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

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Busy day in George's territory

Martha, Killer and Digger

George had a lot of visitors in his territory at Lake Murray, unfortunately, someone came by as I was taking pictures, so I couldn't make out who everyone was. But, there were at least 7 killdeer there plus Bob1, the sandpiper.

George (in the background), rushes towards 2 other killdeer

Killer, George's son

Killer and Digger were there. Digger looked a little roughed up, but she might have been cold and had her feathers puffed out for warmth.


I saw the fat-banded male killdeer, one of the ballfield killdeer. I think the female next to him was Martha, but could possibly be Shy or Firecraker. I think Tiny and his mate were there, too.

The Three Musketeer ducks: Ducky was seen mating with the female of the group, though her brother wanted to participate. However, Ducky (and his sister) wouldn't let him. Ducky still hasn't gotten his green head and he still has the plumage of a young duck. He could have a little hybrid blood in him, or it might be due to his late hatching and he may get his full colors in the fall.

Tom was there and he was really hungry. He wouldn't stop following me around. There are new signs at the lake telling people not to feed the birds. They claim it's harassment of the animals and cite a fish and game hunting code about feeding animals. However, that code was meant to say that hunters may not feed animals for the purpose of attracting them to a spot where they can be hunted (or harassed), not to feeding birds in city parks or backyards.

Here's a pretty wood duck:

Oreo and Big Daddy 2:


And Cinnamon:

Here she is with three of her suitors, two of which are "chocolate" ducks. The fourth suitor was not in the viewfinder of the camera. Cinnamon still calls for males to join her. I think she likes that crested Rouen, but he gave up on her a while back. I think the one nearest to her is Chocolate 1:

Not seen in a while: Curly. But, he disappears now and then.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Killer and Digger return

George's son, Killer and the M6 dad's daughter, Digger, returned to Lake Murray after a long absence. I doubt they will be there long and were most likely there to get some food and water. George, Martha, Tiny and Tiny's mate have not been seen in several days.

Digger and Killer were very nervous of me, but Digger less so than Killer:

Ducky was also around with the two brother and sister ducks that he spent most of his childhood with. The two males fight now and then, but not much. The sister duck likes Ducky as a mate, but her brother is very protective of her.

And, there were some cute wood ducks:

There were crows gathering in the trees near the dock. It looked like there was a hundred of them:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Update on Tiny

I didn't bring my camera today, but Tiny is doing well and it appears that his girlfriend, or another female, has come back (or, it could be Firecracker, his sister). He is spending his time in a fenced area near where he grew up. However, this area is under construction, so he may have to move.

Tiny calls all day long to his parents. Once in a while, his parents come to comfort him, but then fly back to their spots. Tiny is not allowed to fly back to his parents. If he does, they will warn him with a kill-dee response which means to keep away.

I went over to see if I could see Tiny and when I called him, he became quiet. Later, a Cooper's hawk flew and landed nearby. Tiny flew off and his dad warned him away. I think he ended up in someone's yard nearby. So, he and his parents were OK when I last saw them. Glad to see that Tiny has a companion again.

The ducks are doing good. I saw Ducky, Oreo, Tom and the others, today.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ducks and Killdeer at Sunset

George (right) and Martha (left)

I decided I needed a killdeer break and went to the lake at sunset. Killdeer make me feel like everything's going to be OK because so many things want to eat and harm them, but they almost always seem to survive.

George and Martha were in the feeding area without Tiny. However, he was where he could see everything and, once in a while, you could hear him deet or answer his parent's deets/alarms.

Martha at Sunset with the ducks:

George at Sunset with ducks, too:

Here's Ducky and his friends coming up to check me out:

Tom, the muscovy duck, says hello and asks me where the food is:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Poor Tiny, you must leave home now

Time for Tiny to go

The killdeer are back and they seem to be gearing up for the winter breeding season. Already, young males are beginning to spar and older couples are returning to their former breeding grounds.

