Sunday, January 19, 2014

habitat ~ 01/19/14 ~ Morro Bay State Park - Black Hill

January 19, 2014

This was purely a social visit, so we barely got out on a short section to Black Hill before the football games started.  The road access is located above the Morro Bay Golf Course, a San Luis Obispo County Parks on CA State Parks land.  Confused?  Yeah, me, too.  It looks like they've been cutting back on watering the greens, because there was quite a bit of yellow.  Good.  I think golf is a gross misuse of precious water for an exclusive recreation.

I love the 360° views from on top this volcanic peak and am sorry my uncle didn't join us.  Every visit I worry may be the last time I see him or my aunt, so I try to make the most of our time together.  Even though he still hikes like a mountain goat for short periods of time, he wasn't really aware of the trails here.  I'm not surprised, because for all the years I've been going to Morro Bay, too, it took Andy's wandering trail running ways to discover this little gem a few years back.  

It wasn't until I started Nature ID that I wanted to learn more about Morro Bay, which I discovered is actually part of the larger Estero Bay.  I appreciate the estuary more than ever now, but finding information online has been challenging, especially 5 years ago when I started this blog.  I don't know if google has customized my search properties and/or if the sites have just gotten better.  Two that I like are Morro Bay National Estuary Program and grad student Eric Mohler's Morro Bay Watershed site.

January 17-20, 2014

Oh, while we were there, this was going on.  Everywhere we went there were folks with good sun hats, binoculars, and cameras so big that I'm surprised they didn't walk all hunched over from the weight around their necks.  The festival was completely not on my radar, so I was not prepared.  Still, I'm not sure I would have participated anyways.  Every time I stopped an obvious birder to ask them what something was, they weren't very helpful or accurate.  Avid birders are a strange bunch.  Talk about another exclusive recreation, which reminds me of the topic of lack of minorities in birding. While I can't say I feel uncomfortable among affluent, retirement-aged, Caucasian nature folks, after all my uncle and aunt fit quite neatly in that category, I am aware I am "other" or the designated minority friend in most groups.  Hmm, maybe that's why I tend not to join things?  My favorite bird blogger is Steve of Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds.  He crushes birder stereotypes.

hairy woodpecker ~ 01/19/14 ~ Black Hill

 

Ta-da!  This has got to be one of the crappiest pics posted to Nature ID.  I digitally enhanced it as much as possible, too, which is something I rarely do.  Oh well, I think it's good enough to make a positive ID.  It's another new-to-me sp.

The first thing that caught our attention was the tree seemed to be dropping bits and pieces.  What the hey?  Turns out this woodpecker was pulling bits of bark off the tree trunk in between brief bouts of drilling.  Well, that's different.  Hey, where's the red head?  Usually, whenever I notice woodpeckers (rarely), they almost always have a red head, which I assume (probably inaccurately) are the clown-like acorn woodpeckers.  The last thing I noticed was that long white stripe.  Visually it didn't make sense to me that it was located in the middle of the back, because I kept wanting to believe it was on the edge of the wing, like with the sapsuckers.  It really confused me until I looked at my pictures and read up on an ID.  Turns out there's a smaller, cuter look-alike called the downy woodpecker (P. pubescens).  I liked the description on Cornell's site that said the larger hairy woodpecker has a "somewhat soldierly look".  True, true.  Oh, and that pulling bits of bark is to find tasty insects.  They're apparently pretty decent at pest management.  Btw, males do have a small patch of red on the back of the head.

Cool.  Slowly expanding my bird awareness...

spotted towhee ~ 01/19/14 ~ Black Hill


Considering I still have my bird books out, I might as well continue with the crappy bird photos... hop, hop, hop, nah, nah, nah, you can't get a good shot.  This is a new sp. to Nature ID.  Except for its shape, it looks nothing like the related California towhee.  I like this striking bird, which reminds me more of a bolder and more colorful dark-eyed "Oregon" junco.  What would be the evolutionary advantage of the dark executioner's hood that many birds seem to have?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cooper's hawk ~ 01/18/14 ~ Tidelands Park


I'd really like to be able to ID all the local hawks, but until I'm willing to carry around binoculars and/or a better, larger camera, my learning is slow going.  So, after much comparing of photos and finding this great Project FeederWatch page, I've concluded what I have here is a Cooper's hawk, not a sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus).  I focused on its capped (vs. hooded) head and tubular body shape.

Friday, January 17, 2014

sunrise ~ 01/17/14 ~ Monterey Harbor and Marina

Monterey Harbor & Marina
January 17, 2014

After giving Andy a ride to downtown early this morning, I did a quick stop at the Municipal Wharf.  This past week I noticed several fishing boats out on the water at night, and I was hoping to take pictures as they came in for the day.  I'm curious to know what they're catching.  They haven't used their big, bright squid lights, but by the full moon I can tell their boats are often surrounded by gulls.  I think I was too early today, as the fish market fellas were just arriving in their big trucks to prepare for loading and icing the catches.  In any case, I had the chance to watch the sunrise from a different perspective.  It was beautiful.  

As it happens in my blog reader, Shaina from Middle of Everywhere mentions the Belt of Venus.  Oho!  I never knew that pink glow that so often accompanies sunrises and sunsets has a name.  Cool!  I also want to mention that I've been seeing an awful lot of shooting stars (2-14 over the course of an hour and a half before sunrise) in the north skies since mid-December.  Has anyone else noticed this, too?

Monday, January 6, 2014

cedar waxwing ~ 01/06/14 ~ Casa del Oro Garden


I love the look of waxwings.  They'd make a great model for an avian masked comic-book hero.  I've been keeping my eye out for them this winter and have spotted them 4 times since November.  It appears this group likes to sun themselves on a couple tall sycamore trees along the Casa del Oro Garden.  If you weren't paying attention to their chattery flock calls, they'd be easy to miss from a distance because they look a lot like dried leaves that haven't fallen off the tree.  I had to laugh when an Historic Garden League volunteer grumpily pointed out how much their seedy poop makes a mess on the sidewalk below, especially since I was just thrilled to be lucky enough to see them.  The flock is easily frightened to flight even with a horn honk.  It was somehow reassuring to read from several sources that cedar waxwings look a lot like starlings in flight, because that was my first thought when I saw them flow around in the air as a group.  I'm going to keep my eye on nearby toyon and pyracantha shrubs in the coming months.  The berries are plump and red but still untouched.  Maybe they're not ripe enough for the waxwings?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

habitat ~ 01/02/14 ~ Wilder Ranch State Park

January 2, 2014

Like I said in a recent backdated post for Jacks Peak, it feels as if someone pushed the pause button on the seasons.  I can't tell much of difference between the last picture above and the last picture taken July 24, 2013 at Wilder.  Well, okay, some of the foreground green coyote brush now has fluffy seeds, and the drab, dried grass is slightly more trampled.  Under the trees, it's a different story, where everything feels pinched compared to the expansive greenery from the summer (yes, the first photo above and the 3rd photo from July are from almost the exact same spot on the trail). Despite all the hand-wringing going on for our record lack of rain in 2013, we've been making our best efforts to get outside as much as possible to enjoy the pleasant weather.  Both my friend and I were wearing sleeveless shirts, and Andy came across a naked, napping hiker.  Sunny.  Warm.  January.  California.