Thursday, September 18, 2014

These are the Creatures in my Neighborhood

No way some gussied up insect will ever take the place of birds in my heart, but sometimes I do give the little guys a look. A couple of days ago I was driving home on a back street and I spotted juvenile Yellow-billed Magpies.





I enjoyed scrambling to get these shots of the little guys using my iPhone camera as shot through my binoculars.














These young birds crack me up with their yellow 'spectacles'. The flock was composed of a half dozen birds, which I assume were a family group out foraging for lunch.











The little flock flew off, just about the time I noticed something interesting in the house next door.
Beautiful, Big and What the hell is it?
Sipping at a Zinnia
Have to admit I was immediately smitten by these over-sized flutterbys. When I got home I did a bit of on line research and discovered these beauts are Gulf Fritillarys. The surprising thing about them is although they are not native to California, they've been here in the area, from Sacramento to the Bay area, since the turn of the start of the last century.

A few days later I did a repeat visit to the butterfly yard. The owner ventured out to find out whom  the woman wildly snapping photos of his Zinnias might be. We introduced ourselves and had a lively chat about butterflies, the wonder that is retirement and Zinnias. Not realizing I am Mistress of the Gulag Garden, he encouraged me to collect as many dried Zinnia flower heads as I cared to, so I can have a go at growing the butterfly attractants for myself. I know. Not going to happen.

Never-the-less, I enjoyed my butterfly spotting and here is some of the butterflys flutter-bying.


Saturday, September 06, 2014

A Birdy Birthday

A one, an' a two... ♪ Happy Birthday to you!
Hey birdie! Turn around when you sing to me! Oh well. Today was a nice calm day on the ocean out of Half Moon Bay. Lots of good birds, and including the photo opt for Tufted Puffins I've ever had.


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My favorite sea birds though are Storm Petrels and today there three species seen. I only glimpsed an Ashy Storm Petrel but these were good looks of these other two species.

Black Storm Petrel




There were a few Black Storm Petrels that have deep wing beats - which I'm starting to recognize but I need to see another few hundred of them for say... a month or two before I get it down pat.








Wilson's Storm Petrel




This Wilson's Storm Petrel was far enough out I couldn't see it's white rump band through my binoculars, but it did show up in the photos I took. You can even see the pale secondaries.











The boat found a fishing boat that was surrounded by flocks of Sooty & Pink-footed Shearwaters, Black-footed Albatrosses and one lone Laysan Albatross.






The Laysan had true 'Betty Davis' eyes

Check out those beautiful long wings
 I took it as a happy birthday treat that I got a sweet little 'Dall' for my birthday.

A genuine Dall - a Dall's Porpoise: one of a small group that shot by
We passed a few Northern Fur Seals, out airing their flippers
So it was an uneventful-ish pelagic trip but it was fun. Don and I made friends with a fellow birder named Anne on board. She too was on yesterday's and today's trip and I'm hoping we run across her in future again as I need all the birding buds I can get. Oh! And I always show the birds and mammals of these trips, but not often the others. Here's a Mola Mola - an ocean sunfish which are cool because they like to wave to everyone on the boat.

Waving Mola Mola fin
Here is a video of  some Mola Mola fish that look as though they were designed by Terry Gilliam.



Today was a lovely Birthday. After the trip I drove back south to Barbara's house for another couple of days of totally unnecessary R&R. Why not? It's my birthday!

Friday, September 05, 2014

Tales of Whales in Monterey

Elegant Terns accompanied us on the way in and out of the harbor today
A few of the passengers on board in Monterey


 Today was day one of my birthday weekend full of salt water and hopefully, loads of birds. We set out from Monterey Harbor. My birding buddy Don was on board too.


On the way out of the harbor, passing the California Sea Lion & cormorant coated jetty
Passing by the Monterey Bay Aquarium on the way out to sea
This summer there was a lot of cold water along the coast. Cold water rises in up-wellings. I think it's because cold water floats - think ice cubes - which is weird because cold air does the opposite, it sinks. I mean, WTH? Cold water carries nutrients and mini-critters up to the surface so hoards of sea birds and whales show up for the feast.  So there were lots of Humpback Whales before we even navigated out of the harbor.
You can see how close to shore these Whales are.The birds are
gulls, some Brown Pelicans and hundreds of Sooty Shearwaters
Flukes as the Humpback dives
Humpback's back
 Barbara and her sister Suzi spent many days this summer, watching Humpback Whales diving and feeding just off shore. It was a wonderful phenomenon, enjoyed by hundreds if not thousands of landlubbers this year.
Sooty Shearwater taking to the sky
Red-necked Phalaropes
A pretty pair of cocoa-colored Common Murres, probably juvenile
Around noon an immense pod of Long-beaked Common Dolphins came up on the boat, riding the slipstream and headed at bat-out-of-hell speed to who knows where. I love dolphins and I particularly enjoy seeing them in massive pods because it so surreal. 
Hundreds of racing Long-beaked Common Dolphins
Faces!
Steep Leap
Everyone loves a Dolphin's tail
Not to be greedy or ungrateful, but whenever I get such nice close ups of dolphins I end up wishing that the day had been a tad sunnier. I mean, imagine the photos above all in blue? Hey, can't have it all I suppose.

