Fan-tailed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 4 of California Birding

Tuesday arrived and the planed birding trips had come to an end.  But Jim and Vince were staying a few extra days and Chuck Hoppe was flying into the San Jose Airport that day and we were going to spend some time with my cousin.  So,  the 3 of us headed out to find some more birds before heading to the airport and our main target bird was the Yellow-billed Magpie.  This bird is endemic to California and cannot be found in any other state except California.  But one has to travel to some interior areas of the state as they would not normally be found along the coast.  Growing up in southwestern Nebraska, the Black-billed Magpie is a fairly common bird; and they have a fairly large range covering much of the western United States and as far north as Alaska.  So the Yellow-billed was our focus bird.  I had been given directions by one of our guides that we had on Sunday and was told they could be found near Ed Levin Park near Milpitas, CA.  So we set the GPS and took off.  We followed Al's directions and sure enough we found a pair of them almost exactly where he directed us.  They can be very vocal and would be hard to miss with their size and bold black and white markings.  Yes, another life bird for all of us!
 Yellow-billed Magpie

Yellow-billed Magpie

We had achieved our goal already and had some time to spare, so we drove back to Ed Levin Park to kill some time there and at this stop, I finally got a photo of the Oak Titmouse.  Although I had seen them on Sunday, this was my first photo of one.  

Oak Titmouse

We stopped once along the road to admire 2 more Golden Eagles (this brought my total of Golden Eagles up to 6 on this trip!), and I had the opportunity to snap a photo of a Common Raven from the car window.

Common Raven

Couple of items that caught my interest in the park were the ground squirrels that were very prevalent in the park and in the fields and pastures near the roads all around the area.  Have done a little research and I think the species is the California Ground Squirrel, but I could be wrong and if someone reading this can give me a better ID, I will be more than happy to make a correction.  Jim also discovered a nice large Tarantula which was not a creature he wanted anything to do with.  He went running one way and I couldn't get to the spider fast enough to get some photos!  Lovely creature that I estimated to be about 4" to 5" across.

 California Ground Squirrel, (I think)

California Ground Squirrel, (I think)


So much for the birding on this day as our attention then turned to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium.  for those of you still following along, expect to see some mammals, some fish and yes, some more birds!  First things first, Sea Otters!  That in my opinion is the biggest reason to come to Monterrey Bay.  They do have a couple of these enigmatic mammals in the Aquarium itself where they can be viewed up close and personal and putting on a show for the spectators.  But to me, it is more satisfying to actually see some out in the open water of Monterrey Bay and capture photos of them in their wild state.  Such marvelous creatures and so unique.

 Sea Otter

Sea Otter

Of course the Aquarium itself is full of various underwater life all in huge and sometime very small aquariums.  I did attempt a few photos of some of the fish, but found it difficult to focus with my large zoom lens, so remember these photos were being shot through a thick aquarium glass without a flash.  I have no clue what species we have in these photos, but I think they are simply beautiful.

Also within the confines of the aquarium itself is an area where they have rescued and rehabilitated injured birds and one can see them up close.  Here are a couple of photos of a couple of birds, that were in this open area that were almost too close for photos, but this is closer than I have ever gotten to either one; a Ruddy Turnstone and a Snowy Plover.

 Ruddy Turnstone in Captivity

Snowy Plover in Captivity

Once we left the Aquarium we made a side stop to the docks and jetties of Monterrey Bay.  Really came to see the California Sea Lions up close and in the process I was able to discover a couple of birds up close.  Brandt's Cormorant was one that I had seen at several places around Half Moon Bay, but was not able to get very close for photos, but this time it was different.  They were going to roost on the pilings all around the seal lions.  And by peering down and over the edge, I also discovered a Surfbird on the rocks.  Another bird that I had seen from a distance earlier in the trip, but was never able to get photos.  

 Brandt's Cormorant


And of course the California Sea Lions were what we came down to look at.  Got one up close and personal, but also got a view of the jetty with just about every rock covered by one of these magnificent mammals.

 California Sea Lions

The Monterrey Bay Aquarium is a must see for anyone that is near this area.  Their displays of all types of marine life including many species of jellyfish and anemones and corals are outstanding.  The huge 2 story aquarium of fish and kelp is awesome and readily shows how fish move with the water currents.  If I lived in that area, I would not hesitate in purchasing a year pass. 

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