Friday, May 08, 2009

Baylands I

About a month ago now, mom and I headed up to Palo Alto Baylands to see if there were any herons or egrets nesting yet. They weren't.

But it was still a pretty good day. Fantastic even! But I'll get to the awesome part later :)

As you can tell from the above picture, it was a bit windy as the bay was very choppy. Below, it looks idyllic, but trust me, it wasn't. Glad my hair is short again because otherwise I would have been pulling my hair out of my face the entire time and missed too many shots.

To start off with, right as soon as we got out the car, we spotted several American Avocets in beautiful breeding plumage hanging out with a couple of Black-necked Stilts. I had been focusing on one individual when he decided to give me a real treat. He took off and flew right towards me! I got one shot just after he took off, the rest, he was too close.
What a way to begin! If you click to enlarge, you can even see the water droplets behind his feet :)
We then took a walk along the pier and ran across a Great Egret, a couple of butterflies, this Starling who posed so nicely for me (yeah, i know, but good picture, no?) and this Lincoln's Sparrow, er Song Sparrow. There were also several birds mocking us in the grass daring us to find them. We suck, we never did spot them. And we couldn't id by sound either.

Now for the really cool part! There were flocks of swallows flying around. They came back to breed. They do every year. We caught them in nest building mode. The were amazing all flying around together in sync. I've tried before to take swallow pics and always failed. This time, I was pretty lucky. I'm not posting it, but I managed to get a flight pic that wasn't too blurry.

But here... here they were sitting ducks so to speak. This one was just poking it's head out of the nest watching all these people gawk back at it. So cool. I may have had the largest lens there, and it wasn't necessary. But still, it was a good one to have on the camera. Oh, the detail it picked up!
I changed position and here you can see it looking down at me, and you can see the wet mud recently packed onto the nest. How that bird looks so clean is beyond me. He or she must have been adding onto it all day!

And then... I found a cool little pocket where all the birds were coming in to get to the nests. They all seemed to be fighting over who went where. I'm not sure what they were doing. I would have thought they had assigned nesting ;)

I fired off many many shots, and came back with about 5 or 6 postable shots of the swallows, which turn out to be Cliff Swallows. So now I know, and you know too. At Palo Alto Baylands it is the Cliff Swallows who nest on the buildings.
Now if only someone could tell me how to distinguish between a Swallow and a Swift while in flight... sigh. I see birds flitting about like that a lot, but never know.

One last shot... I can't resist posting this beautiful California Gull

He (or she) was flying against the wind, so it was a perfect time to practice birds in flight. It also happened to be facing into the sun, so I could face away from the sun and not worry about glare. It turned out nice!


Lynne said...

Heidi, these are some of my favorites of all of your pitures. The Avocet in flight is GORGEOUS. I cannot get a decent flight photo so I'm more than a little green about that one. Cliff Swallows were life birds for me in West Virginia. Aren't they pretty?

Wren said...

Great photos, and ditto what Lynne said about the avocet.

I like the web design. Is it new, or Have I just been out of it?

Red said...

Thank you so much Lynne! Flight shots are difficult. Most of it is luck like in the case of the Avocet. The gull was luck in sun direction and wind direction, but it was flying so slow, I had no problem focusing on it while moving. And yes, those Cliff Swallows are gorgeous - what beautiful combination of colors, navy and rust :)

Thanks to you too Wren :) It's new... since last Saturday. You've been pretty busy I'm sure, so you probably missed my announcement.

Leedra said...

Great series of birds. I especially like the American Avocets. He is a new one for me, you captured him so well.

Leedra’s Photos For FunLeedra’s Greeting CardsPhotography By Leedra

Red said...

Thanks Leedra!

You'll have to make a trek out west to see all those birds you can't get out there... and I'll have to head east :)

RuthieJ said...

I saw the Cliff Swallows in northern Minnesota last weekend too. Isn't it amazing they can make that entire nest with thousands of little mouthfuls of mud??
Distinguishing between swallows and swifts in flight is not too hard -- it's all about the wing shape and the tail!
For swifts, think "flying cigars" they have a cigar-shaped body with almost no flaring of the tail. (The Chimney Swifts around here also make a little "chittering" noise as they're flying.) Swallows almost always have a flared tail while they're flying. In your area of CA, you would most likely see the White-Throated Swift.

Red said...

thanks so much Ruthie! that helps a lot!!! i'll have to go practice that in the areas i see these quick little birds.


Current skin is Spring Green 2009
Best viewed on Firefox at 1024x768, larger or widescreen.
If you must use Internet Explorer, update to IE8 or the sidebars will look funky.