An oiled Red-throated Loon was swimming around a local lake on Thursday and Friday. My girlfriend and I had just finished discussing whether or not it could be rescued from the water, when it swam directly towards us and clumsily hauled itself out of the water. That made rescuing the bird a more realistic proposition and we quickly made a call to the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network. Thankfully, the loon showed no signs of returning to the water, and within ten minutes a volunteer arrived and was able to easily capture the bird. Hopefully it is now much cleaner and on its way back to the wild.
Crows are such trouble makers… This one decided to antagonize a pair of American Kestrels by seeing how close it could land and creep up to this one. Other than staring at the crow, the kestrel was smart and didn’t react to the crow’s antics. Frustrated, the crow flew off and tried to land next to the female kestrel, who was perched at the very top of the dead pine. Fortunately for her, there wasn’t room to land. In defeat, the crow decided to land on an adjacent branch. I’m not sure about the kestrels, but I know that I got a good laugh watching the crow try to land on the thin dead branch only to have it break and fall. That was the last straw for the crow, and it flew away in disgust.
We took a quick trip to the Carpinteria Salt Marsh on Saturday. Most of the marsh is part of the University of California Natural Reserve system, and is closed to the public; however a portion of it is owned by the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County and is open to the public. I had heard reports of a red fox in the area, and with all the recent rains we hoped to at least find some tracks. No luck on that front, but we were rewarded with so nice light and cooperative birds. The highlights were seeing every kind of Teal, a couple Northern Pintails, and even a Surf Scoter preening very close to the beach. A couple dolphins were also seen lounging and barely moving just offshore. All in all, it was a very nice morning trip.
“Cinnamon Teal” – Carpinteria Salt Marsh
Birds in flight and weather seemed to be the theme of the past week. After weeks of beautiful, but boring weather, we finally had a few storms come through. I’ve always looked forward to stormy weather, because that usually makes for great landscape opportunities. Now I have another good reason to cheer for the rain… animal tracks. Since I’m not seeing much of the bobcats anymore, I’ve come to rely on finding their tracks to know that they’re still around. But I’m getting far off topic.
Since there are two pairs of White-tailed Kites starting to nest near me, they have been an obvious photographic target. I already have a huge catalog of Kite photos, so I’m making an effort to photograph them more creatively, or at least photograph behaviors that I’ve missed before. I’m also working on shooting some video, since some of their actions are difficult to photograph.
“Passing Zone” – Male and Female White-tailed Kites
The beautiful sunset skies disappeared last week and left us with warm days and cold nights. Morning frost is generally uncommon here, but was in abundance last week. Thankfully the weather is changing and it looks like it will be a wet week. Clear skies may not make for nice sunsets, but are good for photographing White-tailed Kites hunting in the last light. I should have spent more time photographing them and will have to work on that the next time the weather cooperates.
The theme of the past week was quite appropriate give that today is Valentine’s day. Many birds have either paired up or are in the process of doing so. Both pairs of Kites are actively nest building, the Mute Swans will probably start laying eggs sooner rather than later, the two Kestrels are back together, and we have seen two Cooper’s Hawks flying together in the evenings. Not to sound too sappy, but love is definitely in the air.
“Togetherness” – Mute Swan pair
This is the start of (I hope) a weekly series where I will post some of my favorite or interesting shots from the previous week. I will try not to cross-post too many of these on Flickr, but there may be a duplicate or two here and there.
Birds and Spring seem to be the major theme from the past week. The local pair of White-tailed Kites have been working on their nest, and there may also be another pair staking claim to the northern side of the park. Likewise, a pair of Mute Swans have given some signs that they may start working on a nest. They have both been pulling dead reeds, but have not made any effort to construct a nest. Meanwhile, the mustard and wild radish is near peak bloom at the park, and wildflowers are beginning to bloom in the foothills. All of the early rain and recent warm weather have gotten Spring off to an early start this year.
“Winter’s Color” – Rainbow over the Santa Ynez Mountains
Apparently we got a bit of rain in So Cal while I was away… With the local trails frightfully muddy, I decided to hit the beach instead. The usual suspects were found along the shoreline, however the lagoon was hopping with activity. A decent group of Forster’s Terns were actively fishing and the Cormorants were doing their part to further herd the fish into the shallows.
“Forster’s Tern with Fish” – UCSB Lagoon