Saturday, October 31, 2009

Brown Pelican

The Presidio of San Francisco is a former military installation that was turned into a park in 1994. It's an excellent park for Californians because it includes water, trails for biking and jogging, and a cafe with many vegetarian options.

Our timing was perfect today because the fog was in the process of lifting when we arrived. At the beginning you could only see part of the Golden Gate Bridge.

But soon you could see all of it.

I saw many birds today including four new types of birds. But today I'd like to focus on the Brown Pelican. Pelicans of all different ages were everywhere.

they like posts

they especially like sitting on posts

The bird above is a subadult, which means he's transitioning from having a blue beak and brown feathers to a yellow beak and white feathers.

there was also a lot of flying

looking for fish

and diving!

sadly, most of my pictures of the diving looked like this

The pictures above are of a nonbreeding adult.

At one of the piers, there was an immature pelican checking out the view.

He is so beautiful. I'm transfixed by pelicans because they look so different depending upon their position and age. I love the immature pelicans because of their blue beak.

He was completely comfortable being near people. You can see here how the guy on the left was less than a foot away from the pelican.

He let me take hundreds of pictures.

When pelicans fly they look so graceful. So it was funny to see this one standing. He looks rather squat.

Next time, maybe I should bring a treat.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bird Book Review: Providence of a Sparrow

I really enjoy reading books that feature birds. Providence of a Sparrow is great because it starts with a sparrow named B and goes through Chester's life with B and his wife and later additions to their flock. The stories are linear and the writing style flows smoothly.

Unlike many books that focus solely on the birds, Chester talks a lot about his relationship with B and his personal struggles. Specifically, Chester struggles with depression. You really sympathize with Chester and suffer along with him. In the world of bird books, it's a refreshing change from the typical saccharine books about pets.

Some people may dislike his writing style, so it's important to be prepared before investing time in the book. Chester is a bit of a philosopher and the biggest complaint on Amazon is that he uses "big words" when shorter words would suffice. He's not pretentious, though, so I think that once readers dislike the style, they'll look for any way to criticize the book.

I wish he wrote more than this one book, but sadly Chester died in 2007. There is a very detailed article about him here if you're interested.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Turkey Vultures

Turkey vultures are very common in California. I usually seem them hovering above open fields. Here is a picture of one up close from the San Francisco Zoo.

Below is the best picture that I've taken so far. You can see that his beak is white and you can almost make out the black ring around his eye.

This is usually all that I can photograph.

Their wingspan is 69 inches.

I like the silvery underwing feathers.

Some people find them creepy looking because of the lack of feathers on their head. Vultures don't have feathers on their head because they stick their heads inside carcasses and the feathers would harbor bacteria.

I see them as graceful.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cross-Stitch Macaw

My mother has a blue-and-gold macaw. Isn't he beautiful?

He is not a fan of me. Below is a picture of him trying to kill me. Look at his colors!

For Christmas last year, Jon gave me this wonderful software program called Stitches. Stitches takes a photo and generates a cross stitch pattern. It's very configurable. You can specify the size of the pattern, the number of colors, it does everything!

It's easy to use on your computer too because it creates a giant pdf. I love working with a single pdf. Before I was using patterns printed on paper and you have to line up the different papers. I wasted so much time on matching up the papers.

After eight months of work, I completed a cross-stitch version of my mom's macaw:

I used 150 different colors. It was so much fun to create each section and then step back and see how it forms a shape. The best transformations came from the tongue and the claws.

I had the picture framed.

Mom reports that her bird is very suspicious of the picture because it's bigger than him. He'll look at it and bob his head.

For my next project I want to do the cockatiels. I want to capture them in their signature poses. When I think of Conner, I picture him bowing down and cocking his head slightly to look at me. When I think of Audrey, I think of him standing straight up with his huge crest or bowing down, wings quivering in a flirty pose.

I'm trying to get those pictures but so far all I'm capturing is distress.

Poor Audrey!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cockatiel Flirting

The cockatiels enjoy playing together. If you bring Conner up to Audrey's cage, they'll start making kissing noises at each other. If you put the cockatiels on the bed, they go into flirting mode. Below, Audrey is on the left.

here we go up!
(all photos taken by Jon)

now we go down

I recommend that if you are ever depressed and you don't have a cockatiel, you should visit one. They make me so happy with their enthusiasm. Below, Conner missed the instruction to bend down and quiver his wings. Audrey is showing Conner the proper move.

like this, with the wings spread out

At the end of a serious flirting session, Audrey relaxes on my shoulder.

This was captured right in the middle of a puff. You can see the dust coming off of him!

Audrey is so dramatic when he gets puffy. He shakes out every feather.

Such satisfaction!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Overheard at the Beach

Yesterday I was taking pictures at the Marine Fitzgerald preserve. I was standing in the ocean on top of some rocks, trying to move as slowly as possible to photograph some Black Turnstones. Behind me people were walking around picking up snails and things from the rocks. I could hear a little girl speaking: "Look, a starfish! Look, a sea anomie! Look, a photographer!" I was very happy to be included in her list of exciting things.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Western Gull

It's time for another gull post!

Gulls are so hard to identify. I mean, I don't even know where to begin with the picture below. What's with the grey feet? That's not in my field guides.

I can, however, identify Western Gulls. The first step in narrowing down gulls is to look at the feet. California Gulls have yellow feet. Herring Gulls, Thayer Gulls, and Western Gulls have pink feet.

this is MY log, buddy
Western gulls have a yellow ring of skin surrounding the eye called an orbital ring.

Western gulls are extremely common. They're perfectly happy hanging out with other types of gulls. The mottled gray birds below are only a few years old. Adult plumage doesn't come in for a few years.

They're not intimidated by humans.

These were taken in Monterey, where the skies are blue, unlike lovely gray Pescadero.

wait for meee

Below is my favorite Western Gull picture. This guy on a bench was offering food, and the gulls all rushed to get the food first. I love the gull in the lower right. I'm particularly fond of open beak pictures.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Townsend's Warbler

Northern California have tons of warblers. So far I have seen Wilson's Warblers, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, and Townsend's Warblers. The Townsend's Warblers are distinguishable by their raccoon eyes.

These guys are very shy. I saw them several times before I could ever capture a picture. The picture above was the only picture that I captured for six months. Last week, one stayed still long enough for me to capture more than one picture!

The males have a black throat.

They like to hang out in conifers and use moss to line their nests.

I like their quick and careful movements.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Sometimes I can catch Audrey in the right mood.

He sits on my hand every night for scratches.

But it's rare when he does his fancy preening, which occurs when he puffs up and has exaggerated movements.

On Saturday Audrey was affectionate.

He's not actually kissing me here. He tries to preen my lips; it hurts. But it makes for a cute picture.