Adam Welz's Weblog

Monterey Harbour wildlife – 27 April 08

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding, nature & environment, photography by adamwelz on April 28, 2008

Hi All

I worked on admin stuff for most of the day, but took a late walk down to Monterey’s harbour (having heard there might be some good birds down there).

I’ve had my Nikon D300 for just over a week now and it’s starting to feel like it belongs in my hands. I’ve not photographed ‘properly’ since about 2000 (back in the film era) and the whole taking-digital-seriously thing is a huge learning curve! Nontheless, the camera is very responsive and a joy to use. All these images were taken with the rapidly-becoming-classic AFS-Nikkor 18-200mm, an ultra range zoom that’s nonetheless surprisingly sharp.

I keep telling myself that photography is like riding a bike, and I’ll never forget how to do it, though I remain unconvinced. I never rode a bike with a 500 page instruction manual.

The first animals of interest I encountered down at the harbour were fairly large numbers of grunting, honking California Sea Lion, which remind me of Cape Fur Seal in terms of voice, temperament and looks (they’re apparently reasonably closely related).

Here’s a portrait of what I suspect is a female:

suspected female California Sea Lion

And a definite male (fighting scars, bone-bump on forehead):

Cali Sea Lion seem to spend a huge amount of time arguing about small bits of rock on which to haul out on. They’re not at all afraid of taking chunks out of each other for the right to park flippers on the tiniest bit of dry land. Fights take place in heaps, with half the heap taking part and half snoozing though the mindless violence ripping loose around them. I could not figure out what made a Sea Lion decide to get involved or sleep through a fight in its pile…

Every now and again they stopped to serenade a passing Coke bottle.

A few hundred Brandt’s Cormorant were launching into the breeding season with throat-baring gusto behind a fence on the harbour breakwater.

Brandt\'s Cormorant breeding colony Monterey 27 April 08

Although my Sibley guide makes no mention of this, it seems they have a bright blue gular flap that comes in handy for attracting mates. I watched in amazement as, one by one, the birds spasmed backwards into a skypointing display, throat flap stretched, wings held up etc. Who needs internet dating when you’ve got a ‘lectric blue Adam’s Apple… wowee!

Closer… with some visual texture courtesy of the fence

Also in the area was one of today’s new trip birds, Heermann’s Gull, a very attractive sooty gull. This one wasn’t quite in its tight-looking breeding plumage. (The other trip bird was a transitional-plumage Long-tailed Duck that I had good but distant views of.)

Just before I left I found this cormorant bringing a jelliness of seaweed to line its nest. Cormorants and – uh – flowers; what a great combination!

Walking home I found the best image I’ve yet trapped in my D300. I’m hugely drawn to this country’s street corners. They’re good places to find some essence of the US of America.

That’s it – figured out how to blog photos and now I’m off to bed. Spending tomorrow tracking California Condors down in the Big Sur.