Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Low Tide Birding

Anna's Hummingbird
Today we headed down the coast to the Living Coast Discovery Center, an educational facility connected with Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge on San Diego Bay. We wandered around for a while waiting for it to open, and found this little Hummingbird. What kind do you think it is? The dark throat is most obvious, so you might think Black-chinned.
But remember, color isn't part of the feathers for Hummers, but depends on how the light hits it for reflection. When he turned, the red (sometimes purpleish) throat and crown became apparent. He wasn't looking for nectar this morning, although flowers bloomed all around, but ate the gnats swarming above.
Northern Harrier Male
The Northern Harrier, aka "Marsh Hawk," glides low over marsh or grassland, holding its wings in a dihedral "v" shape, while flashing his white rump. He looks like a combination of owl and hawk, with a facial disc that allows him to hunt with hearing just like an owl. Since they glide fast and low, it can be a real challenge to focus before it disappears over the horizon.
American Kestrel Female
Is it another Harrier? No, this hovering bird is an American Kestrel female. Several Ospreys circled the bay too, making this a hat trick day for raptors!
Reddish Egret
When I go west, somehow I always expect to see all entirely new birds, and am surprised to find many that I already know. We normally see this Reddish Egret in Florida or along the Gulf. The field guide says they are "rare" in southern California, but the birds don't read the book.
Black-necked Stilt
When the tide goes out, the Mudflat Diner opens for business. Long billed birds with legs of all sizes wade in the shallow water looking for delicacies to eat. These Stilts have the funniest bright pink legs! As always, I have trouble identifying the brown sandpipers that all look the same to be. Maybe someone at the festival can give me some hints to tell them apart.
Brant Geese and American Wigeon in Bay
Green-winged Teal dabbling in shallows
Say's Phoebe

Song Sparrow
Tomorrow the Birding Festival begins, and we'll be getting up at 5 am to be there on time for the first trip! At least it isn't snowing here like it is in Louisville.

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