Sunday, November 14, 2010

These are the Creatures in My Neighborhood: Bolsa Chica Birds and Beasts

I recently decided to learn more about the creatures in my neighborhood, including, finally, their names, so I'm slowly working on learning names and faces for the more common animals and plants in my area.

I spent part of today online, looking at pictures of Bolsa Chica birds and beasts, working on identifying birds from pictures I took on the 10th. OC Birder Girl's Blog and the Bolsa Chica Land Trust's Site were especially helpful.

Black-necked Grebe aka  Podiceps nigricollis
I'm think this one is a Western Grebe. I'm sure it is a grebe, and I was feeling very happy about having figured that out until I looked and realized that there was more than one kind of grebe, and at least three visit Bolsa Chica regularly. All the grebes have eerie red eyes. I wonder, why red? Very few creatures that I know of have red eyes.  Edit: Looking at sizes & such, I'm thinking it's more likely a black-necked grebe in non-breeding plumage.

American Brown Pelican aka Pelecanus occedentalis

This one is a mature Brown Pelican. I was surprised to find out today that they get less brown as they get older.

I love watching the pelicans. They seem like they shouldn't work, that big beak and that ungainly walk, but they are amazingly beautiful in flight. Seen from below, they look fierce, like pterodactyls. Once they are swimming, it's possible to admire the variegated shades of brown.

House Finch aka Carpodacus mexicanus
There's no need to go to Bolsa Chica to see these! They're all over. They spent this spring and summer hopping around inside our tomato plant jungle, no doubt stuffing themselves full of insects and tomato worms.

Bufflehead aka Bucephala albeola
It makes me happy to know that there is such a thing as a bufflehead out there somewhere in the world. Isn't that a wonderful name?

Reddish Egret aka Egretta rufescens

A Reddish Egret. I have to find out, sometime, what the difference between an egret and a heron is.

Ruddy Duck aka Oxyura jamaicensis

 Belding's Savannah Sparrow aka Passerculus sandwichensis

It's incongruous to see sparrows hopping around on the stones right next to the salt water.

Turkey Vulture aka Cathartes aura
It's hard to believe these are vultures. I think of vultures as being ugly, but these are not. They're surprisingly big birds when they swoop down low over the path.

American Coot aka Fulica americana

The American Coot with its funny white bill.

Snowy Egrets aka Egretta thula
I don't know why these egrets rest together. They don't seem to preen, chatter, or pay any attention at all, but they do gather, even when they don't need to, so they must be getting something out of it.

An American Bittern aka Botaurus lentiginosus
I think this is an American Bittern, in which case, I was quite lucky and didn't even realize it. From what I read, they do get confused with immature night-crowned herons and immature green herons, but it doesn't seem hunched up enough to be either, nor do the stripes match what I saw on the immature pictures. The stripe pattern is right for the bittern, and so is the aloof "I'm not seeing you (and you're not seeing me") pose, and the little crook in the neck.

 Anyone want to help me out with verifications or corrections?

American Fence Lizard
"One of these things is not like the others"

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