American Kestrel in flight

This is a treat! I was browsing photos from my son’s spring passing league football game from the photographer who volunteers to take sideline shots. In between the various sweaty teenage boys were these two shots of my most favorite bird ever!

The American Kestrel is the bird that first caught my eye and got me studying first these little powerhouse birds of prey, but then all the other lovely feathered beauties. The Kestrel is not only an awesome hunting falcon, but it is truly one of the more gorgeous birds you will see.

Thank you Anna Scipione for spotting this beauty and pausing to take a couple of magnificent shots of him!

The slate blue on the top of the head means this is a male kestrel

So sleek and gorgeous! He’s only about a foot long from beak to tail tip.

 

 

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San Diego River run

My older son has classes this summer on Thursdays from 5-7 over near the river so I decided to take advantage and go for a 4.5 mile run/walk. I had to stay focused on the running for 3 miles before allowing myself to look for birds. Right at that 3 mile mark, a Little Blue Heron showed up at the waters edge. Further down near my car was a Great Blue Heron to provide some size contrast. Photos were taken with my iPhone using it’s minimal zoom so they are fuzzy:

Little Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Bluebird of happiness

Or, at least, bluebird of good luck for the Freshmen Baseball team today:

 

Western Bluebird in the Eucalyptus trees

Yes, it’s small, but those suckers are FAST! They are flycatchers after all. I spotted it hunting bugs above my head and when it settled I pretty much just pointed my camera up the air in the general direction of the tree branches and went for it 🙂

It’s been a fun week for nature – spring must really be approaching despite all the rain. This week during our lunch time walks out on the utility road portion of the Torrey Pines reserve, my coworkers and I saw a roadrunner – now that’s kind of rare! I knew they are up there, but I don’t see them very often and it’s been a few years at least. This one – true to his name, ran across the road and then alongside it for a bit up ahead of us. Naturally, I don’t have my camera with me on our walks so you’ll have to settle for this picture I snagged off google:

Then, we had some drama. Snakes! One day someone thought she was stepping over a stick and then it moved (yipes!). She jumped a few feet in the air naturally. Then Friday we saw one slithering back into it’s hole and it was BIG! At least 6 feet long and pretty thick. Also, very very pretty and NOT a rattlesnake. We figured out later that it was a Southern California variety of King Snake. This is a pretty good likeness:

Clearly I need to carry my phone or bring my camera with me on the walks!!

Birding at work

I’ve not had the time to pull off a full hike on the trails this month, however, I think it is consistent for me to mention some of the birds I’ve seen at my work site. After all, it is directly across the street from the southern entrance to the reserve 🙂 As such, other than the shore birds, almost every other bird I see on the trails can be found there. The property spans several acres behind the two large office buildings. The back area consists of east facing canyons dropping into the southern end of Sorrento Valley and the edge of the Penasquitos lagoon waterway. Behind the southern building is a beautifully landscaped garden/lawn/pool & tennis court area and beyond that is a helipad! Since the company does not actually own a helicopter, that pad has become a place for people to take a nice outdoor break. A bench was put out there and I love to walk down the hill and sit there for a few minutes to remind myself (given my windowless, underground basement cubicle) that there is life outside! As a birder, it’s glorious. The lushly landscaped part of the campus provides a great oasis for the native birds. Plus, being surrounded as we are by so much natural landscape, the birds are there in abundance. I cannot step outside without immediately hearing some bird call that gets my attention. Just this week one of this little beauties dropped right onto the ground into a planter next to my car as I was pulling out to head home:

Dark Eyed (Oregon) Junco

Regular visitors to the property (though I have not yet seen any this year) and also to the reserve & even my neighborhood some times are these colorful aerialists:

Western Bluebird

Then there was the time that my birder personality overtook my professional identity and while I was talking to my supervisor who has an office upstairs with floor to ceiling windows that overlook the back scrub oak hillside, I saw a flash of red. That’s not a common color to see in the area. Yellow, always. Blue (as seen above & also with the pretty common Scrub Jay), yes. But red? Oh, I had to break concentration and focus on that! And I’m was glad I did as I was able to identify a new Life Bird for me and watch it flit amongst the branches for several minutes. My supervisor even got into it since it was such a lovely flash of color:

Painted Redstart

(none of these are my photos as I obviously cannot walk around at work with a camera ready to snap my feathered friends)

It’s probably a darn good thing I don’t have a window office. I’m afraid I would get NOTHING done except on rainy days!

