Friday, May 13, 2016

Early May at the Marsh

I visited the Arcata Marsh last Saturday (May 7) and again on Monday, curious to see how the place is changing as spring progresses. I am sorely missing my familiar eastern spring migration, and I haven't found anything so dramatic here, but there is certainly seasonal change. And there were plenty of May-ish things to see at the marsh!

Big purple lupine blooms (I'm not entirely sure of the species) filled big patches of field near the paths:

On Sunday, I saw a Green Heron keeping watch over a rather precarious-looking nest:

And I watched an adult Orange-crowned Warbler gathering caterpillars and other goodies:

While its frumpy fledgling waited in the bushes (look at that stump of a tail!):

Monday afternoon was sunny and warm, and a Red Admiral was out and about:

These two dragonflies were gearing up to produce the next generation; they flew around a lot while interlocked like this, which strikes me as quite a feat:

Dozens of Cliff Swallows were swarming around and under the eaves of a building near the bay. This must be a good nesting place! I love watching swallows in any situation, but it was especially cool to see all these birds in one place, and to watch the patterns of their shadows on the bright wall:

Here's a video of the Cliff Swallows swooping and swarming:

Great Egrets adorned rocks in the bay:

In a nearby pool, an Eared Grebe hunted over (I think) an eelgrass bed:

I've only seen Eared Grebes before in their plainer winter costumes, and I'm really liking this individual's fancy bronze face-tufts:

The coolest part, though, was seeing what the grebe brought up from underwater. I'm not sure what this little morsel is, but it looks soft and shiny:

At one point the grebe brought up a pipefish, a fish in the same family as seahorses, and certainly not a creature I've ever seen in the wild before:

I think I can see the seahorse resemblance from this angle:

The pipefish was quite a big catch for a little grebe, and it took some struggling, but the grebe finally worked the pipefish down, head first and tail waving:

Toward the end of the afternoon, I watched a male Allen's Hummingbird doing his absolute best to impress a female. Here's the male (I'm identifying him as an Allen's Hummingbird because of the green feathers on his back, although it's not impossible that he's actually a similar looking Rufous Hummingbird, since those birds are also in this area now):

And here's the discerning female:

The male would alternate between perching, feeding, and performing aerial acrobatics that involved swoops and dives and whistles of air through his feathers. At one point I watched him dance back and forth in the air right in front of the female's face, dazzling her with his fancy feathers and fancy moves. (I really should have thought to take a video.) All of this took place in the middle of a huge and blooming blackberry patch; the plentiful flowers clearly made this an attractive spot for the hummingbird pair:

Here's the male again:

I only got to see the full effect of his costume a few times, but those moments made quite an impression!

While I was watching the hummingbirds, a male Common Yellowthroat popped out for what is surely the closest and clearest view I've had of these usually secretive birds:

I'm sure it wasn't a coincidence that I was standing in a blind at the time. What a gorgeous creature!

Nests, courtship, flowers, babies.... That sounds like May to me!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful pictures and great commentary! From: DH