Thursday, October 27, 2016

Apple Harvest Time at Lake Cuyamaca, Part 2

Getting up early at KQ Ranch and greeting the morning sun. The clouds made for some  beautiful bright yellow and orange shades breaking through the darkness of the night. We were eager to hurry with breakfast and head for Lake Cuyamaca again to see what bird subjects were there to see.

We stood at the east ridge of the campground that overlooks the valley below.  The light from the sun beautifully outlined the hills below. What a beautiful sight to see.

Dawn fading and yielding to the bright sun peeking over the hills. 

The drive to Lake Cuyamaca is a visual treat. The open range and nearby hills gives you a feeling of what California used to look like before it was settled by millions. People seeking to live in the land with the best climate in the world. Looking up at the sky as I stepped out of the camper van, I saw a large bird soaring. It was quite a surprise to see that it was an Osprey flying so high that it was almost impossible to identify him without a zoom lens. He soon moved on flying south.

If you walk over to the east side of the far south parking lot at Lake Cuyamaca, there is an orchard with lots of apple trees. With so many birds around the orchard, you could spend the whole time birding just at the orchard.  Here a Dark-eyed Junco gets a drink from the orchard's drip watering system.

Getting a drink.

All of a sudden the chirping sounds of the birds go silent. I find the reason for the quiet and he is hidden in a nearby tree. It appears to be a Cooper's Hawk looking for breakfast.

Looking towards the lake, I spot the female Belted Kingfisher busy hunting for prey.

A movement is seen on a nearby apple tree. It is a male Red-naped Sapsucker.

He helps himself to a nice juicy ripe apple. Yes, it really is apple harvest time, not only for the people of Julian but also for the birds too.

The Sapsucker appears to be really enjoying his meal.

A close-up. Red-naped Sapsucker, Sphyrapicus nuchalis measures 8.5 inches long with a wingspan of 16 inches.

It's a joy to see this beautiful bird perched next to the red ripe apples.

The male's chin is all red. The females will have some white on their chins.

Here he shows us his bright red chin feathers. Note: Some females may have all red chins and may look very similar to the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

A good look at the top of his head.

He spots another apple and moves up the branch to get into better position for his "apple harvest".
A good side view of this gorgeous Sapsucker.

He is getting a nice harvest. lol...Looks more like apple sauce.
Enjoying his apple breakfast.

Digging down to the bottom of the juicy apple.

A nice pose before he flies off.

A female stops by for an instant. Just long enough for me to get a quick shot. Notice the white under her chin that identifies this sapsucker as a female.

A Male is seen nearby.

We get a look at the underwing and belly. This may be a youngster just coming into his adult plumage.
A Mountain Chickadee lands in a pine tree next to the apple orchard.

Mountain Chickadee, Poecile gambeli measures 5.25 inches long with a wingspan of 8.5 inches.

Looking for seeds in the pine cones.

Got one.

He flies and flutters between the pines and searches out the cones. Here we get to see his underwings. 

He leaps from one branch to another. Here is a good look at his underside.

It is really hard to follow this quick moving bird.

They will forage on the ground too.

A movement in the orchard gets my attention. It is a Steller's Jay. He is also here for the apple harvest.

The Jay has a beak full of apple pulp.

A look at the white streaks on the forehead. Marks that identify this bird as an Adult Interior West Steller's Jay.

He has a long dark crest that is easy to ID from other Jays.

Steller's Jay, Cyanocitta stelleri measures 11.5 inches long with a wingspan of 19 inches. He poses long enough for a shot but soon flies off. This has been a wonderful day at the apple orchard of Lake Cuyamaca watching the birds harvest the beautiful ripe apples. The sky is looking dark and rain may be on the way. It's time to head for home.
Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Apple Harvest Time at Lake Cuyamaca, Part 1

This is the time of the year that the apples in Julian are ripe and ready to be harvested. The little mountain town of Julian, California, famous for apple orchards, becomes packed with visitors looking for a quaint getaway and to celebrate the "Apple Harvest".  Entering the little town, the driving speed turns to a snail's pace. The town is brimming with visitors walking and filling the sidewalk. They overflow into the streets at times. Arriving in cars and motor bikes, all come to enjoy and have a fun getaway for the weekend. Everyone is here to have fun and share in the popular yearly festivity.  And of course get a piece of that famous apple pie from Julian.

