Friday, December 20, 2013

Black, White, Gray, Brown

It's winter now. All the birds seem to be black, white, gray, brown. When I first started birding, Horned Grebes were relatively uncommon where I lived. For some reason, part of my brain now thinks they are uncommon everywhere, so I still get a little worked up whenever I see more than a couple in one spot. Of course, in the bay area, not only are Horned Grebes common, they are easily crushable. Photographed at the Berkeley Fishing Pier.

I first started birding the Berkeley Fishing Pier (next to the Berkeley Berkeley) a few years ago when someone found an approachable Yellow-billed Loon. Of course, I never saw it (my success rate when chasing this species is famously low), but its a fun nearby place to check in winter for loons, diving ducks, etc. There's always a few Common Loons hanging out.

The only place I've ever taken Bufflehead photos that I like is at Lake Merritt. It's also the only place where I've gotten likable shots of Tufted Duck, Common Goldeneye, Canvasback, get the idea. Go there some time.

When I first started out birding, the rainbow of colors locked away in the blackness of the bird's head always fascinated me. It was impossible to see at any distance, but close up, the greens/blues/purples lit up in a certain way that I've still not quite seen on any other bird. It still mesmerizes me.

High on the list of birds that no one wants look at pictures of is female Surf Scoter. Visually, she just doesn't have much to offer besides an oversized bill and a white spot on the cheek. Female Surfs get misidentified as Black Scoters from time to time, due to the variety of cheek patterns they can sport; at times they can appear almost white-cheeked, like a female Black. The bill size should always give these birds away though, as Black Scoters are not nearly as obnoxious looking. Sorry you had to see this. Photographed at the Berkeley Fishing Pier.

Of course, adult male Surf Scoters are very pleasing, although they look manic and depraved much of the time. Photographed at the Berkeley Fishing Pier.

Even more uninteresting than a female Surf Scoter is a young male Surf Scoter. I would say they go beyond boring to actually unpleasant to look at. Gross.

Speaking of boring and unpleasant, here is a molting male Eurasian Wigeon photographed earlier in the fall. You can see some of the gray feathering coming in on the back that we are more accustomed to seeing on males this time of year. Photographed at the Corte Madera Wetlands in Larkspur, CA.

It's nice to have a lot of shorebirds around in winter, although the rare shit from earlier in the fall almost never sticks around for the cold months. Oh well, sometimes quantity over quality can be ok. Photographed at Shoreline Park in Oakland, CA.

Black-necked Stilts are an abundant bird on the west coast. Those in the east (and other stilt-depauperate areas of the world) are most unfortunate. Photographed at Arrowhead Marsh in Oakland, CA.

In northern California, we are blessed/cursed with a widespread population of moffitti Canada Goose, which are introduced from other parts of the country. While some consider them a minor nuisance and they surely have some sort of impact on native species, they do attract native goose species in fall and winter who are more than happy to join the flock. Why are moffitti so successful here? Berries, of course.

Bucolic Lake Merritt and its winter legion of scaup.


  1. Yes on that Black-necked Stilt photo. +1 to anyone who can find the tufted duck in the last image. Its in there somewhere right?

    1. The female I found that day might be in there somewhere. The male is off to the left by the fountain.

    2. Didn't realize there was a female around this year too. Very cool.

  2. I wish stilts were abundant here. I hope you used that goose/berry shot for a christmas card or some shit.