Monday, February 22, 2010

February 22 2010 - Coyote Creek Trail Hawks

On Sunday we walked to the Ogier ponds and back, in the drizzle and rain. We didn't bring any gear because of the weather. There was a hawk on the sycamore near the freeway, just opposite the first nest past the freeway. Near the second nest the other pair were seen perching very close together in a nearby tree.

Today the first hawk was absent, but the pair were together again, on sycamore trees adjacent to the nest. I would say that the hawk pictured here is the male of the pair, after studying pictures of the two.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

February 20 2010 - San Pedro Ponds

Only had a short window of opportunity today to walk and shoot, so we walked to the nearby San Pedro Ponds. The water level was very low even though we have had a lot of rain - we aren't too sure about what gives with that.

Today we saw quite a few mockingbirds at the ponds , along with the usual geese and coots. No larks and nearly no sparrows, but it was early and still very foggy.

Most interesting find was a male and two female plumage hooded mergansers. I have yet to get a really good shot of these birds. They are fairly shy, and again the light was poor because of the fog.

Friday, February 19, 2010

February 19 2010 - Coyote Creek Trail through the week

Just a few notes from the walking this week. The hawk pair were seen on their nesting tree on Tuesday and Thursday, and one hawk was in the nest on Wednesday. Neither of them were seen Monday or Friday.

The other large hawk was seen on the second nesting tree on Thursday, and was again alone.

Friday we saw a sub-adult Golden Eagle, high over the dump.

Not a good week for photography, as it was overcast and foggy, providing very poor light.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

February 14 2010 - Coyote Creek Trail

Today we walked to the Eucalyptus Rest Area and back on the Coyote Creek trail. It was foggy for nearly the entire 3 1/2 hours we were walking.

The exciting news is that we saw one of the Redtail Hawks on the nest from last year, nearest the model plane airfield, in the large sycamore tree. This appeared to be the larger female hawk(Yoko) who was in the nest, as there was a smaller Redtail (John) on a nearby tree. She took leaves out of the nest as she flew out and dropped them. On our return trip, she was back on the nest. This is the first time we have seen one of them actually in or on the nest so far this season, although the couple has been regularly lurking in nearby trees for the last 2 weeks. It was a really poor day for photography, but I did get a shot of Yoko on the nest for record keeping purposes.

In the past week we have also seen a very large Redtail on the tree where there was a second nest last year - the one more hidden and closer to where the freeway crosses the trail. The female that nested there last year was also very large and we are hoping that this is the same hawk coming back to reuse her nest. Strangely, we usually only ever saw one parent near this other nest through the whole of last season.

We are also seeing a singleton or pair of Kestrels on a very regular basis in the sycamore directly opposite of the airfield parking lot "blue house". They may also be preparing to nest as they are regularly harassing any Redtail Hawks that fly into that area. Today we saw the female.

Near the Ogier ponds we saw our first Kildeer pair of the season running around in the grass together, and also our first Tree Swallows flying around over the ponds. Some of the trees that made up the Tree Swallow nest habitat were destroyed in the recent storms, so they will need to work on creating some new nests.

February 13 2010 - Shoreline Park

An amazing day of walking and bird watching and photography. Tom was working on the house, so I walked at Mountain View Shoreline Park with my 400mm and a tripod. Just as it was 2 weeks ago, there are so many birds that are displaying for each other. I did not walk far because I was carrying so much, but even so I saw so many different species and it was truly a magical time.

Along Adobe Creek there were a dozen mostly hidden juvenile and adult Black Crowned Night Herons. A Double Crested Cormorant was sunning himself . Many pairs of Cinnamon Teal were sleeping, but one pair was swimming around and for the first time I saw the male Cinnamon Teal fluff out his feathers and show what an incredible tapestry he is - so many colors. He is my featured animal here today.

Further down the creek there were the usual large numbers of Northern Shovelers. Today the males were doing a lot of chasing and fighting with one another and displaying for the females. They have these huge flat bills ( their "shovels") and they look very comical when they bite at one another, almost like a cartoon.

Along the banks I was looking for the Meadowlarks and Savannah Sparrows. Previously I have been able to get a few good shots of the Meadowlarks, but not of this sparrow. I found loads of the Savannah Sparrows to shoot, and one Meadowlark that posed for me for a matter of minutes - lots of wing stretching and preening. These sparrows look like miniature versions of the Meadowlark, and all of these birds blend so perfectly with the pickle weed, especially the drier browner bits.

