Today we have a passel of birds from reader Ed Kroc, whose notes are indented:
Here’s a batch of photos from San Diego taken this past summer. I was along the California coast for about a week in July collecting data on urban-nesting gulls, but of course I always try to make time for a few pictures! Western Gulls (Larus occidentalis) traditionally nest in large colonies on small offshore islands along the American Pacific coast. However, some gulls have moved their nesting sites into urban and semi-urban areas along the coast. This species hybridizes extensively with the resident Vancouver gull, the Glaucous-winged Gull (L. glaucescens), where their ranges overlap in WA and OR. The GW Gull seems to be far more comfortable in an urban environment than the WE Gull, but part of my current research is aimed at trying to better understand these differences.
The first photo shows a fine looking adult male Western Gull. Notice the very dark grey mantle and wings, much darker than the Glaucous-winged Gulls I’ve sent lots of pictures of. You can also see the distinctive bright orange orbital ring. This is the southern subspecies (L. o. wymani) which is a bit smaller and a lot darker than the nominate northern subspecies of WA, OR, and northern CA.
Next is a picture of a chick and parent at their nest site atop a nice hotel complex on San Diego’s harbour. The nest was on the roof of a two-storey flattop, with plenty of foliage around. The chick, who is about four weeks old in the picture, is playing with a bit of dried leaves. The father, as you can see, was alarmed at me as I stood underneath initially, but soon stopped and settled in for a brief nap. I haven’t studied it formally yet, but both this and the GWGull species seem to feel really threatened only when an observer is at or above eye-level with the nest. I was no more than a few feet linearly from the chicks, but I was on the ground below and neither parent minded me. Trying to observe nests 20 or more feet away from a bridge though often leads to dive-bombs and defensive poop-blasts. Data collection can be a messy business!
The final gull picture shows a family atop a small marina building, right on the harbour. These chicks are a bit older than the other ones, probably in their fifth week. You can see the parent on watch craning his/her head around the obstruction to check me out. I didn’t stay long enough to provoke any defensive maneuvers!
After Laridae (Gulls) and Sternidae (Terns), my favourite family of bird is probably Pelecanidae, the Pelicans. They instantly and always put me in mind of their dinosaur ancestors and cousins. We never get pelicans up in BC, so I’m always thrilled to see them when I make it this far south.These shots of Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) were taken at Shelter Island in San Diego. In the first shot, a pelican naps next to a Heermann’s Gull (Larus heermanni), a beautiful gull of the southern North American Pacific coast with a fascinating ecology of its own. I’ll save the facts for another time, but I will mention that these two species seem to get along quite remarkably. They often loaf together in very close proximity. Neither species gets along very well with the resident Western Gulls who tend to be too loud and pushy for their liking.
The final two showcases some of the unique beauty of the pelican. They have a gentle and wise look about them. In flight, I can’t help but think they would have fit right in 100 million years ago.