Friday, February 29, 2008

South of San Felipe, Baja, Mexico

The wildflowers are in bloom on the desert floor. There are dense areas of sand verbena, and desert evening primrose. Depending on where one looks, there are poppies,lupine, popcorn flower, and brown eyed primrose spreading out like a gently waving carpet. The great blue herons are nest building on the cardon cactus, but I don't think there are eggs or chicks yet.

The sea of Cortez was still yesterday. There was almost no wind. It was a perfect day to kayak. We saw jellies, and were greeted by two sea lions surfacing around us.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ruffled Feathers at Bolsa Chica

These snowy egrets are having a bad plume day as the wind blows their feathers around. Snowy egrets are easily confused with cattle egrets, but the snowys have "golden slippers". Their feet are bright yellow, and their beaks are black. Cattle egrets have yellow beaks.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Flowers and Others on the Bolsa Chica Mesa

It was a beautiful morning out at Bolsa Chica, although now it is windy, cold, and rainy.The coast sunflower is in full bloom
Red Monkey Flower
Bladderpod with a pollinatorWhy the plant is called "Bladderpod"
I just can't resist photographing this male Anna's hummingbird

Friday, February 22, 2008


We have had a few cloudy and rainy days here lately. While this is great for our native plants, and will help produce what I hope will be a great wildflower season in the deserts later this spring, it does not make for great conditions for photography. Last year here in Southern California we only received around 3 inches of rain during our rainy season which is from November to April. Our native plants have a whole host of stratiges to survive our dry season which typically lasts from May to November. One of them is to go dormant. In the summer our hills turn brown, and the plant look dead, but many are just resting and waiting out the dry season. Our plants suffered during the year of little rain, and many of them never broke dormancy during the winter.This photo was taken in March of last year. The plants you see to the left should have been in full bloom, but with no rain they couldn't make enough food to produce flowers so they continued to rest through the spring. If it stops raining soon, I will go out today and take a photo in the same spot so you can see the difference a normal amount of rainfall can make.

Because of the rain showers this year, the plants on the Bolsa Chica mesa have broken dormancy, are greening up, and many are in flower. The coast sunflower Encelia has burst into bloom making the mesa point brilliant yellow. Bladderpod, monkey flower and buckwheat are also blooming.
Birding in a sea of blooming coast sunflower on the Bolsa Chica Mesa.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lunar Eclipse

A total eclipse of the moon occurred tonight between 5:43 and 9:09 PM pacific time. Total lunar eclipses happen when the Earth's shadow is cast on the moon. To read more about why eclipses happen take a look at NASA's site about this eclipse During a total eclipse the moon can take on a variety of colors including red and brown
The full moon almost completely revealed now.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

One More Hummingbird

Here's a photo of a female Anna's hummingbird. You can see she has some of the structural color on her body where she glistens a beautiful green. However, she is no where near as colorful as the male. This is not uncommon in the bird world. In species where the male provides no parental care he is usually brighter than the female. In species where both sexes raise the young there is typically little difference in the appearance of the male and female birds. This photo was also taken at Bolsa Chica yesterday.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Hummingbird color

If you were a female hummingbird would you say no to this gorgeous male? I think not.

Birds use pigments such as melanins, (also present in human skin) to produce blacks, browns, and yellows, in their skin and feathers, but the iridescent color of this male hummingbird is produced in a different way.

The structure of the feather itself is responsible for this brillent red/pink color found on the head, and throat of the male Anna’s humming bird. For this reason this type of color is refered to as “structural color.”
Look at his tiny feet! Hummingbirds are in family Apodidae which literally means no feet.

The iridescence in the feathers is caused by light refracting off the feathers. The feathers act like a prism. They split the light into different colors. Look at the pictures below, at some angles no light is reflected back to one’s eye so the bird’s head looks black. However when he turns his head…wow…amazing shimmering color seems to burst from his head. It's hard to believe this is the same bird, but all these photos were taken today at Bolsa Chica within a few seconds of each other.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Brown Pelican May Come off Endangered Species List

The Department of Interior is considering removing brown pelican from endangered species list.Brown pelicans were placed on the endangered species list about 40 years ago because their population crashed due to DDT poisoning. DDT is metabolized in birds into a compound known as DDE. DDT and DDE are fat-soluble and large amounts would be deposited in eggs, and the fatty tissues of the birds.

Pelicans and other birds like the bald eagle, and peregrine falcon are at, or near the top of their food webs. DDT, because it is fat soluble, and is stored in the fat of animals “bio magnifies” as it moves up the food chain. In other words as these birds near the top of the food chain consume their prey they also consume the DDT stored in the fatty tissues of their prey. Their prey in turn store the DDT consumed in their food. DDT caused the eggshells of these birds to become so thin that when the adults sat on the eggs to incubate them, the eggs were crushed. Brown pelicans in California nest on the channel islands, including Anacapa and Santa Barbara. Despite thousands of birds laying eggs, in some years no chicks at all survived.

In 1972 DDT was banned in the US. Since then there has been a gradual recovery in the numbers of pelicans and peregrine falcons. The peregrine was removed from the endangered species list in 1999. The bald eagles, which used to nest on Catalina have not done as well. There are still high concentrations of DDT in some fish and birds in this area due to the massive dumping of wastes full of DDT into the waters off San Pedro by the Montrose Chemical Company.
There are estimates of as many as 600,000 brown pelicans through out the US currently. The birds also are found off the Gulf Coast and nest on low-lying islands off the coast of Louisiana. However, these islands are vulnerable to damage from coastal storms, and inundation due to the rise in sea level.

During the winter and spring brown pelicans can commonly be seen at Bolsa Chica here in Huntington Beach.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday at Bolsa Chica

It was a warm and sunny morning at Bolsa Chica today. The highlight of my walk was seeing this peregrine in the trees on the mesa near where the great blue herons are beginning to nest. A few days ago I found the remains of a green winged teal on the path around the wetlands. It was probably this bird that ate the teal. Another common name for peregrines is "duck hawk" because they prefer to catch and eat birds the size of ducks and other shorebirds. One afternoon I was walking below the mesa near the pocket wetlands when I looked up because a shower of feathers was raining down. There was a peregrine in the tree above me tearing apart what might have been an American wigeon.I have also seen a peregrine eating a black necked stilt at Bolsa Chica.
This is a male and female green winged teal. They are small dabbling ducks that filter mud for algae and small invertebrates. Ducks like these teal are light enough that they can burst into the air from a stationary position, unlike heavier ducks which run along on the water prior to take off.
Remains on the footpath.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Old Faithful Geyser LIVE!

Yellowstone National Park has just added a live feed streaming video web cam of Old Faithful and a few other geysers in the immediate area of Old Faithful. You can go to the web page by clicking here