Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Young Red-tailed Hawk at Rios

With the hot dry conditions known as a "Santa Ana", the skies are clear and it's great weather to be outdoors. I decided to go and check out the Rios east trail at San Elijo Lagoon today. 

I walked almost  to the freeway observing all the construction work with the huge equipment and busy workers adding many more lanes to our freeway system. Not able to see many bird subjects I turned back heading towards the parking area. As I stood at the horse corral lookout , I caught sight of a large bird carrying something.  It appeared to be a Red-tailed Hawk with prey. 

I ran towards the area where I thought the hawk had landed hoping to get a few shots of the raptor and his prey. I am always curious about what kind of prey a predator has captured. As I come to an opening with a large dead tree, I found the Red-tailed Hawk panting and resting on one of the branches. Here are some shots of this young hawk as he perched on the snag. 
He's perched on a large branch of a dead tree. He is panting due to the high heat and so am I. Red-tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis  measures 19 inches long with a wingspan of 49 inches. This one appears to be  a light juvenile.
Below are some shots of this beautiful young Red-tailed Hawk as he rests on the large snag. He lets me take some shots as he perches and cools down, still clutching his prey. 

The prey appears to be a Ridgway's Rail formally known as the California Clapper Rail. Notice our Red-tailed Hawk doesn't have a red tail.  Even among adults, not all do.  But this one has the even brown tail stripes of a young hawk.

He must have consumed quite a bit of the rail. Look at his nice rounded crop.

Eventually he takes flight to a large pine tree near the top of the hillside south of the trail.
In these shots you can see the dark "patagial" patches under the wings on the "leading edge" that identify it as a Red-tail, as well as the bright white breast with brown belly band below.

The prey is left in the pine tree. You can see the "rail" feet pointing up through the pine needles.

The young hawk flies back and circles his prey but leaves it in the pine tree as he flies  south over the hill and disappears from view.

LOL, I guess he is saving the prey for a later snack. Time for me to head for home. What a great treat it was to see this young hawk.  He captured a nice size meal today. He appears to be doing well and hope I will get to see him turn into a healthy adult.
Have a super great week everyone!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Lunchtime at San Elijo Lagoon

It has been a while since I visited the San Elijo Nature Reserve. With too many chores and lots of car problems, my morning walk had turned into "morning chores". With most of my chores done and all car problems repaired, it was time for me to get back to my morning walks. Today looked like a great day for a walk at the San Elijo Nature Reserve. 

Walking towards the southwest lookout, I spot two Snowy Egrets flying towards me.

My goodness, the one in front has a large fish in his beak. The Snowy chasing him is hoping for a steal!
The Snowy with the fish is doing his best to balance himself as he flies defensively trying to get away from his hungry friend. 

They fly east following the tide channel.
The fish appears to be one of those Goby fish. 

 Another look at the Snowy Egret and his prey.

The Snowy is trying very hard to hold on to his prize.

His friend is closing the distance. Hoping that the fish will be dropped.

He is not about to let go of his lunch.

And...off they go flying east following the channel towards the freeway.

A raven is spotted carrying something that looks like an egg.

Closer to where I am standing, a Whimbrel is spotted searching for lunch too.
Nearby, a Sparrow is harvesting grass seed. This one appears to be a Savannah Sparrow but I have a very difficult time with sparrow IDs .

A Dowitcher stabs the shoreline for prey. There are two species of Dowitchers, a long-billed and a short-billed Dowitcher.  They are very similar to each other and difficult to tell apart.

Got one!  A Willet finds himself a nice little lunch.

He's in a hurry to get away from anyone that may take it from him.

Looks like a crab.

He moves away from the crowd to eat his midday snack in peace.

Wow, a Yellowlegs flies in to join the Willets. A Greater Yellowlegs measures 14 inches long with a wingspan of 28 inches. A Lesser Yellowlegs measures 10.5 inches long with a wingspan of 24 inches. I wonder which one he is?

He lands near the Dowitchers but isn't comfortable with my camera clicking away. A Dowitcher lands nearby.
I decide to see who else is in the area and walk east past the boardwalk. Immediately, I spot a Cassin's Kingbird with lunch.
He slams the insect on the branch a few times to kill it and proceeds to swallow it. 

Watching in a nearby tree is a Hummingbird. Appears to be a young female Anna's.

Adorable little hummer.

A Yellow-rumped Warbler perches high on a cottonwood tree.

Heading back to the Southwest lookout area, I spot this beautiful male American Kestrel scouting the area for prey. 
Off he goes. 
I'm back at the southwest part of the trail. Looks like a Say's Phoebe resting on the ropes. 
The Yellowlegs has relaxed and is now searching for food blending in with the rest of the shorebirds. I believe this may be a Lesser Yellowlegs as he appears quite small when compared to the Willet standing in the background.

The drab coloring of the Willet is transformed to a striking black and white image when his wings are on display.

LOL, a Pied-billed Grebe runs up the channel. He is running on the surface of the water. He has already gone over 150 ft just running on the surface.

Still running.

Getting lots of height but still running. He finally stopped and started to dive for a meal. One of the best water-surface runners I have seen.

All the Willets are now awake and on guard. I wonder what has put them on edge.
The Grebe has worked his way back to the bridge area and maneuvered into the little inlet by the bridge.

A good look at the placement of the legs on this wonderful diving bird. He is fantastic at diving under water but not very graceful on land. 
A very sweet little Grebe looking up at me as I snap away with my camera.

Close-up. Pied-billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps measures 13 inches long with a wingspan of 16 inches. When in breeding plumage, the grebe's bill will appear white with a black band.

He dives and goes back under the bridge and enters the tide channel again.
A few dives later and he comes up with a nice little snack for lunch. 

Crab on the menu.
Now I know why the Willets few away. A female Northern Harrier flies up from the pickleweeds. She was eating something before she took flight. 

Oh good... she has decided to come my way. 

Looks like a youngster.
What a beautiful sight. It's been a while since I have seen a Harrier at the lagoon. 

A beautiful raptor. 

Glances my way as I follow her flight with my camera.
Looks like she may have a little snack tucked away in her talons.

Well, look who else has some "lunch to go"!  A Common Raven flies by with prey in his beak. 

It is quite mangled but appears to be a bird.

As I walk back to my truck, a young Red-tailed Hawk makes his presence over the north end of the Nature Reserve. It's been great seeing all the bird activity today. Hope to be back soon to look for all the new fall arrivals. 

Have a great weekend everyone!