Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sunny California - My Ass

It never rains in California - but it does get foggy and misty and drizzly - just don't call it rain.  We wanted to do some birding in the mountains near Mt. Wilson observatory on Monday so we left early and headed up, up, up. We hit fog at 1,000 feet. Di did a great job keeping us on the road all the way up the winding, fogged in road to 5,000 feet. Not many birds to be seen but we did get a few new ones for Barbara including a bonus Phainopepla (you read that right).  The Phainopepla looks like a jet black Cardinal. It is the bird on the right in photo sitting with a Spotted Towhee on top of Mt. Wilson.

Spotted Towhee (left) and  Phainopepla (right)
The cool thing about PhotoShop is that you can remove fog from a photo by using an enhancement feature.  One click and poof - no more fog.  The photo above looked as bad as this one of Di and Barbara standing in front of one of the telescopes on Mt. Wilson.

Foggy Outlook
Once we made it back to the sun, we had great looks at some of the west coast's most interesting woodpeckers. One of the more common woodpeckers is Acorn Woodpecker. They remind me of clowns by the way they look and act.  They live in groups which is unusual for woodpecker and are really loud.  They store acorns in holes that they drill into tree trunks and branches.

Acorn Woodpecker
We were treated to a rare sight on Tuesday up in the Santa Monica Mountains - a Lewis's Woodpecker put on a great show flying from tree to tree chasing other woodpeckers away.  This was my one target bird! It is a very unusual woodpecker in that it is green, pink and red rather than black, white and red. The photos aren't great but I think you can see the colors.

Lewis's Woodpecker
 Here is a shot of it flying directly over our heads as we stood int he middle of a field. You can see that it is molting wing feathers in the photo. Check out that pink belly.

Lewis's Woodpecker
We drove along Highway 1 through Malibu on our way to the airport.  We didn't see any movie stars but we got a great look at some stars in the shorebird world including this Long-billed Curlew.

Long-billed Curlew
This bird knows how to use that bill too.  I watched as it plucked sand crabs out of the surf with the tip of the bill and adeptly worked the crab all the way up and gulped them down.  Incredible.  Makes me ashamed that I can't use chopsticks.

Long-billed Curlew
That's it for now. I'm in San Francisco but I don't think I'll have any free time to go birding.  I'll post if I do.


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