Clark’s Grebe Vs.Western Grebe, It’s All In The Eyes…

Clark’s Grebe Vs.Western Grebe, It’s All In The Eyes…

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Clark’s Grebe

The photos above and below are of Grebes that were once thought of as the same species. Up until the 1980s, the Clark’s Grebe was considered a “white morph” or a paler version of the Western Grebe. After some closer study of the two species, they were found to be definitely two different species. 

The major difference between these birds is around the eye. Can you see the eye or is it hidden by the black or dark gray? The Clark’s Grebe has a red eye that is surrounded by white, the black or gray area stops above the eye, while the Western Grebe has red eyes surrounded by black or gray that stops under the eye!

If you are out west and you come across one of these grebes and you are just not quite sure which one it is, since in winter the gray on the western grebes can become much lighter and make identification difficult, take a close look at their bills. The Clark’s Grebe has a bright yellow dagger-like bill while the Western Grebe’s bill is darker, somewhat olive-green or grayish. So look closely and you should be able to identify just which species you are looking at. 

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Western Grebe

These birds can be found in North America from British Columbia all the way south into Mexico. They can be found on lakes or in wetlands, I’ve often seen them in the ocean just offshore the California coast.

They prefer to eat fish, but can be opportunist when it comes to the food they eat, and have been know to eat insects, worms, crustaceans and salamanders. Usually they will dive down into the water to forage for small fish.

So don’t panic if you see one of these grebes out west, just take some photos, take some field notes. If you can’t identify the species right there, then go home and do some “homework,” study your photos closely and you should be able to identify. 

Have fun and happy birding!

There Are Only 3 Phalarope Species And I Saw All In One Day In Central California!

There Are Only 3 Phalarope Species And I Saw All In One Day In Central California!

There are only 3 species of Phalarope and I saw them one day at the Santa Clara River Estuary in Ventura, California.  It was the first time that I ever saw any of the Phalarope species up close, I was very excited that I was able to watch them foraging for food. These birds are rather small, ranging from 7 to 9 inches, they remind me of sandpipers and yet they don’t…

 

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Red-necked Phalarope 

You can find this delicate beauty migrating both on the ocean and through the interior West. They can form flocks of thousands on ponds and salt lakes. I saw a few hundred one day while I was at the estuary! It picks plankton from the water after swimming lightly around and spinning (probably stirring up the plankton)… Breeds in Alaska and North Canada.

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Red Phalarope 

This one is the most pelagic of shorebirds, when they are not at the tundra breeding grounds they are almost always on the open water! Occasionally you will find them coming to shore and even rarely seen inland due to storms. They will forage by picking plankton from the surface. Breeds in Alaska and North Canada.

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Wilson’s Phalarope 

This tall phalarope is not pelagic, it is better suited for wading than swimming. They breed in marshy potholes from Southwest Canada south to central California, Great Lakes Region and Great Plains. Mostly they will winter in South America. They will visit estuaries and freshwater habitats to forage.

5 Hummingbirds I Saw In Tucson, Arizona

5 Hummingbirds I Saw In Tucson, Arizona

If you are ever in the Tucson, Arizona area, you really must get over to the Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds! They have multiple hummingbird feeders set up with a seating area for viewing. There is a webcam set up for viewing the hummingbirds online if you can’t get there. I saw a few lifers the day I went there, it certainly is a place that attracts various species of hummingbirds! There are also feeders for other bird species as well as a few water features, so be prepared to see plenty of other birds besides the hummingbirds. I ended up seeing several different species of hummingbirds as well as a few Lesser Goldfinches, a Gila Woodpecker, Black-headed Grosbeak and a Gambel’s Quail.

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Black-chinned Hummingbird

It was fun to just sit and watch the hummingbirds buzzing around they yard going from one feeder to the next, some playing nice in the sandbox, while others not so much… 

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Magnificent Hummingbird

I’m not sure just which hummingbird is with the Magnificent at the feeder, but take note of the size difference! The Magnificent is a very big hummingbird!

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Broad-billed Hummingbird

I found this one to be very colorful, and I actually think that it should have been given a different name, perhaps one based on its wonderful colors and not based on the fact that it has a broad bill!

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Anna’s Hummingbird

I love to watch the hummingbirds hover in the air, it’s amazing! This one was coming in for a drink.

