California Grebe-ing

This Pied-billed Grebe was one of at least four grebe species I saw in California.  I believe this was the only Grebe species that was NOT a new addition to the life-list!

All I can say for sure is that I no longer know which Grebe is my favorite.  These guys are just too cute,

I think this is a family photo!

But this grebe is also irresistible.  I think it is an Eared Grebe, but I wouldn't bet the farm on my ID.  It could be a Horned Grebe, although I don't think it is.

 Here's another shot of the tentatively identified Eared Grebe.  Expert opinions welcomed here!

This isn't a great photo, but you get a good idea of the size of this grebe compared to a Ruddy Duck.

And who could forget my famous Western Grebe family?  Bottom line; I loved them all!


Those Cute Western Blackbirds

One of the cutest birds I saw on our trip across country was the very common (there) and very uncommon (here) Brewer's Blackbird.  IMO, he is a very stylish and very handsome bird. 

Besides the shocking bright yellow eyes, there is  a lot to like about these birds.  The way they strut around would look appropriate if you added a top hat and tails!

And a head on shot adds an interesting effect to this normally svelte blackbird.

The female of the species is less dramatic, but you would know they were related simply by the similar body movements and behavior.

Actually, I'm not entirely sure if we are looking at a juvenile male or a female Brewer's Blackbird!


Western Grebe and Screeching Baby!

This Western Grebe was a new addition to my life list!  Check out those crimson eyes!

The grebe was not alone, either.  She (or he) was accompanied by a very demanding youngster.  The baby was fluffy looking and adorable, but it NEVER stopped crying to be fed.

I don't know if a grebe of this age should have been able to feed himself, but this one didn't even try. 

The baby expended tons of energy following his parent around while endlessly screeching for food!

When he was actually eating, the baby Western Grebe gobbled his food as if he were starving.

There was one quiet moment on the pond when the little one finished eating.

But his incessant and loud cries filled the air within minutes, and soon I was flooded with pity for the poor parent of this annoying child.


Sea Otters in Carmel, CA

This was the first thing I saw at the beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.  Ok, so it isn't exactly a new or exotic species, but since it is my very favorite bird, seeing a Great  Blue Heron on the beach was a grand omen of good things to come!

It was indeed a good omen since the very next thing I noticed was some kind of creature floating in the seaweed.  I hoped it was the creature I had come to see, the animal I was hoping would delight my son and daughter on their first trip to Carmel. Of course, it did turn out to be what I had hoped: a sea otter relaxing in a bed of kelp. 

The fact that we were looking at an otter and not at a seal seems perfectly obvious in these photos.  But it was less than obvious when looking with the naked eye or even with binoculars.  There were a lot of mammals swimming about in the kelpy waters, and some of them appeared to be seals.

I mean, tell me this doesn't look like a sleek seal's head!  But I can guarantee you this is a sea otter with his face slick with sea water.

This seal-like sea otter has managed to catch himself a tasty crab meat treat. . .

which he proceeded to enjoy with unabashed enthusiasm!

Although we stayed only a few minutes, Carmel-by-the-Sea was a cornucopia of new and wonderful sights!

Common Murres, uncommonly large Cormorants, Common Loons and even what I think must have been a Pacific Loon were among the wondrous sights we enjoyed in Carmel.

I'm not betting the farm on this being a Pacific Loon, but it very well could be one.  I think.  In any case, go to Carmel, CA if ever you get the chance to do so.  It is a truly magical place!


Break for Backyard Beauties

I still have dozens of stories and photos of our trip out west, but I had to take a break to show off some of our local cuties.  This Downy Woodpecker caught in the act of taking flight, for example, is simply irresistible!

And what could be cuter than this sideways Red-bellied Woodpecker enjoyed his suet breakfast?

The House Finches are back with a vengeance, I've noticed.  This little guy is a colorful charmer.

I could stop snapping photos of all his curious facial expressions.

