So far 2014 has been a good year for me in birding and shooting birds at Point Lobos. I have spotted four new species for me and been able to photo a number of rare visitors. You can see some of these on the birds page.
The primary reason for this success is persistence. There is a strong correlation to the number of bird species I spot in the Reserve to the number of hours I spend in the Reserve, go figure.
Male Harlequin Duck, Point Lobos State Reserve – 2014
The good fortunes started in February when I arrived at the Reserve early and spotted two male Harlequin Ducks at Weston Beach. I had seen a female Harlequin in the past, but the males were definitely a treat.
Summer Tanager, Point Lobos State Reserve – 2014
And then the other day, I spotted a young male Summer Tanager, a new bird for me. Of course I didn’t have my camera with me and attempts to shoot it with my iPhone were less than successful (15 shots and only 1 with the bird in it). So I hoofed it back to the truck, then returned hoping that the bird hadn’t moved on.
The bird was still there, but stayed down in the brush. Finally after about 20 minutes of walking back and forth to spot it, it flew up on to a branch in plain view. Persistence is a good thing.
I recently got shots of two “new” birds. I say that because I have probably seen them before, but just never taken the the time to ID them. There are lots of little grayish-brown birds that reside in this group. But as I try to learn more of the birds around Point Lobos, I find that I need to spend some extra time to get these IDs.
So I present the Pacific-slope Flycatcher, a bird that I list as heard more than seen. And true to that listing, I hear them all the time in the Reserve, but have only seen them twice. Fortunately a pair has been nesting near the Reserve entrance and allowed me to get this shot.
The second bird was a bit harder to ID because it was flitting about in the top of a big sycamore tree. It was showing obvious flycatcher behavior, so managed to stay at the limits of my auto-focus and move every time the focus got close. I took over 50 shots and and spent 20 minutes on this one bird.
And after all of that, I still didn’t have a no-doubt-about-it shot. So I went through all of my shots, what I could remember of the call, the likely suspects and came up with a Western Wood-Pewee.
Hi, my name is Tom and I am a birder.
I am not the crazy, over-the-top birder that you might have seen in movies or on TV. But when there is an opportunity to see a bird that I haven’t seen or photographed before, I get a little bit itchy.
When the report came in a week ago that a Lawrence’s Goldfinch was spotted in the Reserve, I thought “Great, that is wonderful that you saw this bird, my chance of seeing it is nil”. Before that moment I had never heard of a Lawrence’s Goldfinch. I knew the American and Lesser Goldfinch and had seen both in the Reserve, but this was a new one for me. I figured it was a migrant and would be on its way shortly, and far too shortly for me drag the camera out.
Then came a second report and a third. Now the itch is strong, time to scratch. I go out to see what I can see. House finches and American Goldfinches, no Lawrence’s. Just what I suspected, it was here and moved on. Then a fourth report, with photos. Ok, It is a mission now and I will both spot the bird and get a photo.
Friday morning, I went out to Granite Point and circled the point three times. The first circle spotted and confirmed the goldfinch was there, The second circle grabbed a shot, the third circle nailed the shot.
So now I have a new bird on my life list and a new photo in my Monterey Birds set.
Bewick’s Wren – 2011
It is usually pretty hard to predict what you will see on a birding outing, unless you are going to the local pond looking for mallards.
But sometimes the world works like clockwork and past performance does guarantee future results. Such is the case with the annual termite hatch.
Every year, the first rain gets termites stirring in their underground chambers. After the rain passes and the ground warms, legions of termites with newly grown wings march up and take flight.
Only to be eaten by the birds who have also been waiting for the day.
This is a day to see wrens and warblers. Those little flits, you hear but never quite see, throw caution to the wind as they gobble up the termite hordes.
Yellow Warbler – 2011
Bewick’s Wrens were out in force, grabbing termites off the ground and occasionally in the air. The Townsend’s Warblers were big on picking them out of the air. And while I tried, I was unable to catch a mid air grab.
There was also an “new” warbler for me, the Yellow Warbler. I think it fits into the category of birds that I have seen, but never noticed.
Chickadees, juncos, and quail were also filling their gullets with termites. It was an easy day to be a bird.
And as a result, an easy day to be a birder.