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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lots of killdeer today

Killer (the killdeer) looking great!

Today, I saw lots of killdeer, including Secret, Shy and the M6 dad. I also saw some new killdeer whom I don't think I've ever met before.

I actually saw the M6 dad and another, young, male getting along and realized, later, that the other male was his son whom he hadn't lived around since the chick was 10 days old. Yet, he was not aggressive. I wonder if, after all these months, he still remembers that Secret is his chick.

Almost looks like a marriage ceremony is taking place. That's the M6 dad on the log with Secret and his new female friend.

Secret has found a girl who seems to be about two to three months old, the age Junior's chicks would be if they have survived. I can't be certain as I couldn't observe Junior and his family, but I suspect they were raised nearby and it's a good possibility that the female is George's grand-daughter.

Secret begins to chase his female friend, who runs away, but then comes back to him

I also found this different-looking male, very beautiful:

The "puffed-up" banded male is back, too! He's another "oldie" in the area.

A hawk scared the killdeer in this area and they scattered. Then, I saw this young killdeer scared and calling for companionship. It was OK, though. I think it might be "Surprise" or even a sibling to the female that Secret is chasing around.

Shy was in another ballfied, sans her dad (who was attending to her brother):

In George's feeding area, Killer and Shy's sister, Digger, are still together and seem to be very happy, though Killer is constantly clucking at her.

This phoebe wasn't happy though. It kept swooping over the killdeer's head, probably slapping them with his wings, to get them to leave. They just ignored him and he went to hunt somewhere else.

The ducks looked good. Here's a photo of some of them dabbling in the mud for some birdseed. I think that's the "fish food" ducklings' mama:

And, this may be one of Flycatcher's two or three sisters:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lake Murray to discourage duck feeding

I haven't seen any definite information about it, but rumor is going around that Lake Murray in San Diego is going to start discouraging people from feeding ducks or other wildlife in the future. The claim is that the feeding is attracting rats, mice and seagulls.

Here is my opinion and observations on this issue:

I think they should continue with the morning feedings with Bill and the pre-dawn feeders at each end of the lake. If anyone asks why they are allowed to feed, it can be explained that they are the only ones allowed to do so, or they are the "official" feeders.

The only issue I have with some of the feeding is that the ducks will sometimes go across the parking lot to get more food in the morning. This can cause problems with drivers, especially on weekends. However, it's usually only a very short period in the morning where this is a problem and it quickly dissipates as soon as the feeder leaves the area.

Also, a minor problem is that feeding ducks corn does attract undesirable birds such as crows and grackles. However, the arrival of a recently fledged Cooper's hawk in the morning has put a damper on these pests. The only problem is that the hawk also likes other, more friendly, birds, too and you can't tell him which birds he can hunt and which ones he can't.

In the morning, I don't see any problems with the regular feeders that are there now who feed the birds birdseed and duck food or vegetables. However, I do notice that bread feeding at other times of the day, by the general public, has gotten out of control. I don't seem to remember so many people feeding the birds bread as there are now in all the years I've been going to this lake. Later in the day, I do notice that there are more seagulls and grackles than in the morning, when I see very few.

I do the bird counts at this lake once a month at the same time of day the feedings go on and see no increase in any one particular species. In fact, ducks have gone down in number, probably due to migration and construction. Coots have dramatically gone up for the same reason, but they are the only true increase I've seen recently of regular year-round species. I have also seen very few rats or mice at the lake.

There are several ducks that will probably starve or struggle if they don't get regular food. Ducks like Curly, the duck with half his upper bill deformed can't feed all day and he is already underweight. Bill said he was starving when he found him and it might be his end if he can't be fed. Also, Tom the Muscovy would have a hard time with getting enough food as he is sight impaired. The geese, also, may go hungry.

Feeding the ducks also helps monitor the progress of ducklings and makes it easier to see ducks who have been injured by fishing line or hooks. It is our responsibility to help birds harmed by human activities. If we didn't feed them, at least once a day, we would not see how many need help.

I usually don't think that people should feed wildlife as it can cause them to be dependent and attract nuisance animals or encourage aggression. But, I don't see a problem with the regular morning feeders. I do think that feeding bread should be discouraged and perhaps that's a place to start. I'm sure there will be people who will still feed the ducks bread or try to sneak-feed them, but if they want to curtail the feeding, they should start there and not with the regular feeders.

Another thing they can do is install pellet stations for people to buy healthy food for waterfowl that pest birds don't like. It might, at least, curtail the bread and "trash food" feeding that is, most likely, the problem.

That's my opinion on the issue.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

More ruddy ducks!

I saw lots more ruddy ducks today, mostly juvenile and female. They seem to be coming out of the woodwork and are everywhere around the lake:

Also, I finally got a shot of that kingfisher, though it's a little blurry:

Here he goes:

I only saw two killdeer, a male and a female, both at the ballfield and behind a fence. I suspect that they're the M6 dad and Shy or Digger. The male is looking very beat up with a lot of scars. I feel kinda sorry for him because all he's doing is protecting his little baby girl.

