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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Birds visiting from the Big North

Another day, another search for interesting birdies. Early in the morning, Don and I headed south. It was late yesterday, Don found out there was a bird that was 'cool' in more ways than one, in Monterey Harbor - a bird that a number of years ago, I'd traveled all the way to Attu in the Aleutians islands to see. I didn't get a photo of it there, but now I had a chance at photographing the bird, so I was just as excited as Don to get to Monterey and find the bird.

A narrow bit of Monterey Harbor, featuring a few of its ever-present sea lions
Once there, we slowly waddled our way over iced up plastic boards, to get to the end of a wharf I've visited numerous times before. We scanned the waters below, but no sign of our target - the Arctic Loon. Then, across the waters, we spotted the next wharf down, & at it's point, we spotted at least a dozen birders - easily recognizable for their spotting scopes, binoculars and camera equipment. We headed on over.

It was a long slog for tubby me to get over to the 2nd wharf, but the trek was worth it. The Arctic Loon was bobbing around the harbor, giving every birder plenty of time to admire it's sharp good looks.


Arctic Loon, cruising about in Monterey Bay
The Arctic Loon nabbed a fish, near as big as its head
GULP!
There were plenty of other good water birds in the Harbor. There were a few Northern Fulmars which normally I only get to see on Pelagic trips. A single Harlequin Duck was way over on the other side of the habor, in an obvious attempt at thwarting me and my camera. Silly bird! Could have been showcased here... *harump* Of course there were also loads of Brant, Double-crested & Pelagic Cormorants.


This Pelagic Cormorant floated on a gleaming patch of waters as colorful as itself
With his first lifer of the year under his belt, we headed along the coast, stopping to search for interesting shore birds. We made a stop in Pacific Grove to search for a wayward juvenile Vermillion Flycatcher, but the bird was a no-show. Rats!

Loads of Black Turnstones, a Snowy Egret & lone Surfbird (find the Surfbird!) hold down this off shore boulder
On our way back north, we stopped at Norma's a tiny cafe in Castroville for brunch. Full up, we drove on to some fields just south of San Jose. We were in the middle of nowhere, but still we ran into carloads of birders, all there for a decent look at the same raptor we sought - the Ferruginous Hawk.


A snowy breast with red leggings ID this sitting Ferruginous beauty
Not joking about the High Voltage!
Ferruginous dropping its landing gear for a 2 point landing
There were three of the tundra nesting hawks in the field. They put on quite a good show for everyone, zooming about the agricultural field, in company of vultures & Red-tailed Hawks. I've had close looks at a Ferruginous before, but it was decades ago. This time I had my camera with me and while my photos aren't going to make National Geographic, I feel pretty happy with them.

Ooops - a bit too much tail wind for this bird.
So! It was a good two days of birding - one lifer for Don, and better yet, one lifer for me. No clue what other birds new to me, will show up this year, but here's hoping they're as numerous as they will be exciting.

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