Monday, January 28, 2008

Colors to brighten your day

For those who are in a funk or depressed from all the winter weather, I wanted to share some color with you. Some of these photos were taken in mid-December; and others were taken on the 23rd of December. So that means all these photos are more than a month old. But this is the time of year when all of us, including those of us who live in California, are lacking color around us. So it's time to brighten everyone's day!

This is one of our miniature roses in our front yard, taken in mid-December, and on a day the sun was shining.
You not only get to see our newly painted house, but also get to see one of our grasses - miscanthus sinensis - in its beautiful full blossom. This was also taken mid-December, before all the storms had hit.
This is one of our heath shrubs in full bloom. Again, mid-December.
Cancun rose, taken mid-December.
Cancun rose, taken December 23rd.
This is our navel orange tree (back yard), mid-December.
Orange tree, December 23rd. Anyone hungry for a sweet and juicy orange, freshly picked from your own tree?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Birding at Shoreline Lake in Mountain View

Back in early December, Sunday the 2nd to be exact, my birding buddy and I met at Palo Alto Baylands. I had not been there since June and I wanted to see what birds were there this time of year. Unfortunately, this was an extremely windy day which made it difficult and almost impossible to see many birds. So my friend suggested we could try Shoreline in Mountain View. So that's where we went. Wind was quite strong there, too. But there were a couple of spots around the lake where we could find a little protection standing next to some trees and tall shrubs. Below is a photo of Mount Hamilton in the distance from Shoreline Lake. I can't remember what birds were on the lake and flying around in this picture, but I thought this was a good shot as an overview of the area.
Here in a marshy area is a fairly good shot of a male mallard.
This photo shows a Clark's grebe and a surf scoter. I'm not positive about the grebe being a Clark's. The color of its bill says it's a Clark's, but the black on the top of its head seems to be below the eye, which would identify it as a Western grebe. But for now I'll call it a Clark's grebe. Seeing surf scoters on the lake was quite exciting. I had never seen one before - lifer! I can't seem to ID those other "ducks" in the background. You can click on any of the pix to get a larger view.
Here is another lifer - a common goldeneye. Isn't he a beauty? Take note of the choppy waters.
And here is a cutie-"pie." A pied-billed grebe. I think they are some of the cutest of all waterfowl. I think my favorite is the American Wigeon, and the pied-billed grebe is second.
Here is another shot of the pied-billed grebe with (I think) a lesser scaup in the background.
And here is one that is difficult (for me) to identify. The quality of the photo isn't very good, but looking in my guide it seems to look like a ruddy duck, yet its bill has the look of a norther shoveler. Maybe someone can help me identify this one.
Here is another shot of the surf scoter. Is that a female surf scoter next to the male?
Anyway, even though the wind was strong and it more or less shortened our birding time, I think we still had a fruitful afternoon. Other birds we saw were black-crowned night herons and snowy egrets back in the marsh. And we also saw a couple of double-crested cormorants and a few American coots.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Panoche Valley, California

As mentioned in my previous post I went birding with other Audubon Society members on Saturday (Jan 12). We went to an area I have never been to before. The geographical layout is one of rolling hills of oak woodland and open grassland. I was impressed with the list of possible species we could see in the Panoche Valley area, some that are unique to California (only to be seen in this area). Of those listed for the trip only six of them we did not see. Many of the species I did see were lifers for me. I'll list them at the end of this post.

Below is a photo of one of the Savannah Sparrows we saw. Another cute, cooperative and curious bird.

This photo is to show the difference between a Savannah Sparrow and a House Finch. Savannah Sparrow is on the left.

One of the "treats" for the day was to visit a place called Mercey Hot Springs, a camping facility located about 10 miles west of I-5 on the western edge of Fresno County, next to San Benito County. This facility has been "hosting" a family of long-eared owls. Entrance into the facility was $5, and well worth it to see these beautiful birds. Here are two of my best shots.

Another bird we had expected to see was a Lewis' Woodpecker. The group stopped early in the day where the bird has been sighted before, but we didn't see it at that time. On our way back to San Jose, my birding buddy and I went back to the location to see if we could spot the woodpecker. There were a couple of other birders stopped on the side of the road, so we thought that was a good sign. When we inquired, we were told that the bird had been there but then flew off. We decided to hang around for about 5 minutes to see if the woodpecker would return. And he did. Since the bird was quite a distance away, this was the best shot I could get.
Here is a list of birds I saw for the day. Those with an asterisk are my lifers.
Yellow-billed magpie*
White-tailed kite
Lewis' Woodpecker*
Long-eared owl*
American Robin
Oak Titmouse
Western Scrub Jay
Western Grebe
Say's Phoebe
Rufous-crowned Sparrow*
White-throated Sparrow*
Raven (and a raven's nest)
Great Egret
Western Bluebird
Greater Roadrunner
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeons
House Finch
White Pelican
Bald Eagle
Brewer's Blackbird
Red-wing Blackbird
Red-tailed Hawk
White-crowned Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow*
Horned Lark*
Ferruginous Hawk*

Monday, January 14, 2008

Why did the roadrunner want to cross the road?

Saturday, a birding buddy and I went to the Panoche Valley to bird with some other Santa Clara Valley Aud. Soc. members. The Panoche Valley is located about 12 miles southeast of Hollister, CA in San Benito County. We arrived at our destination around 8 a.m., and the area was a bit foggy and very chilly (41 F) to begin with. But as the day went on, the visibility greatly improved. Temps only rose about 10 degrees, but at least the sun was shining.

Most of the photos I took did not turn out very well. Many species were so far away that I didn't get good shots, and those shots turned out blurred when I cropped and blew them up.

The photos and the video below are of one cooperative bird - Greater Roadrunner. He was cute; I felt like he was posing for us. And at one point it looked like he wanted to cross the road to get a closer look at the gawking crowd. There were about 18 of us on this trip.

Is this my better side?

Do you like this pose better? Don't you like my pretty tail feathers?


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