This is one eccentric looking Great Blue Heron.  He was one of about five that I saw around the Sudbury River yesterday. 


A Whole Different Deer !

This is not a Mule Deer like the ones we saw in Nevada.  This is not a White-tailed Deer like we are used to seeing all over New England, either.  For a frustratingly long time, I had no clue what this animal was - but I knew what it wasn't!

It doesn't have the rope-like, black-tipped tail of a Mule Deer.  It does have sort of blackish ears, though.  Actually, it has sort of a Mule Deer face, but the ears are too small.

Mule deers have that black forehead, and the antlers are much more like Mule deer antlers than they are like White-tailed deer antlers.  Mule deer's antlers keep branching off the same stems, unlike the multiple stems of a White-tailed deer.  And that face is not like any White-tailed deer I've ever seen!

There are not supposed to be a significant population of White-tailed deer in California, anyway.  Even if there were White-tailed deers on the California coast, this is definitely not one.  I think this is a species known as the Black-tailed Deer.  According to a site called Western Hunter, "The black-tailed deer obviously gets its name from its black tail. They are also characterized as the smallest and darkest deer of the three deer species."  This guy was small and he was dark, with a very obvious black tail.

Unfortunately, I think he was also hurt.  One antler appears to be about to fall off, and one ear is severely notched.  I think he may have been the loser in a very viscous fight.  Being injured would also explain why he was out on a well traveled trail in the middle of the day.  Poor guy.  I hope he recovers, and I really think he will.  I've seen deer with far worse injuries in my own backyard, after all!


East Coast AND West Coast Birds

Not every bird I saw out west was exotic.  Quite a few were old familiar friends, actually.  This American Coot is often seen on the East Coast.

Double-crested cormorants are abundant even in Framingham, Massachusetts.  They've practically taken over the Heron Rookery in the Foss Reservoir!

Snowy Egrets are almost always seen during the summer months in New England.

My first Ruddy Duck was diving in the Foss Reservoir, too!

Ruddy Ducks still have a special place in my heart!

The three female Common Mergansers we saw enjoying the salmon spawn at Lake Tahoe look exactly like the Common Mergansers on the Sudbury River.  It's actually pretty cool to see where some of our birds end up when they leave us!


Deer Pack Hunting Coyotes in Nevada

One of the most amazing sights of our entire trip happened near Lake Washoe, Nevada.  That is where we encountered Mule Deer; a species you definitely don't see in New England.  Mule Deer are related to our familiar White-tailed Deer, but they are larger, have black tipped ears and and rope-like, black-tipped tails, and a bouncy gait when running. Probably the most noticeable difference in the two species are the huge ears on the Mule Deer, which is where the species got it's name in the first place.

The herd of deer impressed us much more than it did our friends from Nevada, who see them practically every day.  And unlike us, our local friends were not at all surprised to see a coyote sharing the same field as the deer.

What transpired next was a phenomenon that shocked even the locals, however.  As we were watching, the coyote started to drift closer and closer to the herd of deer.  When he got a little too close for comfort, all of the deer suddenly became alert.  They stopped grazing and turned to watch the coyote intently.

Suddenly the herd of Mule Deer started running toward the coyote - and the coyote started running away!

The chase was no game, either.  The deer were out for blood and the coyote was running for his life!

The coyote had good reason to fear.  Those large, hoofed animals could easily tear that puny canine to shreds when hunting as a pack.  Of course, who knew they ever hunted as a pack?

Eventually, the coyote disappeared into the underbrush, never to appear again.  Even more amazing than the sight of a coyote being hunted down by a pack of deer was the fact that it happened again just moments later! A second coyote was chased into the underbrush, too.  A week or two later, we learned that our friends had witnessed this heretofore unprecedented scenario yet again on the day after we left Nevada!  Evidently, the big Mule Deer out west have learned the coyote's own strategy of hunting in packs - and they've learned it very well, indeed!