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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Huntington Beach, Look a Blue Jay

I have to apologize in advance because these posts are going to have tons of photos and are borderline epic. But I cant really cut them back because these DAYS WERE EPIC. If I had sat around at the beach and relaxed the entire vacation like I was planning it would have been less intense. But life is an adventure and I am intent on curiosity. Besides I have a hard time sitting still and relaxing. So epic posts they are, but oh so many fabulous memories, and oh how many beautiful photos.

Smooches,
The Rogue Woman



I had such a great time at the Huntington park yesterday that I couldn’t help but return again today... and will probably just have to return every day. This place really is a wonderland of fun. This time I planned to wake up much earlier, I wanted to catch the full sunrise. Plus I liked the fact that I got back by 11 or 12, that way I could go on my little birding trip AND still get my time in hanging out with the family. I do love to have my cake and eat it too and if I didn’t get as much sleep this trip then so be it, I have adventure to keep me awake!

Mrs. Painter and Ms. Pixie decided not to return with me, one day of beautiful birds and landscapes was enough for them and my much earlier 5:15am departure time did not sound appealing to them at all. Mr. Kingfisher however decided to give the park a go although I believe there was more than just a few undercutting grumbling remarks about our early departure time; it’s always nice to have a buddy. There are so many different areas of the park that today we decided to bypass the oh so amazing marshes that I explored yesterday and head to the beach walk. I had found this park through a birding website and one of the areas they suggested to bird is a 2.4 mile round trip walk down the beach to the jetty.

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SEA GRASSES SWAY IN THE BREEZE AS THE SUNRISE LIGHTS UP THE SKY

We arrived at almost the perfect time, I think leaving 15 minutes earlier tomorrow will do it. Sunsets are a tricky thing, some of the most amazing colors only last minutes. We started on our walk to the jetty. It was wonderfully cool, a nice 75 degrees or so. With all the heat we have had this is another added benefit about arriving earlier. We had the added benefit of walking straight into the rising sun. Someday I would love to own a home on the beach and wake up to a fantastic walk like this every morning.

And then here start way too many sunrise photos, sorry they were all just too gorgeous!

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After a while we started seeing the birds. Our first flighty friend was a group of little sanderlings seen running back and forth with the waves. Some of the groups allowed Mr. Kingfisher and I to get pretty close. By getting lower to the ground I was able to get the wave and the reflection of the bird on the sand. I also loved how the sunrise tinted the bird with glorious light.

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SANDERLING

The other bird we found running with the waves was a solitary Willet. These birds have a dull grey plumage but when they fly you can see the glorious black and white flashes in its wings. Although wary of us he just kept on running and hunting.

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WILLET

There were several types of terns that were constantly flying over our head from the ocean to the protected grasslands inland where I am sure they had nests full of very hungry fledglings. These birds are loud and talk a lot when they fly so you always know when they are coming. I spotted first a Royal Tern gliding over the waves looking for his next meal.

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ROYAL TERN

And then I spotted two terns a while later on the beach. On closer look it was a parent Sandwich Tern and a fledgling probably newly flown from the nest. The parent was still feeding the young bird. It was cute to see the mom feed her baby and the differences in their plumage and size. Yup these are the same bird folks, their beak color is different, their feet color is different, their size is different and their feather plumage is different. Correctly IDing birds is very confusing.

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SANDWICH TERN AND A FLEDGLING

After a while Mr. Kingfisher and I started to get a little confused. We had been walking for an hour at a decent pace and the jetty still seemed a good distance away. I was sure about the mileage that I read online but I started to doubt when it was becoming very obvious that the distance was much further than I had originally thought. We decided to keep going, so we got a little extra workout, no big deal we were having fun.

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ITS GOING TO BE A VERY LONG WAY BACK

We spotted some cages and signs protecting turtle nests. This beach is used by the loggerhead turtles for nesting. The turtles come in at night to dig their nests and lay their eggs. At dawn rangers patrol the beaches finding the tracks and then the nests. Once a nest is found they secure the screens to protect the nests from predators. All sea turtles are listed as a ‘threatened’ species. Within 50 to 60 days hatchlings emerge from the over 100 turtle eggs in the nests. The Rangers will monitor the nest for danger but once the eggs hatch the Rangers do not interfere with the babies. Scientists estimate only 1 in 1000 turtles makes it to adulthood.

