Friday, February 26, 2016

Retro blog... Watching the American White Pelicans

On the  San Diego Region Birding website, there was a recent post that a few White Pelicans had been spotted at Batiquitos Lagoon. To celebrate their return to our area, here are some photos of them from the eastern trail at Rios Ave of San Elijo Lagoon taken in March of 2014.

Originally published in March of 2014.
The American White Pelicans do not dive after fish as the brown pelicans do. They are usually found in lagoons, basins, and lakes where they can herd the schools of fish and scoop them up with their beaks that act like giant fish nets. (Referenced from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology )
They will work in groups swimming and herding the fish into a tight circle and then all at once all of them will dip their heads like a big shovel with their beaks open and scoop up the fish. 
Bringing up a beak full of fish. The lower bill with the large pouch is so sensitive that these pelicans can fish by feel on dark nights. (Info from The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, 2001).
They look like choreographed water swimmers as all of the birds move as one body to secure the school of fish that they have corralled.
They are amazing birds and a treat to be able to watch them working together as they swim in the shallows feeding on fish.
When they are swimming... the black feathers of the wings are usually not visible. Notice how they lift their wings up as they dive their heads underwater.
American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos measures 62 inches long with a wingspan of 108 inches. The pelican pictured on the far right with pale beak may be a juvenile. He appears to be watching the fishing technique and learning how to fish cooperatively.
Sometimes they may dive forward getting upended just like dabbling ducks.
These two are in full breeding plumage.  Males and females look alike. Notice the fibrous epidermal plate on top of their bill. It is located near the tip and grows in breeding season but is much smaller and barely visible at other times. It is believed to be important in displays at courtship time.
A good look at the difference in size between a duck seen at far left of this photo compared to the very large Pelicans.
 Walking up to soak in the sunlight and do a little preening.
As one turns and starts to walk back to the water, the rest of the flock follows.
Now they are all back in the water. You can see the black plumage on the primaries of the wings when they raise their wings preparing to dive forward. 
Here are some flyby shots taken at the same location on Rios Ave east one month earlier. 

They love to soar and are breathtaking to watch as they fly so gracefully past.

Have a super weekend everyone!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Closer Look at the Lawrence's Goldfinch

Some birds are quite shy and when you are trying to get shots of them out in the open without thick foliage or masses of branches in front of them, it can be quite frustrating. The other day, I was trying to get some shots of the Lawrence's Goldfinch at the San Elijo Nature Center Trail on Manchester but all I could see were lots of branches and leaves between the bird subject and my camera.  Frustrated, I decided to see if I could get a better view of these little finches at a place near the Rios Ave trailhead in Solana Beach. It's been reported by some birders that there are a few bird feeders near Rios that attract some of birds from the area. It didn't take long for me to spot the Lawrence's Goldfinch with his distinctive black markings on his face and beautiful yellow wings and chest. Here are some photos of the Lawrence's Goldfinch.

Lawrence's Goldfinch, Spinus lawrencei measures 4.75 inches long with a wingspan of 8.25 inches.
Only the male Lawrence's Goldfinch has the black on his face which extends under his lower beak and down his throat area.

 This guy has some Arroyo willow flower fibers still stuck to his beak.

This one appears to be a female Lawrence's Goldfinch. She lacks the black markings on her face, chin and neck. Notice that the wings are still yellow.
There were about six males in this group but the females were harder to spot. One last shot of the female Lawrence's Goldfinch.

 As I started my walk at the Rios Ave trailhead, I noticed that there were Lawrence's Goldfinches down below in the willows too.
These goldfinches are lovely birds and fun to watch as they dart around the willows but trying to get a flight shot was not possible today. Time for me to take a quick walk and head for home.
Have a good week everyone!