beautiful day up on hawk hill, filled with friends, hazy blue skies, and a good number of migrating birds and butterflies.
as i arrived there we had a great look at a merlin that flew not too far overhead (a merlin is a type of small falcon, larger than a kestrel but smaller than a peregrine falcon) – it appeared to be a juvenile. they are fairly uncommon here in the bay area, but they pass through during migration time from their breeding grounds to the north – and in the time of short days we get a boost in the population as some choose to spend the winter here.
the humans congregated on top of the hill with their scopes and binos, calling out every moving bird within a couple of miles. it’s a rather bizarre experience, to see all these people perched on the high hill for hours at a time every day for three months of the year, but wonderful that so many committed volunteers take their time to do this. as everyone was focused afar, two resident ravens, a male and female pair, landed very close by to watch the watchers.
we chuckled as we realized that i was watching the birds, who were watching the other people, who were watching the other birds! these two hung around for quite a while, intrigued by the activity of the people (and likely looking for some dropped food as well). occasionally they would come very close to each other, making quiet croaking noises as one of them would groom the other’s face area. it was so endearing. and at such close quarters, in the bright sun, i could really see the intelligence in their eyes. amazing, beautiful animals.
we saw a lot of accipiters today, as expected, but were also treated to a number of ferruginous hawks, several merlins, and some late-in-the-day peregrines. after most people had packed up for the day and i was leaving the hill, a red-tail floated overhead to hunt the area and allowed for some really fun pictures …
the colors on this bird are amazing, and for an adult it has a very light eye (iris). so beautiful. thank you, my good friend!
as always happens when one packs up to leave, birds start showing themselves and tempting you to stay. as i started down the trail, one last juvenile northern harrier tried to keep me on the hill.
It’s been amazing to hear all of the vocalizations that the great-horned owls make, especially now during courting time. One of the pair seems to greet the other after they leave their roosts with a croaking screech sound from a nearby tree, then when the pair comes together one of them makes a repeated chirping sound, something that you’d expect to come from a plush toy or something similar. It’s a fast series of soft, muffled cooing-chirp-toots. Even the common “hoot” changes in frequency, cadence, and number of hoots in a grouping when they are addressing each other. It’s very endearing.
Tonight this pair was hanging out together as usual lately – and talking to one another – on their favorite tree, a big live oak. I felt lucky to watch and listen.
It certainly wasn’t difficult trying to pass the time in hopes of getting a glimpse of the comet PANSTARRS from a vantage high above the San Francisco Bay …
Luckily the moon was just waxing past its new phase and therefore not too bright as to diminish the view of this dim comet, as the only chance to see it was right after sunset in the western sky for a week or so in the middle of March. Too soon after sunset and the light was too bright to see it – too late, and it would sink below the horizon, or at least into the foggy pillow that had already claimed most of the bridge.
Finally, a few minutes to view this celestial visitor to our solar system.
I’m not even sure what’s going on here, despite having seen it with my own eyes. It appears that the sun is diving directly into the Pacific, with a ring of trees or other beings dancing in celebration around it on the surface of the water as the sky and clouds erupt with a glorious fire in its wake. In the middle of the water.
Fire into water.
So that’s what happens behind the fog! What a rare and beautiful treat to witness the Pacific horizon naked, its robe of fog cast aside, as it welcomes the sun into its evening embrace.
Sometimes you don’t have to go far to see amazing things. Actually, you never do. It’s just a matter of LOOKING. As it has been here in the East Bay, just minutes from where I stay. I feel very fortunate to witness it.
It’s the time of the owls.
As I understand it, barn owls don’t typically wake up and fly out until well after dark. Lately though, this particular barn owl has been coming out in this warm Bay area weather just after sunset, allowing me to get some photographs and share a few moments of the hunt. It’s something you never forget. The owl soundlessly brushes over the landscape like a gently held paint brush – sometimes fluttering, sometimes gliding – then dropping down onto its unsuspecting prey.
|barn owl on the hunt||barn owl on the hunt 2||barn owl on the hunt 3|