The excitement of the happy visitors packing the streets of the tiny town is contagious and uplifts our mood as we all celebrate this annual festivity. Smiling back at all the happy faces enjoying the fantastic weather and fresh air of the Julian mountains, we head to Lake Cuyamaca. Here is a shot of some apples found in the orchard at the far end of the south parking lot at the lake.
I was eager to take a little walk around the lake to look for some interesting bird subjects. I first spot the ever aggressive Great Blue Heron near the shore.

On the grass near the shore, I spot a bird I have not seen before. Appears to be some kind of a Pipit. Could this be a Sprague's Pipit?
Another side shot.Thank you Greg  for identifying this bird as an American Pipit. It is still a life bird for me!

The lake is still low and there are lots of ducks and coots foraging in the shallows.

A Great Egret flies by.

The Great Egret is always a welcome sight. His beautiful wide wingspan moves in slow motion over the lake.

As we head around the southeast side of the lake, I was surprised by the presence of this raptor hovering high above our location. It's a White-tailed Kite looking for prey. They are known to hunt for small rodents by sight as they hover high in the air looking for prey.

White-tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus measures 15 inches long with a wingspan of 39 inches.

He hovers a little and moves on flying east as he hunts for dinner.(Males and females look alike).

There are always people enjoying the lake on horseback. Here are a couple of riders enjoying the beautiful trails of Lake Cuyamaca.

On the east side of the lake I pass by a large pine tree and spot a White-breasted Nuthatch with a pine nut in his beak.

White-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis measures 5.75 inches long with a wingspan of 11 inches.

They are usually found climbing limbs and trunks of trees upside down as they glean insects and look for seeds.

He turns right side up as he creeps up the side of the tree with a pine nut in his beak.

He creeps around the trunk and pops up on the other side.

Uses the trunk to stab at the nut.

Showing off his prize.

One last shot of the Nuthatch before he flies off.

Looking towards the lake I spot a familiar sight. It's a female Belted Kingfisher.

She hovers looking for prey.

Drops down and flies near the water surface pulling out of her dive. The fish must have hid.
The Kingfisher is up and hovering again.

She spots her prey.

Down she splashes.

She is under water.

Finally surfaces.

Oops, looks like she is tangled in some fishing line or debris.

She slams back down into the water.

The Kingfisher struggles in the water.

She has a fish in her bill and comes back up ready to fly.
Oh no, she is still tangled.

Back into the water.

She twists and turns.
Pops up again.

No, she appears to struggle back in the water again.

Finally free of the debris, she flies off with her fish.

She really had to work for this meal.

The Kingfisher flies close to the water surface and passes by a few American Coots.

Another Coot swims by as she takes her fish to her favorite perch.

Passing by the coot with fish in her bill.

The Great Blue Heron lands announcing his arrival.

We finally head back to the camper van. I spot a pair of Red-naped Sapsuckers exploring the large treetop near the parking area.

A back shot of a juvenile Red-naped Sapsucker on a nearby telephone pole.

There were many Yellow-rumped Warblers in the apple orchard near the south parking area of the lake.

I spotted this Nuthatch hopping up the tree trunk near the camper van.

This little White-breasted Nuthatch looked quite tired.

The puffiness of his feathers gives an appearance of this little guy being quite young.

He flies off and we are ready to go to the campsite at KQ Ranch for the night and return to the lake early tomorrow for more bird subjects.

Next... Apple Harvest Time at Cuyamaca, Part 2