Thursday, January 20, 2011

Red-Letter Day: Black Turnstones, Black Oystercatchers

One of my favorite birding spots is along the rocky shore and inlet of San Pablo Bay near San Francisco. It's a spot where I regularly see egrets, gulls, sandpipers, grebes and more. This past Monday -- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day -- I found myself back at my familiar haunt. I was listening to NPR on my iPod as I often do while birding. King's "I Have A Dream" speech was being rebroadcast in its entirety. I was marveling to myself how powerful that speech was and still is when I spied these Black Turnstones and Black Oystercatchers. The Black Turnstone is a lifer for me. The irony of seeing these two "black" birds on this day was not lost on me.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Green-winged Teals: He Said, She Said

"So you're saying I'm boring?" he asks.
He pouts, noting her exaggerated indifference.
"But look at my magnificence!" he cries.
"Magnificence?" she says. "THIS is magnificence!"

Friday, January 14, 2011

Let's Talk Turkey Vulture

So is there an uglier bird in the Americas? I'm hard pressed to think so, and the Turkey Vulture's role in nature as a prime eater of dead things doesn't exactly endear this bird to most people's hearts.

But the Turkey Vulture is an important contributor to the life cycle of nature. That featherless head and strange bone-colored beak are super efficient when it comes to sticking its head into the bodies of carrion.

If you're a Turkey Vulture fan, you'll want to know about The Turkey Vulture Society where you can learn more and buy T-shirts and hats and pins -- and even an "I Brake For Carrion" bumper sticker.

Speaking of its featherless head and strange bone-colored beak, let's take a closer look, shall we? Ever seen a Turkey Vulture tongue? Now you have:

Monday, January 10, 2011

Golden-crowned Sparrows

No, I'm not blogging about Golden-crowned Sparrows just to taunt my friends in the Midwest and on the East Coast who don't have these beauties -- it's just that I've had so many lately, it seems selfish not to share! They arrive in the fall and then eat themselves silly through winter. And don't miss the last photo in this series to see just why they're candidates for Weight Watchers by the time they're through! Lifers for many of you, but a commonly seen bird for me, please enjoy these Golden-crowned Sparrow images.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Bewitching Bewick's Wren

House Wrens and Marsh Wrens are two of the most common wrens found throughout the United States. But those of us in the Southwest and West have the added benefit of seeing another lovely wren, the Bewick's Wren.

Named after the famed 18th century British ornithologist, Thomas Bewick, the Bewick's Wren is a small-bodied bird with a slightly downcurved bill. But its big claim to fame is its conspicuous and dashing white eyebrow. It gives it a sort of distinguished, Clark Gable look and makes it an easy bird to spot in your backyard.

Here are a few photos of this bewitching little bird, including one of its sexy rear end. At least sexy to other Bewick's Wrens, one presumes.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

White-crowned Sparrows

Here in the West, there are few birds more delightful to see in these winter months than the White-crowned Sparrow. In the photos below, I imagine this bird saying, "That's 'Mr.' White-crowned Sparrow to you, pal!"

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Dawn's Early Light

At the dawn of this new year, what better time to share some images taken by dawn's early light?

These photos capture American Avocets, Marbled Godwits and Canada Geese feeding at sunrise during low tide in a nearby saltwater marsh here in the San Francisco Bay Area. The red and white lights in the first image are car headlights and a traffic signal reflecting on the water. 

Happy New Year to you and yours. I'll be posting bird photos more often here as this new year begins and I hope you'll subscribe and visit again soon.