Sunday, August 29, 2010

August 29 2010 - A day by the bay

As previously stated, during these late summer days the best chances for any kind of "fauna" action are at the coast, by the bay, or in the backyard. These are the places where food is still abundant.

Last post covered the coast so today it is the bay.  Yesterday we visited Mountain View Shoreline Park.  It is truly one of the best places to walk in the bay area.   Shoreline Lake, the various sloughs, the power towers, various little islands, the shoreline brush and trees and the bay itself all become host to an enormous diversity of creatures large and small.  You can take a different path every time you visit, walk for miles, and still come up with a completely different experience. Yesterday we walked to and past the Shoreline Lake area, crossing over Permanente Creek and then onto the Stevens Creek trail.

Tide was out, and the forebay area was mainly filled with dowitchers and a handful of avocets, snowy egrets, and great egrets, all with bills deep in mud.

Surprisingly, did not see a single black crowned night heron.  There have been dozens in the marshy areas at this San Antonio entrance area every visit for the past year.  Hiding well at least for today.

At the lake we saw a few female plumaged surf scoters - likely immature birds. Also saw several cormorants, great and snowy egrets, pied billed grebes, coots, and of course a lawn filled with canadian geese.  Some of these were just so fat that they lay on the lawn splayed on their bellies while snarfing up bills full of fresh grass.

Along the Stevens Creek trail the bay shore was a heavy slick of green and pink brine.  There were clearly hordes of bugs there and lots of birds getting in on that action, especially egrets, forster's terns and gulls.  The smell was not delicious for us, but enjoyed the chance to see and shoot these birds in their feeding action poses.

I had been hoping to see and shoot some harriers or hawks, so was delighted when we started seeing a collection of turkey vultures and a few hawks milling around in the sky.  One juvenile red tailed hawk descended to one of the small hills inland and was closely followed and watched by two vultures.  He had something that they wanted to get in on and were edging in on him.  The hawk  flew off by himself to a second small hill area and we followed him to see what he had.  At first there seemed to be nothing there, but the hawk continued to strike very odd poses.  Then there was a small hop followed by several more small hops.  We thought then that it must be a frog.  These were all hops pretty much straight up in the air, maybe 4-6 inches.  But eventually we moved in close enough to see that it was a small mouse.  No idea why it moved in such a strange way, but it must have already been injured by the hawk in transit.  The hawk poked at the mouse with it's beak, just to make it jump, and then walked around or hopped around after it.  It was exactly what you would expect from a cat, but certainly had never seen a hawk exhibit this kind of behavior.
The hawk was so completely pre-occupied with his catch that he allowed me to get very close to him and shoot endless photos.  I have seen that behavior before from a juvie red tailed hawk with prey.

More complete series of photos here: