Welcome to my world..............

Sunday, 31 August 2014

A ringed Albatross...result!

Following on from the earlier post I was delighted to receive a 'Certificate of Appreciation' from the US Geological Survey and Canadian Wildlife Service.  It gave the original capture and ringing details of the bird concerned and proved most interesting reading.
Black-footed Albatross
The photo above was the original image which I just happened to notice that it appeared to be ringed or 'banded' as the Americans choose to call it.  I cropped the image to that of the next photo and posted the information on an American banding website.
Black-footed Albatross - cropped image
The certificate received gave details of where the albatross was originally captured.

The location stated prompted me to look into it further.  Whale-Skate Island is one or two islands among the FFS which stands for the French Frigate Shoals some 500+ miles north-west of Honolulu, Hawaii, and were said to be up to 15 acres.
2700 miles...as the albatross flies..or doesn't...

Looking for further information on the island(s) it would seem that it no longer exists!  An article in May 2004 in the Honolulu Post quoting the ringer of my bird saying "That island in the course of 20 years has completely disappeared" with rising sea levels, said Beth Flint, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist for the Pacific Remote Island Refuges. "It washed away."

Almost all (97.5%) of the Black-footed Albatrosses breed on the long chain of islands north-west of Hawaii and nearly 25% on the French Frigate Shoals alone.  The distance given as a straight line between the ringing site and where I photographed the bird is around 2700 miles as the albatross flies.  However, consideration should be given to the fact that after fledging and initially roaming the seas for the first three years of life before returning to their birth area to prepare for breeding themselves.  Following successful breeding when about seven years old the birds disperse to the eastern Pacific anywhere from Alaska down to California before returning to breed the following year.  Adults must cover many thousands of miles each year and over the lifetime must be into the hundreds of thousands.

As with many species the world population of over 100,000 is affected by pressure on breeding sites although most are in protected areas but like the birth-site are prone to changes in sea-level, and thousands are killed each year by long-line fishing practices and the numbers have halved in over 50 years.  

I will finish with a few more photos of these magnificent birds, being only feet away at times was a magical experience.


Thursday, 21 August 2014

California ...the last few days

The last few days of the trip were rather busy and had little time to post some more photos.  Yosemite was absolutely fantastic and the drive through provided stunning view after view taking in the iconic Half Dome Mountain in Yosemite valley before passing over to the eastern side where we stayed at June Lake.

The three nights at June Lake were extremely enjoyable and relaxing, the only disappointment was missing the odd Black Bear that was around.  There actually seemed to be a bit of migration going on in the area with hundreds of warblers at times, working their way through bushes, nearly all Audubon's Warblers.  The common woodpecker in the area was a new one for me, Red-bellied Sapsucker.
Red-bellied Sapsucker

Stellar's Jay

Audubon's Warbler


American Robin

California Gull

Gull Lake and June Lake
The last couple of days was spent driving down through Death Valley (a stunning experience) and ending up in Las Vegas (an experience I didn't enjoy the first time in 1979 and needed 'stunning' the second time....)

The 'low point'...not counting Las Vegas.....
So, after a simply stunning couple of weeks where everything worked seamlessly and exceeded everyone's expectations, at least five life ticks and as many new US birds it is back to normality now...

Friday, 15 August 2014

Yosemite - 14th August

Not many birds today but as for views....amazing!  One of SF from last night too

Thursday, 14 August 2014

At last a few shore-birds.....

Fairly close to Tiburon I found a small sheltered bay with a few sandy banks and muddy areas on it.  At least 12 White Pelicans immediately drew my attention and I pulled off the main highway and spent some time looking over the area.  The birds were as follows: c.20 Snowy Egret, c.10 Forster's Terns, ten American Avocet, 18 Black-necked Stilts, 35 Grey Plover, a Kildeer, four Semi-palmated Plover, six Short-billed Dowitchers, a Greater Yellowlegs, c.150 Semi-palmated Sandpipers and c.25 Least Sandpipers.    Other birds seen in the area was a small flock of Wild Turkey, an Osprey carrying a fish, several Western Bluebird , c.20 White-crowned Sparrows, and a Spotted Towhee.  Rather tantalisingly I saw a flock of gnatcatchers flying across the road but was unable to stop.
Osprey carrying a fish

Wild Turkey

Forster's Tern

White Pelican

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

No bird photos today... San Francisco 11th August

What chance do I stand with a family showing this much interest....

