Hello! Most of my posts take place around San Diego County, (Mostly Lake Murray) unless otherwise noted.
For more posts and photos, I also post on Hubpages, a site that is a bit different than others. Thanks!: Shorebirdie on Hubpages

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Stormy day

Stormy day

Today, thunderstorms were going off and on, which is very unusual for San Diego and Lake Murray. It wasn't continuous rain, but off and on. I was very surprised that the killdeer responded to it by staying far away from the water. Once in a while, I would see them at the water's edge, but mostly they stayed several feet from the edge, even going up past the sidewalk to eat bugs there. I wonder if they know about lightening and water.

George on the sidewalk

The ducks, on the other hand, weren't acting any differently except they got scared of the thunder a few times and flew into the water. But, mostly, their behavior was the same.

I thought, at first, I saw a few tiny, newly fledged, babies running around, but it may have been Shy and Digger whom I saw as they are on the small size. Martha has taken to harassing Digger as well as Shy, but Digger stands up to her. When Martha approaches, she fluffs out her chest feathers, showing her "W" and Martha backs off. I think Digger likes Tiny. I didn't see much of Shy and it makes me wonder if maybe I'm misidentifying Digger and it's actually Shy who may have molted and changed her breast band markings. But, this female likes Tiny, not Killer, whom Shy likes.

Is this Digger or Shy?

George is having a constant battle between him and Shy and Digger's dad. Here's a photo the two young male killdeers and their dad chasing off the other dad. George is posturing a threat while the two teenagers watch. The ones on the right are Martha and Firecracker, I think.

6 killdeer, The M6 dad on the right, George and his two sons in the middle, Martha and Firecracker to the left

Digger and Shy's dad freaked out at some lightning once, and flew away, but came back. Shy seems to be becoming more accepted in this area and I don't think she's hanging out with dad too much. I saw Digger with dad, instead (or, again, it might be Shy and I'm misidentifying her).

The water level is coming back up, I wonder how long all these killdeer will hang around this area.


Killer, his mustache growing out


I found some raccoon prints in an area where a couple of killdeer have decided to live. They're usually not this far away from their home in the northern part of the lake, but the low water level has made it easier to forage for food in other places. I think they were the reason for the disappearance of a killdeer nest in that area last July when the lake levels were also low.

Raccoon tracks

As I was leaving, a little white terrier dog was running down to the lake on his own. I almost stopped to pick him up, but didn't. There was a car behind me and I think they picked him up, instead. I went back and looked for him for 10 minutes just to make sure. I didn't want him to hurt or kill any of the peacefully resting ducks by coming out at them by surprise. But, I didn't see him anywhere, so I left. Those ducks looked so happy, I hope the dog didn't do anything. I wonder where he came from?

Also seen:

Several juvenile double-crested cormorants:

I also saw the osprey and the sandpipers, but couldn't get photos of them.

Of course, lots of pretty ducks (and a coot, which there are tons of these days):

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Osprey Day

George races the egret

Today is a tropical feeling day and we have some tropical moisture moving over us. It rained early in the morning and it looks like it will rain in the afternoon, too.

The killdeer are all moving around all over the place and I think I even saw some new "faces" around the lake. Killer still seems to be hopelessly in love with Shy and follows her around. Lately, he seems to be sticking up to her dad, but still hesitant to fight him.

Tiny, I think


Martha has been around with Firecracker and I think I even saw Digger, Shy's sister, too. She looks a lot like George. When I arrived, she came to greet me, first.

Martha, Firecracker and, I think, Digger


The lake osprey was very active today and I got several shots of him. He was hanging around where the juvenile male Cooper's hawk used to hang around (I haven't seen the hawks, lately, though) and where the killdeer chicks hatched.

Also seen:

This may possibly be the baby duck that I used to see when I sat on a bench and watched him play around me until he disappeared just over a month ago. I think he's about seven weeks old now:

Also, this handsome mallard couple:

And, a Western kingbird. These birds look similar to a Say's phoebe except it's slightly larger, a more elongated shape, different bill shape, and the gray "hood" is more rounded at the bottom rather than an inverted triangle.

A juvenile red-tailed hawk was also seen, but didn't get a photo. He was being shadowed by the osprey. I think he wanted squirrels.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pool Phoebe

Here's a slightly blurry shot of the black phoebe who has been hanging around our pool. I think he is the son of the phoebe living in the next building. The neighbor's cat hangs out right where this photo was taken even though it's against the apartment complex rules to have pets in the pool area. But, the cat hasn't been seen in this area for a few days, pretty much since the phoebe started hanging around. I don't know if the bird attacked the cat or not, I can't imagine this little tweety bird is capable of doing that.

I just hope that the bird relies on his instincts and doesn't get caught by the cat, who shouldn't be there in the first place. I may say something to the neighbor if I see the cat hanging around there, though I doubt they will do anything about it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nice warm day

Now that fall is here, we have summer, so it was a nice morning.

When I arrived, it was still a little dark and the killdeers were sleeping with their little heads tucked in (at least a couple of them were). I couldn't get a photo of that, though.

It's getting hard for me to keep track of all the different killdeer because they're all still flying around and mixing up. I didn't see Martha today, but I suspect that she is around somewhere.

I first saw George, the M6 male, Killer (George's son) and Shy (the M6's daughter) all hanging out. They flew away and I found Killer by himself near where he had first hatched.

Shy, the chick from across the lake

I think this is the M6 (Shy's) dad and Killer

So many killdeer flying around.

Later, I think I found George with an unknown juvenile, probably Tiny, and Firecracker. Four or five other killdeer where hanging around with them, too, but they got scared off by me and flew away.

George and an unknown juvenile, probably Tiny

Firecracker with her duck friends

Also seen:

I saw four spotted sandpipers together, but didn't get a good photo of them as they flew off while I was setting up my tripod.

I also saw this gull:

A blue heron:

And a snowy egret:

Here is Tom, the Muscovy duck, going for a swim. He seemed to be feeling good today and even came up when I called him, but I didn't have any food at that time.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Phoebes are everywhere!

Phoebe on my TV antenna

I've been noticing a lot of black phoebes in my neighborhood. But, now, we have one that likes to live near my pool! He's also a really loud caller/singer, too and has been aggressive with the finches. I think he's a juvenile and may be the offspring of the phoebe that lives near the building next door.

I couldn't get a photo of it at the pool, so I got a couple of photos of it on the TV antenna.

I've been noticing a lot of black phoebe birds in this neighborhood.

Here he is with a hummingbird who came to check him out:

The Lake Murray Killdeers:

The killdeers at Lake Murray are going nuts! They've been flying around to different areas of the lake, fighting and calling. Killer (George's son) and Shy (a grown chick from across the lake) have been flirting heavily with each other, I even saw Killer do a nest scrape and she inspected it. I think she wants to nest at Padre Point, but I don't know if she's old enough to lay eggs, yet. George and Shy's dad constantly argue with each other, however, George is very tolerant of his grown son being around. It's quite a difference between how he acts with his sons and how he acts with the M6 Dad.

In the "chick" area beyond the fenced area, something strange was going on. It sounded like two killdeer were being attacked by a predator. Other birds even flew out, I think they were mockingbirds. I didn't see any predators, but, one killdeer was "walloping" another one and giving it severe "leave us alone" calls. It may mean that there are still baby, flightless chicks there and Martha may have been trying to keep a strange killdeer away from them. We shall see. Hopefully, if there are babies there, they're alright. I don't hear any baby killdeer peeps. Perhaps it was Martha chasing a male away from her daughter.

All the killdeer are mixed up, it's hard to keep track of where each one is and I'm not going around the lake trying to find them.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Teenage killdeers in love

Killer the killdeer in the morning

The first thing I saw when I arrived was Killer (George's son) and Shy (M6 dad's daughter from across the lake) all alone near the fence, but they flew away to their family. While I was at the fence, I checked to see if George and Martha were hiding young chicks behind there, but saw nothing. Nor did either parent get upset that I was over there, so there may not be any more chicks around.

Killer and Shy

The lake level is really low and the entire family plus Shy and her dad were there. George and the M6 dad were always at it. One time, they got up and flew around, chasing each other. They flew right at a Cooper's hawk trying to catch a dove or pigeon. The other five killdeers on the ground did alarm calls as soon as they saw the hawks, all in unison. But, the adult males continued flying around, finally landing and thus ending the alarm calls.

George, yelling at the M6 dad

The M6 dad puffs up as he passes Killer to reach his daughter

Later, the M6 dad and Shy went to the other side of the parking lot. Killer followed, but kept his distance. But, all the other killdeer began flying around to different points of the lake, calling and fighting. Killer stayed behind and when I approached him, he did a half-broken wing act for an unknown reason. It looks like he still hasn't gotten all his adult display feathers.

Killer trying to do a broken wing act, lacks some display tail feathers

Many of the killdeer were flying to areas where I don't usually see them. One area is usually full of ducks, but there were none this time. I noticed a killdeer, I think it might have been George, flew there before joining the others at different points of the lake. The only killdeer at the ballfields was the little baby 8 week old, Surprise.

