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

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Baby season and summer birds

It's baby season and there seems to be plenty of breeding going on at Lake Murray lately.  While I haven't seen any ducklings for a couple of weeks, I saw plenty of other birds.  The baby osprey were flapping their wings and the heron chicks are getting big, though a bit far from fledging.  

Here's the first baby coot I've seen.  I saw one other that was all by himself:

Lots of baby pied-billed grebes around all of a sudden.  My camera didn't seem to like the lighting on these two fuzzy bodies:

Two handsome mallard drakes hanging out.  Most of the ducks I see now are bachelor mallards because most females are nesting.

One-foot ate and drank too much and is gaping because he couldn't breathe.  He was alright, though.

Two newly dumped ducks:

Baby Blue was very interested in both of them.  I think he wanted to fight the male who was much larger than him and he probably wanted the female, too.

I also saw some terns returning, two Forsters and one Caspian.  Bob2 was also there, all covered with spots, but she refused to let me take her photo, as usual.  She used to not mind me photographing her, but I think the increase in activity on the shore has made her weary.

Graphic pic ahead:

I found these pieces of a Cooper's hawk near a tree where Big Mama used to hunt.  I've seen her son and daughter hunting there from time to time.  This might be one of them.  I suspect a hawk or owl got him.  Here is what's left.  You can see the skull with the hooked bill, and part of a wing.

In other sad news, someone told me that they found a large duck carcass near where Oreo hangs out.  She said it looked like a mallard.  Oreo's gang is alright.  I even saw Stumpy, whom I hadn't seen for at least a year.  I couldn't find Buffy's son, though.  Also, two Pekins are missing, possibly Mr and Mrs. Pekin and it's possible that the carcass was Mr. Pekin because some people don't know the difference between a Pekin and a mallard.  But, I suspect that Mr. and Mrs. Pekin are together somewhere, staying away from the other ducks because of the condition of the Mrs who was near death when I saw her.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mom and a dozen ducklings

Today, I saw a mom with at least a dozen ducklings, give or take one.  She was leading them into a bad spot on the lake.  The ducklings were everywhere and not paying attention to mom:

Sometimes, it takes a day or two before mama and babies are in sync, so the babies just run everywhere, sometimes far away from their mother.

The good thing is that they don't have any worries or fears and if they get caught by a predator, they die quickly.  This mama seemed not to care that most of her ducklings were going awry.

Lots of bugs and a chance to get feed by people in this area.  Unfortunately, this is also a high gull, crow, raven, and heron area.

Not a care in the world:

Here is mom with 11 of the ducklings going everywhere.  I think there was one or two out of frame.

Close-ups of a few of them:

The killer Pekin drakes were there (they killed a mallard hen last weekend), but paid no mind at all to the ducklings.  Even their large female friend didn't bother them.  But, one of the Pekins tried to do something, probably trying to mate with mama, and mama duck kicked his butt.

 This might be "Fish Food Mama", but I'm not sure.  She didn't seem to be a good mama.  I'm thinking she might have been overburdened with too many ducklings and brought them to this area to thin out her brood so that only the most attentive, strongest ducklings were left for her to care for.  Or, she was trying to give them an advanced lesson in predators.

It was interesting, though, when I looked through my binoculars about fourty-five minutes later.  She was surrounded by gulls and crows, all within reach of her babies.  But, they were very hesitant with her.  I think a crow might have gotten one baby, but I'm not 100% sure.  One juvenile gull swiped at some of her straying babies and they immediately rushed over to mama.  The rest of the gulls just watched her.  The ducklings seemed to be learning a lesson and quickly gathered up next to mama and the mother duck swam right past about 6 gulls who did not attack, even when three or four of the ducklings strayed away.  It will be interesting to see how many she has left when I see her again.  I do notice that the gulls and crows don't mess with certain mother ducks.  It is this respect for this mother duck that makes me think that she is "Fish Food Mama", the potential gull-killer and attacker of hawks.


Have you heard the roosters crowing at Lake Murray?  Apparently, they were dumped there last weekend.  One rooster has, since, died, but not from a predator.  This is a new problem because of people buying chicks for their backyard flocks only to find a few roos in them.  Roosters are not allowed in the city limits and, instead of rehoming or sending them to "freezer camp", they dumped them at the lake.  Please buy your chicks sexed or buy only adults.  Otherwise, be prepared for roos and deal with them accordingly other than dumping them and giving the coyotes free food.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Killdeer fight!

