Eagle head detail:
We have been spending so much time with our Bald Eagle family that I have suffered from a deficiency in my RDA, BirdChaser’s “Recommended Daily Allowance” of 20 bird species. Yesterday morning, the temperature was a crisp 68 degrees as we started our morning walk into the West Miramar Environmentally Sensitive Land (ESL), our local birding “patch.”. As before, we kept up a brisk pace on the way out. The sun had not yet crept from behind the ocean-front cloud bank before I had counted 17 of the “easy” birds; the exotic Muscovy Ducks and Monk Parakeets, Rock Pigeons, starling, both grackles, Blue Jay, three doves (Mourning, Eurasian Collared and White-winged), a Red-bellied Woodpecker, three egrets (Cattle, Snowy and Great), a distant Great Blue and a white immature Little Blue Heron, and a White Ibis. Soon, Purple Martins overhead, a perched Osprey, a Fish Crow and two cooperative Red-shouldered Hawks rounded out my minimum allotment. Seeing a Killdeer along the road brought me over the top, so I relaxed and enjoyed the walk.
We stopped to look a a distant doe, softly reflecting the light of the rising sun:
Near our 1 1/2 mile turnaround point on the gravel road, I began falling back to take more pictures. I understood when Mary Lou wanted to keep up the pace, and watched her disappear in the distance. Photographers can really be a bore as they retreat into their own little world of composition and exposure.
An excited Killdeer flew across my path:
Then it performed a distraction display:
Fluttering on the ground and looking for all the world as if it were mortally wounded, it was telling me that I had approached too near its nest. I applied “reverse Killdeer logic” to quickly find the nest. If the Killdeer ran right, I went to my left. If it ran away, I turned around. As I got nearer the nest, the distraction display was more fervent, and its rufous red tail and rump became all the more visible.
Killdeers can pick the most unlikely spots for a nest. As a little kid, I once “rescued” a clutch of Killdeer eggs that were right in the middle of a parking lot. In so doing, I violated the law and, tragically, did more harm than good, as you may learn in this old Blog post.”Hatching A Plot” This nest was not exception. Hardly a “nest” in the usual sense, it was merely a slight depression in the gravel and fossils, cleared of larger stones. It was placed at the edge of the road, barely outside the vehicle tracks. The eggs and young are extremely well camouflaged, and it is very easy to step on them. Therefore, the placement of each of my steps was planned carefully, after scrutinizing the ground in front of me. Before I saw the actual nest, a bit of motion caught my eye.
It was a Killdeer chick, certainly not yet a day old:
Nearby, two nest-mates huddled together, blending perfectly with the surrounding gravel:
As I watched, the little wanderer joined the others on the nest:
Before I finished my two hour walk, it had warmed to 82 degrees, and both vulture species (Black and Turkey) wheeled in the air above, and a pair of Mottled Ducks flew overhead. Twenty-four species, exceeding my bird RDA.
I came upon another doe in the southern portion of the ESL. I thought she was sticking out her tongue, but it appears there is a sore of some kind on the front of its neck:
A buck, its antlers in early velvet, suddenly apeared near the doe, and both suddenly decided I had gotten too near:
A Northern Mockingbird plucked a Ligustrum berry:
Another type of bird display meant that this Red-winged Blackbird was on its territory and told me it did not like my presence by elevating its red and yellow chevrons and singing “Konk-ra-leeee!”:
This somber female, one of his harem, was carrying nesting materials:
This Loggerhead Shrike was bird #24 :
A Catbird lurked nearby:
Over at the eagle nest, this adult dropped food into the empty nest, bringing my bird total for the morning up to 26 species. We missed seeing the two chicks, now free-flying for a week and a half: