Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Retro Post... Spotfin Croaker a "Surf Fish Adventure"

While on the topic of prey taken from the lagoon, I thought it would be fun to view another one of my favorite "Blast from the Past" emails.  I have had fun posting my blogs this year and want to thank everyone for stopping by. See you in 2015!

November 7, 2013

The tide has been too high to go birding for the last few days but checking the tide charts showed that today was going to be an epic day... perfect low tide early morning and not too strong of a high tide. The tide change to high should be about about 8:15am... I was up at 6 am and chomping at the bit to get out to go birding...

The sun was out and the sky was clear, the water was like glass... you couldn't ask for a better photo day. The parking lot gate at the San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center was open early due to some event later in the morning. It was about 8:10am when I got out of the car and started to walk towards the south end of the San Elijo Lagoon... no one was there. It was so quiet I was ready to go to Rios side in Solana Beach when I noticed a huge water disturbance coming up the channel. I have seen this once before at the lagoon. It was a huge California Sea Lion and he was swimming up the main channel in a hurry...
The tide has been low but it has now changed direction... and this big guy is swimming in with the surge of the tide change. This is the time when the fish are active and he is on the hunt. This Pied-billed Grebe is terrified. He can't get away from this danger fast enough!
This little guy is in an absolute panic. He can't decide if he should run, dive, or fly... he changes direction as the Sea Lion swims past...
He was so upset... the landing was a little clumsy.
Everyone can rest easy for a few minutes... the Sea Lion surfaces with a nice sized Spotfin Croaker!! Croakers are a very good tasting surf fish and many fisherman would be envious of this beautiful catch. As I was researching what kind of fish I was looking at, I ran into a YouTube that I had fun watching... this is for all the fishermen and fisherwomen that have gone fishing and things turned into a big adventure!  Surf Fishing Adventure Video   ... 
Like a shark with prey, this guy takes his prize under. Probably felt that he was too close to me and wanted some distance. LOL, I didn't want him to share his catch.
But he surfaces in an instant... a few feet away and chomps!
A nice angle for us to see his awesome fangs going into this fighting fish... biting down on the neck of the croaker.
He bites down with huge force... the fish is thrashing and putting up a terrific fight.
Like watching a National Geographic movie on killer whales grabbing a baby seal, this sea lion also slams his prey into the water using his powerful neck and jaws.
He probably is biting it to take the fight out of the fish. These fish are known for their fighting and the reason that it is the surf fishermen's favorite catch...
The Sea Lion surfaces again giving a nice side view of the fish and the fang marks along the neck of the fish. You can also see the spot on the side fins that this fish is named for... the Spotfin Croaker.
With a violent toss of his head... the fish's body is ripped from it's head...
Now the Sea Lion positions the head for a easy consumption... the fish's body floats nearby...
I wonder if the fish can see what is happening to him... we sure can!
Now, the body of the Spotfin Croaker is retrieved... and time to get a good bite of the gut .
Before I could move the camera lens... he whips the fish body violently in another direction and the gut is ripped away.
He swallows the guts and stomach area... Now he is ready to eat the rest of the fish in one big bite.
Even though the fish is missing his head.. his reflex muscles are moving and wiggling like it is still alive...
The sea lion is wasting no time getting the rest of this fish down his throat... a few more bites and the tail disappears into his mouth. The sea lion dives and swims east towards the freeway...
This little guy watched the whole drama... the fish was bigger than this he was!  He looks very nervous and keeps a eye on the Sea Lion until it disappears around the bend...
This female Lesser Scaup (a diving duck) was so terrified that she dove under water for cover.  That may have been a big mistake when there is a huge Sea Lion around... it must have been chased by the big mammal because it ended up on the shallows of the pickleweed hiding out with a couple of Mallards until the danger passed...
Today was such a great day for photos.  Only one thing could top a "Sea Lion with a fish" photo... yes, a photo of a California Clapper Rail in flight. The tide was coming up and this guy flew towards me to hide in a dense bush.
This is such a rare sight... I am delighted to have gotten a shot of this little Rail... It's time for me to head for home.

Wishing everyone a healthy and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Peregrine's Big Meal

Hope everyone had a joyful and safe Christmas. Going for a walk on the Pole Trail yesterday turned into another "wild side" photo shoot. It is always sad to see that one of the lagoon birds has been taken as prey but this is nature and survival is what it is all about. Yesterday it was the Peregrine Falcon getting a great full holiday meal... surviving and thriving at our beautiful Lagoon.

December 24, 2014 

Deciding to check out the Pole Road Trail again today... spotting a Peregrine Falcon on the third pole eating something. I hurried to get a closer look. Here is a look at the Peregrine busy stripping meat off a bone.  As an observer, I am always interested in what kind of prey is being consumed.
Loving every bite.
The Peregrine picks up a leg that has been picked clean of meat. Only the lobes and the lower leg are left.
He picks up the leg and discards it off the side.
Watches it fall to the ground...
Looks like he found a few more bites on the other leg...
As he alerts to something east of us, we get a good look at his messy beak. He soon flies off heading south.
Searching the base of the telephone pole to see if there are any clues as to what the lobed foot belonged to, I find a severed head of an Eared Grebe. I'm always sad to see one of our visitors to the Lagoon get taken as prey but the Peregrine is well fed. It is nature and there is always life and death for each one of the animals. The goal of every day is to survive another.

Found the wing. Nothing will go to waste at the lagoon. These leftovers will probably be taken later by the crows or maybe even by coyotes.

Heading towards home, I find the Peregrine perched on the second telephone pole past the pumphouse. He looks happy and full. Look at the size of his crop!
As I approach the pumphouse, I see the Great Blue Heron at the base of the train track bank... He looks very full, too!
A raised pair of wings on a hunting Great Egret usually signals a catch. He has struck out at a prey and uses his wings to balance the forward motion.
Got one! I keep walking towards the peninsula trail noticing that the tide is coming up. Maybe I can spot the Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow again...
Walking out to the end of the Peninsula trail... all I could find was a cute little first winter White-crowned Sparrow.
Close -up.
The "Queen of Rios" our resident female Northern Harrier has just landed on one of her favorite posts by the trail.
She has been calling out for quite a while now. I saw another female Northern Harrier earlier, maybe she is warning her off.
I am on the wrong side of the light to get good shots, I need to sneak past the Harrier but she takes flight as I approach her post.
I stay and watch her loop around wondering what she will do next. Still calling out at someone.
The Harrier turns and heads back... she has decided to come back to her favorite perch.
She is still chirping.
I am snapping away but too fast and my camera goes blank!
I fiddle with my camera and now by the time I find my focus... she is directly in front.
She is focused on something far east.
Full frame.
She lands and I'm very close. I decide to take a chance and keep moving forward for a better light.
She gives me that look... "you are too close"! I love the heart patterns on her bloomers.
But she didn't take flight this time. I stop and turn to get a few shots.
She hears my camera clicking away but stays relaxed with one foot tucked up.
The Harrier decides to stay and relax. She settles down enjoying the midday sun.
She has been hunting all morning. Looks like she has a full crop and is ready for a little nap to digest her food.
This shot really shows her owl like markings.
I love photographing this wonderful raptor. She always looks so regal and majestic... the Queen of Rios. One last shot and I'm ready to go home.
Have a beautiful weekend everyone.