Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Blog

Hey all,

I'm moving the blog to my new website: Avian Explorer.  Blogspot is a great host, but this new website has more functionality.  So, please update your bookmarks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


If you look carefully in the trees in California, you can usually see a tiny blur of feathers in the leaves and needles.


I remember the first time that I came to California, I was staring at a palm tree watching tiny birds dart in between the leaves. I bet you anything that I was looking at bushtits.

Bushtits are 4 1/2 inches long.  But look at that tail!  There's probably only two inches of an actual bird.


They move so quickly, it's hard to get a good shot without blurred feathers.  Although, hey, I like blurred feathers!


Bushtits eat insects and seeds.


It's hard to tell in many of these pictures, the coastal bushtits have brown caps.


This is the most adorable bird expression ever.


The female bushtits have yellow eyes.


They travel in roving packs.  Can you imagine roving packs of bushtits?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Red-Tailed Hawk

Have you ever been close to getting the perfect picture?

I saw this red tailed hawk and I had about five seconds to get a decent shot.

It’s a beautiful image, but without having the bottom part of his wings, I can’t help but cringe every time I see the photo.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Have you ever visited Etsy?  It's the best website for crafts.  I did a search of "cockatiels" on Etsy and came across a seller that makes crochet cockatiels.  Sweees sells patterns for normal cockatiels and makes the toys upon request.  I asked Sweees if it would be possible to personalize the pattern for Audrey and Conner.  And yes!  Here's the toy of Conner:

Conner is still terrified of the toy, so I can't show you a picture with them in the same frame.  It took days before I could even keep the toy in the same room as Conner.  But look at the similarity!

Here's a side view.

And a side view of Conner.

Sweees has some skills, huh?

Audrey is not scared of his toy.  On the first night, he even snuggled up next to it, although now he treats it like part of the scenery.

The back is amazing!

This is the toy's permanent position.  They look so similar!

I'm so impressed by someone that can crochet with such precision.  A few years ago, I crocheted a scarf for Jon and I couldn't even make the sides straight.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Black-Bellied Plover

The ocean is filled with food for many kinds of birds.

The most dedicated birders will get up before dawn to see birds feeding at low tide.  I still value sleep more than birding.  But I lucked out yesterday, because the birds were feeding at the more reasonable time of 1 PM.  I got to see a Black-Bellied Plover.

These guys have a very diverse diet.  Although they eat the typical crustaceans and mollusks, they also eat insects and berries.

I saw only one Black-Bellied Plover yesterday, but he let me take many pictures.  He was very cautious, looking up every few seconds.  But he never retreated, and let me get within four feet.

How is this for camouflage?

The Black-Bellied Plovers are different from the American Golden-Plovers, which don't have any golden color in their non-breeding plumage.  Further, the Pacific Golden-Plovers has what looks like flecks of gold.

This was my favorite picture because his posture reminds me of a ballet dancer.

The plover is a medium-sized bird.  Here in the background, you can see a sandpiper, which is a much smaller bird, perhaps about the size of your palm.

It's hard to imagine, but the Black-Bellied Plover's breeding plumage is all black in front.  The pictures below were taken last August.  They're most likely Black-Bellied Plovers in an intermediate stage between breeding and winter plumage, but they could be American Golden-Plovers.  It's incredibly hard to tell the type of plover because the standard markers are obscured.  The picture is close enough to give you an idea of the stark contrast between breeding and non-breeding plumage, though, especially for the plover on the left.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pescadero State Park

Today was a beautiful day in Pescadero.  It was a bit cold, but not compared to the rest of the country.  The beaches were mostly empty, though, so I guess the everyone believes that winter is approaching.

The seals were lounging about.

They looks exhausted!

They would look up at me with sleepy faces, and then their heads would flop back down.

I like this thoughtful expression.  His face reminds me of a cat with those big whiskers and almond-shaped eyes.

I made my way to the marshes, which were full of birds.  I saw a little sparrow on a log and approached.

This is a Song Sparrow.  They're extremely common.  Many birders are unimpressed by their appearance, but I really like them.  They let you get close and they have lovely songs.

The easiest way to distinguish between different types of sparrows is to look at the pattern on their chest and head.  The Song Sparrow has dark-brown spots on his chest, with a prominent spot in the middle, and white markings on his head below and above the eyes.

Other sparrows will have yellow markings above the eyes or on the wings, or a colored patch in the center of his head directly above the nose.

Black Phoebes were everywhere today.  I saw the first one on a sign post.

The second one was catching bugs.  You can still see it in his mouth!

It was almost as if the phoebes were posing for me.  The next one was in branches backed by a blue sky.

Then he flew into the brush.

Then on a bush.

Then, I swear he asked me if he should pose on a man-made object to serve as social commentary about our interference with nature.

Then he went back into the brush, but positioned himself carefully so that I could see the white tips of his feathers.

Then some more bushes.

In case I wanted a brighter background, he flew over to some driftwood.

And back on a post.

I actually left out several other places where he sat.  Such an obliging little bird.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cockatiel Clipping

There is a lot of controversy in the bird world about whether people should clip their birds' wings.  Some people say that birds shouldn't be restricted, that they should be allowed to fly free.  Others clip their birds so that the birds can't fly off and get into trouble.

We clip Conner but leave Audrey unclipped.

Audrey is unclipped because he can't fly.  I want to keep Conner unclipped, but the house is full of windows and Conner flies into them.  Someday I want us to have a place where Conner can have his own room for flying.

Some tips for clipping:
  • start with the primary wing feathers - those are the top feathers
  • on cockatiels, it's only necessary to cut one or two inches
  • don't ever get close to the skin!  You can permanently damage a bird if you get too close.
  • give your bird extra attention after the clipping.  It's a very demeaning process and their egos get hurt.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Black Turnstone

You remember how well the Black Oystercatcher can blend into seaweed? Well, that's nothing. There is a bird in the picture below. Can you see him?

Black Turnstones blend really well. They blend with seaweed, they blend with rocks. I barely saw one standing on this rock below.

I was hanging out at Ryder Court Park in San Mateo, CA looking out over the water.

I looked down and saw this!

There were two of them sitting on rocks looking out at the water. They looked so peaceful.

Yes? Is there something you need?

Turnstones eat mollusks, marine worms, etc. so they're frequently found foraging in seaweed. The name "turnstone" is a reference to their habit of turning over stones, looking for food underneath. If you look carefully, their beaks are slightly upturned to push under stones.

They like to forage in groups.

These pictures were taken at the Marine Fitzgerald Preserve in Moss Beach, CA.

I found one other type of bird in the seaweed mixture that I'll talk about next week. For now, I leave you with this: