Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Owls Are Not What They Seem...A Disgusting Return To Form...Storkspeed

A Burrowing Owl lets loose a withering hate look, with the aid of a bonus eyelid. No one could feel good about themselves after being the subject of such ancient scorn. Photographed near Finney Lake, CA.

As you know, it is not easy to be the Number 7 birder of the United States. Certain things are expected of me. The Global Birder Ranking System, while shrouded in mystery and intrigue, is also very demanding. For one, I am expected to identify birds accurately over 99% of the time, with some leeway allowed for misidentification (perish the thought!) outside of the ABA Area. Of course, it is my duty to educate the masses on how to properly look at a bird, and to help them improve their impoverished identification skills. I am also expected to bird like a Number 7 should bird...which is a lot, and in the right times and the right places. To fulfill this latter obligation, I find myself preparing, yet again, for a steamy Salton Sea trip this weekend...which is where I will be when you read this.

The vanity of a Burrowing Owl is not to be underestimated. Look at those beautiful owl-whiskers.

I'm glad I was able to get a foot-freezing shot. If you are someone who likes bristly legs (not that there's anything wrong with that)....then owls are for you.

My previous Salton Sea trip was a complete success, so it will be hard to improve on getting a state bird (Neotropic Cormorant) and whole flocks of year birds, which I did last month. Of course, as Number 7...I will endeavor to do so.

August is almost done, and with that, another field season is drawing to a close. Next week is my last week as an inhabitant of the Whale's Vagina...the urge to migrate overwhelms. BB&B will once again hit the road for points north...bay area birders surely dread my disgusting return, but there is nothing they can do to stop me.

Left to right: Northern Shoveler, Snowy Egret, WOOD STORK, Great Egret. Look how hefty the stork is compared to the comparatively bulemic Great Egret, which normally passes as a large bird. Photographed from Schrimpf Road at the south end of the Salton Sea, CA.

What a weird bird. FACT: Wood Storks feed by running their open bills through the water, and clamping down on a prey item as soon as they make contact with it. The reflex of the bill closing on prey is the fastest known reflex of any vertebrate in the world. Can you believe that? Pretty fucking awesome if you ask me.

Black Skimmers also feed by simply by trolling for prey; this is a lot more fun than watching storks do the same thing, but apparently they are not up to stork speed. Photographed at the end of MacDonald Road at the south end of the Salton Sea, CA.

A juvenile Snowy Plover. What excellent posture. Poe Road, Salton Sea, CA.

Shade is in high demand along the edges of the Salton Sea, even by species (such as Osprey) who normally shun it. I once found a Wandering Tattler (a quality bird there) quivering in the shade of a flimsy piece of dead brush out on some salt flats...which makes sense if you are an ocean-loving bird, confronted with 125 degree heat and a far more putrid habitat than what you may be used to. South end of the Salton Sea, CA.


  1. Wood Storks even dwarf Roseate Spoonbills, they are huge. I didn't know that they had the fastest known reflex of any vertebrate in the world so I have learned something new today.

    The juvie plover is stunning!

    1. Glad to be of service Mia. Never let yourself get cornered by a that time, it will already be too late.

  2. Love dem bristly legs...

    Nicely done with the Wood Stork--that is an awesome fact, though it may not fully explain why the adults shun the presence of feathers atop their heads.

    Hope you're raking em' in at Salton. My countdown has begun--leaving Saturday morning 1:30am.

    1. I did not see the storks this time. I bet they are still around though.

      Good luck out there. I highly recommend getting your hands on a scope, if you dont have one...

  3. I'll be out at the Sea next saturday, but only to find doves, and not with binoculars. If I have time and can convince my buddies, I would like to see the neotropic cormorant. Has it been sticking around the same area lately?
    The Wild Animal Park had a resident wood stork for many years. Nobody knew where it came from, but it was not part of their collection so it was countable. I got to see it on its occasional ventures outside of the park . It died about a year ago so this guy at the Sea is probably the best bet.

    1. do Collared-Doves taste?

      I saw 2 NECOs this in the usual spot, and another looking west from the north end of Garst. The former bird has been relatively reliable there.

      I remember seeing the "wild" storks there when I was a little kid, although I didnt know they were not supposed to be there at the time. I was sad to hear that the survivor had died, I was looking forward to reuniting with it.

  4. Greetings number seven (you certainly aren't modest about being number seven, are you?),

    I am moved by your most recent post as I can not help but feel an eerie synchronicity between it's title and a strong theme in my most present life. I believe all of this to be part of the universe's great plan to get me back behind the field glasses! This phoenix shall riseth.

    Oddly, I had a dream that I met you once; it involved some sort of singing bird who wore a mask, cheap beer and a rain-threatening day in an era called Humboldt. Weird, I know.

    Here is my weekend birding list from Bodega Bay, CA:

    -sparrow (not sure what kind, brown and streaky)
    -gold finches
    -sandpipers (mixed flock)
    -dowitchers (long or short-billed)
    -these huge white birds (they were HUGE)
    -ducks or something (they were tiny and petite and spun around like those teacup rides at the fair) ((none had mohawks))
    -hawk (big and perched on the ground)

    All in all a pretty amazing.

    Anyway, thanks for writing this bird advice column thing, it seems like you put a lot of effort into it. You're probably sitting in some cheap Westmorland motel as I type. I wish you well.

    xoxo, long-time-admirer-first-time-commenter

  5. Ah, my dear kinglet, so good to hear from you in this fantastic venue, that is equally yours and mine. I found myself driving on some of the same roads yesterday that we used to get paid to drive on, at 7 MPH; confusingly, we made more then than I make now.

    But I digress! Bodega Bay does have its share of birds, and your descriptions of them are absolutely vivid. Keep them coming! The field glasses call.

  6. I saw what you did with that title. Truly masterful.

    1. Haha, thanks Mike, I was hoping a few people would get that.

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