Sunday, March 28, 2010

March 28 2010 - Coyote Creek Trail

After many aborted efforts, I finally grabbed an ok shot of the wood ducks on the creek. They are positively outrageous.

Have seen tails, heads, or bodies in all 4 hawk nests through the weekend. One of the red shouldered hawks took a break for some quick afternoon mating.  Is this an insurance bet, in case the first brood of eggs fails?
She immediately returned to the nest and settled back in snugly.  She is a very red and pretty looking bird.

We also saw a coyote head peeking out over the grasses in the meadow.  Large head, very wolf-like.

And speaking of wolf-like, crazy beautiful patches of lupin this year.  The mountains were lovely with color flying back from Chicago on Friday.   Patches of neon green fuzz on the usually very pale brown hills around Pacheco Pass.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

March 16-19 2010 - Seattle

I got out walking Tuesday thru Thursday in Seattle. I saw 2 new birds while I was there - the Pigeon Guillemot and the Red-Necked Grebe. They were both shy and i had to chase them down just to get a distant shot. Both very nice looking birds, great colors. Very bright red feet on the Guillemot.

There were dozens of Barrow's Goldeneyes and they seemed a little bit larger than the ones we have seen at Shoreline, but I might have just been the angle from which I was viewing them. There was some of the cute male display going on, and they had a tendency to travel in straight lines , one behind the other. I got a shot of about 11 of them lined up this way.

On Thursday morning the clouds and fog lifted to reveal: mountains! I knew they were there somewhere. I have to pull some of the panoramic shots together and see what I shot.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 15 2010 - Coyote Creek Trail Nesting

Today we saw a hawk sitting on the "first" hawk nest along the trail - the one closer to the freeway. This was the first time we saw that happen this year. We did not see or hear hawks on the other redtail nest, and did not see a hawk on or near the red shouldered nest near the freeway. We did not walk back by the other RSHA nest, but we did hear RSHA activity in that area.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

March 13 2010 - Coyote Creek Trail Nesting Activity

Lots to report from the trail today. We walked from the Morgan hill parking lot to the airfield and back. In the meadow just past the footbridge over Coyote Creek, tree sparrows were flying in and out of the nest boxes there, so they appear to be taking up residence now.

Past the point where 101 crosses over the trail, at the "first" redtail hawk nest from last year (easily seen right now with little foliage, on the left but across the trail from the very obvious first sycamores on the right) we still saw no hawk activity.

We also saw no hawk on the next nest from last year, close to the airfield. However, there was a redtail hawk near the nest on a nearby tree. When I raised my lens to shoot this redtail, it responded in a way that was very new to us. Rather than flying away, this bird was almost chasing us away - circling near us and vocalizing. (bird in top photo) We have certainly seen this behavior from other birds, particularly the stilts, but never from a hawk, and we were so far away from the nest. But the behavior was unmistakably protective. I was nearly certain that when we came back we would see a hawk on the nest, and indeed we did (second photo).

There were three kestrels on the sycamore opposite the airfield parking lot.

On our return, on the other side of the creek and just past the "first" redtail nest, I spotted a smallish red shouldered hawk with a pale head. I have taken photos of this bird before in this area. When I went to shoot this bird, it screamed pretty loudly and flew up to a nest that we have not seen before. (fourth picture above) A second red shouldered hawk flew and vocalized around this nest for a while before perching nearby. This really seems to be a new nest because it is in a fairly visible area and we have not seen it before. We have seen a lot of red shouldered activity in this area the last few weeks and have seen as many as four red shouldered hawks circling together. The nest is about midway between the 101 crossover and the "first" redtail nest from last year. It is large but fairly flat, and easily visible across the creek by the orchard.

