Saturday, July 25, 2009

Catching up!

Oh boy, I'm in trouble. I haven't posted anything for two weeks! As terrible as this is, I have a reasonable excuse. I've been helping with nature day camps for kids at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary all day every day for the last three weeks. I've accumulated a bunch of shots from the last few weeks - enjoy them, and hopefully I'll have more time to do more detailed posts in the near future.

One neat thing about helping with the camps at San Joaquin is the chance to bird the marsh every day. One morning, before camp began in the morning, one of the other junior naturalists and I ventured out in search of birds. We were shocked to see a Virginia Rail sauntered across the trail, occasionally standing out in the wide open.

Another surprise at the marsh was this leucistic Mourning Dove. It sure was a surprise to flush this guy out of the weeds!

After two years of regularly birding San Joaquin, I finally had a run-in with one of the notorious Bobcats that inhabits the place. The Bobcat, obviously acclimated to humans, sauntered ahead of us on the trail, only occasionally glancing over its shoulder to look at us. The next day we had brief views of a cub.

The dozens of Tree Swallow nest boxes at San Joaquin are producing lots of young swallows. The clueless fledglings had no idea I was a threat and let me approach closely for photos.

Last Sunday I birded Bolsa Chica with the Junior Naturalists in conjunction with a Junior Naturalist bonfire at the beach. Shorebird migration is obviously picking up, as we saw several different species; this Willet was the only one close enough to the boardwalk to allow photography.

Terns reign supreme at Bolsa Chica in the summer. By far the most conspicuous are the Elegant Terns, which swirl around in the air and congregate on the sandbars by the thousands. Smaller numbers of Royal, Least, and Forster's Terns also nest at Bolsa Chica. The Forster's Terns are by far the most photogenic of all the terns, often perching near the trail. This one looked so pretty in the evening glow!

Back to San Joaquin. Last week was the first week of Advanced Camp. As the name implies, Advanced Camp is more advanced than Marsh Camp and is aimed at slightly older kids. Most of the birds were the same as the previous two weeks, but some Long-billed Dowitchers treated us to close views early in the week.

The highlight of Advanced Camp was the pelagic trip on Thursday. Even though it was brief (only two hours) and only made it a few miles offshore, we saw some neat birds. Sooty and Pink-footed (above) Shearwaters were abundant, much to the delight of the kids.

Sooty Shearwaters were exciting for the kids, even though it is one of the most common summer pelagic birds off Southern California. Of the dozens (hundreds) that we saw, none were very cooperative for photos.

Even less cooperative were the Black Storm-Petrels. We saw many of these tiny seabirds during the entire trip, but all kept a safe distance from the boat.

Fast forward to today. After working myself ragged the last three weeks, I dragged myself out of bed at four to go bird banding at Starr Ranch this morning. We saw quite a few Common Poorwills on the ride back to the banding area, and I was able to obtain my first photo of this species.

It was a rather average morning of banding, with fifteen birds caught. Only some of the usual suspects - Oak Titmouse, Lesser Goldfinch, Bewick's Wren, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Wrentit - found their way into the nets. I pulled a female Black-chinned Hummingbird out of a net, but since we don't band hummers at Starr Ranch we had to release it without being banded.

The hummingbirds that nested near one of our nets have moved on, leaving an empty and rather corroded nest behind. Even though I knew precisely where it was, I had some trouble locating it. It was tiny!

That sums up fairly well my activities the last couple weeks. Only one more week of camp is left! Keep an eye out for new posts - I'll try not to kept you waiting so long for the next one.

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