ME: Oh look, a Great Blue Heron....
EM: Yeah...and a little red duck over there...

A trip through San Francisco today to the north bay area to allow the girls to fulfil their dream of swimming with dolphins....

There was a very educational element to the visit highlighting the dangers faced to the world's cetaceans and the massive impact of pollution in the the Pacific with a floating mass of rubbish the size of Texas stagnating in the Pacific Ocean alone.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Pescadero Creek Beach - 10th August

A drizzly morning proved a little challenging on the photographic front so not many to choose from today.  It was however a good morning at the creek and the shoreline for viewing birds.  Hiding on one of the rocky islands was a Harlequin Duck, and on the rocks and shoreline were at least four Black Oystercatchers, two Wandering Tattlers, two Black Turnstones and five Surfbirds along with all the usual gulls and terns, although Caspian Terns now numbered five. A probable Clark's Grebe (bright yellow bill and white face well above the eye), two Marbled Murrelets and two pairs of Surf Scoter were on the sea, and hundreds of Sooty Shearwaters milling by some distance out.  On the lagoon side were at least 18 Great Blue Herons, 22 Great White Egrets, c.20 Ruddy Duck and a couple of Gadwall.  There was a noticeable increase in hirundines with at least 100 Barn Swallows, 30+ Violet Green Swallows, five Cliff Swallows, and other passerines included several Marsh Wren, a Yellowthroat; in addition buteos were obvious with at least 20 locally, several were Red-tails but at least one was Red-shouldered Hawk, and an adult and juvenile White-tailed Hawk on a dead tree in the marsh.
Heerman's and Western Gulls

A distant Harlequin Duck
Song Sparrow

Sunday, 10 August 2014

A ringed Albatross

While looking through the photos of my recent pelagic trip off Monterey I spotted that one of the Black-footed Albatross's was ringed with a metal ring on one leg and a yellow numbered ring on the other. Cropping the photo showed the bright yellow ring to be what I believe to be a B201 rather than 8201.  A quick search on the internet shows that around 95% of the population breed on Hawaii which is about 2300 miles from Monterey.  I have sent the information off and look forward to getting some information back on this bird.
A ringed Black-footed Albatross
Watch this space!

Pescadero Creek - 9th August

The ranch we are now at for the next 4 nights is about 45 minutes south of San Francisco only a mile from the coast.  The ramshackle tired image presented from the outside belies the revelation inside; beautifully appointed and having all the facilities including a hot-tub!  The peace and quiet is great and just a walk around the grounds here produced an American Robin, a super couple of Wilson's Warblers, Pacific Scrub Jays, Hairy Woodpecker, numerous Red-winged Blackbirds, Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Brewer's Blackbirds.  Seeing Eurasian Collared Dove seemed rather odd, but obviously they have been introduced here too.
A walk around the local beach proved worthwhile with hundreds of Brown Pelicans, California Gulls, Western Gulls, Heerman's Gulls, Elegant Terns and a couple of Caspian Terns; on the wader front, a Black Turnstone on the beach, a Surfbird on the rocky shore, a Marbled Godwit and Short-billed Dowitcher on the lagoon.  On some open water were several Ruddy Ducks, the first I have seen for some years since they were exterminated in the UK.  Nearby on the coastal agricultural fields were one possibly two White-tailed Kites, fantastic!

Gulls and Terns on the beach

Heerman's Gulls, California Gulls and Elegant Terns

Western Gull, adult
Western Gull, juvenile

Elegant Tern

Elegant Tern

Elegant Tern

Caspian Tern