondido, California.