More Mesa – Kites, Hawk, Owl, Youngsters, Toxic Weed

Recently, Valerie told me that she had seen five white-tailed kites on the eastern end of More Mesa perched in the same tree close to the main trail. I went out a few days later one Sunday evening, and was able to photograph a youngster, whose rusty feathers had almost faded to white and whose eyes were almost red. I noted that when it flew to a certain tree, the youngster was chased by an adult kite. Hence, the assumption is that the youngster photographed was the last of the first clutch from the eastern side, and the adults are tending a second nest.

East wtk juv
(Juvenile WTK on east end, June 07, 2009)

Later, I decided to look for kite youngsters on the west end of More Mesa in “More Mesa County Park”. I entered via the entrance close to the equestrian center, and after spending some time photographing a few birds and flowers, heard the “keeping” of a kite. By happenstance, I was standing in one of the few places that allowed a clear view toward the oaks along the main west trail of More Mesa, and saw a kite fly into a tree and disappear from view except for a hint of outstretched wings. After several minutes, it reappeared and perched on the tree surveying the surroundings. I tried to find some landmarks to see if I could find the tree when walking down the main western path, and noted the telephone/power lines running all the way from More Mesa to Walnut Drive as easily locatable. A hawk was seen perched on a pole in the distance near the possible nesting oak.

West wtk adult
(Adult WTK on west end nesting tree, June 10, 2009)

I returned to the equestrian entrance, walked down Shoreline toward the main western entrance at the corner with Orchard drive, and continued while looking for any signs of the kites. When I arrived at the telephone/power pole, the hawk was still perched on the top. I wondered what is was, and if it was a threat to the white-tailed kite nest.

I continued walking and went underneath the overhang, and was somewhat startled by a whooshing sound near my head. I turned around to see the Cooper’s hawk perched on a branch close by. I was able to get a few photos in the bad light. Thereafter, I continued along the path to the base of the hill, walked up the hill toward the cliffs. Along the way, I photographed an alligator lizard captured by a hiker.

Cooper's Hawk
(Cooper’s Hawk on west end, June 11, 2009)

Alligator Lizard
(Alligator Lizard, June 11, 2009)

On returning along the same path, I photographed an adult white-tailed kite standing guard in the depression running along the side of the main west path, and near the supposed nesting tree. I continued on, and while trying to photograph a wrentit, the Cooper’s hawk flew past me again to the top of the telephone pole, where it commenced to eat whatever it had captured.

The white-tailed kite nest is probably in a tree that has been used many times as a second nesting site on the western side, and thus possibly there will be additional youngsters July/August this year. Reportedly, the Cooper’s hawk is also nesting on More Mesa, apparently close to the kite nest. The next month or so could be interesting for youngsters on both the east and west sides.

West wtk adult
(Adult WTK on west end perching tree, June 11, 2009)

Russian knapweed
(Russian knapweed in More Mesa County Park)

While in the “More Mesa County Park”, I photographed a flower that looked a little like a cross between a thistle and a monardella, but also looked a little weedy. After providing a sample and photos to SBBG, it turned out to be a very noxious, invasive species known as Russian knapweed. If this weed is seen, please report it.

Harvest or Earth Brodiaea

A chain of events, starting this year with my providing a map to Lara Hartley, resulted in the travel by Wayne Armstrong, brodiaea researcher (amongst other things), to Figueroa Mountain to investigate the brodiaea at the location in question.

Because Wayne constructed an extremely interesting page of his visit, I decided to create this post with the sole purpose of providing a link to said educational page. (Also, explore the rest of his site – it is full of interesting facts, photos and observations of the natural world – definitely a bookmarker.)

Link to Wayne’s page:

Brodiaea
(Harvest Brodiaea: Brodiaea terrestris ssp. kernensis (BTK complex))