This past weekend I got the chance to sit on at a seabird lecture by retired senior Biologist Supervisor for the California Department of Fish and Game, former professor, and ex marine who is known for his booming voice, vast knowledge of wildlife, and red suspenders. Seabirds, also known as marine birds, are birds that have adapted to life within the ocean environment and exhibit convergent evolution as they often face the same environmental problems and feeding niches.
In general, seabirds live longer, breed later and have fewer young compared to other birds, but do invest a great deal of time and resources to their young. Most seabird species nest in colonies which greatly vary in numbers, from a few dozen to millions. Many also undertake long annual migrations, crossing the equator or circumnavigating the Earth. Due to their specialized, though varied, adaptations to the ocean many are highly pelagic, coastal, and some spend a part of the year away from the sea entirely.
After the lecture I had the opportunity to guide a group of about ten inquisitive boy scouts and their parents. I guess the stars and planets lined up that day, because the walk went perfectly, just like it was meant to be. The White-tailed Kites that are often nowhere in sight were bountiful as I guided the group out of the visitor center. Usually, I would see one or two on a good day, but that day there were a total of eight White-tailed Kites. Further down the trail I heard a Spotted Towhee that was signaling its presence. Just like if it was a singer in the spotlight, the Spotted Towhee was at the top of the tree filling its lungs with air, opening its beak, and just letting its song out while displaying all its colors. Parents took pictures while I told the boy scouts the discernible field marks to spot identify a Spotted Towhee. Further down the trail we had similar experiences with a Black Phoebe, Common Yellowthroat, California Towee, Scrub Jay, Red-tailed Hawk, and Peregrine Falcon.
Though the walk was easy, what really made my day was that the boy scouts did indeed learn a couple bird calls. We encountered a few more Spotted Towhees and Common Yellowthroats hiding within the vegetation and singing and because of the previous experiences of witnessing the physical bird actually singing its song, the boy scouts were able to identify them immediately.