Along with all of the usual Coots, Mallards, Canadian Geese, and Ruddy Ducks, the Common Moorhen showed up, and a handful of Canvasbacks and Green Winged Teal.

Moved along towards Shoreline Lake then, and along the marsh area was another Moorhen, many Snowy and Great Egrets, many more Black Crowned Night Herons, and a nice surprise - the White Faced Ibis. He was again backlit for me and very difficult to get a photo that shows his beautiful green and burgundy feathers, but very nice to observe. While watching him many of the herons flew in and walked about, and a snowy egret caught a nice fish and ate it. Eventually the Ibis was chased off by a Great Egret.

At Shoreline Lake, the Common Goldeneyes were displaying again. I have posted a few new pictures of this behavior, which is one of the most delightful things to watch in the bird kingdom. The pair of Goldeneyes swim away from each other and then come back together terribly excited to see one another. The male throws his head back as far as you can imagine it would go, bill to the sky, and calls out at the same time, as if to say "oh helloooooooo" to the female. She responds by ducking down flat against the water. A very suggestive and submissive pose. I could watch them do this behavior all day.

While there, a Great Egret that had been wading in the lake saw something that caught his eye on the shore and stalked his way cautiously but quite quickly and boom, nabbed a lizard. After throwing the lizard around a bit and finally swallowing it, he then wiggled his head and throat for quite a while. You could imagine that it was quite an effort to get this lizard to go down that long throat.

It was such a great day of shooting that I created a new set for some of the shots at

Saturday, February 13, 2010

February 12 2010 - Coyote Creek Trail

Walked the Coyote Creek Trail from the Morgan Hill parking lot to the first set of Ogier Ponds. This is a fairly normal pattern for us, so typically I will only give the end point of this walk, and not the starting point.

Observations today include: an immature Golden Eagle flying very high with a Turkey Vulture (hereafter TV), near the creek and just past where 101 crosses the trail. We have seen one or two Golden Eagles at this same place on many occasions this year. In fact we have seen so many Golden Eagles this year that we cannot decide if we just were not looking hard enough in the past, perhaps always assuming that they were all TVs, or if this is an especially rich year for the eagles.
Photos were useless today on this bird for anything but identification as the bird was so high in the sky.

The Redtail Hawks are starting to regularly perch on or around the Sycamores that have the nests from last year. We will be watching very closely to see if they reuse the same nests. Of course we cannot know for certain if these are the same hawks from last year, but my intuition says that they are. The hawk perching in the first nest that we come to on the trail, just past where we see the Golden Eagle, is very large. We think it is the female from last year that nested there who was very large. Then there is the pair that nested closer to the airfield, again hanging out every evening near their nest from last year. We named them John and Yoko last year, based on their proclivity towards mating in public, and Yoko has a very distinctive wild hairdo. Yoko is also quite large, and clearly larger than her mate. In the past week we have seen one or both of these hawks persistently in the sycamores near last year's nest. As is so often the case, one Redtail was perched in the Sycamore directly opposite the parking area for the airfield. A pair of Kestrels, male and female were harassing this Redtail, leading us to believe that this Kestrel pair is planning to nest nearby.

Posted pictures of a lovely Great Blue Heron that was near the bridge that crosses the creek, and the Redtail that was being harassed on Flickr: and including the Redtail here.

The ponds closest to the airfield had very few species today. Mostly coots, ruddy ducks, and scaups. The Hooded Merganser pair was still there, as was a Gadwall pair, both of these on the more hidden pond next to the airfield. No sign of the American Wigeons, the Cinnamon Teals, or the Green Winged Teals.


In his book 'Outliers', Malcolm Gladwell proposes that even though genius and natural talent exist in the world, for the most part great talents and notables become that way through basically practice, practice, practice... He feels that one needs about 10,000 hours of practice to truly become great at something.

It is my intention to become a great nature photographer and naturalist. I started my 10,000 hours some time ago, but I have decided to start blogging to help me focus on what I am seeing and photographing on a more daily basis. Most photographs that I am interested in sharing will continue to go to my Flickr account, with links from here, but I think that I will post one photo here for each journal entry.

There are also people in my area trying to keep accurate records of what birds are using our natural spaces, in order to continue the fight to preserve these natural spaces. My hope is that some of my record keeping in this blog can help with this fight, which is so very important to me.