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Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Oooohhhh! Such a beautiful bird! The colors are so brilliant! If you ever get a chance to see this bird, you’ll know what I mean. The blue is just so vibrant, you just sit there in awe of the sight! I consider myself very lucky to have seen so many wonderful hummingbirds the day I visited the Paton’s Center. Make sure to look them up online to see what birds are at the feeders today.

8 Birds I Found While Birding At Ventura Settling Ponds In Ventura, California

8 Birds I Found While Birding At Ventura Settling Ponds In Ventura, California

Another great place to go if you are ever in Southern California would be the Ventura Settling Ponds, in Ventura. They are actually the water treatment plant wildlife ponds and birders are welcome! With varied habitats such as, ponds, coastal dunes, willows and reeds, there are always plenty of birds to see!

 

 

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Allen’s Hummingbird

I saw this Hummingbird buzzing around my head as I walked along the dirt pathway. She then stopped to take a rest and that is when I was able to get a good look at her.

 

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Pied-billed Grebe

I spotted several Pied-billed Grebes foraging in the ponds, I even saw a young one diving in the water. After walking along the path, I came to the last pond and found this one sitting on its nest, unfortunately it was so grown up along the ponds edge that I couldn’t get the best photo.

 

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Pacific-slope Flycatcher

I saw this cutie flying around the reeds and grasses on the edge of the ponds. This flycatcher eats mostly insects and will catch them by watching from a perch then flying out and catching its prey in midair. These birds can be found along the Pacific coasts from Canada down through Mexico.

 

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Cliff Swallow

OMG! So as I was walking along the path around the first pond, all of the sudden these birds were darting around me! Flying high, low, weaving around my head and the trees and bushes nearby. I don’t know if it was a nesting area, it probably was, but they definitely were extremely active! They will constantly be vocal with their squeaky twittering and chattering…

 

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American White Pelican

This bird was floating all alone in one of the ponds. They are one of the largest birds in North America, their wingspan can be up to 9 feet across! Unlike the similar Brown Pelican, the American White Pelican does not dive from the air for fish. It will forage in shallow lakes for mostly fish.

 

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Black-crowned Night Heron

There is one pond off to the side, kinda away from the other ponds, that is where I found this Heron. These birds spend most of the day hunched on branches at the water’s edge, just like this one. In the evening and at dusk they will do most of their feeding. I didn’t stay watching this one too long, since it was close to the path and I didn’t want to disturb it.

 

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Great Blue Heron

This one was on the side of the pond preening itself. There actually was several Great Blue Herons scattered around in one big tree on an island in the middle of one of the ponds. They were fun to watch and far enough away that they were not disturbed by my presence.

 

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American Coot

I found several  of these birds swimming around the ponds. The American Coot does not have webbed feet, they resemble a chicken more than a duck. It was estimated that in Back Bay, Virginia, USA, the local coot population ate 216 tons of vegetation per winter! That’s a lot of food!!!

This Black Oystercatcher Is Foraging For Food In Play Del Rey, California

This Black Oystercatcher Is Foraging For Food In Play Del Rey, California

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Black Oystercatcher

In Playa Del Rey, California I usually go out to the jetty and look down around the rocks especially at low tide to find these birds. They will tend to rest at high tide and forage mostly near low tide, so they can easily get food.

Their diet consists mostly of mussels, limpets and other shellfish. Occasionally will eat whelks, urchins, and crabs. When they eat a mussel, they will remove the mussel from its shell and leave the shell in place still in the mussel beds. The Oyestercatcher will either quickly jab its bill into a slightly open mussel shell cutting the muscle, then eating the contents. The other way they eat muscles, is to hammer on the shell with their bill until it breaks open.

They can be found all seasons along rock shorelines from Alaska to Baja. Will choose areas with abundant shellfish, not many can be found along the coast of Southern California since the shoreline is very sandy.

 

I found This Brant At Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Huntington Beach, California,

I found This Brant At Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Huntington Beach, California,

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Brant

A rather small member of the Goose family, they breed in the high Arctic tundra. Winters along both coasts. 

When they migrate, they fly across great areas of land or open ocean, flying at altitudes several thousand feet high!

The Brants that visit the Pacific Coast have black bellies, while the ones along the Atlantic Coast have gray bellies and at one time they were considered separate species, but not anymore. Often you can find differences in the coloring of the same species in various parts of the world.

