Thursday, May 26, 2016

Day of the Babies

This is the time of the year that birders are actively looking for the babies that are fledging and showing up at their favorite birding sites. I love going to Oceanside Harbor. There you are almost certain to see some babies coming out of the reeds. I emailed Eve to see if she wanted to go check out Oceanside at the San Luis Rey River mouth and she was eager to go and see what we could spot. 

As soon as we arrived at the bridge that crosses over the San Luis Rey River mouth, the alarm call of the Black-necked Stilt filled the air and we strained our eyes looking for the reason for all the fuss.
Sure enough, Eve spotted the fuzz-ball that blended in so well with the surroundings. A newly hatched Black-necked Stilt baby walking casually and foraging for tidbits of food. There were a total of three babies that the adult stilts were busy protecting.

A Ruddy Duck female comes out of the reeds for a quick look with six little ruddies!
Staying close together.

The mom is very protective and watches for any danger that comes her way.

A female Mallard duck gets too close to an American Coot and her family. She is warned off but this causes quite a commotion. 
Too much commotion for the female Ruddy Duck. She quickly leads her little babies back into the protection of the reeds. 

The commotion also brings out an adult Pied-bill Grebe.

Making her point with the Mallard, the Coot goes back to feeding her little bundles of orange feathers. LOL... They look like aliens that might be seen in a Star Wars movie!

The mother Mallard duck is back with her single duckling. She appears to be more interested in feeding and looking out for herself than the baby. 
But the Ruddy is keeping her family close and out of harm's way, staying close to the reeds for protection.

The little coot hatchlings are amazing to see. This is the first time we have seen these little ones and they are addictive. Just can't get enough of these little aliens. 
The Coot parents appear to be very attentive. the feeding is almost continuous. The hungry little babies are always begging and wanting to be fed.
They flap their tiny little wings and beg to be fed. 

The parent brings up tiny bits of food form the bottom and offers it to the hatchlings.

The food appears to be some kind of plant matter, algae of some kind.

The adult Pied-billed Grebe brings up a large Crawdad for her "baby grebelets".

One is more aggressive and grabs the crawdad (crayfish) from the parent. 
Flips the crayfish around and proceeds to swallow it as fast as possible. Parent watches to make sure it doesn't get away from her youngster or no intruders come to steal it. 
A little bit of bouncing and the crawdad goes down the hatch. 
A proud parent watches.
The parent dives again and brings another large crawdad up to the surface where another hungry "grebelet" grabs and start to devour it. 
It looks too big for the little grebelet but it arranges it and proceeds to swallow.

Tail first. 

Amazing to watch this little grebe baby devour the large prey whole. 


Now there are three "cootlets" resting on the algae island. The whole river mouth is mostly covered with this green stuff. The mouth of the river is closed off from the ocean so it has turned into one big green slimy lagoon. Hope it gets opened up soon. 

Now there are four "cootlets"!

 Adorable begging by the coot babies.

The parent brings tiny little prey for food. 

The male Black-necked Stilt is busy guarding his little stiltlet! There were a total of three but all spread out in a 20 by 20 ft area. This must be really hard for the parents to keep track and keep them safe.  Can you spot the baby in the background?

We crossed over to the west side of the bridge and found an older "cootlet" being fed by a parent. The youngster is already losing his "orange look". Must be a few weeks old. 
This big Great Blue Heron is looking quite menacing. They will eat any nestling and juveniles they can catch and swallow. 

This youngster has learned to swim quickly and keep a lookout for predators. 

Back to the east side of the bridge to find a little coot baby getting a little crab offered to him.

Neon orange!

Ooops, the little crab gets away. 
 The parent quickly retrieves it and feeds it to her baby. 

The nestlings are doing well swimming and following the parent. 

Begging for food. 

And now, there are seven coot babies!

The whole time you are birding at the river mouth you will hear the Red-winged Blackbirds. They are always flying in and out of the reeds. This male was busy chasing other males off.

Female with nesting material. 

The female Black-necked Stilt on the defensive. 

 She didn't like the tern getting too close to where her babies were foraging. 

The Pied-billed Grebe was still busy feeding her four hungry babies.

And we have a winner.

One little grebe bumps the parent to encourage her to get more food. You can hear them constantly crying for food. 
The winner takes the prize and swims away from the hungry siblings. 

I get lucky and get two adults in one frame. You can see that they are constantly harassed by their youngsters for food. 

Looks like an intruder (facing us) has entered the grebes territory, one of the adults swims over and has a conversation with the intruder and it is settled quickly. No fighting, the intruder protests with a few calls and the resident adult talks back and it appears to be understood by the intruder.  He backs down and turns away. 
The resident adult turns and swims back to his chicks and the intruder swims away in another direction.
Last look at the wonderfully marked youngster. It appears that the war-paint markings are like finger-prints on the baby grebes. They are all one of a kind like zebra strips. There appears to be slight differences in each one. 

Constant begging for food.

The baby coots are also constantly begging for food.

Look at those tiny little wings!

It's really hard to describe these little babies. Only one word comes to mind. Aliens! I wonder if Hollywood was inspired by these little guys when they designed the aliens in the Star Wars canteen scene.

"Hey Mom, I'm over here. Can you see me waving my wings?"

Hungry babies. 

 A little stringy.

 Yummy algae.

 A good look at the babies. 

Now we have three.

 Watching mom dive for food. 

Coots can dabble or dive.

 You can see the adult checking out the bottom for little prey. 


Coming up with food. 

Looks like more tasty algae. 

The female Black-necked Stilt comes in to warn anyone that gets too close to her babies. 

More algae for the babies. Look at the little wings flapping to beg for the food. 


Walking over to see the baby Grebes. Nice to get 3 out of 4 in one frame. 

 Here is the fourth. 

It's been fantastic birding to see all the babies and as we leave the area, the male Black-necked Stilt is busy warning the Ruddy Duck and her babies away from his nestling. 

Have a great week everyone!