The neatest things I saw all day were Dall's Porpoises. They are amazing! Shaped like old throw pillows these water babies can still scoot through the water faster than any other cetacean. They are always an immense treat. They're so fast they're hard to get shots of, even with video.

The only still shot I managed to get of a Dall's Porpoise - it's headed left

We hit a spot where everyone and their finny friends were fishing - Sea Lions, Whales and lots of shearwaters. It gave a nice chance for photographing genuine Whale Tails, by which individual whales are ID'd by nosy scientists.
Wrong side of the tail for an ID, but still a nice barnacled, sea weed edged tail
Look at the white marking, Orca or shark bite fluke and again with the barnacles
Not too many bites out of this tail and it's all black
You can see the Fur Seal (?) fins on the left, and a rather obvious Whale on the right
Stellar's Sea Lions, larger than California Sea Lions
are appreciative of a good little bouy
A Sea Otter in the Harbor as we head back to the pier
Well, it was great day for birds and mammals today, even if I didn't show off much of the birds we saw. Shame was, I was unable to get a bird that would have been a lifer for me; there were a few Manx Shearwaters. There were so many hundreds of Sooty Shearwaters in front of me and I couldn't pick out the one Manx. Rats! Oh well, another day perhaps.

Here is a look at the three Cetacean species we saw today. Oh, and keep in mind, when a Dall's Porpoise hits the surface for that scant fraction of a second, they're using that time to breathe.


It was a long day, around ten hours. When we hauled into port, Don headed home and I headed north to a Half Moon Bay motel, get some sleep and await tomorrow's pelagic.

Full report of this trip with Alvaro's Adventures.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Start of my Birthday Week

Suzi & Bob's Pear arrangement
Back in August I decided to celebrate my birthday with my favorite birthday activities, not with a birthday party, but with quietly anticipated pelagic birding trips. I booked a Monterey Bay and Half Moon Bay pelagics. Therefore, a couple of days ago I headed to my buddy Barbara's house for a few days visit. She now lives in a pretty, one room studio, that stands on a hillside near Watsonville, California. Unbenownst to me, she told her sister Suzi and Suzi's SO Bob that my birthday is pending, and they decided I was in need of a birthday luncheon. Yippy!

Barbara and I met up with them at their current home in Carmel Valley. Its a beautiful valley surrounded by oak woodlands. I enjoyed a tour of Suzi & Bob's digs.

Barbara, Suzi and Bob on the back porch
the Carmel Hills in the distance
 Then we all headed off to a nearby Corkscrew Bistro.

Restaurant & International Hobbit Hovel: the Corkscrew Bistro




It was such a lovely day we took a nice shady table on the Corkscrew's back patio. I was something of a pain-in-the-butt, taking photos of anything and everything back there. I mean, how could I not take a quick shot of this horn-blowing cherub in that stunning stetson?












Tiny bit of Alamo-esq masonry at the back of the patio
Wine Fountain
Our lunches were delish; I had the pulled pork sliders and
 half those fries - hey, a girl could pop if she isn't careful!



As we ate and yakked, Suzi pulled out a birthday prezzie for me! It was a beautiful kaleidoscope that once belonged to her mother who was both wonderful & kind to me. The kaleidoscope was secreted in its own velvet pouch. Suzi knows how fond I am of such fanciful things. You know I had to spend some time photographing a pretty rainbow of crystals within.






Following our luncheon, we stopped  at a plant nursery up the road.  

The Plant Nursery
Oh temptation! The nursery had a great collection of Gesnariads, the African Violet family. I no longer have a north facing window as I did at my work office - the only thing I miss from my working days. No point in buying the plants which would only roast and die in my west facing picture window. I did get an old favorite, a 'string of hearts' which is a great little succulent that even a black-thumbed type like myself has no trouble growing.
Beautiful two-toned Streptocarpus
Suzi and Bob O suggested Barbara take me for a drive on the 17 mile scenic road that is located in Monterey, and is home of the famous Pebble Beach golf course. Seventeen mile drive is a pay-per-drive area littered with even fancier homes than those in Carmel Valley, but it's best attribute is its view of the Pacific. Plant shopping completed, we headed for the 17 mile drive. It was a typical over cast sky over the shoreline drive.


We stopped to view China Rock, and to listen to sea lions barking. I of course reported what birds I saw to eBird.
Sea Lion-coated island off shore
Close up of the hundreds of Sea Lions, cormorants wriggling about on the island
The Lone Cypress on the edge of the sea
Well it was a long, long day, and a nice one that kicked off my birthday week.