Wavecrest Open Space (Part 1)

The place to visit if you love raptors.

And don’t we all?

Love raptors that is.

I first learned of Wavecrest Open Space Trail as a nice place to bike. And it is. The unpaved trails are reasonably smooth and flat.

However, Wavecrest Open Space Preserve, billed as the “single most important site on the San Mateo Coast for wintering raptors,” is an amazing place to watch raptors as they fly and fight and flirt.

The smaller birds are well represented, too.

I recently spent four hours walking around the more than 250 acres of fields, cliffs overlooking the beach, wetlands and groves of Eucalyptus and cypress trees. I could have stayed longer if my stomach hadn’t insisted that it was lunch time.

Let’s start with one of the small birds I saw: Say’s Phoebe.

Say’s Phoebe spreading its wings prior to take-off.
A quick maneuver from a Say’s Phoebe as it launches.
Say’s Phoebe in flight.
Say’s Phoebe with a yellowjacket snack.

I will use that Yellowjacket as a segue to this picture of an American Crow who has his own Insecta snack. Despite having huge compound eyes with a large range of vision and a head that can turn 180-degrees, this Mantis religiosa did not escape the beady eyes of this Crow.

American Crow with a Praying Mantis (and this one should be praying right about now)

Speaking of eyes, I saw a Great Blue Heron fly above me. Looking at the photos, I wondered about that big, bright eye. I then read that Great Blue Herons can hunt during the day or night because they have excellent night vision (due to a high percentage of rod-type photoreceptors).

Wide-eyed Great Blue Heron in flight.

And now to a few pictures of the several kinds of raptors I saw. At one point, I was standing in a field and constantly turning to follow the flight of first a Northern Harrier and then a White-tailed Kite. I’d see a large shadow on the ground and look up to find one or the other flying overhead.

White-tailed Kite hovering in the air as it scans the field for prey.
Female Northern Harrier (males, commonly known as the Gray Ghost, are gray) descending in attack mode.

Everywhere I go, I can see Red-tailed Hawks and this was no exception.

Red-tailed Hawk taking flight. Its “black biceps” are one of the keys to identification and its banded tail tell me it’s a juvenile.
Red-tailed Hawk in flight.

Of the same order and family is the Red-shouldered Hawk.

Red-shouldered Hawk

I was not the only one enjoying the beautiful day out at Wavecrest. I spoke to one woman who told me she’d seen a pair of American Kestrels the day before. These pigeon-sized falcons are beautiful and a favorite of mine (okay, I say that about almost every bird!) and also of my friend, Carmel. (I don’t think she has any other favorite birds! 😂)

American Kestrel. The females are rusty overall while the males have slate-blue wings.

This Kestrel is saying goodbye…to Part 1 of this brief series on Wavecrest Open Space. In Part 2, we will look at bird-on-bird interaction that I observed during my visit.

[Birds seen during this visit include: Surf Scoter, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Anna’s Hummingbird, Brown Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, White-tailed Kite, Northern Harrier, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Flicker, American Kestrel, Black Phoebe, Say’s Phoebe, American Crow, Common Raven, Bushtit, European Starling, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, Purple Finch, American Goldfinch, Dark-eyed Junco, White-crowned Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, Red-winged Blackbird, Brewer’s Blackbird, Yellow-rumped Warbler.]

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October 27, 2021 10:07 pm

The Say’s Phoebe spreading its wings looks like a joyful bird. Love the blue heron, and the kestrel is cute cute cute.

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