Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Frightful Images for Halloween

In the spirit of Halloween, I am posting some frightful images of predator and prey. Some prey parts on the ground and grisly close-ups. Warning to parents of small children: You may not wish for them to see these "scary images".  However, these images represent nature in the raw and even though I am posting it for Halloween, this happens every day out in nature. It's harsh but it is all about survival.

A frightful image of a Peregrine Falcon consuming an Eared Grebe. Eared Grebe is a small grebe, Podiceps nigricollis,  measuring only 13 inches long with a wingspan of 16 inches.
 Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus measures 16 inches long with a wingspan of 41 inches. The peregrin is the fastest member of the animal kingdom, clocking over 200 mph in its high dive stoops for prey.

An Eared Grebe swims in a nearby tide channel and appears to be holding food out to entice his lost friend to appear and claim the prize.
He appears to be searching and searching but no one shows... Soon he swims away.

As I walk further up the Pole Road trail off Rios Ave at San Elijo Lagoon, I spot the remnants of a shorebird. From the size of the wing and the feather pattern and color, this appears to have been a Long-billed Curlew.

A leg is strewn across the trail, I believe this to be a Grebe's leg. 

A chewed up wing is also on the trail... 
Towards the north end of the Pole Road trail, I find an American Coot but it hasn't been dismembered yet. Looks like some blood around the crown area. 

If you were to suspect any bird other than a raptor that could kill grebes, clappers and coots, it might be this stealth hunter of the lagoon, the Great Blue Heron. 

Many people have seen this amazing hunter kill a Grebe or a Rail and he is always a dangerous predator to any small creature that comes into his strike zone.
His wings really look "Blue" today in this light, making him look more menacing and dangerous. Right now, you can bet all the Clapper Rails are probably hiding in fear.
Except for this guy... He really acts like he is the top rail, wow, look at his proud strut!
He is one handsome Rail with an attitude! I spotted one the other day in this same area with leg bands on both leg, but too far away to read the numbers, so I am really eager to get good photos of their legs now. As I am shooting the Rails, I'm telling them to "show me your legs" lol... like they would understand a human saying blah, blah, blah!  No bands on this guy's legs tells me he was born in the wild and not part of the breed and release program.

I spot a Killdeer calling out the alarm. They are the ever-present alarm system. They are constantly calling out the alarm for some reason or another, it could be raptors, dogs, coyotes or even people. Anything that they perceive as a threat and a shrill call breaks the tranquil atmosphere of the lagoon. They say it sounds like "KILL DEER" but their call just doesn't sound like it to me. What do you think it sounds like?  Check this link out.
Talking about leg blings... this guy has a leg band that reads #126. I would love to know where and why he was banded. In addition to breeding programs, a bird might have a band because it was captured in the wild and banded for scientific study, tracking their movements for example. Here's an article by the USGS about bird banding.
Coming back on the trail where I left the Peregrine Falcon to finish his meal in peace, I find him with a full crop and half asleep. 

LOL... I think he has gone into a "food coma". It has been another exciting morning walking the Pole Trail at Rios, "the wild side" of the lagoon. It's time for me to head for home.

Heading back towards the trailhead, I pass the pump house and find a surprise... A Clapper/Ridgway Rail acting like a dabbling duck!

He surfaces with something in his beak. 

It's a nice juicy crab. He whips off the big pincher on the crab and swims past me as he hurries into the reeds to eat his prize. 

Have a fun filled-but safe Halloween everyone!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Sheer Cutefulness of Kinglets

Getting back home from the mountains has been great. The temperature has dropped here at the coast and it has been comfortable with lots of sunshine and cool ocean breeze which is great walking weather. My blog administrator and birding friend Eve has not been feeling well for a few days so I decided to send her a photo to lift her spirits but didn't label the bird. LOL... She responded to the photo by saying "Well that little cutie would cheer anybody up! Who is he? I'd guess Kinglet just from the sheer cutefulness!"

Here is the photo that Eve guessed as a Kinglet from his "sheer cutefulness"! I love this new word describing these little fluttering balls of feathers. Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula measures 4.25 inches long with a wingspan of 7.5 inches. 

These shots of the bird subjects were taken at the San Diego Botanic Garden. There were lots of Ruby-crowned Kinglets fluttering around throughout the garden but I got most of the shots of the Kinglet and the Warbler from the parking lot right in front of my van. 

Another new visitor that I spotted at the Garden traveling with the Kinglet also has the "cutefulness" factor. This is the Townsend's Warbler. Setophaga townsendi measures
5 inches long with a wingspan of 8 inches.

Looking at all the bugs on the underleaves of this tree. There is a huge amount of insects for all the insect eating birds that visit this beautiful garden. 

All he has to do is stretch to get a bite to eat!

or just lean forward. 
Of course the hummingbirds always rate high on the "cutefulness" scale! A young male Anna's Hummingbird keeps alert. 

A female Anna's Hummingbird stops by a flower for a quick snack. 

Butterflies are always great subjects. They will brighten your mood.

This is an amazing flower. When it turns into a seed pod and ripens, it will explode like a gunshot and produce a silky cotton-like ball that covers the tiny seeds inside. Many birds, especially the hummingbirds will use it for their nest material.
Eye candy.

Have a super weekend everyone!