Field Journal Fridays

We are fortunate to be spending several months once again in Southern California.  We are feeling extra appreciative to be spending this winter outside of our hometown in Kentucky since it's been a really cold, grey, snowy, icy winter there this year!

Every morning I start the day with a 2-mile walk with our dog, Pablo.  I love seeing the bay each morning, noticing the changes in the tides with the phases of the moon, and watching all the wildlife that are gathered here for the winter, and I'm interested in learning more about all of these.

 Very high tide during a morning walk near the January 31 New Moon

Very low tide in the afternoon near the January 31 New Moon

Alas, Field Journal Fridays will be my attempt at weekly, focused observation and learning about the natural features of this area. We also have recently purchased a couple of Stand Up Paddleboards, so we're able to access the Back Bay estuary and Newport Bay Conservancy. There are some guided wildlife hikes through the conservancy as well that I will be participating in; and, if we are in the area long enough, there is a Naturalist Certification course I would love to do here in the fall.

Below are some pictures of the brown pelican. We paddled near it on our SUPs one afternoon. According to the Newport Bay Conservancy, these had once lost much of their population due to eggshell thinning from the effects of DDT, but their numbers are now recovering. I was lucky enough to see one flying over the water of the bay recently while out walking.

I do not have binoculars at the moment and am not getting close enough to make positive identifications always right away or to get very clear photos with my smartphone camera (why didn't I bring my SLR from home?!).  As I do identify species, I will link the first mention of that particular species in each post to its National Audobon Society Online Guide listing.  This site includes excellent pictures, species information, and audio.

With that said, here is what I observed today.

February 7, 2014
10:00 a.m.

Location:  Newport Dunes Back Bay beach area near shore, west of Moe B. Sports dock
Environment:  Wet from steady rainfall of previous evening and night
Weather:  Mostly cloudy, 59 degrees F, windless to light breeze
Morning Tides:  H 4.7 ft  at 3:23 a.m.; L 0.8 ft at 11:09 a.m.
Moon:  First Quarter

Part of area observed

Initially there were 2 small, brown sandpipers (?) feeding along the edge of the water with 1 gull perched between them in the soppy green land left by the receding tide. A second gull approached the area but was chased off by the first. The first gull remained in its spot, looking around but not feeding.  There was one large flock of gulls, approximately 30 to 40, on the shore down the beach from my site.


There were a large number of American Coots, in my immediate view, approximately 40, with similar-sized groupings spread out around the bay. Some in my immediate view were in the water, others were feeding along the shore, and others were feeding farther up on land in the wet areas left behind by the receding tides. The groupings seemed to be fairly fluid, with 1 or more walking away then swimming out to the middle of the bay or eventually over to another group.

At one point one of the farther away groupings of American Coots flew rapidly to the water. Many (with the exception of about 8) that were near me also moved to the water for a brief time, returning to the shore as the other group did.
American Coots

Approximately 15 rock pigeons landed near my picnic table, searching for food in the surrounding sand. They flew away abruptly when another nearby flock took flight quickly.

 Rock Pigeon

Rock Pigeons

A single pure-white egret (snowy?  great?) with a dark bill approached, wading into the water farther out than the sandpipers(?). It had the dark bill of a snowy egret but not the splashing behaviors, and it was feeding alone. The gull attempted to chase the egret away, flying and squawking at it, but the egret spread its feathers, squawked, flapped its wings out, and stood its ground until the gull backed off. The egret returned to feeding as the gull floated on the water nearby for a few minutes, then returned to the area of shore it had been previously guarding for less than a minute, then flew away.


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