A few days ago, Killer Junior and Smudge's mate were having some sort of argument, but I don't know why.  Smudge's mate has lived on George's territory for over a year.  Killer Junior's daughter tried to get Smudge's mate for her own mate, but was unsuccessful.  Miracle, Killer Junior's mate, often hangs out in that area and that's probably why he was there.

First, here's Killer Junior:

He does a jerky sort of bow-threat dance that makes him easy to identify.


Smudge's mate:

Killer Junior attacked Smudge's mate by jumping and kicking at him:

Then, Killer Junior chased him.  But, Smudge's mate was also seen making aggressive moves towards Killer Junior, so he's not all innocent.

Killer Junior all puffed up and angry:

Update on the ducks:

None of Snowie's ducklings survived, she was seen without any.  Another female duck was seen with about eight one day, but not seen the next day.

Sissy duck appears to have died as has the crested Pekin that used to hang out with Cow.  Mrs. Pekin is in extremely bad shape, but holding on.  The sweet Cayuga girl has also died.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Snowie down to two babies

Despite the very cold weather we've been having, Snowie has managed to keep two ducklings for five days.  It's not a surprise that these are the two that survived as their colors are selected for in nature.  It's the little mallard and one of the Swedish, though the Swedish is beginning to show unusual mallard-like markings:

Here is the little mallard:

The little Swedish who might be crested:

The little mallard has a lot of energy, but the other one is struggling.  I can already tell that both ducklings have doubled in size, at least:

There might be some goslings hatching, soon.  Here is mama nesting:

Dad is doing guard duty.  He attacks anything that might bet too close to the nest even if it's a half mile away.  He was attacking cormorants and even went way out far away to attack them.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

More of Snowie's babies

Despite it being very cold and rainy over the last couple of days, Snowie still has five ducklings.  The yellow duckling and a black duckling (the yellow one was picked up by a kid and he may have picked up a black one, but put them back and I did see them after he left) were missing. It's not unusual to lose two ducklings in three days, especially in the area she's raising them in.  The blue one seems to be struggling a bit and is the most affected by the cold weather. It is so cold that there is snow in the mountains.  The ducklings were cranky and peeping a lot.

When I first found the family, Snowie was fighting off another male, but her mate and son helped chase them away.  Then, her ducklings hid under the floating dock.  The gray duckling got stuck under there, but eventually found his way out.

Here is the gray duckling whom I named Baby Baby Blue:

Here he is with one of the three black Swedish ducklings:

The little mallard is still there:

Here is the another Swedish.  The ducklings showed no fear of me and ran right up to my feet.  It makes me wonder who else they run up to:

There's also news that the Canada geese at the lake are nesting and Picked-On seems to be feeling better and is eating again.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The first ducklings of the season award goes to Snowie!

Snowie showed up late yesterday afternoon at Lake Murraay with 7 ducklings of a variety of colors and shapes.  All but one were domestic colors.  One was a mallard color.  I *think* we might have a couple crested ones.  You can probably guess who the dads were.

There were two that were light blue and yellow, probably came from Baby Blue:

Here is the lighter yellow-blue ducklings with a black and yellow duckling.  I'm suspecting the father of the dark one to be Dougie.  Bigboi tends to produce all black ducklings, but he may still be the father.  I don't think it's a runner baby because he doesn't stand up at all like a runner and that trait tends to carry through even when they breed to non-runner ducks.

This photo is available as a print on Deviant Art.  You can buy it here:

Unfortunately, Snowie had to fight off all the males in the area.  This put her ducklings in danger, especially from the 50 or so gulls nearby getting fed.  All the ducklings were fine while i was there.

Here is a Youtube video I made of Snowie's ducklings running around:

She was heading towards the gulls, that's why I told her not to go there.  Unfortunately, I don't think these guys are going to last.  The weather's been cold and Snowie is not the best mother.  I wanted to make sure I filmed and photographed all of them before they disappear.  Also, one kid was able to pick one of them up, so it's possible that they may get duck-napped.