Wednesday, September 17, 2008

BIRDS & TREES AT UCLA


One of the great things about arriving early to work is that I get great views like this. Just by stepping outside the parking structure, I am surrounded by trees and beautiful sky.

A view between trees creates a lovely window...

...while the morning sun kisses the forehead of a Spotted Gum.


Leaves suspended in the crotch of a tree...and almost looks intentional.


The base of the tree is no less lovely, a tapestry of wrinkled bark and fallen leaves.


Look carefully...there's a Black-throated Gray Warbler hidden amongst the branches! A fall visitor to UCLA, just passing through.


Year-round resident, a Bewick's Wren probes a branch for arthopod snacks.


I tried out the 'sports' mode of my camera's shutter, and caught a wren in mid-hop. Looks like a wind-up toy!
I am blessed indeed to work at such a great place!
[Composed while listening to Urban Trad's "Kerua." Urban Trad is a wonderful band from Hungary that fuses Irish, Celtic, and Middle-Eastern music into something truly wonderful.]

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

DOCUMENTING MY BIRD SIGHTINGS - NEW CAMERA!


Black Turnstone
(White Point, PV Peninsula)


Ruddy Turnstone
(White Point, PV Peninsula)


Ruddy Turnstone - camoflauged in wrack (seaweed)
(White Point - PV Peninsula)


Osprey - finishing a sushi lunch (see story below)
(White Point - PV Peninsula)


Red-tailed Hawk - lurking in a palm
(Dockweiler Beach)


Willets
(Dockweiler Beach)


Snowy Plovers - hunkered in the sand
(Dockweiler Beach - SP Protected Area)


Can you find the Snowy Plovers in this photo?


Here they are! It gives an idea how tiny and vulnerable these little birds are!

On a recent birding day trip to the Palos Verdes Peninsula I was able to give my new camera a ‘test-drive’ to see what sorts of shots would be possible. I bought a Canon PowerShot S5 IS after seeing the results another birder got and also after I read all the favorable online reviews.

The results: I am very happy with the photos I’ve been getting; shots that I only dreamed of getting before. I am not out to get absolutely perfect photos that people will want to buy, but photos that document my sightings, birds of interest, and birds I am having trouble identifying. It does this and more.

One feature that I am absolutely excited about is the video with sound feature; it takes excellent movies with amazingly good and clear sound. When dealing with birds, it is often advantageous to record songs and behaviors and this does the job.

The photos on this post are some of the shots I took, including three birds that were ‘life birds’ for me. It was very exciting to be able to take my own photos of them to keep in my fieldnotes.

THE OSPREY STORY:

We'd given up on spotting any birds at Abalone Cove and were halfway back to the car when we saw an Osprey swoop over and towards the ocean. We couldn't believe it, so we ran back to see what it was doing.

We watched as it circled over the kelp beds in the cove. It circled about four times, then dropped into a dive, hitting the water with terrific force. It had caught a fish, but when it tried to take off with it, it was evident that he'd caught something big. It tried and tried to take off, with small waves smacking it from behind.

Finally it realized it wasn't going to be able to lift it and it begand paddling in with its wings! We watched in utter amazement as the bird actually paddled and caught a few swells into shore. It was about 20 feet out, too.

It dragged its catch up on the rocky beach and we could see that it was a BIG fish--easily 3 lbs. or more and probably more than 24" long. Of course the seagulls were right there and the poor Osprey not only had to deal with hauling in its prize, but now defending it from the robber gulls.

We watched the bird for more than an hour as it devoured its shore lunch on the rocks. Finally three fisherman who had hiked down the bluffs spooked it and it took off to the south, carrying about 10" of the back end and tail. It was chased by three gulls and two crows that joined in when it got above the bluffs. We watched as it flew out of sight, the last crow finally dropping chase.

An hour and half later, as we were leaving White Point, we spotted the Osprey up on a phone pole finishing the rest of its sushi. We were both very glad to see that it kept its hard-won prize!