Top 10 Califronia Hotspots For Birding

Top 10 Califronia Hotspots For Birding

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California is fantastic for birding! There is such a variety of habitats, including the highest peak in the continental US, the Mojave Desert, redwood forests, inland marshes and 840 miles of coastline! Over 660 bird species have been recorded in California, more than any other state. Two bird species can be found only in California, the Yellow-billed Magpie and the Island Scrub-Jay. Below is a list of a few birding hotspots in California, you can click on the hotspot name to link to their site:

Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary

Birders have found more than 300 species of birds here! Located in the town of Arcata, in Northern California, they have an intepretive center along with great walking trails for birders. The best seasons to bird here is from the fall through the spring.

Point Reyes National Seashore

Here you’ll find many roads and trails to take throughout the park. Over 400 species have been recorded here! There is a variety of land habitats as well as the seashore here, so make sure to look for both land birds and shorebirds. Make sure to stop in at the visitor center to see which trails they suggest to take for the birds you are looking to see.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area / Marin Headlands

Here there are lookout points along the trails which are great for birding. There are over 270 species reported here! Located in San Francisco in northern California. Not only will you find plenty of land birds, but keep an eye out for seabirds as well since you will be birding close to the shore.

Mono Lake

Located in eastern California the lake is salty and it is a critical stopover for migrant birds. There are more than 230 species recorded here! Besides the migrant birds stopping over you may see many other species breeding in the area. California Gulls can be found nesting here in the tens of thousands! 

Devereux Slough

The Devereux Slough is located in Santa Barbara in central California. It is a tidal estuary with the water levels fluctuating enough that it is great for various types of shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl. There are over 280 species recorded here! The best seasons to bird here is from late summer through winter.

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Down near Huntington Beach just off of the Pacific Coast Highway, Bolsa Chica is one of my favorites! There are mudflats, dunes, freshwater and saltwater marshes. Most of the year you will find over 25 species of ducks, plenty of shorebirds, egrets and herons. I usually find several other birders there each time I go and everyone is willing to share information about the birds they’ve seen. You will also see plenty of photographers, it is a perfect location for them to get great photos since the birds are used to people. There is a long loop trail, but just note that the parking lot is the only area with a toilet, so keep that in mind when you are drinking all that water along the hot open trail! 

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

I’ve spent many hours in this 300 acre sanctuary. Located in Irvine, CA, there are over 300 bird species recorded here! Make sure to stop in at the Audubon House office to get a map,  it’s a big area. The ponds here are used to for cleaning the water before it ends up in the Pacific Ocean, they are part of the city’s water-treatment facility, and the birds love them!

Cabrillo National Monument

Located in San Diego, Southern California, Carrillo has a lot of scrub brush with a few trees and is a great place to look for migrant birds in the fall. The migrant birds find this area to be a good place to stop over and feed/rest before heading onward… Over 220 species have been recorded here! As well as the migrants stopping over you will find many resident birds love this area too.

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve

Just north of Palm Springs, the preserve lies in the foothills of the Little San Bernadino Mountains. There are over 8 miles of trails to explore here, which include both marshy and desert areas. Over 220 species have been recorded here! Often you can find a local volunteer leading a nature/bird walk, so make sure to walk along and learn more about the area and the birds that you might see.

Salton Sea

Roughly 30 miles north of Mexico in Southern California lies the Salton Sea. It is the largest lake in California. Being such a large lake, it attracts many migrant birds. There is a visitor center at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge at the southern end of the lake, a great place to start your birding. They will be able to give you birding advice as well as a much needed map!  In the summer this is probably the only place that you can find the Yellow-footed Gull. Over 38 species of shorebirds, 20 species of jaegers and gulls as well as ten species of terns have all been recorded here! 

The Greater Roadrunner Can Be Found In The Southwest USA States

The Greater Roadrunner Can Be Found In The Southwest USA States

Greater Roadrunner

They can run 15 miles per hour and sometimes even faster if they are chasing down lizards or other prey! Often seen walking or running on the ground, they only fly when necessary. They have been know to mate for life… It has been said that they a great rattlesnake fighters, but that’s a bit exaggerated, though they do like a variety of smaller creatures!

This Cinnamon Teal Was Taking A Swim in A California Pond

This Cinnamon Teal Was Taking A Swim in A California Pond

Cinnamon Teal

These teals are mostly seen alone or in pairs, never in large groups. They feed by skimming the water for aquatic vegetation. This is a male he is bright chestnut, the female is mottled brown overall. If her young are in danger she may act like she has a broken wing to distract attention away from them and to herself. What a smart mother she is!