Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ospreys Over Dana Point

Yesterday I did yoga down at Salt Creek, and after a good 90 minutes on the mat - the last 30 minutes of which I more-or-less meditated and observed whale watching boats shadowing a northern bound gray whale, who was close enough to shore that I saw the tail flukes - I decided to take my camera up to the Ritz Carlton, which sits on a massive cliff over-looking Salt Creek.
Gray Whale spout to the right (starboard) side of the right boat

"The Roth Group" was holding some massive meeting / seminar at the Ritz and had previously Taken Over the Salt Creek / Sea Terrace Park parking lot, obliterating 1/2 the public parking spaces with some plutocratically permitted "event tent".  Last year "38 Special" played at the Roth Group's opulent gathering that invaded the public park where I've paid $110 dollars to park annually ($55 x 2 cars), and it aggravated me that I could not park despite having a permit since I wasn't a large capital investor, but I was within bike riding distance so I thumbed my nose at the suits & security and rode where I wanted.   This year, living 4x as far and carrying more expensive camera gear, I had to drive.  Luckily, timing had the event tent being taken down, and the ear-peice wearing security guards all vacated, but I still heard - through an open door near the Ritz Lobby as I passed through - "we are the Roth Group are recommending these small cap companies as leaders in innovation".  Whatever.

So out on the Ritz seaside terrace, I took pictures of the whale watching boats.  Then took some pictures of the lovely Ritz Carlton garden.  And then, out of no where, a Very Large raptor starts hover about 20 feet away, at eye level with me (since I am on a 150 high cliff's edge).  I was amazed, stunned, enraptured even, and then remembered...  duh..  I am holding a camera!  I began trying to take as many photos as possible, being SO Close.

The raptor was hovering, like a kite (kite bird, not kite-child's-toy) and diving occasionally.  A murder of crows who live in the Ritz's palm trees began harassing it, so the raptor dove to near sea level, and searched for prey.

As it swooped down over Strand Beach, the sea gulls and sand pipers scattered anxiously out of its path.  Everyone in the bird world knew there was a large killer above them.  No one in the human world seemed to take notice, except me.

Was it a Sea Hawk?  A Cooper's Hawk?  A Red Tailed Hawk?  A Sea Eagle?  The wings were too big to be a Peregrine Falcon, too big, and too curved, and I've never seen a Peregrine FLAP it's wings to hover, it just extends then straight out.  This raptor was working hard to maintain altitude & position, but it Was remaining quite steady in the air when it wanted to hover, and then it would Dive and Swoop rapidly, before coming back up for a hover.  Could it be an Osprey?
I'd have to consult the Cornel website when I got home, to see for sure, and blow up the photos on a much larger screen than the 2 x 3 Lumix camera flip-screen to discern distinguishing characteristics.
This was taken at a distance of over 1/2 a mile horizontally, and from approx 100 higher elevation than the raptor.
Then, 3 minutes later, after the large unknown raptor flew off, I saw this Marine aircraft flying north up the coast from Camp Pendleton.
One of the many V22 Ospreys that buzz over La Jolla and Northern San Diego daily.  Their rotors are so loud, that even mostly-deaf Dr Desert Flower can hear them, and is often frightened by their sudden low flight paths directly over head.  The V22 Osprey's tilt rotors allow it to take off and land vertically, but at the same time, fly much faster than a helicopter and carry heavier payloads.

When I got home, I was tired and hungry and in no mood to post anything on the blog, so I left the camera be.   I went back out to the Headlands today and saw the faster creature on the planet, and her mate, exchange food in the air above me, and then sit and soak up the rays of the setting sun.  After doing parkour to get back to my car, I drove home, uploaded the pics to iPhoto from yesterday and today, zoomed in, and opened up Cornel's site in parallel.

Indeed, I HAD spotted an Osprey!  Very Ironic that the military version appeared in the same venue as the natural raptor.  The natural Osprey was much quieter, flew with less energy exerted, has never flipped over and killed any US service personnel or Boeing technicians or test pilots - I am certain it has killed it's fair share of fish.  Lucky for those gulls and sand pipers, they were not on the menu! (link here)

I will try and post more on today's tidal pool excursion later this weekend.  It's dinner time.

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