The friendly killdeer, possibly Surprise

I'm not sure who this young male is

I think this is the M6 mom

In George's feeding area, Tiny is getting the boot from mom and dad. Both parents are puffing up and trilling at him when he comes too close. George is being very gentle, but firm. Occasionally, he will walk up to Tiny, do a small scrape in the ground, and sit on it as if it was a nest. He seemed to be saying that he's ready to nest again and wants Tiny to stay away as he may be a threat to the new chicks.

Mom, Martha, comes up to "talk" to Tiny

Poor Tiny, he really seems to want to be with his parents, but tries to keep his distance and is beginning to get the message to stay away from them. I don't know what happened to Tiny's mate, so it's likely that Tiny will join the group of bachelor males that fly around harassing the territory owners and trying to steal their mates.

Dad, George, and Tiny have a "discussion".

Last year, George and Martha laid eggs around the beginning of February and Junior and Mary were probably hatched in early March.

Ducks and Geese:

I didn't see Cinnamon and the large crested mallard duck today, but I did see the rest of the males that were competing for her. I think she has finally chosen her mate and is off for some alone time with him. I did not see her today.

Those geese in the M4 area are getting even more aggressive and are hissing at me. It's not personal, they are that way with everyone. I did find a way to make peace with them. Find some ducks and start throwing food to the ducks and these geese will immediately change their attitude. I need to be able to get to that area to see which killdeer are going to breed there, so I should make sure I have treats when I go to that area from now on.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A killdeer freaked me out, today

I didn't see Tiny or any of George's family today, but all the ducks that were in their area were doing well and are healthy. So, I went to the other side of Lake Murray near the ballfields.

The first thing I saw was mama Cooper's hawk circling around Cowles Bay, probably looking for blackbirds. She soared around several times, but flew off before I could get a photo of her. She settled in the M6 breeding area where I could hear some yellowlegs protesting. Not long after that, a quiet and fast flying, slate colored, bird flew over my head and disappeared about a mile or so away. It could have been the falcon, but I'm not sure.

Then, after I fed Cinnamon, Flycatcher's mama, and their boyfriends, I walked up the path to see if the falcon had killed anything lately. I was surprised to see this one lone killdeer on the path, standing absolutely still, staring at me.

I walked closer, talking to him, and he stood absolutely still until I was pretty much standing over him:

Then, as I bent down, my bags dropped too fast and he jumped a few feet away and deeted:

I got closer and kneeled down, but he flew away to where I saw another killdeer waiting. The other killdeer, from the back, looked like Firecracker:

Then, both began to behave normally and flew off to hide somewhere.

What freaked me out was that I have never gotten that close to a healthy adult killdeer before. I thought he was sick or injured, so I was almost going to pick him up. Even after that first time, he still wasn't afraid of me. I couldn't see the front of him and I couldn't exactly match him to any of the killdeer I have seen before at the lake. Possibly, he's a rehabilitated killdeer, raised in a cage and accustomed to human interaction.

He does look a little like Surprise, but I'm not sure unless I see him from the front and I didn't see his crest. Perhaps he was so freaked out by the falcon that he didn't want to fly off. Or maybe he was hurt by the falcon or the hawk and got away.

I hope he stays OK.

In the meantime, I did take a photo of some northern shovelers swimming with a grebe:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tiny and a peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon (sorry for the blur, the camera focused on the branches in front)

I guess there's a time in all young killdeer lives where they have to deal with falcons. Falcons are, afterall, a killdeer's #1 enemy. Falcons seem to prefer killdeer over many other birds and will actively seek them out if they think they're around. So, while I was glad that I saw Tiny today, in his dad's feeding area, I am concerned that he may not be able to meet this challenge.

Tiny was all alone, no sign of his mom and girlfriend. It's possible that his girlfriend is hanging out in their selected breeding area, perhaps getting ready for their new brood. Or, perhaps Martha, Tiny's mom, was right about the female and she never had her eye on Tiny as a mate, but George instead. We shall see. In the meantime, Bob1, the sandpiper, was keeping Tiny company, though she left him when too many people began hanging around.

