March 25, 2017

Gloucester in March in the Rain

Posted on March 25, 2017 05:52 PM by heathermarie heathermarie | 9 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 26, 2017

A bicycle and 18 birds

With newly-acquired binoculars and bicycle, my home range expanded greatly, giving me the opportunity to observe the birds of the Mystic River Reservation and the Sylvester Baxter Waterfront Park. After looking up Sylvester Baxter to find out what he did to warrant a park (as it turns out, Baxter read a wildly-popular 1888 science fiction novel called "Looking Backward," which described a utopian future wherein industry was publicly owned and men retired by age 45. He then founded the Boston chapter of a political movement based on its ideals, wrote for the Boston Herald, and now he has this park. The author of "Looking Backward" wrote a sequel in 1897 titled "Equality," in which he described a utopian future wherein women had received equal rights and wore pants freely. The sequel was poorly received.), I started walking. All species I observed were common according to Sibley, but as a fairly new birder, all were exciting and new to me. Sparrows, geese, and mallards dominated, carp floated, a swan swam serenely, and it was a warm and sunny February morning.

Walking west, I passed under the Wellington Bridge (Arthur Wight Wellington, 1907 president of U.S. Leather) and saw a pair of low-to-the-water birds with tufts at the backs of their heads and long thin pointy beaks (grebes? no - mergansers!), a group of coots at the far end of my binocular vision, and what I suspected/hoped might be a pair of buffleheads. Thinking that must be where the action is, I crossed over to the Mystic River Reservation ("Mystic" derived from the Wampanoag word "muhs-uhtuq," meaning big river, and from an Algonquin word "Missi-Tuk" meaning big river powered by tides), where I encountered a beautiful heron, more coots, and a person painting bright pictures of birds into a print book, layering the painted images over the printed text. I was torn between saying "Hey aren't birds great?!" and saying "WHAT are you doing to that book?!" and saying "Would you like to exhibit at my library?" but I wasn't prepared to interrupt someone's peaceful work, so I quietly logged an observation and moved on.

Last observation of the day was indeed a pair of buffleheads! I knew about them from attending a birding class at Lake Merritt, but this was my first time seeing them in person. I had to watch for a few moments before I got a clear view of the white patch on the male's head, but once I'd confirmed it, I felt that spark of excitement that is a part checklist satisfaction and part close encounter of the bird kind. Phone battery drained from the twin processes of blurry binocular-photography and rapid-fire Wikipedia-searching, I called it a day and went to get a milkshake.

Posted on February 26, 2017 02:16 AM by heathermarie heathermarie | 17 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 27, 2015

BirdQuest: Lake Merritt

I attended the excellent Waterfowl Walk at Lake Merritt put on by CCNH a few weeks ago, and have been wanting to put my new bird identification skills to the test. Today I returned to Lake Merritt - undaunted by the blinding December sun (...California...) I began making observations and happily recognized several new-to-me species.

Many old friends to see... mallards and geese and coots of course... some faraway herons and pelicans... it was a great walk and a great day to see some waterfowl.

Highlights include some non-avians - 2 black cats who had moved in to the Gardens at Lake Merritt and were jumping around among the succulents - and what I think might have been a goldeneye duck. I couldn't see very closely, and I don't have binoculars, so I was left with only hope and vague white cheek patches for identification.

Oh, and the night herons. So many night herons - I haven't ever seen so many in one place, they were near, they were far, they were young, they were old. I was pleased.

Posted on December 27, 2015 04:27 AM by heathermarie heathermarie | 30 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 03, 2015

Early morning, Pillar Point

Back in December of 2014, I visited the Bolinas Museum and happened to see their exhibit of Isabella Kirkland's gorgeous Taxa collection, including her painting of various nudibranchs. Ever since, I'd wished to join the Intertidal Biodiversity Survey for an early-morning tidepooling trip. Today was the day! Led by the excellent Alison Young, we met in the parking lot at 5:30am, pulled on galoshes, and headed out to the reef. Many of the group members were dedicated Intertidal Survey volunteers, with astounding knowledge of nudibranchs and admirable delicacy when navigating the slippery terrain (and useful techniques such as leading with a walking stick marked at the level of their boot-tops, to prevent stepping in too-deep pools).

Overall it was a marvelous, cold, slippy, alien, beautiful morning with plenty of invertebrates to meet. First encounter was the hot-pink Hopkin's Rose, an impossible animal among an impossible clade. Favorite encounter was a mid-sized weed-climbing opalescent nudibranch, and also a very shaggy dog on shore. Low point was stepping in a too-deep pool. @anudibranchmom and @dpom found a wide variety of nudibranchs including some rarely-seen species - a great morning for tidepooling.

Posted on July 03, 2015 12:59 AM by heathermarie heathermarie | 22 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 28, 2015

Sunrise, San Pablo Bay

I chose this location based on 2 factors: I wanted to explore the San Pablo Bay region, and I wanted to see some snakes - the iNat observations search indicated that at least a few snakes had been seen in and around the Bel Marin Keys / Loma Verde Preserve area, so off I went. Bel Marin Keys turned out to be more of a vacation housing spot (at least in the area I was able to access), but Loma Verde was welcoming and sparsely populated at 6am.

The morning ended snakeless, but overall it was a lovely ridge walk with woodlands on one side and views of the bay on the other.

Posted on June 28, 2015 07:03 PM by heathermarie heathermarie | 12 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

MALT Millerton Creek Ranch BioBlitz

This was my second BioBlitz and my first visit to a California land trust, so I came to the event quite excited to meet some new folks and see some interesting things. The event drew quite a large crowd, most of whom had a personal connection to the land, and many MALT volunteers who brought an in-depth knowledge of the species we'd be encountering.

We divided into 5 groups - I joined the rock trail group after hearing that there'd been recent burrowing owl sightings in the area. Although no burrowing owls revealed themselves on this particular trip, Michelle Cooper led the group and gave us all an enlightening and thorough tour of the plants we encountered along the way. Tour highlights included some bright lupines, an array of grasses and thistles, and delicate spreads of lichens. Personal highlights included long interactions with two lizards, and my first documented wolf spider encounter!

Posted on June 28, 2015 06:50 PM by heathermarie heathermarie | 33 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 25, 2015

Sutro Baths at sunset

Had a lovely evening visit to Sutro Baths, the first time I'd gone with the singular purpose of making observations.

There were about 100 by-the-wind sailors stranded on the beach, in and around a similarly-sized crowd of gulls. I walked over to the rocks along the north side of the beach to take a closer look at the small waterfalls and pools and see who was living there (guess who: California mussels! Various crabs!). Having never photographed a crab before, I made several attempts. As it turns out, crabs are both shy and fast - I was only able to clearly photograph one, and I don't think he appreciated the experience nearly as much as I did.

Posted on June 25, 2015 12:28 AM by heathermarie heathermarie | 9 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 07, 2014

Trip 1 - strange encounters (Trip)

This is test Trip created from BioCaching mobile app

Posted on July 07, 2014 09:15 PM by heathermarie heathermarie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 02, 2014

adventure time! (Trip)

This is test Trip created from BioCaching mobile app

Posted on July 02, 2014 04:04 PM by heathermarie heathermarie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

adventure time 2! (Trip)

This is test Trip created from BioCaching mobile app

Posted on July 02, 2014 04:03 PM by heathermarie heathermarie | 0 comments | Leave a comment