Thursday, December 31, 2015

Young Harrier and the Ducks

The morning light has been beautiful and my search for a few close shots of the young Northern Harrier has been keeping me busy at the west end of the Rios trail in Solana Beach.

I finally got a chance to take a few shots of the young female Northern Harrier as she headed straight up the cliffs from where I was standing and flew overhead. Here are some shots of the beauty and some of the ducks that scrambled to take flight as she made her appearance.

Northern Harrier, Circus cyaneus measures 18 inches long with a wingspan of 43 inches. 

Notice her owl-like facial disc. 

She really looks owl-like in this shot. 

Her markings appear to show that she is a juvenile in that she has an orange body fading to whitish in color. She also has the dark-colored inner secondaries on her wings which ID her as a juvenile.
 I wonder if she is the young daughter of the resident female Northern Harrier.
What a beauty.

She passes by hugging the bank behind where I am standing. 

Now the sun is also to my back and she is back-lit by the light. 

The sun traces her outline in a beautiful glow. 

What a wonderful way to end another great birding year. A beautiful flyby of one of my favorite raptors. 

The sight of this raptor is breathtaking. I feel very lucky to have been in the right spot to catch a few of these images as she passes by. 
Eye to eye. 

 She flies up and I capture the condo windows in the background of this shot. 

She flies south and disappears behind some tall trees. 

But the ducks are all nervous and take flight. Here is a male Northern Pintail just coming out of the water as he pumps his wings to take flight. 
In the blink of an eye, he has propelled himself out of the water and is in flight. 

What a beautiful duck. 
 Showing his colors.

A male Northern Pintail and two female Pintails appear ready to take flight too.

 Off they go.

Another pair of Northern Pintails are taking flight. This photo captures the male lifting straight up from the water. 

You can see that this is a very muddy pond. The Pintail sprays quite a bit of mud as he jumps forward to take flight. His mate has opened her wings and is also ready to take off. 

And she pumps her wings once and is lifted out of the water. 

Showing his colors. 

A Green-winged Teal drake also gets anxious.

The take off.

Not only are they quick in the air but also fly in a zigzag pattern which makes it a little difficult to follow once he is in the air. 

Showing his colors.

With the Harrier out of sight, the Dowitchers return to the little pond by the peninsula and resume their feeding. It has been a wonderful morning and time for me to head for home. 
LOL... there is a Willet hidden in this photo, can you spot him?

Have a very Happy New Year everyone! Stay safe and see you next year!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve Day at the Lagoon

Getting up early and checking to see if the weather was going to be clear today and noticing that the air was still and the lighting beautiful, I grab a quick bite to eat and drive to San Elijo Lagoon to see my photographer friends to wish them a Merry Christmas. But bird subjects were scarce and I decided to head over to Rios Pole trail hoping for some interesting photos.

Rios was quite deserted with few joggers but I did see Steve Brad looking for the Nelson's Sparrow at the end of the peninsula trail. We didn't see one today but got a few shots of a female American Kestrel looking sleek and fit. 
She flew over to a nearby fence post. 
She doesn't stay long... soon she is off hunting. 
An agitated Great Egret comes across my camera frame. 
There is the challenger! He has a lot to say. I think he is saying that this is his territory and he's not sharing. 

Comes in for a landing.
Warns off the intruder. The intruder veers off and leaves the area without any conflict. 
Any commotion seems to make these ducks a little nervous. This male American Wigeon takes off.

This could be another reason for the ducks to be a little skittish... a female Northern Harrier making her rounds.
I walk towards the end of the Pole Trail on Rios and find a young Bufflehead swimming in the tide channel. 
At first glance I thought this was a female but there is a lot of white plumage coming in and I am thinking that this little Bufflehead may be a young male that is just starting to get his adult plumage. 
Looking north, I spot two large raptors in a show of power. The Osprey is larger and is the aggressor but the Red-tailed Hawk shown lower left in this photo is not going to back down. 
The Osprey flies by with talons down. The Red-tailed Hawk responds to the aggression with his talons down. 
It appears to be over as the Osprey flies up and past. 
No... not yet, the Osprey isn't finished with his message to the Red-tailed Hawk.
Osprey is vocal and comes back towards the RTH.
Closing in.
The Osprey is very vocal. 
Talons unfolded...

The challenge.

I'm sure that the Osprey is saying something like... "Get out of my lagoon"!

Talons down and out.

Looking intimidating.

The Red-tailed Hawk responds with his talons. 

Osprey flies up and creates some distance between them. 

Getting some distance and picking up speed. 

The Osprey flies up and loops back.
"and one more thing"!

"Stay away"!

More show of strength.

The Red-tailed Hawk responds again and this time the Osprey flies off. He has chased the RTH all the way to the pump station and appears to be satisfied that he is on his way out of the lagoon. 
The Red-tailed Hawk straightens out and keeps flying south. 

This hawk must be feeding well, look at his crop.
Just found a fresh Whimbrel wing on the trail, could be what this hawk ate that made him look so full.
Here is the photo of a wing that I believe that may have belonged to a Whimbrel that may have been consumed by the hawk. 

Checking to see where the Osprey is. He is staying high above escorting the hawk out of the lagoon. 

One last shot of the RTH as he leaves the lagoon. 

The Osprey, happy to be rid of the hawk, comes back and lands on the pole nearby.

The Osprey soon flies off as two walkers with large dogs approach the pole. 

Several Semipalmated Plover getting warmth on the rocks. 

A cutie on the rocks. 

This one appears to be a juvenile. 

A Killdeer looks on. 

Willet looks handsome in this light. 

What is that Osprey doing? LOL... I think he is showing off to the female Osprey that has entered the lagoon. 

The activity of the Osprey and the Northern Harrier swooping by has caused these Green-winged Teal to take flight. 

When the sunlight hits the green on the wings it glows like a neon light. 

Almost to the trail head and I find this little Orange-crowned Warbler getting some bugs off the ground. It's been a super day for walking and taking some interesting shots at the Rios Avenue lagoon trails. Time to go home and celebrate Christmas Eve. 

Have a wonderful Christmas Holiday everyone!