When we reached the Oak rest area we left the main path and walked on the path by the creek. About half way between the rest area and the bridge over the creek where this path ends, we heard a loud red shouldered hawk shriek and turned around to see yet another red shouldered hawk nest with a head peeking over the top. This hawk continued to vocalize while I captured a few photos.(see the third photo above) The photo does not make it clear that the nest is occupied but we were able to see the bird, and it was very audible. We have seen and heard so many red shouldered hawks in this area this winter that I believe it is likely that there is at least one more nest in this vicinity - we will keep looking for this.

March 6 2010 - Coyote Creek Trail

Last Saturday the trail was again dominated by tree swallow activity. They are sitting on the nest boxes in the meadow near the bridge, and still fighting over every tree with good nestable holes. I like that the pair photographed here seem to be chatting with each other.

There were no hawks on the known nests nor on the nest trees.

There was one pair of very noisy red shouldered hawks, also in the meadow, circling each other and landing on various trees together. This may be the same mating pair observed in this area in previous years. We will start paying attention to that area to see where this pair may nest this year.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

March 1-4 2010 - Yosemite at the end of Winter

An unbelievably great week. Lousy weather had been threatened, but it really did not get in the way at all. Monday we arrived to clear skies, in the afternoon. Tom skated at the outdoor rink while I went off and did some shooting. I decided this week that I am a biathlete - I hike and shoot! I joined a tailgate party at the El Capitan picnic area, where we all waited in hope that the sun would light up horsetail falls with red light. A bit late for that by about a week, but we all had a great time waiting and talking. Met people from all over.

Tuesday we hiked for 6 hours, first to Mirror Lake, then over to Happy Isles and on to the Mist Trail, up to the Vernal Falls view. Little snow and no ice on the trails. It spit rain at times but nothing uncomfortable. Only tucked the lenses away once against the rain. The granite, the mosses and lichens, the tall trees, and the sound and beauty of the water flowing everywhere was enough to take your breath away. I always forget how beautiful Yosemite is, which just makes it possible to rediscover it anew. I loved shooting the valley with the 17-40 wide angle. It did a great job of drinking in whole vistas of granite and mist.

Wednesday it did finally start to rain. We managed to get a very long morning to early afternoon hike in first, mostly in the area of Yosemite falls. We were hiking against the valley walls, and under the trees we heard some very noisy woodpecker activity and stopped to bird for a half hour or so. Stellar Jays jumping all over, a Northern Flicker, Acorn Woodpeckers, and a Downy Woodpecker. We went back to our room when the rain started to come down, but within an hour or so the rain turned to fat white wet snowflakes. As an adventure we decided to walk to dinner in the snow and walk back after in the snow and dark. with flashlights. Great fun. The snowy twilight was gorgeous. Dinner was delicious. The walk back was very interesting and we only got a little bit lost, but figured it out short of making an encore trip to Mirror Lake!

Thursday we woke up to about five inches of wet snow on everything, and misty wreathes around the top of every mountain. The entire valley was lit up with a bright white snowy light, amplified with sunshine and white mist. We had another fabulous hike, this time staying more towards the center of the valley rather than hugging the hills. Where the trees had previously shielded us from soft rain, they now were more likely to dump snow and ice chunks on your head, so it was better to walk through the meadows, and along the Merced.

Sad to leave, thoroughly exhausted that it helped kick our butts in gear to drive home. Also wanted to escape while the slush on the roads was still slush and not ice.

Building up a collection of photos from the trip in this set on Flickr:

February 28 2010 - Mountain View Shoreline Park

A beautiful day at the park. Favorites today were the Avocets, the Goldeneyes, Song Sparrows, and some very busy Canvasback ducks throwing jets of water up while they dug in the mud.

February 27 2010 - Coyote Creek Trail

Tree swallows are back and are actively seeking nesting holes. Throughout the week we have seen no hawks on nests. If there is a hawk on one of the nests it is settled very far down and not visible.

There was one pair of redtail hawks circling each other with talons down, near the ranger station in Morgan Hill. More photos of the tree swallows and redtail hawks are on Flickr.