Morro Coast Bird Festival – part 3

February 21, 2019 at 5:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Wildlife) (, , , )

Male bufflehead in flight

The Morro Coast Bird Festival was four days of amazing birding in my own “backyard.” Of course, most of the birds we saw were water birds.

Hooded grebe

The hooded grebe’s eyes are so red they show up in the water’s reflections!

Western grebe

The pie-billed grebe played with a slender pipefish until it figured a way to swallow it.

Pie-billed grebe and pipefish
Pie-billed grebe and pipefish

The surf scoters were seen from the San Simeon Pier.

Common loon, nonbreeding
Horned grebe with demon eyes
Surfbird

The surfbird was a life lister for me!

Black oystercatcher
San Simeon beach

Stay tuned for part 4!

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

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Morro Coast Bird Festival – part 2

February 20, 2019 at 5:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, , )

Brown pelican resting on a light

The Morro Coast Bird Festival held in January 2019 at Morro Bay, California had a huge selection of field trips, workshops, and classes to choose from. I chose two trips in a boat, a walking trip along Morro Bay, and some car caravan trips.

Brown pelican looking for fish

The brown pelicans are coming into their breeding colors, but I had never seen one fly with his huge head dangling down like this one.

Morro Bay in the fog

This post will feature some of the larger water birds I saw on my various trips.

Great blue heron
Great blue heron trying to look thin
Great egret
Pelagic cormorant
Double-crested cormorant
Double-crested cormorants
Brandt’s cormorant
Kayakers on Morro Bay
Black-crowned night heron
Great blue heron

Stay tuned for Part 3.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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Morro Coast Bird Festival – part 1

February 19, 2019 at 5:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Wildlife) (, , , )

Peregrine Falcon on boat yardarm

I treated myself to four days of birding at the Morro Coast Bird Festival in January 2019. Although I chose some trips to areas I was already familiar with, I found it extremely beneficial to go with someone who pointed out birds I had never seen before.

One of the best trips was the boat trip on the bay. We saw two peregrine falcons perched on boat yardarms, and the overcast light was perfect for getting detail.

Peregrine falcon in flight
Two peregrine falcons
The return flight

Peregrines nest at Morro Rock, and there are often two nests there.

Morro Rock

A sea otter was eating a small octopus very near the boat, and I got some absolutely amazing photos, helped by the overcast light.

Sea otter eating octopus
Sea otter eating octopus

Ospreys were also hanging around the marina, catching fish and eating them on the boat yardarms.

Osprey

I can’t get over how this angle makes the osprey look like it has googly eyes.

Osprey Googly Eyes

This red-tailed hawk was a little bedraggled from the wet leaves.

Red-tailed hawk

A dozen turkey vultures roosted hear the heron rookery, waiting for the thermals to send them aloft.

Turkey vultures at roost
Turkey Vulture

I’ll be posting more from the Morro Coast Bird Festival in the next week. Stay tuned!

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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A Yellow House Finch

February 18, 2019 at 5:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) (, )

Yellow house finch
A yellow male house finch

House finch males are normally raspberry or orange-red in color, but occasionally a male turns up with yellow plumage. I was lucky enough to have one show up at my feeder in Paso Robles, California on Feb. 17, 2019.

This is the typical color of male house finches.

It isn’t rare like the Yellow Cardinal that showed up in Alabama, but it’s not very common either.

One of each color
With a female house finch
Sunflower seeds are preferred over millet

If the bird’s diet lacks carotenoids, or if he can’t assimilate those pigments which help form the red tints, he will be yellow.

It is possible he won’t have much luck with the ladies, but if the Yellow Cardinal can find a mate, maybe there’s hope for this guy.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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Carrizo Plain in November

January 1, 2019 at 6:01 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) ()

Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

This image reminds me of Zabriski Point at Death Valley. I visited Carrizo Plain National Monument in Central California the day before Thanksgiving 2018. The most stunning natural phenomena that day were the lenticular clouds forming stacks of flying saucers due to the turbulent atmosphere preceding a rare rainstorm.

Lenticular clouds stacked like pancakes
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Carrizo Plain Christmas Bird Count

December 30, 2018 at 1:02 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, , , , )

Barn Owl at old Goodwin Ranch

I missed the Dec. 15 Christmas Bird Count with the Morro Coast Audubon Society due to acute bronchitis, so I was happy for the chance to do the one at Carrizo Plain National Monument on Dec. 29.

Barn Owl
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Christmas Eve Birding

December 26, 2018 at 5:15 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Wildlife) (, )

Black Oystercatcher

There was patchy fog in Paso Robles, and I figured it would be thick at the coast, but I was pleasantly surprised. I’d heard about some good birds at several of the Estero Bluffs State Park lookouts and wanted to add a few to my life list.

I was fortunate to find both harlequin ducks, although they were in different spots on the “Fig Tree” trail.

Black Turnstone

I also added the black turnstone to my life list and photo collection!

Peregrine Falcon

I couldn’t believe it was warm enough to wear a tank top. I’ve been out there on a summer afternoon when it was windy and darned cold!

Cayucos from the Estero Bluffs trail

I was happy to see some colorful-billed surf scoters riding the waves.

Then there were the usual suspects.

Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s) warbler showing its butterbutt
Turkey Vulture patrolling the shore

Juvenile double-crested cormorant

Before I made it back to the car, the fish scale clouds rolled in. I knew rain was coming, but I tucked in a short trip to the Morro Bay Marina boardwalk. It was uncharacteristically quiet, perhaps because of the incoming rain.

View of the Back Bay, from Morro Bay Marina
Morro Rock

Unknown shorebird

I gave myself a headache trying to figure which species the above bird was, but I’ll add its name when I find out. It was at Estero Bluffs, and I think it was about the size of the black turnstones. A gentle mist began by the time I was in the car, and we received another welcome dose of rain overnight.

Our coastal hills turn green in winter – thanks to the rain!

This is my favorite viewpoint on State Hwy 46 between Paso Robles and the coast. It’s starting to look like Ireland!

I hear “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” – the original version — is on TV now, so I must end this post to give my Christmas Day a proper ending.

Happy Holidays to all!

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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Faces Only a Mom Could Love

December 25, 2018 at 7:30 pm (California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Wildlife) ()

Elephant Seal bull calling out a challenge

I’m recovering from a 3-week bout of acute bronchitis and needed to get my nature fix, so I spent Christmas Eve day visiting some of my favorite spots on the Central California Coast.

The Elephant Seal Rookery at San Simeon is seeing some early action during the winter breeding season, but there were far more bulls than maternity patients. Since there weren’t too many ladies to fight over, many of them enjoyed sprawling on the sand catching a few winks, their gnarly snouts wiggling as they snored.

There were occasional challenges, however, with heads thwacking and teeth slashing before one – usually the younger, smaller bull – backing down. The more grotesque the “trunk” and the thicker the neck, the more powerful the bull. Some young males choose to tangle with someone their own size, waiting for the day they can claim mating privileges.

Bellowing bull

Frankly, they look more like hippopotami (hippopotamuses?) to me.

The few moms on the beach had newborn pups squawking amid the din of barks and bellows. They will soon fatten on rich milk and will be joined by hundreds more moms and pups on the beach.

Watch the video and hear the racket!

The rookery is a very popular place, and many languages of amazement and awe were heard on the boardwalk that allows for safe viewing. Docents are often on hand to educate visitors and make sure they don’t bother the seals. The morning was stunningly warm. I’ve been at the coast on summer afternoons that were colder than this December morning! Oddly, rain came in before sunset.

Clash of the Titans

The birthing and breeding season will peak in January and February, and many elephant seals haul out on smaller beaches nearby. As with all marine mammals, care must be taken not to harass them by getting close to them. It’s bad manners, and also against the law. Enjoy them, respect them, and protect them.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

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Whales!

November 20, 2018 at 4:05 pm (Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography)

Humpback whale diving. Notice the barnacles and what looks like kelp growing on the tail!

My friend from Maine and I went on a whale watch tour with Monterey Bay Whale Watch, Nov. 13. We saw several humpback whales and a pod of orcas (killer whales.)

A closer view

Although I lived in Tacoma, Washington for 18 years, I had never seen orcas. So this was a new experience for me. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hi Mountain Lookout

October 15, 2018 at 7:27 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, California Central Coast, Nature, Nature photography, Photography, Uncategorized, Wildlife)

Cinnamon-colored American Black Bears
When I found out from the Morro Coast Audubon Society that the Hi Mountain Condor Lookout was having an open house, I cut my Eastern Sierras trip short and drove home so I could learn about the work being done to save California condors from extinction.

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