Sunday, September 18, 2011

Northern California Birds and other Wildlife

This summer my family and I spent a week in Northern California. I kept my camera clicking from San Francisco to Monterey, from the Pacific Ocean beaches to the redwood forest mountains.
Below: A California Gull with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
In August 2010 we also visited Northern California and I blogged photos of several birds from that part of the country, which can be viewed here. So this visit I kept my eyes open for ones I hadn't seen before.  The most memorable new one for me is the Brandt's Cormorant. 
We have the Double-Crested Cormorant here in the South Carolina Lowcountry.  When I saw a colony of these birds on rocks near the Monterey Coast Guard Station I saw similarities but also some differences.
The blue throat (also described as turquoise) of the Brandt's is a major distinction.  This Cormorant is also much darker than the Double-Crested.
Yep, a face that only a mother would love!
Here's a closer look at the Brandt's colorful throat.
Later that day, driving back to our hotel in Palo Alto, we stopped at a beach and found more Cormorants and Gulls on this old boat.
These Brandt's Cormorants really know how to congregate! When I've seen their East Coast cousins, the Double-Crested Cormorant, it's been two or three at a time, not dozens and dozens! says the name Cormorant is derived from the Latin words Corvus Marinus, meaning marine crow or raven.  These pictures were taken at the New Brighton State Beach on the Monterey Bay south of Santa Cruz.
My second favorite new bird (for me) was this smaller one I spotted while hiking with my boys at the Stanford Dish trail in Palo Alto.
This is a male House Finch.  I was struck by all the red and to be honest I was expecting a more exotic name as I researched its identity.  The Stanford guy at the park's admissions gate had a binder of photographs of birds and other animals photographed at the site.  But there was no photo of this striking red bird. I would like to submit my photo to that book so others will know what it is!
Named for a massive radio telescope built in 1966, the Stanford Dish trail offers majestic views of Stanford University (Hoover Tower is the large structure) and the entire San Francisco/Silicon Valley region.
I spotted several hawks on and around the old telescope. 
I believe they were Red Tailed Hawks.
Ground squirrels are abundant in this region.  They are quite cute and strike some interesting poses.
Palo Alto also has the (free to enter) Baylands Nature Preserve on S.F. Bay.  Lots of birding available here such as the Black-necked Stilt.  
And the American Avocet with its "distinctively needle-thin upcurved bill" (from The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America).
Cliff Swallows build nests in the crevices of the Baylands Visitors Center. Peek-a-boo!
Barn Swallows also nest under the roof. Smile for the camera! 
While always neat to see unfamiliar birds it was also nice to see some familiar faces.  In some trees at the Baylands Nature Preserve I was surprised to see some Heron and Egret nests.  The Black-crowned Night Heron is a bird I know well from coastal South Carolina.
This juvenile Night Heron looked sad and out of sorts on the ground dangerously close to the road.  Another photographer told me that this youngster had likely been kicked out of the nest by its mother because it had gotten too big.  It was time for the offspring to start fending for itself.  Poor little thing!
This young Snowy Egret was still up in the nest.
Gulls galore at Monterey!
It was neat seeing Sea Lions out on some rocks at Monterey.
We also saw Sea Lions in San Francisco at Fisherman's Wharf.
Note the gash on right side of this Sea Lion.
American Robins circulate among the headstones of American heroes at the San Francisco National Cemetery in The Presidio, near the Golden Gate Bridge.
I'll end this posting where I began: at the Golden Gate Bridge with some California Gulls.

My next posting I'll feature non-bird/animal photos I took from around Northern California. It was such a nice break being there in the summer away from our South Carolina heat and humidity!