Saturday, May 30, 2015

Enforcing the "No Fly Zone" at Rios

The last few days have been drizzly and overcast for most of the day but today appeared promising as the ski grew brighter. I decided to head for Rios Avenue in Solana Beach and check out the Pole Road Trail at San Elijo Lagoon today.

As I approached the viewpoint for the Peninsula Trail, I ran into a birder that informed me there were lots of baby Clappers running around in the mud paddies by the pump house. He offered to take me to the area where he observed several youngsters and adults darting out on the exposed mud. Here is a long distance shot of a young California Clapper Rail looking for lunch. 
They are really quick to move from perceived or real danger and appear to like to run or swim more than fly. 
As I pass the pump house, a Black-necked Stilt flies in.
These birds are so very elegant and always a great subject to shoot. 

Just past the area where I spotted the Stilt, an Osprey is perched on top of a short utility pole with prey. Looks like he has finished off half of what looks to be the remains of a mullet. 
Ospreys are always exciting to photograph. They have such wonderful expressions and are usually somewhat tolerant of photographers if we stay back far enough from their space. 
 Always on the lookout for trouble that may approach.
Looks in all direction.
Eye to eye.
Love the swept up plumage when the wind catches it. 
A beautiful angle of the Osprey's head. 
Looking at a few hikers walking by... 
Back into the camera. 
The Osprey decides there are too many humans around for his comfort... up with his wings and getting a good grip on his fish. 
Off he goes.
Nice look at his talons locked on the fish. 
 He flies south but changes his mind and loops back towards me. 

 Now he is heading northeast.
Flying right over what I call the "salt flats". 
 Nice look at how the Osprey carries his prey. 
 He spots something and seems to be very alert. 
Trying to get some height.
Now I see the reason for his concern. A Black-neck Stilt is on the chase, he is enforcing his "no fly zone" area. The Stilt may have a youngster he is protecting but this was quite an unusual sight to see. I have never seen a Black-neck Stilt be so aggressive with an Osprey before. 
For every beat of the Osprey's wings the Black-necked Stilt is right behind him like a shadow. 
The Osprey appears uncomfortable with this bird coming so close into his airspace. 
The Osprey picks up speed and powers out of the offending area. 

The Stilt appears to be escorting this much larger raptor out of his air space. 
One last rush towards the Osprey and he peels back and flies back to the salt flats. 
 Coming in for a landing. Such a graceful bird. 

Even when walking, they are a show of elegance. 
A close look at the head and neck. 
I head for home and spot another pair of Black-necked Stilts foraging in the tide channel by the railroad tracks north of the pump house. 
A nice stretch and display of his wings. 

Gives me a close look at his beautiful head. 

The Stilt pauses for a moment as I walk by.

A shot of the Black-necked Stilt a split second before he takes flight. He uses his legs like a slingshot to give him a easy lift off.
Taking flight. 
Just down the trail I spot what may be the mate to the one that just flew off. Females have a dark brown coloring on their backs. 
A Snowy Egret flies overhead giving me a nice shot of his transparent wings. 
Have a nice weekend everyone. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Waiting for the Young Nuttall's to Fledge

When waiting to get a shot of a young nestling that appears to be ready to fledge, you have to have all the time and patience in the world or just get lucky and be there at the moment that he flies out of the hollowed out nest in the tree. Well, I had neither time nor luck the other day when one of the regular birders Dave told me that the young nestling Nuttall's Woodpecker really appeared to be ready to fledge at the San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center Trail.  I went quickly to the nest tree to get ready for the magical moment of "the fledge".

I had arrived at the nest tree of the Nuttall's Woodpecker, the location of which was kindly revealed to me by Al our longtime local photographer.  With much anticipation and excitement I was hoping to be lucky enough to witness the fledging flight of the youngster. Here is a photo of the young woodpecker as he peeks out of the nest hole.
Within minutes of my arrival to the nest site, a female Nuttall's Woodpecker arrives at the nest site with a beak full of insects. The male does the excavation hollowing out a nest site in the tree. The female lays from 3 to 6 eggs and both parents sharing the incubation duties. The male incubates at night and the female will take over during the day. The eggs are incubated for about 14 days to hatch. New Nuttall's chicks are born helpless and bald. The nestlings fledge in about 15 days after hatching but are still fed and protected by the parents for another 2 weeks. 
The female sticks her head into the opening hole and immediately a youngster is visible in the back of the nest. The female Nuttall's Woodpecker has no red coloring on her crown. Nuttall's Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii measures 7.5 long with a wingspan of 13 inches.
These are small woodpeckers that are confined primarily to the oak woodlands of California. 

The youngster eagerly accepts the insects brought to him by his mom. 

A tender moment. The youngster looks at his mom.

Finished with the food delivery, the female pauses for a moment, maybe hoping to bring junior out of the nest. 
The youngster pops his head out.

Now he is looking out resting his chest on the opening of the nest hole. I call this one nestling # 1.
I am thinking that this may be the moment that I will get to see the magical moment of fledging...
The youngster looks long and with much concentration.
Just as I was thinking that he may finally go for the exiting of the nest... the male Nuttall's Woodpecker shows up and proceeds to feed the youngster.
This appears to be a great big tasty grub that the dad has brought for junior. He appears to shove it into the back of junior's mouth. 
Probably making sure that it is consumed. 
Dad may be guiding the grub towards the back of the throat to make sure the youngster swallows it with no problems. 

A quick look around the nest and the dad takes off giving us a look at the red plumage on his crown. 
Well, maybe it is finally time for the youngster to come out of the nest... He looks out and spots me clicking away with my camera. This may be nestling # 2... notice the crooked dotted white line next to the red patch on his head?
Looking below... a good look at possible nestling number 2 with the crooked dotted white line next to the red patch. 
A good look above...

What to do?
Again, just as I thought that this youngster was ready to explore his surrounding outside the nest... Mom shows up with more food. This female adult must be quite young. Notice the single red plumage visible on her crown. That appears to be the last bit of juvenile plumage still holding on to her crown. 
Again, the adult stops and lingers by the nest as though it is trying to coax the youngster out. 
The youngster looks and checks his surrounding.
But wait, here comes Dad with more food!!
The male looks around to make sure there are no threats to his nest site and youngster before he proceeds with the feeding. A good look at his red crown.
With the feeding done, Dad and junior have a special moment. Maybe the Dad is saying "it's time to leave the nest, son"
But within minutes, the female shows up with more food. The mom gives a soft call as she approaches the nest.
She waits at the opening...

The youngster comes quickly to the opening to accept the food.

Could this be the moment for the fledge?
 No not yet! the Dad shows up again his beak loaded with insects.
A youngster grabs greedily for the treat. As I study this photo, I am beginning to think that there are three youngsters in this nest. The one in this photo has more red on his crown which would make him nestling number 3... but it is very difficult to tell. All youngsters of both sexes will have the red coloring on their crowns and will keep this plumage until around August. Note the blur to the right of the photo... the wind picked up and there was a branch that moved right in front of the shot as I clicked this photo. This nest is located in a shaded area with lots of foliage around it and many times the shot had to depend on the wind conditions as it moved the branches around to block your shot. 
Nestling number 3 looking out at his surroundings but not making any attempts to come further out of the nest, I finally had to give up for the day.  I didn't succeed in getting that fledge shot I was hoping for but what a great treat to watch the food exchanges. It was time for me to head for home, maybe I will get a few shots of the youngsters outside of the nest in a few more days.
Have a beautiful week everyone.