The Black Kite was by far the most common raptor we saw in our 10 days of birding in southern Portugal. They were everywhere we went, from the Tagus Estuary, to the Alentejo, to the Algarve. We saw them flying and we saw them perched. From any distance at all, they do indeed look black, but, of course they are much more richly colored. They are described in the field guides as “grey-brown” but as you see in this photo, in the right light they can look a fairly bright rich rufous. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications. Processed and heavily cropped in Polarr.
Southern Portugal is rich in Eagles, compared to the Americas. There are 5 breeding in the region, and another that winters there…plus recent records of Steppe Eagle at least passing through (we saw one!). Of the possible breeding birds we saw all 5, plus the Steppe Eagle. Some were just little black dots soaring high on the thermals over the Castro Verde plains, but we got several closer views. These are immature (I believe), Booted Eagles from the banks of the Tagus where we took our boat trip. Two individuals sitting near each other, perhaps a potential pair. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
Over 4 days in April 2019, we saw several Great Bustards in the steppe country between Castro Verde and Mertola in the Alentejo of southern Portugal, but all at great distances, on the hillsides across the swales, and through heavy heat shimmer. Not totally satisfying, and frustrating for photography. This is a heavy crop from a 600mm equivalent frame, and the only photo of a Great Bustard from the trip that I am willing to post. Still, it is an amazing bird. According to our Portuguese guide, the world’s largest bird that can still fly (if you ask in Africa, they will tell you that honor belongs to the closely related Kori Bustard…but that is to be expected). From the distance at which you see them, they look small ships moving through a sea of high grasses. To get a closer photo, I am told, you have to visit one of the specialized “hides” that are maintained near leks. You have to crawl into the hide before daylight, and stay until after dark, so it is a daylong commitment. I might try to do that next time I go to Portugal, if I am still up to crawling at that point. 🙂 Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Manual focus to get accurate focus through the heat shimmer. Processed in Polarr.
There were White Storks nesting everywhere we went all over southern Portugal: in the Tagus Estuary, in the Alentejo, and in the Algarve. Most nest on telephone poles and high tension towers, or on poles put up for them to keep them off buildings, but we did see quite a few nesting in trees in a more natural setting. This was taken in the Alentejo, and is the greeting behavior as the mate returns to the nesting bird…weaving and bobbing and bill clacking. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
I always spend at least one morning at La Jolla Cove, up the coast from Mission Bay where the San Diego Birding Festival has its home in late February. The cormorants and pelicans are in breeding plumage, the Harbor Seals are pupping and the Sea Lions are sunning on the rocks. This is the Brown Pelican, of course, in full regalia. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my birds in flight and action modifications. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 125. Processed in Polarr.
Another “not the most exciting bird in the world” but interesting (to me) none the less. I can still remember when this was the Canyon Towhee, even in California…and the split gave me another life-bird 🙂 While Towhees in general are hard to see, due to their habit of skulking in the underbrush digging holes for grubs and worms (as this one is), the California Towhees at Cabrillo National Monument on the tip of Point Loma in San Diego California are parking lot birds, and very easy to see. I had to track this off the tarmac to get it in its more “native”, “natural” (and “characteristic”) habitat. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. 1/250th @ f4 @ ISO 400. Processed in Polarr and TouchRetouch (that out-of-focus branch extended over the bird…a testimonial to the focus on the RX10iv, but not an attractive addition to the image. :).
I started birding in western New Mexico, in the sage brush and ponderosa of the high dry country around Gallup, and we got Horned Larks at the edge of our local soccer field, in open areas around lakes, and in the sandy plains west of Zuni. In San Diego, around Mission Bay, they are beach birds. I have seen them on both sides of the water between Sea World and Fiesta Island. They are bold, and if you stand still, they are likely to end up feeding only a few feet from your feet, as this one did on Fiesta Island. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. 1/800th @ f4 @ ISO 100. Processed in Polarr.
We went for a hike one morning in San Diego at Tecolote Canyon Natural Park, an “urban canyon” park with miles of trails just east of Sea World bordering the University of San Diego. It was a dull morning, overcast, but there was some bird activity, including this perky Bewick’s Wren. This is not two birds in one bush…it is one bird photographed twice and laid into the same frame using a blended collage effect in FrameMagic…just to give you a more comprehensive view of the bird 🙂 Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. 1/640th @ f4 @ ISO 100. Each image was processed in Polarr and cropped to about a 1200mm equivalent field of view before assembling in FrameMagic.
I actually like Scrub Jays. Gregarious and friendly. Noisy. Bold. We don’t have them in Maine, so I enjoy my encounters with them in Florida, where they are rare enough to go looking for, and in the Southwest where they are very common in the sage brush and Ponderosa. Sometime when I was not looking, the powers that be renamed my familiar Western Scrub Jay (I lived in New Mexico among the jays for 12 years) to the Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay. I am not sure I would have liked it as well under that name 🙂 This is the California Scrub Jay, the other survivor of that ornithological committee split. I only see these when visiting San Diego on my once a year pilgrimage to the San Diego Birding Festival, and it is always a treat. This one was way out on the tip of Point Loma, at Cabrillo National Monument. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. 1/1000th @ f5.6 @ ISO 100. Processed in Polarr.
The Red-masked Parakeet is endangered in its home range in Ecuador and Peru, but it is doing very well in California. Feral populations are thriving around San Diego and San Francisco. It was imported, breed, and sold as a cage bird known as the Cherry-headed Conure for many years. There are also established populations in south Florida, in the larger Miami area. These birds came daily, in a flock of more than a dozen, to the pepper tree in the courtyard of the Marina Village Conference Center during the San Diego Birding Festival at the end of February, into March, where they were photographed by a few hundred eager bird photographers attending the event. The feral Parrots and Parakeets for southern California are becoming a “thing” among birders. They even have their on conservation organization and web site :). Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. 1/1000th @ f4.5 @ ISO 100. Processed in Polarr.