Bad news about the loon:

The loon I saw a couple of days ago died peacefully soon after I took his photo. I have to admit he didn't look good that day. I didn't take a photo of him today though he looked healthier dead than he did alive. No signs of trauma or struggle. It's too bad that he made it all the way here and only lived a short time. Hopefully, more healthy loons will arrive soon.

Update on duck with fishing hook:

I don't think I saw her today, though I did see two females that looked similar, but with no injuries to their feet. I hope she got help and is doing OK. There is one young male that has a line wrapped tightly around his foot who can hardly stand, but won't let anyone catch him. I'm hoping he doesn't lose his foot.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Injured duck alert! Also, it's getting loony!

There is a cute, friendly female mallard at Lake Murray (in San Diego) with what looks like a fishing hook in her leg/foot. I tried to catch her, but she got suspicious of me and went across the lake. She seems mostly OK, just limping. I am not sure if the hook can be removed without a vet.

I originally thought it was Flycatcher, but she's doing just fine.

Also, all three "Fish Food" ducklings are doing well, too.

And, here is Chocolate 2 (the female):

"Ducky" (the lost duckling) is a girl! Here she is:

I thought she would be a boy with her green bill. There's another female duck that I thought might be a male, but she is definitely a female and starting to flirt.

Also seen:

Several ruddy ducklings:

The pretty female gadwall:

And, a first for me, a common loon:

The killdeer were nowhere to be seen, but I heard at least 2, one near where George likes to hide and another near the ballfields.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Digger sneaks away

Surprise! Digger was running around near Killer

Digger (one of the M6 chicks) came to visit and hung around Killer (George's son) in George's feeding area at Lake Murray in San Diego. She is not Killer's first love, Shy is (Digger's sister), but I think Killer appreciated having her around. He did trill and chase her a little, but not aggressively, I think it was playful. I think Digger likes Killer more than Killer likes her right now. But, he's not screaming at her or trying to get her to leave, so it may work out.



I did hear killdeer calls from various areas of the lake. I think her dad was looking for her or George was giving alarm calls about the osprey.

Both Killer and Digger have gotten the adult body style and feathering. They looked filled out and almost mature.

The young couple

I didn't take any photos of the other birds at the lake today. Ducky, the "lost" duckling, was seen with a young female a few weeks older than her. They were in a newly mowed area near the west side of the parking lot. Chocolate 2 and her new, very large, Rouen boyfriend muscled them away, but I think everything was alright. It makes me nervous that Ducky comes up to the parking area considering there has been accidents in the past.

The Fish Food Ducklings are still doing well as is Tom the Muscovy duck. There was a duck spotted with fishing line around his leg. Bill is working to catch him.

On the way home, I saw a raven with what looked like a slipped wing. It didn't look broken, but it seemed painful for him to fly. I didn't think it would be a good thing to catch him as the wildlife rehab centers are closed on Sunday and he would have spent the day in a drop-off box, alone. His friend was watching over him, at least, and when I went back to give him some grapes to see how bad his injuries were, he was gone. I heard a raven screaming alarms across the street, but did not see him. I think he might have pulled a muscle or dislocated his wing while fighting with a hawk, whom I heard later. Perhaps he was able to get into a tree or on top of a building.

I wasn't real enthused about catching him by hand, anyway, because those beaks will bite my fingers off.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ducky day

Tiny and a mallard or rouen duck

The only killdeer I saw today was Tiny and he was hanging around the coots and the ducks. He looks totally an adult now. Very different from when he first learned how to fly. No killdeer were at the ballfields. I did hear some of the other ones, but I didn't see them.


I saw another limping coot, the third victim of whatever is hurting them or perhaps the first one who was injured and began hurting again. The water level has gone down and they're not hanging around that one tree anymore. But, they are still feeding close to it and under another tree.

The "lost" duckling (to be named "Ducky") was wandering far from the water's edge close to the parking lot. He was walking up to people standing around near there. But, I got him away by going to a picnic table. He ran right up to me each time I put my bags down on a table. So, he has learned to associate the picnic tables with food. That might be a problem in the future if he gets aggressive when people won't feed him. Here's a video of him and a friend coming up to me at the table:

I saw a bunch of horned grebes at Lake Murray, too. It's funny to think that they may have "followed" me back to San Diego from the Salton Sea.

Horned grebes and a coot

Chocolate 1 is beginning to show signs of courtship and aggression. Most of the other ducks back down from him:

And, of course, the little sandpiper was around:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Killdeers and friends at Salton Sea

Yesterday, I went to the Salton Sea State Recreational Area on the northeast shore of the Salton Sea. There was a $5 charge to park and it was good at all the beach areas. But, the main section near the headquarters was the best place to see shorebirds, especially killdeer.

I am in the process of putting a video-slideshow package together and will post it later.

This young male killdeer was very curious about me and kept an eye on me during my whole time in that area. The killdeer love the abundant small flies and fish in the area. Most of them were doing the "hot foot" dance.

