18
Apr
14

Seeking Mountain Chickadee

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It was mid March. We got to around 6000 feet before we saw snow in Yosemite National Park. Taking the winding road up to the ski station at Badger pass my shorts seemed somewhat inappropriate. A hasty change of wardrobe enabled a comfortable walk along one of the cross country ski trails. There were very few people around.

Walking among the pines it was eerily quiet. The sort of silence that’s disconcerting. Your own breathing and the snow folding under your boots are the only sounds. We walked for around an hour without hearing or seeing a thing; not even a whisper of bird song, not a call. Nothing.

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I played a tape of Mountain Chickadee. No response. Silence.

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I thought for a while … and played a tape of Northern Pygmy Owl … their nemesis,

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It was as if I had unzipped the cold air and birds came tumbling out. They wanted rid of their perpetrator big time. Manifesting themselves from nowhere Red Breasted Nuthatches, Ruby Crowned Kinglets and of course Mountain Chickadees all came to offer protestation.

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Mountain Chickadee

16
Apr
14

Mammoth Rocks

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Give the title of this blog entry you could be forgiven for replying ‘They probably did!’ However, Mammoth Rocks is in fact a place in Sonoma County, California.

It has always had this name but it has only recently taken on a true meaning. The outcrop, one of several in the area, stands on a raised beach. I believe one of the rocks is also called ‘Sunshine Rock’ due to it’s property of reflecting sunlight. Several of the rocks in this area have polished surfaces.

They have been polished over millennia by animals rubbing up against them so often and so regularly they have been worn away to a shiny surface; and these are not soft rocks. Adjacent to mammoth Rock is a shallow depression that was probably a mud wallow. Animals would wallow in the mud and then scratch those difficult to reach areas on the rocks. Only recently has it has been noted by the scientific community that some polished areas are too high for modern day animals. It is believed they were polished by Mammoths.

It was disappointing to note that the rocks were not being protected in any way and were being used by climbers. No information signs were erected and locals, including park officials, seemed unaware of the significance of what they have.

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2014 03 11 Mammoth Rock Sonoma Coast State Park California_Z5A8531

 

2014 03 11 Mammoth Rock Sonoma Coast State Park California_Z5A8479

15
Apr
14

Scottish Tour 2015

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Arrived back last night from the Scottish Birders long weekend. Excellent tally of 103 species including PTARMIGAN, CAPERCAILLE, BLACK & RED GROUSE, BLACK & RED THROATED DIVERS, SLAVONIAN GREBES, CRESTED TITS, SCOTTISH CROSSBILLS …. and so much more, despite some intimidating weather. If you are interested in the tour in 2015 register your interest by sending me a mail and I’ll send you details when they become available.

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2014 04 13 Crested Tit Scotland_Z5A3160

14
Apr
14

Buzzed by a Raptor in California

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As we drove the 20 odd miles out to Point Reyes Lighthouse we were looking carefully for Bobcats. We didn’t see any; however, the car was buzzed by a raptor.

I braked and parked. It was a Northern Harrier, a male too! I reached for my camera and the bird promptly disappeared around the headland. We waited a while. He was hunting and all animals are creatures of habit; I thought it might just come back.

It did! After only five minutes we watched it return around the headland carrying something. It had obviously caught prey. At that instant I thought that’s it we will now have a flypast as it takes the prey away, and that’s the last we’ll see of it.

However he was flying directly towards us. It came closer and to my amazement pitched down in front of us and proceeded to devour its catch in full view… and … get this … I was ready with the camera.

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Northern Harrier

12
Apr
14

Bow Riders.

 

You read about it but very rarely see it. Dolphins bow riding a whale.

Pacific White Sided Dolphins take advantage of the pressure waves set up by migrating Grey Whales off the coast of California last month.

2014 03 08 Grey Whale Monterey Bay California_Z5A6518

2014 03 08 Grey Whale Monterey Bay California_Z5A6529

10
Apr
14

The Black Heron

I don’t do reviews of accommodation… but … if you’re going to California birding you would do a lot worse than calling in to see Bill and Marmie at the Black Heron.

Situated close to Point Reyes Station it’s well placed for migration. A bed and breakfast American style the Black Heron sits in its own grounds surrounded by prime ranching ground. From the five species of Woodpecker to the Californian Towees and the ever present American Robins and Wild Turkeys on the front field to the colony of Black crowned Night Herons at the end of the drive and the Hooded Mergansers on the pond it really is a place to spend a few days. Just a stone’s throw from nesting Snowy Plovers, a colony of Steller’s Sea Lions, Elephant Seals, Guaranteed Tule Elk and migrating Grey Whales and you have a place made in heaven.

Black crowned Night Heron

08
Apr
14

On the Beer

Each morning we took a trip to the harbour. It was early and it was peaceful. The Californian sunshine drove deep shafts of pale turquoise through the water to the harbour bottom and the sky was a cloudless azure blue.

Between the boats were Pacific Divers, Grebes, Scoters, Sea Lions and Sea Otters. Other than a few fishermen and the occasional raucous California Sea Lion the wharf was deserted.

 

The Otters are really cute. In a well documented process they fish for clams, abalone and crabs. Bringing each to the surface along with a stone which they balance on their chest and bash with the shellfish until the shell cracks. They are then able to reap the reward of their efforts.

 

It was therefore with a little annoyance on one morning that the tranquillity was broken with the sound of someone hammering. Well it was a workday, and even if we were on holiday others weren’t. However, it came as a surprise when we located the source of the hammering out in the harbour.

One of the few pieces of litter we saw in California was being utilised by a Sea Otter. It had found a beer bottle and was using it to break open a meal. What a din!

2014 03 05 Sea Otter Monterey California_Z5A3857a

2014 03 05 Sea Otter Monterey California_Z5A3861




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