Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Weekend Walking

Warning: very long post and lots of pics... sorry to those of you on dial-up. I just had to put many of my photos in, and didn't want to break it up over several posts.

Sunday was such a beautiful day, there was no doubt I had to head out and just do something. Mom felt the same way too, so we walked over to the gem of the Silicon Valley called Los Gatos Creek Trail. It's so nice living so close. Actually, it seems closer than it is. I just mapped it and it's 1.44 miles to Oka Ponds, along the trail, from our house.

There, besides the ever-present Canada Goose, we were treated to Buffleheads and Ruddy Ducks swimming together.

I also managed to catch a Bufflehead just as it was stretching its wings; cool pattern.

Then I got a tad distracted by the California Poppy. They are at this moment far and few between, but that'll change in a week or two I imagine.

Right by the poppies, we spotted those crazy Butter Butts that are near impossible to snap a photo of. I caught this one JUST as it was going to take off, yet again. Lucky timing to get that posture. Heck, I was just trying to get it in focus before it disappeared.

Then the other bird that seems to always be by the Yellow Rumped Warblers, the Black Phoebe. This one was singing up a storm and stayed perched on that shrub for a long time.

So long in fact, that while I was snapping a couple of shots of this Phoebe, I saw an odd movement over the water. I yell out, "look look look! It's a kite!" As soon as I saw it, I knew that was wrong, but it's behavior was that of a hummingbird or kite. I swung the camera over and got three shots of this bird, 2 in focus, one close :)

I knew better, I really did, especially as soon as it took off with it's cackling sound. All of a sudden I was saying, "Holy crap! That was a Kingfisher!" For once, we both managed to get the shot. I may be wrong, but I don't think my mom's Kingfisher photo came out. She has a new lens and is getting used to it. Plus, flying shots are very hard. I was incredibly lucky this came out clear.

Then, with one last look at the pond, I sort-of got these ducks in a row. Sorry, lol, bad pun. It was cute, and yes, that is a tennis ball in the foreground. A guy and his dog were playing in the pond. It's crowded on this trail every day of the week, but weekends are packed. Yet, the wildlife don't seem to care.

We started walking again, and a bit down the trail, we spotted this silly California Ground Squirrel on the skinniest of branches on a shrub hanging out over the water. I can't believe it supported its weight and that it didn't slip and fall. Amazing.

We probably could have just stayed there and seen so many different birds, but we decided to walk down the east side of Los Gatos Creek. There is a trail on both sides, but the one on the east is a dirt path. We saw more birds, including this Snowy Egret who was looking at his reflection, and this Starling. I know I'm not supposed to like them, but they are rather pretty, and around here, they don't seem to be destroying any crops. They might be forcing woodpeckers out of their areas, but I don't see all that many. In fact, this was the only one.

As we crossed into Campbell, we ran across a water-control system where some Geese and Coots were at the edge of a drop down/waterfall of 12 feet or so. This scene cracked me up as the one Canada Goose was honking at the one next to it.

By this point, I was thinking, what the heck, we've gone this far, let's just go to San Thomas and then cross over. The only other option was to simply turn around.

I'm glad we didn't turn around, because a jogger came by and asked if we saw the turtles. Say what? Turtles? Where? He kindly pointed them out to us as he jogged on by. Sweet!

There's something wrong with the turtle's shell on the left. Maybe it's a seasonal or age-related molting? It looks strange, but the turtle looks otherwise healthy.

Just about to San Thomas, we came across a mini-flock of Golden Crowned Sparrows. These are the Sparrows my dad heard when he was up in Sitka, AK last summer. He never saw them, but remembered their song. When I got iBird Explorer Plus, we played songs of several we narrowed it down to based on habitat and location. It has a distinctive song, however, I have yet to hear it live. These birds were too busy snapping up insects or seeds on the ground off the trail.

They winter down here and then head up north. They are among the first to arrive here and the last to leave. Looks like this one was getting into it's breeding plumage, so I imagine it will be leaving soon.

Well, we passed them up when we were done watching them and headed across the creek on San Thomas. On the other side we discovered an off-leash dog park separated into big dogs & little dogs. We were amused looking at the people and their dogs... at least I was. They all seemed so sterotypical. I won't go there, but just to say stereotypical :)

On the west side of LG Creek is LG Creek Park and Camden Perc Pond. There were lots of waterfowl there; mallards of course and gulls. Above is a string of power lines and perched on them were Double-crested Cormorants. I didn't bother taking pics of them because I have more than enough.

Then we saw some ducks that looked different. Through the binoculars and the birdbook we determined they were Scaups, but what kind? We dunno. Below, I have a pic of the Western Gull, a DC Cormorant, and a Scaup Sp. Another I have a Scaup with the young Western Gull and young California Gull. You can clearly see the difference with the size of the gulls. Click to enlarge. These aren't great photos, but they are interesting. It was also tough to get a good shot since the sun was very bright and lower in the sky and I was almost facing it.

The Scaup was a lifer, as was the GC Sparrow. Then I spotted another lifer, a Pied-billed Grebe! Cute little thing :) Kept diving in the water so it was tough getting a shot, but I got one.

