Sunday, July 19, 2009

Terns and swallows at Shoreline

Heidi and I re-visited Shoreline, Mountain View on the first of June. We had not been there since last fall. We had no idea of what birds we would see this time of year. So we were pleasantly surprised by what we ended up seeing. One of the birds we had fun watching as well as being challenged to photograph them in flight were the Forster's terns. They are loud and gregarious birds, and certainly a challenge to photograph. Below is probably my best shot of a tern in flight, flying over a flock of gulls. We think the gulls were California gulls. In the distance you can see what looks like a couple of white circus tents. That is the amphitheater where quite a few musical artists perform every summer.
Here's a second shot of a tern in flight.
While watching the terns we also saw a pair of gadwall swimming in the channel. From what I can tell, it looks like a pair of females. I think the males would be more "flashy" than this, and both of these ducks had orange and black bills, which is prevalent on the females, and not necessarily on the males. Besides, I would think that the males should have been in breeding plumage by the first of June. Anyone care to affirm this or correct me on this?
When the gulls got tired of the terns flying over them, they decided to "take off." Here's my shot of several of them in flight.
Shortly afterwards, Heidi and I decided to walk a little farther. And in another location that, at first, looked like there wasn't anything to see, she spotted in the distance a small "flock" of white pelicans. How cool! If you click on the photos you can probably get a larger image.
Shortly after the pelican experience, we thought we would head out. At first I was telling Heidi about barn swallows that have nested around a building there at Shoreline, and I was disappointed that I didn't see any flying around. Last year, my husband and I visited around this time of year and saw many barn swallows, all in flight. And I was never able to get a picture of them. No sooner I had mentioned this to Heidi, then we saw a few swallows flying over to a concrete wall, more like a culvert. The area had a large chainlink fence around it, to keep people out of it for safety reasons. Here are a few shots I took; you can see part of the chainlink fence in these two photos.
Ooohh! Love those wings!
There was a wooden stairway and railing nearby where more of the barn swallows were perched. I find these birds almost as beautiful as bluebirds. And I was certainly surprised that this many birds sat still long enough for me to get a photo of them.
On our way back to the car, we could hear a few song sparrows. It sure wasn't easy to locate them until Heidi pulled out her "trusty iPhone" (which has the iBird app on it) and called a song sparrow close enough that we could get a shot. How cool is that? Just an FYI: we don't do that very often. I'd rather try pishing before using the iBird to call the bird(s).
Needless to say, it was a good day for different species I hadn't seen in a while.


Ruth's Photo Blog said...

A great series of photos.Getting birds in flight is a challenge.The Male Gadwell is just a little more grey thean the female.

Ruth said...

I used to wonder where the male ducks were in the summer. They lose their mating plumage in May-June and don't get their new feathers til September. This information is in my Sibley Bird Guide and here as well

dAwN said...

Very nice blog! My first time here!

Have added your blog to my West coast blogroll.
Hope to visit again!

Linda in Erie said...

Nice shots of the terns and gulls flying. I'm a fan of swallows and purple martins after watching them for a while and seeing how many insects they eat. It's amazing! And they are beautifully colored, too. I didn't know they had i-phone apps for birds. That would be pretty neat. Tom from put up a video once showing the technique of phishing so I tried it a couple of times and it works! It worked for a golden-crowned kinglet and a chestnut-sided warbler. I had forgotten to try that lately. Great post!

Leedra said...

Love the Barn Swallows, we usually just have the Tree Swallows, so like to see the Barn Swallows.

Leedra’s Photos For Fun

Red said...

Hey! I thought we were just identifying it ;)

Your Swallow shots came out much better than mine... except for that one I snuck up on.

That reminds me, I don't even think I put that one up on Flickr yet, let alone my blog. It disappeared. I think I filed it away and didn't finish the process.

Mary C said...

Thanks to both Ruths for the added info.

Hi Dawn -- thanks for visiting. I do hope you return the next time I post. I'm one of these folks who doesn't seem to find the time to post as often as I would like.

Linda - thanks. Yes, there is this app called iBird -- I think you can google it. Some folks like it better than Bird Jam, and it's a lot less expensive.

Thanks, Leedra. I'm torn between choosing favs of cliff swallows vs barn swallows. Both are so pretty.

Heidi - I guess we were identifying it, but it didn't hurt to get a better glimpse of it. Thanks for the compliment on the pix of the swallows. Are you going to post yours soon?

Adam R. Paul said...

Nice outing! I haven't been to Shoreline in way too long. Did you walk along the east shore of Shoreline Lake? I find that stretch particularly birdy most times. And I agree - Forster's Terns in flight are not an easy subject!

Kathiesbirds said...

Lovely photos of birds. Sounds like you had a fun day. I think the barn swallows are so pretty. You got some nice photos there.

Mary C said...

Hi Adam. To answer your question about the location of Shoreline Lake where we walked, I would say yes, but I'm not that good with directions. Hopefully you will get the chance to visit Shoreline and/or Palo Alto Baylands. Hopefully you will visit during the fall migration. Something tells me both areas will be quite "birdy."

Hi Kathie. Thanks, it was a fun day since Heidi and I visited both Palo Alto Baylands and Shoreline. These areas are along the San Francisco Bay and are only a couple miles from each other. Actually, part of Baylands butts up against Shoreline. I love watching swallows in general, but it was exceptional for me to get some decent shots of the barn swallows. They are definitely quite colorful and it was fun watching them fly all around us.


Current skin is MC Winter 08 and designed by Red.
Best viewed on Firefox at 1024x768, larger or widescreen.