Saturday, July 9, 2011

Watch It V

Early mornings at the pier are gorgeous. Mist blurs the horizon, the sky blends from pearly pink to slate blue overhead, and the dark ocean gently laps at the beach, frothing like whipped cream. The air is fresh, salty, and only the very slightest whiff of fish offal spoils it, depending on where you stand. But then, the sun rises, casting away all the illusions. The idyllic palm trees and buildings stand on what was formerly a gigantic coastal estuary teeming with life, long since raped and buried underneath roads, houses, malls, and other marks of humanity. The ocean is polluted, the air smoggy, and even the pier itself is heavily littered with cigarette butts, In-N-Out Burger wrappers, and partially decomposed sunflower seed shells. Ah well. Sometimes, reality hurts.

Enough complaining. This week's installment of seawatching was successful--not that it ever isn't--and I thoroughly enjoyed two hours of shearwaters, alcids, and terns before work. One of the most interesting aspects of my weekly visits is the variation in numbers of the common species. I've had mornings when I see at least a thousand more Elegant Terns. Why were there so few (relatively speaking) this week? I just don't know.

Newport Pier, Orange, US-CA
Jul 7, 2011 5:42 AM - 7:54 AM
Protocol: Stationary
Comments: Weather: mostly clear (rather misty, especially early on), light breeze (SW), warm (~68°F). Seawatching before work. A few decent things. Once again, it was nice to actually have the sun out on the birds, though lighting wasn't great on birds that were south of the pier.
23 species

Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica) 1 This one was unexpected--a bird in basic-type plumage hauling "north" low over the water. Presumably a locally summering bird.
Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus) 330
Brandt's Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) 5
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) 3
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) 55
Willet (Tringa semipalmata) 3
Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) 1
Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa) 2
Heermann's Gull (Larus heermanni) 110 Numbers continue to grow--including many birds heading north offshore. Also, had my first juveniles of the year.
Western Gull (Larus occidentalis) 400
Least Tern (Sternula antillarum) 22
Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia) 16
Forster's Tern (Sterna forsteri) 8
Elegant Tern (Thalasseus elegans) 150 Much fewer than recently. Several weeks ago, I had at least a thousand more in a similar span of time at the same time of day. Hmm, why? Weather conditions? Or maybe stage in breeding cycle of the birds at Bolsa Chica? Shift in food distribution?
Xantus's Murrelet (Synthliboramphus hypoleucus) 2 A prize--a pair, not that far out, going "north." Obviously small and cleanly black and white.
Cassin's Auklet (Ptychoramphus aleuticus) 5 A small flock buzzing north well offshore.
Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) 32
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) 4 A little fly-by group at the base of the pier as I was heading out...first time I've had them here. Whoopie!
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) 15
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 2
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 1
House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) 1
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) 2

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