Monday, January 25, 2016

Making of a Hummingbird's Nest

With my Internet line torn down by a tall moving truck and my van being in the shop again, it has been a very eventful first weeks of this new year. Finally getting my Internet line connected today, I have a lot to show you. First, I watched a beautiful Anna's Hummingbird building her nest last week near one of the trails at the San Elijo Nature Reserve. Here are some magical moments as the female constructs her nest with much urgency.

A female Anna's Hummingbird catches my attention as I walk on the trail of the San Elijo Nature Reserve. She keeps flying in the same area and soon lands on a small nest. She has some nest material in her beak and is pushing it into place as she sits inside the nest bowl.
Using her beak as a tool to weave her building material into the nest. 

The female hummingbird does all the nest building, protecting and caring for the young. The male has no role in the nest or the care of the nestlings. Here in this photo, she has brought some nesting material to her nest and is busy arranging it for a perfect fit and comfort of the nest.
The nest is held together with spider webs that she brings back on her chest, head and beak and uses it like sticky stretchy string to shape her nest and keep it together.
She is busy building the sides of the nest bowl up to the height that she needs to keep her nestlings in place. 

Taking a quick rest. 
Going off to get more nest materials.

She flashes the red neon plumage on her chin warning me to stay away. 

Back again and now she is using her legs to push and shape the nest bowl. 
She constantly moves her body around the nest for a test fit as she builds up the side wall.
More pushing and stretching the nest with her legs and feet as she shapes the bowl.
She flies off and comes back covered with spider webs. 
Flutters back into the nest.
Spreading the spider webs with her beak and body.
She even uses her tongue to place objects in just the perfect spot. 

Focusing on the details. 
Right here!

One more little adjustment placement. 

 A good look at the tongue. 
 She settles into the nest for a good test. 
Warning off any other hummers that are too close to her nest. 
More pushing and shoving with her tiny legs and feet to shape the nest.
 She stops her active nest building and appears to rest a few moments. 
 Soon, she is alert again and flies off to get more nest materials. 
Comes back covered again in spider webbing. 
The spider webbing is plastered onto the nest. 
She is busy poking, pushing and arranging materials as she builds the side wall of the nest bowl.
Here is a photo of her flying into the nest with some more nest-building material in her beak. 
She is ready to place it on the rim of the nest bowl. The spider webbing is ready to make it stick in place. 
More fluff brought in. 
She pokes it into the nest for padding. 
The clicking of my camera catches her attention.

She gives a few scolding sounds. 
And takes another break.
Keeping an eye on all activities around her nest. 
This photo was taken just the other day and you can see that she has made quite a bit of progress on the nest. The outer edge of the nest bowl has been built up and she has added a lot more fluff to her nest. Even some of her feathers are seen here. 
Still busy with last minute touch ups. She may already have laid an egg in the nest but they usually lay two.
She tucks more fluff into the nest using her beak. 
Wow, she sure looks like she is quite heavy with egg! Hopefully we will see some youngsters in a few weeks. I have found three more hummingbird nests at the lagoon and will be keeping an eye on those too. 
Have a wonderful week everyone!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

One Was Not Enough

We are now in the year 2016. Clear skies and perfect chilly morning temperatures make walking a pleasure. If today is an indicator of our weather for the new season and new year, we are truly lucky to live in southern California.

Hurrying down the trail heading towards the Pole Trail on Rios Avenue, I spot a raptor over a mile away on one of the telephone poles on the north end of the pole trail. It was time to make a quick hike and take a look. I walked as far as the berms of the salt flats and heard warning calls from a raptor. Looking north, a Red-tailed Hawk had approached the pole where the first raptor was feasting on prey. The raptor now was calling out continuously. By the tone of the calls, he was very upset that the Red-tailed Hawk had come into his space and made him leave his dinner table with his prey in tow. Here is the first shot that I got of the raptor flying towards me.

Looking through my 400mm telephoto lens, I see that this is not an Osprey as I first suspected but a very large Peregrine Falcon!

The Peregrine slows and looks at his prey.

What in the world is he doing? He is eating on the wing. Taking bites as he glides forward. He may have felt that the prey was not securely in position and decided to make a quick adjustment on how he was carrying his prize. 

He keeps flying south following the pole trail. 

Still calling out, letting the Red-tailed Hawk know how upset he is for being disturbed. 

He is flying by close enough for me to see that he has a mouth full of feathers and quite a large crop. He has been feeding on his prey for a while.
He flies by still following the pole trail. Wondering where he is headed, I keep watching and clicking away.

