Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lake Merritt: The Realm of Fuligula and Friends




Buffleheads even attract the attention of nonbirders. Little do they know that they actually nest in the ear cavities of American Buffalo, a highly specified niche.

I've been spending a lot of time in Oakland this year. Who knew? I've always felt loyal to sweet sweet West Bay.

Like San Francisco, there is a lot of concrete around here, but birds can be found with the right pair of eyes...or access to BB&B. The obvious best birding/photography spot around is Lake Merritt, which is filled with diving ducks all winter long, not to mention grebes, gulls, herons and various songbirds around the lake. That's pretty cool in and of itself, but these birds are quite acclimated to people, as anyone who tried to go hunting here would probably end up on the losing end of a shootout with a local gang. Bring a camera and you can spend many hours there...November-February are the best months, but get there soon and you can probably still find most of the regulars. All pictures today are from Lake Merritt.

PS Although not from Lake Merritt, I highly recommend looking at this gem from Postsecret. Swans > Kids any day and every day.


Canvasbacks can be a bitch to photograph, which is a shame, because they are brilliant ducks...superb, even. I once saw a Peregrine Falcon grab a Canvasback from the sky, and then drop it into a pond from 150 feet up. THE DUCK SURVIVED. You will have no problem getting cornea-bending looks of them at the lake.


This American White Pelican can't fly and has been living off fishy handouts at the lake's nature center for several years. Occasionally a wild birds drops by and keeps it company/steals its meals. It still goes into breeding plumage late every winter and is fun to look at when its around.


Of course, the avian celebrity of the lake is the annually returning Tufted Duck. For the past several years this has been the most reliable place in the state to see one.


His tuft doesn't always look so immaculate, and it needs to be shampooed and conditioned on the regular. It reminds me more of a droopy mohawk (stylish in it's own right) in this picture.


Well I have a feeling this is a hybrid, but maybe (against all odds) it's a Glaucous-winged Gull. Kind of a pretty bird though. The lake can hold good numbers of gulls from time to time, and should be checked for some of the rarer species.

One of the Great Egrets that frequents the lake has lost most of it's fear of people, which allows you to get pictures like this one...


...and this one. Maybe someone can bring it some moisturizer?????


Green Herons are there too, although aren't as notoriously cooperative as some of the other herons. In fact, I haven't met a truly abiding Green since 2009 in the Everglades....what a bummer.


Eared Grebes appear harmless, but their terminator eyes say otherwise. Between their eyes and their fluffy, pillowesque bodies, they are one of the great mysteries of nature. 



Lake Merritt and scaup on a cloudy day.


There are birds without webbed feet found at the lake too, like this Nuttall's Woodpecker. Nuttall's is practically endemic to California, so my heart swells with pride whenever I see one.


Lesser Scaup. I dig the fine patterning on it's back (scaupulars?!), that's not something non-hunters get to see very much. Go to sleep my scaupy friend.


13 comments:

  1. Your secondary camera (or whatever you're using, or did your first string camera revive??) performed admirably.

    Floopy mohawks, dry crackly legs, and blood-shot eyes, it was like a Woodstock reunion, except beautiful.

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    1. My camera(s) are still drying out, I'll see how they're faring soonish...these shots are from earlier this winter.

      Speaking of Woodstock, Merritt is the only place where you can see Tufted Duck and smell marijuana smoke (secondhand) at the same time.

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  2. Love the close-ups! I had no idea that gangs benefitted birders like that... certainly that's the type of thing that could turn their image right around.

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    1. Birders and gangs...I can't think of two groups of people who have more in common.

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  3. Lots of great close ups! I especially like the White Pelican!!

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    1. The ONE time that pelican offered really really good photo ops, I forgot my camera battery at home! Oh well, it's not going anywhere.

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  4. I like the looks of that there woodpecker, sir. Anywhere you would recommend to find meself one on my drive to AZ?

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    1. Perhaps...what route are you taking?

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    2. probably taking I-5 straight down unless I stop in the bay area to pick up a friend... even then, only brief stop and back to 5.

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    4. Huh! Well Nuttall's are not rare and are often linked with oak woodland habitats...I'm not sure if youve driven 5 all the way through CA but you will not run into anything that looks like a forest until you are much further south from the bay area. I advise getting onto Ebird and just checking where they've been seen lately...otherwise Lake Merritt is not far from big highways...

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  5. That Can is damn pretty.

    FSM I miss Oakland. Lived right by the Lake before I ever tried my hand at birding. If only I knew what was a few blocks from me.

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    1. Yup, its pretty great, probably the best place to be in town when the weather is nice. I was there again today to check if my camera was still working, it was still very birdy.

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