Friday, June 24, 2011

Acorn Woodpeckers, Feeding at the Feeder

Acorn Woodpeckers are very common on the Monterey Peninsula and are found in the wooded areas and at some backyard feeders. This pair was busy enjoying the free food the other day, first feeding individually and then surprisingly, one began to feed the other. We were happy to get some fine action detail in the following shots. 
Wikipedia is always an informative source of information on birds and this reference gives a good account of the Acorn Woodpecker behavior in California here
The range map on the Cornell site shows the coastal habitat of the Acorn Woodpecker here.
Interestingly, the Seattle Audubon site describes that Washington is at the extreme northern end of the Acorn Woodpecker range. They apparently bred only in southern-most Klickitat County in 1990, but were last seen at this site in early 1992. The link to the Seattle Audubon site is here.
Sibley's tells us on page 307 that the Pacific population of Acorn Woodpeckers average 15-20% longer bills than the inland population, with little overlap. These are the Pacific population since we are only about 1/4 mile from Monterey Bay at this location.
We note the slightly different eye color. The bird at the rear seems to have a blue cast to the eye whereas the one in front has the more typical white coloration. There are even better examples below.

We were not sure which one was feeding the other. 

We were fortunate to get this shot of three Acorn Woodpeckers feeding at the same time. Note that the female is on the left and the same two males from the above shots are on the right. The female has the distinctive black band on the forehead between the yellow and red. The unusual eye color of the top male on the right is also seen in this shot. We will have to do more research on possible variations in eye color.

The shot below shows the more typical eye color of the mature male. Note the seed detail in the beak of the male in front.

The female Acorn Woodpecker posed briefly on the top of the feeder hanger before dropping down to feed with the two males.

We had another visitor - an immature California Jay came to the other feeder. The Jays are here year-round and seem to particularly enjoy the shelled sunflower seeds. 
This individual was about 10' away when we got these shots with the Nikon D7000 using the Nikon 300mm f4 lens and a 1.7x teleconverter. Some report that this combination will not auto focus well. Our experience is that with sufficient light, this combination will focus fast and accurately. No complaints about sharpness in these shots.
We will be testing the Nikon 2.0x teleconverter in the near future. They are very scarce but having ordered one in January, we are informed it is now on its way here.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Squid Fishing off Lover's Point, Pacific Grove, CA

There isn't a lot of wildlife in our Blog Post today but I thought that some record of the commercial fishing that has been so active the past few days could qualify. We read that the squid do not appear in Monterey Bay every year. We looked for some record of recent activity and found this article in the Santa Cruz Sentinal from March 2009 that gives a good idea of what we are observing this season here.
Squid and salmon fishing are currently very active in Monterey Bay. The past week there have been from 10 to 15 commercial boats scooping up the squid in very close quarters. We found a UTube video that shows a fishing boat captain describing the process we are observing from shore. here.
There is also a group of smaller charter boats fishing for salmon. The daily salmon "take" is small, reported to be 10 to 20 salmon a day. The salmon fishermen are catching their fish on hooks and long lines as described here.
The following shots show the density of the commercial boats as they jostle for position to enclose a group (school) of squid. One would almost conclude that commercial fishing today is highly competitive if not a "contact" sport.

The current intensity of the fishing reminds us of the fishing history of Monterey Bay that is described so well in the new book;
"The Death & Life of Monterey Bay" authored by Stephen R. Palumbi, director of the Hopkins Marine Station and Jane Marshall Steele Jr. Professor of Marine Science at Stanford University. We highly recommend this book which can be found here.
A perfect quote from the book jacket describes this wonderful place we call home;
"ANYONE who has ever stood on the shores of Monterey Bay, watching the rolling ocean waves and frolicking otters, knows it is a unique place. But even residents on this stunning California shore may not realize its full history. Monterey began as a natural paradise, but became the poster child for industrial devastation in John Stenibeck's Cannery Row, and now is one of the most celebrated shorelines in the world."
Quoting further from the book jacket about Monterey Bay;
"It is a remarkable story of life, death, and revival - told here for the first time in all its bleak grays and brilliant color."

It seems remarkable that the fishing fleet can navigate in close quarters like this. Although the fishing seems intense, there are limits on the catch so the squid are not apparently being "over-fished".

We are fortunate to live in this area where we can observe the daily changes in the Bay as it apparently is recovering from the overfishing that has happened in the past. We know that there are strict limits on the squid catch that are closely monitored by The State Department of Fish and Game.