All four Cooper's hawks were very busy and making the killdeer very nervous. I think the hawks were having a hard time catching anything, probably due to the low water levels and the lack of doves. The adult male Cooper's hawk attacked an osprey trying to get dinner. I, at first, thought the osprey was another regular hawk and was scared for the killdeer when it swooped close to them. But, ospreys eat almost totally fish. They may take a chick or egg if they come across one and possibly some snails and slugs, but they are no treat to adult birds or mammals.

The low water levels must be making all the birds cranky. The Chinese gander, who has bitten me several times, but not seriously or often, decided to grab my calf and not let go! He was in a rage and I don't know why. I've been trying to be his friend for months, but he just won't turn around.

Also seen:

Besides the osprey, whom I couldn't get a photo of, I found the two spotted sandpipers in an odd spot of the lake.

And, two Western seagulls who seem to be either courting or doing territorial displays:

Monday, September 20, 2010

2 families continue to blend

George on his way to give the M6 dad "what for"

At sunset tonight, I went to check on George and his family and noticed that Shy and her dad were still in the area. It's still a little hard for me to tell exactly who was who because they often fluff up and puff out their chests when interacting with each other. But, as far as I could tell, the group tonight was made up of: George, Tiny, Killer, Shy, M6 Dad, and Firecracker. I think Martha came just as it got dark to take Firecracker back with her.

Shy is definitely interested in Killer and I've noticed her making displays to him and preening/bathing in his presence.

I think this is Killer (right) and Shy (left)

The M6 dad, I think, has taken a little bit of interest in Firecracker, but is mostly spending his time running from George and interacting with Tiny. So far, there has been no physical contact, mostly chasing, calls and puffing up.

I think this is the M6 dad (left) and George (right), but not sure if that's the M6 dad on the left.

Everything else seems fine, Shy got a feather stuck to her foot. It was funny to see her running around with it. But, she got it off eventually. All the ducks seem fine, even Tom the Muscovy duck is not scratching as much and his feathers look healthy. He even flew into the water, which is a good sign that he is feeling good.

It was very muddy by the lake and I actually got my foot totally stuck. I lost my shoes and had to dig them out of the mud. The killdeer's feet are better designed for the mud than mine, but they still had problems with sinking, I can see. But, not as much. I hope they don't get stuck in the mud, I don't want to see a dead killdeer there when I visit because one got stuck. But, I think they're not having that big a problem. Mostly, they avoid this spot or they fly before they get too stuck. I have to give them credit, they're not stupid. The only way I think they could get stuck is if they're forced to stand there a long time because of predatory activity.

Killdeer tracks in the mud

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Busy day for Martha and the kids: Visitors

Martha (back left), Shy and Tiny (front, right)

Today was a busy day in George's territory and it was hard to figure out what, exactly, was going on or who was doing what. First, I think, it started out with the M6 dad and Shy stopping by on the north side of the main parkinglot during the foggy part of the morning. Shy was actually very curious about everything, but her dad was wound up and kept doing alarm and check calls every time he saw any humans in his sight.

I guess Martha and Tiny heard the noise because they came over and investigated. Martha pretty much took to making aggressive displays toward Shy and her dad and Tiny mostly tagged along for support, but didn't get too involved. I think most of Martha's aggressive behavior was toward the female, possibly thinking her a rival for her mate.

Martha, I think

On the other side of the parking lot, I first spotted Killer by himself. But, later, it would seem that Martha and Firecracker were there, too, Martha having flown over as I walked back. Martha almost immediately took her daughter away from there before Tiny and the M6 dad flew over with Shy.

Firecracker with the ducks

Killer was very calm and casual, taking a bath and grooming himself. Shy came over to him and one of them began to make aggressive displays, I think it was Killer. Shy did not respond with the same motions, but one time she looked like she was going to give Killer a nip when he turned around while doing a dip-down display, but thought twice about it. She seemed interested and curious about Killer and even made a couple of clucks and displays at him, too, but not very aggressive nor did it seem as though she was flirting with him.


Killer, before his bath

A little way's away, Shy's dad was making his way towards the couple. But, Tiny was making it very clear to him that he did not belong there by making territorial "kill-dee" calls at him. I left after that as these things can take hours, or days to resolve. It looks like these two families may be starting to come together. However, they're still young, so it might be several months before anything happens.

I think this is Tiny

M6 (Beautiful) Dad "I'm just looking out for my baby girl!"

Across the lake, I could hear several killdeer doing alarm calls through the fog, but I did not go over there to see what was going on with the rest of the lake killdeer.