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LOGGERHEAD NEST PROTECTED BY A SCREEN AND A WARNING SIGN

The really cool part is that we got to see turtle tracks come up from the beach. I have only seen turtle tracks once before, in the Galapagos, so I was particularly excited to find these. And then we ran across a ranger on his little ranger buggy searching for tracks and then trying to locate the loggerhead nests. Using a long stick the ranger probes the sand looking for what he called soft pockets. Apparently this poking if done right will not hurt the rubbery leathery eggs. If a nest is found he will then put up a sign and a screen. It was pretty cool to see the whole process in the making even if we didn’t get to see a turtle.

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AN ADULT FEMALE LOGGERHEAD TURTLE TRACKS UP THE BEACH

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WE FOUND A RANGER HARD AT WORK

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POKING AROUND LOOKING FOR SOFT POCKETS IN THE SAND

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HE DIDN’T DETECT A NEST AT THIS SITE BUT THERE MAY BE OTHERS FURTHER DOWN THE BEACH

We finally, thankfully, made it to the jetty. We decided to walk the path a little inland first to see where it went. A cement walkway surrounded by large boulders blocked the bay from the marshland on the other side. I was surprised that this marshland wasn’t filled with birds like the other marsh. It was very obviously fertile land and I could hear the large colony of terns just out of our sight I assume past the hills. There was an occasional egret or heron but that was all.

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THE BAY

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THE BAY

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THE MARSH ON THE LEFT AND THE BAY ON THE RIGHT

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GORGEOUS RICH MARSHLAND

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I WAS SURPRISED THAT THERE WERE NOT MORE BIRDS HERE

At the end of the jetty there was some sand dunes and over that we found our first cool bird of the day. The reddish egret isn’t rare but it is uncommon and it is a bird that I haven’t seen very often. Occasionally I will spot one back home but since I have only seen this bird a handful of times it was exciting to find one here. Mr. Kingfisher and I spent a few minutes photographing the egret and then we just watched him in his crazy erratic chasing fish dance that is distinctive to this bird.

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AT THE END OF THE JETTY WERE SOME SAND DUNES

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MR. KINGFISHER SNAPPING SOME PHOTOS

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REDDISH EGRET

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REDDISH EGRET IN HIS CRAZY ERRATIC DANCE

In the mud flats of the marsh I noticed what I thought was a small Semipalmated Plover. I am pretty good at identifying the common birds now but the nuances of some still get me. When I got home and double-check the bird, like I do all my bird photo identification, I was surprised to find that the Semipalmated Plover does not have the white eyebrow I saw in the photo. After more digging I found that this bird is the Common Ringed Plover, a very rare visitor from Canada. COOOOOOL!

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COMMON RINGED PLOVER

But cool was still yet to come. Just off the jetty we were excited to spot some type of weasel. Long and a bit scruffy looking with a chewed on tail and obvious rough patches in its coat, we were able to get a few photos but it stayed out only minutes. At one point it even turned and hissed at us before darting into the long grasses.

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MINK MAMA

Later we found out that this was a mink and that it was a female with babies. And then a little while later, when I was still on the high of seeing my very first mink, we saw a baby mink. The baby unlike the mama was gorgeous and oh so curious. I got down on one knee to get a better angle and that little baby just kept climbing over the rocks closer and closer. The baby let us get GREAT photos before finally darting off into the rocks. What a fantastic day, the extra-long walk was now totally worth it.

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MINK BABY

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MINK BABY

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MINK BABY

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MINK BABY

After playing with the mink baby we headed to the opposite end of the jetty; a long arm of rock and cement that jutted out into the ocean. We didn’t see much on the way out to the end except for a very strange shrimp insect thingy. I have no idea what it is… but it was weird. Any ideas?