Poor Tiny, I don't know if he was scared of the egret, who started stalking/shoving him away, or was lonely. When I left, he because to do "deet" calls. Tiny hides really well, so I'm sure he'll be OK.

Here's a photo of the falcon. I almost missed him because a few minutes before, I was looking at a male cooper's hawk and thought this was him. I went to feed the ducks and sat down and decided to look at him through some binoculars. This guy was watching me, then quietly snuck away. Unfortunately, a branch was in the way and the camera focused on the branch. Also, I had to use a fill-flash/brightness adjusted because he was back-lit by the sun.

This explains the pile of coot feathers I have been seeing lately in that area. I hope that Flycatcher, Caramel, Cinnamon and the chocolate ducks will be OK as they're all under his nose. The falcon doesn't seem to be hanging out in George and Tiny's area, but that doesn't mean he won't or can't.

All the other killdeer, the M6 family and the ballfield killdeer, doves, starlings, quail, and blackbirds have all disappeared within a 2 or 3 mile radius.

Also seen:

Some gadwalls (I know the date says 2010, but old habits die hard):

A gold-crowned sparrow:

Curly, whom I fed today. He's having a conference with the coots:

Some vultures hanging out. There's been a lot of casualties, probably due to the weather. This has included a few ducks, but none of the lake "favorites".

And, finally, an osprey with a fish (which a seagull tried to steal later):

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Seagull day

No sign of any killdeer, though I heard George calling from an area where I couldn't go. I fed Tom and Curly some food and they were such pigs that they ate it all.

I saw Bob2, one of the spotted sandpipers. I was worried about her as the last time I saw/heard her, she was screaming her head off at a red-tailed hawk. I was afraid she had been carried off by it. But, she's back and feeding:

All the ducks are doing very well. Here's Ducky, who still hasn't gotten his green head though he's over 20 weeks old now:

I saw these cute ring-billed gulls:

The juvenile behind these ring-billed gulls was playing with a cherry tomato or grape. A coot tried to take it away from him, but he got it back:

I think this is a juvenile herring gull playing with some leaves that fell in the lake. He seems to be trying to get the smaller, California juvenile gull to join in:

Here's what's left of "Jumpy" the gull that died a week or so ago. He took his final flight with the help of some vultures, who scatter all the dead animals all over the lake. This is now his final resting spot:

Jumpy's final flight

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Here come the shorebirds!

Least and western sandpipers

Today, I visited the National Wildlife Refuge and Biological Study area off of the Bayshore bike path between Imperial Beach and Coronado, California. It was the first time I've been there to actually look at the birds, though I have ridden my bike down there several times in the past.

I saw a lot of cute shorebirds, but first started with some wigeons, gadwalls, and pintails (I didn't get any photos of the gadwalls):



Then, I saw a whole lot of willets. Here's a couple with some wigeons:

There were gobs of birds I couldn't identify because they were so far away:

I like the semipalmated plovers, they look like 2 to 3 week old killdeer chicks. Here they are with a few western sandpipers:

I thought I had scared this big flock of western sandpipers off because I stepped into the boundary of the refuge a few feet (which is a no-no). But, then, I saw a falcon fly by, so I knew they weren't nervous wasn't because of me:

I couldn't get a photo of the falcon, I was concentrating on getting a correct identification. In that photo above, there are also some brants (a type of goose). Here is a close-up of a few:

I am going to post more photos on my Gather page, you can access it here: Darlene's Gather "Other Photos" Page I will also be posting them on We Love Birds and Flickr, too.

I did see some killdeer and some other plovers, but they were too far away to get a good photo of. The killdeer were staying far away from the area the falcon (and a feral cat) were at. In fact, one group of killdeers saw the falcon five minutes before I did and were probably long gone or hidden by the time it flew over to that area.