Tuesday, September 29, 2015

New Arrivals at the Lagoon

It's the end of September and we are starting to see new fall migration visitors. The first of the visitors that I have spotted over the years have always been the always early, beautiful, apricot-colored Say's Phoebes.

First stop was at the Nature Center side of the San Elijo Ecological Reserve where I spotted a new arrival of the fall season. The ever-flighty Say's Phoebe. Sayornis saya measures 7.5 inches long with a wingspan of 13 inches.

Say's Phoebe belongs in a category called "tyrant Flycatchers" because of their aggressive behavior. They drive other species away from their nesting territory up north and will spend the winter here.

They mostly hunt their prey on the wing, capturing insects in flight as they swoop and hover from their perch. 

Always searching for insects. 

Say's Phoebe flies after an insect. 
 He bobs his tail and spreads them in anticipation of his takeoff. 

Spotting another prey, he flutters off his perch. 

What a treat! We have a pair of Say's Phoebes visiting our beautiful lagoon and I managed to get them in one frame.

When watching a Say's Phoebe, you don't have to wait too long to see him take off for another hunt. 

Looking to see where his meal went. 

There it is... he spots another flying insect and is in hot pursuit. 

As fast as he takes off he is back on his perch to scan the area for more bugs. 

Time for me to go check out the N. Rios Ave. side of the Lagoon. One last shot of the Phoebe getting ready to launch himself again. 

As I make my way to the parking lot, I see something fly over that I have never seen before. It looks like a flying tricycle! 

The unusual helicopter must have flushed this Osprey off her perch. What a beautiful Osprey. Looks like she is done with molting and has all brand new feathers. 

Arriving on the Rios side of the Lagoon I spot another Say's Phoebe. 

Another newly arrived visitor, the White-crowned Sparrow, was also checking out our lagoon. 

A beautiful male American Kestrel flies by.

The male flies over and heads west. I also spotted a female but not close enough to get a shot. 

A Kingbird... It could be the rare fall vagrant visitor the "Tropical Kingbird" due to its notched tail but I will have to check with the experts. 
A male Osprey flies by searching for fish. He has been molting and looks quite raggedy but still awesome!

And he shows how awesome he really is!

LOL... Must be measuring how big the fish looks to him from up there. 

No, it's this big! 

Flies by and heads for the other side of the railroad tracks. 
A few minutes later, the Osprey is spotted carrying a nice fish towards his perch on the little dock by the freeway. 

Looking down towards the western peninsula trail, I spot two Eared Grebes. Podiceps nigricollis  measures 13 inches long with a wingspan of 16 inches.

Nice to see these birds back here at our lagoon too. 
Dragonflies were everywhere. They would hover in a pattern and if you watched long enough, you can almost predict where they would fly next. Catching a shot of this Dragonfly as he repeats his flight pattern. 

The wings of the Dragonfly shimmered in the sunlight. It's been quite exciting to see some of the new bird arrivals at the lagoon. I can't wait to see what October brings! Now it's time for me to head for home. 

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fishing in the Deep End, Part 2

There is always a "rest of the story " and this one I will call "Fishing in the Deep End, Part 2". After the Great Egret flew off and got himself a nice halibut, the Snowy Egret returned to his favorite fishing hole and resumed his fishing on the wing. Here are some photos to show the intensity of that hunt. 

The Great Egret flew over to the far bank of the tide channel and managed to get himself a nice California Halibut.
He had speared it with both top and bottom beak. 

He jerks his beak free and snaps the halibut between his beak with a vice-like grip.

Fish is swallowed head first. A nice size meal that made the Great Egret rest on the banks for awhile.

Taking advantage of the food coma of our Great Egret, our Snowy Egret returned to his favorite fishing hole and immediately spots a fish near the shore.

Pluck! Got him! 
Nice little snack.

Our Snowy Egret spots another fish. 

He now hunts on the wing. 
Running on top of the water at times. 

Executes some incredible maneuvers. Spinning and turning every which way. 
Keeping his eye on the prey he follows its every move. 

He is almost close enough to strike. 

Just a little bit closer... 

Almost close enough but the fish scoots past. 

The Snowy turns using his feet like a rudder to control his quick turn. 

Lost the visual of his prey and a momentary relaxing of the wings sinks him deep to his chest. 

The Snowy Egret looks around and spots the fish. 

Off he goes again. 

Hunting on the wing. 

Hoping to get his prey this time. 


He gains ground and is ready to strike.

Oh no... the fish scoots by again.

He spots him and makes a lunge.

Goes for the strike but the fish squeaks past his beak. You can see the fish coming to the surface just past his head.
 The fish swims past as the Snowy gathers himself after the unsuccessful strike. 
The fish must be doing a happy dance, he is spotted on the surface of the water on the far right-hand side of this photo. 
Our Snowy Egret sees him too and doesn't waste any time jumping forward to get his prey. 
Hunting on the wing again in hot pursuit after the elusive fish . 

Another strike!

Got him!!! You can see the fish sticking out the side of the Snowy's beak. What a thrilling hunt!

He gulps the fish on the fly as he sees the Great Egret coming his way again. Time for him to get going and it's time for me to head for home too.

One last look at our very majestic Great Egret as he flies by in slow motion. Wow, it just takes your breath away!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!