The Peregrine appears to have no problem carrying his prey. His powerful wings beat rhythmically as he flies past. 

The Peregrine's prey appears to be a grebe. You can see the foot sticking out and the coloring and size, most likely an Eared Grebe. 

In this photo, the white secondary flight feathers of the prey are visible, providing more clues to the identity of the prey. 

The Peregrine pumps his wings to get more height.

Veers slightly to his right. A close-up view of the Predator and the mangled Prey.

Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus measures 16 inches with a wingspan of 41 inches. He is the fastest bird in the world. Peregrines have been clocked diving at 250 MPH!

We have an area at Torrey Pine's State Park where peregrines have the  nice high cliffs that they need for nesting. Every year, hundreds of photographers go there just to see and photograph these magnificent raptors. 

Another shot as he flies past. 
He has picked a pole, second one past the pump house. I decided that he would be eating the grebe for a while so I headed north on the Pole Trail. 
I am hoping to get a good flight shot of the Red-tailed Hawk. This is the one that harassed the Peregrine into flying away with his prey. But as soon as I get close enough to get some shots of this hawk, he decided to fly north and out of the lagoon. Oh well, sometimes this happens.  But you always hope for the best, that your bird subject may come your way. 

As the Hawk flew, he spooked a lot of ducks and this male American Wigeon flew past me. Like I said, sometimes you get lucky and they do fly your way. 

Time to head back to the van. It takes three to four hours to walk the Pole Trail at San Elijo Lagoon if you are birding. There is so much to see.  Like this Great Egret fishing for shrimp. 
Close-up of the shrimp. 

Well, this Northern Pintail decides to fly too. A different view of the takeoff.

A very interesting sighting. A Clapper Rail is feasting on a very large dead fish. You hardly ever see these rails out in the open but this one was busy eating and didn't seem nervous about being out on the middle of a mud flat. 
In the nearby tide channel a male Hooded Merganser with two females was diving looking for food. In this photo, the male on the left has his white hood lowered as he is getting ready to dive for prey. 

A male with his hoodie. It is very easy to tell the difference between male and female Merganser. The male has the beautiful black head with the white hood that flairs up as seen in this photo. 

As I made my way back to the pumphouse, I spotted a couple of birders coming my way. We exchange information and I tell them that I had seen the Peregrine carrying prey, probably a eared grebe to the far south pole. They are eager to tell me that that Peregrine ate the grebe and within seconds of finishing the grebe, he flew off and came back with another Eared Grebe! For this Peregrine, hunting "one" grebe was not enough obviously still hungry, he had to go and get another grebe. 

The couple also told me that the second grebe was still alive and fought the peregrine by grabbing onto first the upper mandible of his beak and then his lower. The struggle lasted only a few minutes before the Falcon quickly put a stop to the struggling grebe. He ate some of the grebe but left enough of it hanging over the side of the pole for me to get a positive ID of his second kill of the day. A daily double win for this amazing Peregrine. 

Going past the pumphouse, I was treated to a Gadwall drake (male) landing and showing off his beautiful wings. 

Gadwall , Anas strepera measures 20 inches with a wingspan of 33 inches. The males have a beautiful chestnut red markings on the top of their wings as shown in this photo. They also have black tail coverts making the females resemble female Mallards but with smaller bills and showing a small white triangle on secondaries.

A beautiful sight with his reflection. 

A close-up of the feather pattern . Looks almost like an oriental painting. 

One last shot of the Gadwall as I head for home past the pumphouse. 

The Red-tailed Hawk always flies out of the huge pine tree located on the bluff on the extreme south of the Pole Trail. As soon as you point your camera his way he takes flight. He appears to really hate cameras! 

This little male Anna's Hummingbird is so busy chasing his competition that he doesn't care about my camera pointing only a few feet away from his perch. 
Anna's Hummingbird, Calypte anna measures 4 inches with a wingspan of 5.25 inches. 
It's that time of the season again, the males are already chasing each other out of their territory and flying the courtship flights for the ladies. 

A young White-crowned Sparrow comes to the hummer's perch to investigate.
Close up of the first winter White-crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia lepucophrys measuring 7 inches long with a wingspan of 9.5 inches. Once an adult, his brown and buffy head stripes will become a striking black and white crown.

Driving home and stopping at the bluff to look at the beautiful ocean, I see good-sized surf rolling through Cardiff reef. A surfer tucks in for a nice ride. 

Have a beautiful  "first week of 2016" everyone.