May 29th, 2010

The sun was out when I woke up at 7:30 so I knew the weather had finally turned and it would be clear and possibly warm on the trails. Thankfully it was not that warm, but yes it was gorgeous. Not a cloud in the sky. Impossibly blue water and just a gentle breeze. I’ve noticed the larger yellow flowers (daisy & sunflower families) are waning, but the small concentrations of whites, yellows, pinks, reds & purples are still going strong. We had a very high rainfall season this year so I expect the color to remain longer than usual. I know I’m seeing a lot more floral coverage across all the trails than normal. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts.

I arrive at 9:30 and this time kind of reversed what we did last weekend. I ran down the hill all the way to the beach and that was my work out portion (no way I am in shape enough to run UP yet!). That’s 1.5 miles which for me is unheard of while jogging. So, woohoo! I cooled down on the sand and took out the camera. I immediately heard the cries of a peregrine falcon. Right there over the parking lot and life guard tower a pair were chasing each other, but quite high up in the very bright sky and into the sunlight. So, no pictures but a lively 3 minutes of aerial acrobatics until they settled in separate perches very high up the cliff face.

The tide was high so there was less sand to walk on as I headed north to flat rock along the beach and then back up the trails from there. I veered back south heading up and then branched out to the new and improved Razor Point lookout. It’s been so long since I took that trail off of the beach trail that I forgot how long it was! I did spend a little time sitting on the new stone bench and helping some tourists take photos together, but then I picked up the pace heading back out to the bathrooms and then fast walked up to the car. It was easily a 5 mile day at the end with that detour and 2 hours long.

Making progress for sure! When I started these Sat am jog/hikes I would be VERY sore the next couple of days due to the running. Hips, knees, shins would all be barking. No longer!

After the Peregrine sighting, it was actually a pretty decent day for taking photos of birds. I am really not equipped for that in general and have to get very lucky and have the birds pose out in the open for me. A few of them actually did!

Last thought – I really should mention the scents out there. I have a pretty heightened sense of smell for some reason and one of the things that always strikes me there is how it smells. At certain points the dominant smell is the ocean/salt water. At other points in the pine scent from the Torrey Pines. But underneath at all times is the sweet smell of sage. On the main cement covered path that ends up going past the golf course, the sage is *intense*. The formal name for the terrain is Coastal Sage Scrub. A not quite desert blend of plants which can thrive on low water & sand/clay soil. It is quite fragrant!

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Peregrine Falcon

Western Gull

Snowy Egret

California Thrasher

Western Towhee

Annas Hummingbird

Common Raven

Bushtit

Western Scrub Jay

May 15, 2010

This was a monster hike today. Spent the first hour jogging from work to the southern entrance to the Flat Rock trail, stopping just a couple of times because of one unusual flower, then jogged back up the northern trail to the bathrooms. Well, jogged/walked I should say as my heart rate got pretty high about half way back up! At the top of that trail I made my first extended stop to listen to the bird song & try and spot some of them. The quails got my attention vocally but never made an appearance. Next I jogged down to the Guy Fleming trail. Total higher heart rate fitness was probably 45-60 mins. On Guy Fleming I purposefully slowed down to record & listen. There is a water spot there & I finally caught a nice glimpse of a wrentit. The trail was just too populated with non birding humans though 🙂 Lots of strollers and even a couple who carried a damn radio with them! WTF? I don’t wanna hear music fools – the trails provide their own!! I realized if I really wanted to hear and see anything I would have to go on Parry Grove since that trail is pretty daunting physically and the more casual hikers would avoid it. I was right – Parry Grove was heavenly. It did mean some more high heart rate fitness time coming back up – but that was 50% of my goal so no problemo. Slide show is below along with a list of birds seen/heard.

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Birds positively identified by sight & sound:

Orange Crowned Warbler

Scrub Jay

California Towhee (They were all over the place. VERY active today)

Wrentit – very vocal. Saw one bathing in the water spout at Guy Fleming.

Anna’s Hummingbird – not as many as I anticipated though!

Bushtits

Bewick’s Wren

Brown Pelican – saw these from above of course, diving into the sea, but oddly did hear them too! Their voices carried up the cliff walls.

Common Raven

Birds identified by sound only:

California Quail

Ruby Crowned Kinglet

Song Sparrow

California Thrasher

Eastern (formerly Rufous Sided) Towhee

Bell’s Vireo

There was probably more, but it really was hard to pick them out as it was pretty darn noisy out there today – not just the humans! I was out between 9:45-12:15 and it was in the low 60s and cloudy (though not foggy) which I think brought them out. Plus it is nesting season so there are most likely babies to feed. Good time for foraging parents I guess. It is really hard to use those trails primarily for fitness. Even with just my iphone I cannot help stopping to take pictures or to listen more intently at the bird calls. OTOH having started off at work and pretty much hitting every step of possible trail – I did job/run/walk over at least 5 miles. Not a bad start to a Saturday 🙂