Here is a stilt and a killdeer. There were a lot of black-necked stilts all over the SRA.

And, here's an American avocet and a killdeer (and a juvenile ring-billed gull).

Two female avocets (one may be a juvenile):

Here are some horned grebes in their winter feathers:

Juvenile green heron:

Golden plover and that male killdeer:

Snowy egret (and juvenile ring-billed gull):

Great egret:

Pelicans (they can be seen from anywhere around the sea):

Seven western sandpipers:

I saw some phoebes and heard at least one Gambel's quail. Lots of grackles, too, but not an overwhelming amount.

No ducks to be seen, but it may be because the water is too salty for them now. When the rains start in the winter, the ducks may start to arrive.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cooper's hawk waits for finches; result of bird count

Every night, about an hour before sunset a couple dozen finches sit on the TV antenna on the building next door and about a dozen sit on the antenna on our building. They gather there and then go to their night-time roosts.

Well, last night, there were no birds on that one antenna next door because a Cooper's hawk was up there waiting for them. It's a large antenna, that's why the hawk looks so small. It's actually a pretty big hawk:

It was funny seeing the finches zoom past that antenna, hoping to gather there, only to see the hawk. A crow was flying in that direction, but when he saw the hawk, he steered away. It's funny that crows will mob other hawks, but stay away from a Cooper's hawk.

Instead, the finches gathered on my small TV antenna.

Yesterday's bird count:

Yesterday, when I went to Lake Murray, I did a bird count. I've been doing about one a month there since about May or June. The duck count went down after construction started, but has started to come back up a bit. But, I was surprised at how many coots there were!

I saw a couple of surprises there. I saw some juvenile quail and I saw two new types of birds I haven't seen there before: ruddy ducks and white-crowned sparrows.

Here are the tallys from yesterday:

3 Canada Goose
4 Wood Duck
275 Mallard
12 Ruddy Duck
2 California Quail
8 Pied-billed Grebe
6 Double-crested Cormorant
1 Great Blue Heron
1 Snowy Egret
1 Osprey
1 Cooper's Hawk
392 American Coot
2 Killdeer
1 Spotted Sandpiper
5 Western Gull
2 California Gull
46 Rock Pigeon
90 Mourning Dove
14 Anna's Hummingbird
1 Belted Kingfisher
8 Black Phoebe
7 Western Kingbird
2 American Crow
93 Bushtit
7 Marsh Wren
2 California Gnatcatcher
3 Northern Mockingbird
6 California Towhee
40 Song Sparrow
1 White-crowned Sparrow
7 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Yellow-headed Blackbird
10 Brewer's Blackbird
33 Great-tailed Grackle
17 House Finch
4 Lesser Goldfinch
1 American Goldfinch
4 House Sparrow
2 Nutmeg Mannikin

Friday, October 15, 2010

Drizzly, drizzy day. Ruddy ducks are here!

I didn't see much of the killdeer today, mostly the M6 mom in the big baseball field, at first, and then her son, Secret with her later. I could hear killdeer all over the lake, especially when the hawk flew by, but I didn't see much.

I saw some new creatures today, most notable yellow-headed blackbirds and ruddy ducks! I've never seen ruddy ducks at Lake Murray before. They were hard to get a photo of because they didn't come close to the shore. But, they were very cute!

Here is a shot of a female yellow-headed blackbird:

Here is a shot of a ruddy duck:

Here's a photo of a wood duck I saw. Sorry it's blurry. I tried to get one of the female, too, but she was too shy and all the photos I took of her were much more blurry:

There is a very young seagull chasing around the attacking the coots and sometimes the ducks. Most of the time, it left the ducks alone, but insisted on harassing the coots. He didn't seem like he wanted to hurt them, mostly just chase them around or peck at them (they pecked at him when he swooped over them). He seemed fine with the smaller birds. He also seemed really clumsy at takeoffs and landing, so I don't think he's been flying all that long. Why he was singling out the coots is news to me. I'm glad it's not duckling and chick season, but I worry about him bothering the killdeer, who were not around. He ignored the grackles.


There is an overabundance of coots on the lake right now, more than ducks. I am surprised that predators aren't picking them off or they haven't gotten a lot of diseases.

I think this is the almost drowned coot who hangs out in a different area now. He is really friendly and often walks up to people. He looks like he still has a swelling on his left side, otherwise he seems fine.

Warning, graphic photo:

As I was leaving, I went over to where the coots liked to hang out under a tree and found what looked like to be a drowned coot, dead.

It looks like it might have had the same thing that happened to the other one. Either the hawk or the osprey is jumping down from the tree and landing on them. Last time, the hawk was chased away before he could finish the coot, but this time, it looks like it died without being eaten. Ospreys don't usually eat birds, especially ones this large (they will take small birds and chicks once in a while), so if it's the osprey's fault, it was an accident.

Still, the coots continued to feed under that tree while the water levels are high.