Thursday, June 25, 2009

long-billed curlew ~ 06/25/09 ~ Morro Strand Beach

long-billed curlew
Numenius americanus

I was impressed by how many different groups of birds we saw on Morro Strand during a short walk. The main group of curlews were behind the snowy plover roped section of beach.

western snowy plover ~ 06/25/09 ~ Morro Strand Beach

western snowy plover
Charadrius alexandrinus

I'll admit that I haven't paid much attention to the Western snowy plover and its threatened plight. If it weren't for the signs, roped off sections of the beach, and square fencing around several nests we may not have stopped to look. They're cute little birds and awfully quick (read: hard for me to take a good picture). They lower their heads and run around the beach at great speeds. We imagined they were catching flies as they zoomed around.

Many dogs are not allowed on local beaches here in Monterey Bay because of the desire to protect the snowy plover. While this raises the hackles of many dog owners, I think it's a good policy in general. I've had some very bad experiences with dogs at Carmel Beach where they are allowed. There are a few discourteous dog owners who ruin a good thing for everyone.

sand dollar ~ 06/25/09 ~ Morro Strand Beach

sand dollar

Morro Bay is about 150 miles southeast of Monterey Bay and the beaches are not the same. Morro Strand State Beach is a very nice, long and wide walking beach with different kinds of tide pools than found along Sunset and Ocean View in Pacific Grove. We noticed many sand dollars, as well as birds of all types and sand crab bodies. One little girl we saw had collected a whole bucket full of sand dollars, from grey to white to beautiful orange.

great and snowy egrets ~ 06/25/09 ~ Morro Strand Beach

great egret
Ardea alba

snowy egret
Egretta thula

It was unexpected to see the 2 types of "egrets" side-by-side hunting in the water in such numbers. If I didn't know better, I would have thought the larger ones were the adults and the smaller ones were its young. Love the yellow feet of the snowy egret.

western gull ~ 06/25/09 ~ Morro Strand Beach

western gull
Larus occidentalis

I generally don't take pictures of the animals or plants that are so common in the area that I usually fail to notice them anymore. However, this gull caught my attention with its behavior. It was stamping the sand and feeding on whatever was coming up in the water-soaked sand. Fascinating! I likened it to the use of tools by some birds to get insects from holes in trees.

turkey vulture ~ 06/25/09 ~ Morro Strand Beach

In Ohio, I used to call these turkey buzzards, until someone told me buzzard was a misnomer, similarly to how American buffalo are really bison. Common names are fraught with inaccuracies, but sure are easier to remember than scientific names.

We first noticed this group on the hill and watched several fly down to the beach.

This was the first time I witnessed a group of turkey vultures feeding. Their behavior was fascinating to observe: one would feed while several others seemed stationed to keep a lookout. I couldn't help but think of broad-shouldered henchmen. I believe they were feeding on a sea lion carcass.

Oh, how many times have we seen turkey vultures in the distance soaring on great wings and hoped they were California condors?

jellyfish ~ 06/25/09 ~ Morro Strand Beach


This was a particularly large jellyfish. I liked how we could see the color and tentacles. Here up north on the Monterey beaches, we usually see gelatinous blobs without any definition which I think are moon jellies.

cottonwood ~ 06/25/09 ~ San Luis Obispo

Populous sp.

Does anyone know what kind of tree this is? We were walking along a San Luis Obispo neighborhood street after the farmer's market and found this tree. If the lighting wasn't so low, I'd have better pics.

ps 05/02/10 - I discovered this blog entry by Matthew Wills this morning. I wonder if the cottony stuff was created by galls and wasps???

pss 05/09/10 - I had this titled as an unknown tree with cottony seeds. Well, it helps to have a new ID book. Doh! I know I've mentioned several times that I have this odd brain block around trees. I'm sure the more I say it the more it becomes true. Erg. Yep, I've seen the cottony stuff floating around in little, itsy pieces, like fluffy fairies on the wind, especially at Garland Ranch in April. I have never actually seen it still attached to the tree. LOL!