Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Red-Breasted Merganser at Pillar Point Harbor

It could be the dog days of summer or something else entirely, but there just haven't been many birds out and about in the places where I've been wandering. The pond at the campus has been dry for months, so few species are hanging out there, and I've only had a few chances to walk the river trail on the Tuolumne, and the birds were scarce there as well. We had occasion to take a short trip to the coast this past weekend though, and when we checked out the Fitzgerald Nature Preserve and Pillar Point Harbor near Half Moon Bay, we saw a few species. One was new to me (I didn't say "uncommon", it's just I haven't seen one yet). It was a Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator). They are seen often enough along the coast of California, but almost never in the interior Central Valley (hence why I haven't noticed any before).
I saw the bird while I was walking the trail to Pillar Point along the shore of the harbor. The harbor is artificial, protected by several breakwaters and jetties. Because of the configuration of the ocean floor just west of Pillar Point, some fierce waves can develop during stormy weather in winter. The legendary Mavericks waves form offshore from Pillar Point.

As always, please let me know if I misidentify a bird. I'm still new at this!

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