Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Good Godwit"

One of my favorite shorebirds, the Marbled Godwit, is listed as "uncommon" in Sibley, but you wouldn't know that here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Marbled Godwits, Amercian Avocets, Black-necked Stilts and Long-billed Curlews are abundant in this area. Here are some Marbled Godwit images taken here recently, plus some nice close-up shots I got a couple of weeks ago on the beach next to the Huntington Beach Pier in my old home town in Southern California.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Love Those Black-necked Stilts

Black-necked Stilts are one of the most common shorebirds seen around the coastal waters here off San Francisco Bay. Along with American Avocets, they frequent the nearby tidal marshes and ponds and feed on tiny invertebrates they find there. Here are some Black-necked Stilts I think you'll enjoy.

When I'm out photographing birds, the Black-necked Stilt is the bird I'm most often asked about by passersby. They all want to know what that cute little bird with the red legs is. The red legs are undoubtedly the most distinctive feature of these guys, but those long legs allow them to wade in the water and have the perspective to see what they're going after. I frequently see them feeding alongside American Avocets, as shown above.

While the American Avocets sweeps its bill from side to side to find prey, the Black-necked Stilt has a more direct approach -- it carefully eyes what's before it and takes a snatch-and-grab approach. Here are a few shots that demonstrate the technique.

Black-necked Stilts do sit, but more often they sleep standing up, perched on one leg, usually in pairs or small groups. Check out these guys dozing in the water and the Three Amigos on shore in the shot following and their reflection in the water.

And here's a shot of a Black-necked Stilt with somebody who isn't even a cousin -- a Black-bellied Plover, another shorebird I love but don't see too often. (It's in its winter suit, but will have an actual black belly come summer.)

And here are a couple more shots that give you a really good look at how gorgeous this bird is. By the way, you may have noticed that some images show the bird with a brownish back, rather than the jet black in the others. That's the female with the brownish/ black coloring.

The stark black and white coloring of the Black-necked Stilt sure isn't apparent when they're babies. How's that for a set up? Are you ready now to see some chicks? Prepare yourself to die from the cuteness!

What, you're still here? You survived the onslaught of the adorable? Well, this is mom and did she ever give me an earful when she saw how close I got to her babies.

I'm very lucky to live in an area where Black-necked Stilts are year-round residents. Some of the Western states will see them in summer as will the southeastern coast of the U.S., but you folks in the Midwest are just outta luck when it comes to seeing these beauties. Black-necked Stilts are one of the San Francisco Bay Area's treasures. I hope you've enjoyed looking at these images as much as I enjoy photographing these beautiful birds. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ducks: A Dapper Dozen

Thanks to some great weather most of the season in coastal Northern California, I was fortunate to get some good looks at a lot of ducks that are common to many coastal waters. I'm sharing a dozen of them here. I hope that you delight as much as I do in their colorful plummage as they motor around our local waterways foraging and showing off their colors.

A male Northern Shoveler with that intense yellow eye.

A male Cinnamon Teal not quite dozing. 

A female Canvasback warily eying the photographer.

A male & female Greater Scaup at the marina breakfront.

Cinnamon Teal & Green-winged Teal friends just hanging out.

A male & female pair of motoring Common Mergansers

Jack LaLanne, the American Wigeon.
A pair of Northern Pintails whose bills almost form a heart.

A male Gadwall, lazily paddling at a nearby marina.

A watchful and wary Male Canvasback awoken from his nap.

A female Mallard who was ready for her close up.

And finally, there goes the local Bufflehead Express.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Something's Fishy!

If you live along a shoreline as I do, gulls are a constant presence and sometimes it's easy to overlook them. But this pair was hard not to notice since they were playing a fun little game of tug-o-war with a fish one of them had managed to land. Check out this adult Western Gull (I think) and first winter Western Gull (I think) as they argue over fish rights. I'm lousy at gull ID (who isn't?) so feel free to correct me in the comments. The captions tell the tale.
"Hey, get lost, this is my fish!"

"Mine, I'm tellin' ya!"

"C'mon, get LOST, would ya?!"

"Don't even THINK about it!"

"Hey, no fair! Give it back!"

"Damn you, gimme back my fish!"

"Now buzz off, pal, it's MINE!"

"Again?! Damn you!"

""Hell, I give up. Let's just share!"