Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Turtles and Birds

 While Bart was in Hawaii he got to see some of the sea turtles that nest on the island. Since receiving protection the sea turtle population has recovered enough that sea turtles are a common sight in places.
They often arrive onto nesting beaches en masse and overwhelm egg predators with their sheer numbers.
I confess to having eaten sea turtle meat on two occasions way back in the 1970's in Mexico. It was delicious. I only feel a little bit guilty.
Is this guy big enough to prey upon a turtle egg or hatchling?
A fine portrait of a Cattle Egret.
Meanwhile back in Nipomo, California a sinister head popped up over the hedge in my friend Don's backyard.
The local song birds, like this Scrub Jay beat a hasty retreat.
This immature Cooper's Hawk is a regular visitor to Don's property. It is the scourge of the local birds.
The young accipitor has not yet learned that sitting in the bird bath is an ineffective spot for ambushing small birds. Maybe it thinks that the ceramic bird could be a tasty lunch.
While the Cooper's Hawk hogged the top of the bird bath a Spotted Towhee quietly searched for seeds underneath.
Don thinks that Spotted Towhees are the most beautiful of all birds. Which bird do you think is the most beautiful?
Another local bird that prefers to forage on the ground is the California Thrasher.
All of the birds in this post are old friends of mine from way back and I miss seeing them since they do not make it up to Alaska.
There is more to come from Nipomo.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Exotic Oahu

The last post was about Bart and Sandy's trip to Raratonga. Right now Bart is on a business trip to Hawaii, the island of Oahu.  He recently purchased a fine telephoto lens for his camera and he brought it along to occupy his time when he is not working. He has been sending me photos every few days.
This puts my bird identifying skills to the test. I'll call this one an introduced White-rumped Shama although the shamas I saw in Thailand have redder underparts. Maybe island life is changing them over time. They have wonderful singing voices.
Another introduced exotic, Red-vented Bulbul.
I love the scaling on its breast. A handsome bulbul.
The species deserves a third look showing  some more scaling on its back.
An introduced exotic that comes from the same region of the world, Common Myna. The Quimbies saw some in Raratonga as well.
This one comes from South America; A Brazilian Cardinal.
The most exotic of all, a House Sparrow. Although my caption is 'tongue in cheek', it would be an exotic bird here in Alaska. We never see them.
They are not all birds; this Monarch, (or Monarch relative) may or may not be an introduced species.
Not an introduced exotic, Pacific Golden Plovers get to Hawaii on their own.
This PGP has banding on its legs. Where was it banded, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Alaska, or Hawaii? That is what makes me curious.
Another shorebird species that naturally occurs in Hawaii. These are Sanderlings. Both Pacific Golden Plovers and Sanderlings breed in Alaska, although we seldom see them in Anchorge.
I believe that this Sanderling is a juvenile bird. Sanderlings look completely different in their breeding plumage.
There is more to come from Oahu.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Before I report on Sandy and Bart's trip to Raratonga I need to mention that the Costa's Hummingbird that I wrote about last post is still alive and kicking. This is despite the fact that we are experiencing a major cold spell with overnight temperatures below zero f and the day's high at about 16f. That is about , -18 and -10C.
Mr. Whitekeys installed a heat lamp next to the feeder to keep it from freezing solid. The hummingbird's survival has made the local television news.
Anyway Raratonga is part of the Cook Islands in the South Pacific. Sandy and Bart Quimby went there recently to do some snorkeling and relax on the beach. They said that their trip was less expensive than an equivalent trip to Hawaii, without all the tourists and blatant commercialism.
The Quimbies are not birders but they did photograph a few birds, like this Pacific Reef Egret.
A Brown Noddy, which is a species of tern.
This bird makes me jealous because I have long wanted to see a Fairy Tern, also called White Tern. They lay their eggs and raise their young on bare tree forks.
Isolated islands tend to have few land bird species. This Common Myna is an introduced species. Mynas can adapt to just about anything.
The coral reefs are what draws most visitors to the Cook Islands. I think the fish are two species of Damsels. I used to be into snorkeling when I was very young but all that was a long time ago. I did most of my skin diving in the Sea of Cortez and California's Channel Islands. (note, Maggie says they are Humbugs, (black and white fish) and Some sort of Chromis, probably Green Chromis.)
A Giant Clam and I believe the fish are Sargent Majors.
This may be some sort of angel fish. I bet Maggie would know. She is big time into scuba diving and I am pretty sure that she went to Raratonga a few years back. (Maggie is not sure about this species and she has not been to Raratonga yet. Right now she is in Oaxaca, Mexico)
Another shot of the same species but not the same individual.
Magnificent sunrises are common in the tropics but a rare sight in Alaska.
Of course the same is true for the sunsets.

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Mystery Bird, A lost Bird, and More

My friend Sandy Quimby sent me this blurred cell phone photo of a bird she saw while hiking. She is not really a birder but she knew that it was not one of the regular birds that she sees. I looked the photo over but could not figure out what it was.
Then I posted the photo on the AK Birding site and asked the experts to chime in. What do you think it might be? A hint. It is a bird that occurs both in North America and Eurasia. Another hint, it is a bird which is in the process of being split into several different species. The bird was identified by intrepid Anchorage birder, Aaron Bowman. It is a female Red Crossbill. Very uncommon in this part of Alaska although I have seen many in Arizona, from a different sub-species.
On Halloween I got to see a lost bird. One that normally lives in the desert Southwest. They normally do not range further north than Southern Nevada. Can you guess what this might be? 
It is a female, Costa's Hummingbird. Although it is very far outside its normal range, this is the second Costa's that I have seen in Anchorage. We seldom see any hummingbirds in Anchorage.
The weather was very cold and snowy. Mt. Whitekeys, local celebrity and president of Anchorage Audubon Society puts out a hummingbird feeder just in case a hummingbird might show up. Two weeks earlier he had an Anna's Hummingbird at this feeder but I missed that one. I saw many of those in California and Arizona but I wanted to add it to my Alaska bird list.
He had to thaw out the sugar water in the feeder repeatedly because it would freeze up about every three hours. Its prospects for long term survival do not look good.
Sandy Quimby's husband Bart got a new camera and sent me a few photos of local stuff. The bird in the photo above is a non-breeding male, Spruce Grouse.
A magnificent bull Moose resting in the tall grass.
Potter Marsh ducks. The marsh is now frozen over and most of the ducks are gone.
A grandiose panorama of the Eagle River valley.
Bart and Sandy recently went to Raratonga in the Cook islands and got some wonderful photos. I will post those photos soon.