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A QUESTIONABLE BUG/CRUSTATION

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Several birds were flying overhead. Some gulls were calling, I caught one of the Franklin Gulls headed back to land with a large fish in his mouth. Seems everyone is trying to feed all those hungry babies.

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FRANKLIN GULL WITH A FISH FOR ITS YOUNG

Several times Mr. Kingfisher and I spotted Osprey. Often they would be carrying large fish in their claws back to land. With the sun behind me those photos didn’t come out as well, but the photos of the Osprey returning again to the sea for yet another fish came out beautifully. I am still working on the art of photographing flying birds. It sure is much easier with my 100-400 zoom lens than it is with my 500mm fixed lens.

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THE EVER PRESENT OSPREY

One little guy seemed out of place. It was a juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Heron, the only night heron I saw in the park while I was visiting. This one I caught soaring quickly overhead. I love how they fly with their long necks tucked in to their bodies.

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YELLOW CROWNED NIGHT HERON JUVENILE

Soon it was time for the long walk back. The sun was getting higher and it was getting hotter plus it was a long hike back. The wind was really picking up which was helping me stay kind of cool, and at least on the walk back the sun would be at our backs and not shining directly in our eyes.

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WIND WHIPPING THE SAND ON THE BEACH

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At one point Mr. Kingfisher was joking that he hoped that we remembered where we entered the beach. Everything looked the same and we had walked a long way. It was then that our feet really started to hurt. We had both worn flip flops, we were walking on the beach after all, but we were not anticipating such a long adventure. I was getting a blister under my toe, but taking off the flip flops hurt the blister even more than wearing them. I was doomed either way. I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I was tired.

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At one point we came to a boardwalk and Mr. Kingfisher insisted that he knew where he was and that we could take a shortcut through the interior of the park. Now number one I have seen too many of those ‘What not to do’ shows where the idiot people get lost in the jungle and then start taking short cuts. I like to go back the way I came, because then I know that I won’t get lost. However Mr. Kingfisher has been coming to Myrtle Beach since he was a kid and he has visited this beach often so I let him talk me into his shortcut.

The shortcut was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because we were now on a tree lined street. The street was easier to walk on than the soft sand and the trees provided much wanted shade from the sun. Unfortunately for me mosquitos just love my sweet LALA land blood. I was followed by HORDES of biting mosquitos while Mr. Kingfisher skipped along whistling Dixie without a single bite. To his credit he felt terrible that I was getting eaten alive, but nothing helped other than to hurry.

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And then miraculously I started noticing things that I could identify. We were close to the car and I was ecstatic. We only stopped for a moment a few time. There was a rustle and maybe a bird but it ended up being just a sparrow. We paused to take a few photos of spiders but nothing could make me sit still long. And then we came upon a bird with a very strange call. Usually when I find a new bird I adopt the motto ‘Take photos first and ask questions later’ meaning until I identify a bird I take photos, you never know when a bird will end up being something fabulous but by the time you realize it they are long gone. So we were taking photos of a bird until I realized that the bird with the strange call was just a Blue Jay. Mr. Kingfisher disagrees. To this day he is insisting it is a Kingfisher, hence his nickname on the blog. I have agreed to disagree but this debate kept going throughout the rest of the vacation. I will let you see for yourself.

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Despite the strangeness of its call I am sure it is a Blue Jay.

Finally we made it back to the car, we made it back to air conditioning, we made it back to no mosquitos. It was time to return back to the condo for some R&R on the beach. LIFE IS GOOD and I AM RIGHT!!!!

P.S. I looked up the website and I had parked on the wrong side of the park. Not only did we walk the 2.4 miles round trip to the jetty we also walked the entire length of the park and back. In the end we hoofed it 5.9 miles; just a little bit further than we had anticipated. DAMN my sense of direction! But at least I got in a killer workout.

3 comments:

Jess said...

i'm going with Blue Jay, his beak size and markings match up pretty perfectly.

paul peggy zeus said...

Definitely a Blue Jay, although his coloring isn't as nice as it should be. LOVE the mink, although I can't understand why anyone would want to kill these little guys for a coat.

Jennifer Arens said...

what a beautiful adventure!

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