Half-way back to Oka Ponds we finally sat down on a bench and as we did so, "our" Osprey flew overhead. There is at least one that has claimed the entire Los Gatos Creek Park area, including Vasona Lake. I took it's pic back in November. My parents spotted it eating something in a tree at Oka Ponds a month or so ago. This time I wasn't ready for it, so even though it flew by nice and low, I could only look.

Back at Oka Ponds, the guy and his dog were gone, and there were significantly less people. Of course it was getting near dinner-time, so most people were probably back at home. It was quite the pastoral scene if you ignore the freeway in the back :) We had to ignore the road traffic all day. Urban birding can be quite the challenge when trying to pinpoint a noise.

I also spotted a Great Blue Heron who refused to come out of the bushes it was hiding/fishing in so I could take its pic. There was however, a Great Egret ready and waiting that I think I'll save for my Bird Photography Weekly post I hope to get up tomorrow. I wanted to get this done as soon as possible.

Total distance covered: 5 miles
Wildlife: 31 bird species, 1 mammal species, 1 amphibian species
  • 50 Canada Goose
  • 3 Mallard
  • 15 Greater/Lesser Scaup - lifer
  • 20 Bufflehead
  • 15 Ruddy Duck
  • 6 Pied-billed Grebe - lifer
  • 30 Double-crested Cormorant
  • 2 Great Blue Heron
  • 1 Great Egret
  • 1 Snowy Egret
  • 1 Turkey Vulture
  • 1 Osprey
  • 2 Red-tailed Hawk (Western)
  • 30 American Coot
  • 1 Western Gull
  • 1 California Gull
  • 25 gull sp.
  • 50 Rock Pigeon
  • 15 Mourning Dove
  • 1 Anna's Hummingbird
  • 1 Belted Kingfisher
  • 5 Black Phoebe
  • 6 American Crow
  • 12 swallow sp.
  • 1 Bushtit
  • 1 Northern Mockingbird
  • 1 European Starling
  • 12 Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's)
  • 4 California Towhee
  • 6 Golden-crowned Sparrow - lifer
  • 12 House Finch
And: 2 Turtles & 2 California Ground Squirrels


Natural Moments said...

Looks like it was a very pleasant and satisfying walk. I just love the black phoebe's. Its fun to watch them fly after their meals. The ground squirrels are always entertaining and the buffleheads are just plain cute.

I hope the Sharks do well in the playoffs for ya.

Mary C said...

It was well worth the 5 miles, wasn't it? I'll see if I can get my great blue heron photo posted. I think it turned out looking pretty good. My photo of the kingfisher you posted looks the same. That's still one of the coolest shots (I think!) of a kingfisher. Who would have thought that they can hover over the water like that.

Red said...

It surely was Bernie, thanks! I like the Black Phoebes too. I can almost guarantee every time I go outside I'll see one. I'm thinking it's "my bird". And thanks on the good Sharks wishes! If all else fails, I will be satisfied if they get to the Conference Finals. This should be there year, but it's so hard to know.

Yep Mom, it was. It's nice getting distracted seeing all kinds of different things over 5 miles. I'm still in shock we went that far :)

RuthieJ said...

I heard Sunday was going to be the nicest day of the weekend--I'm glad you got out to enjoy it. That Kingfisher shot is fabulous!

Red said...

Thanks Ruthie! Sunday was absolutely gorgeous, but I don't know if it was the best, all the days were about the same. You came out at the perfect time as the whole weekend was gorgeous.

Jay said...

Oh my goodness, what a wonderful journey you had on those 5 miles - so many beautiful birds and wildlife you encountered and documented. The Kingfisher photo is wonderful, and I also love the Egret's fascination with his reflection. And the Phoebe and Yellow Rumped Warbler! Oh yes!

You got a picture of the Pie-billed Grebe! Phew.. I know that was a challenge! I tried to get a picture of one ....down he'd dive, up he'd pop... down and up and down and up... I know I paddled that john boat two miles up the creek that day - trying!

I've so enjoyed my visit here and looking forward to returning.

And your cats are prrrrfect :)

Red said...

Thanks so much Jay! LOL.. yes, that Pied-billed Grebe was a pain... I said "Stay you brat, stay!" This one kept going from one particular spot near the edge of the pond to another and back again, so it was somewhat predictable.

Linda in Erie said...

Wow, excellent photos and I loved your account of your day. You have so many neat birds out there in one place.

Red said...

Thank you Linda, you're right too. We do have a lot of variety here.

blog said...

(I'm a little late commenting, my bad!)

Nice outing! Great job capturing the kingfisher in flight - they're such fun birds to observe & hear.

Grebes are notorious for diving right when you're about to take a photo - I call it "grebing" when any bird does that :)

FYI, your pretty Pied-billed Grebe is in its alternate (breeding) plumage - the main way to tell is the presence of the dark band around its bill

Red said...

LOL Adam :) Better late than never!

Thanks! I'm pretty proud of the kingfisher pic myself. Thanks for letting me know the grebe is in the breeding plumage already.


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