Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Red-throated Pipits in San Francisco

For the past few days there have been many reports of several RED-THROATED PIPITS at Crissy Field in San Francisco's Presidio. I have seen this species once before just north of that location on Point Reyes several years ago. I decided to have a go at it last minute. After surviving the Bay Area traffic, I arrived at approximately 9am. I soon located a large flock of AMERICAN PIPITS that quickly took flight and vacated the premises. I walked the length of the field and became distracted by a SAY'S PHOEBE on the beach. As I returned to the field I immediately flushed 2 RED-THROATED PIPITS from very near the walking path. They flew a short distance and allowed approach but remained wary. It became apparent that there were at least 3 individuals present from 9am-11am. My 100-400 zoom lens was a bit short but I was able to get some images.

Alvaro Jaramillo was present recording the flight calls of the pipits. His excellent recording can be heard here.

Also present was a LAPLAND LONGSPUR which was (unexpectedly) associating quite closely with the Red-throated Pipits.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ruby-throated Hummingbird in Nevada County, CA!

On August 30, 2008, Bruce Webb and I made the pilgrimage up to Nevada City to see a RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD that had been coming to birder Rudy Darling's feeders for (at that point) 7 days. We were not disappointed. There were also ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRDS, RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD, PILEATED WOODPECKER, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES, GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS, "OREGON" JUNCOS, and CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES to occupy us during the nearly 20 minutes between the Ruby-throat's feeder visits. According to Joe Morlan, this will likely be the 10th accepted record (based on the breadth of documentation already) for California.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve

I spent an hour at Bolsa Chica Reserve near Huntington State Beach before I had to get to the airport. What a show! The FORSTER'S TERNS were diving next to the boardwalk, an adult was feeding a young tern on the railing of the boardwalk allowing close approach (~3-4 feet)...

...and a few BLACK SKIMMERS made a fly by...

...and a skimming.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Avocets, avocets, avocets!

I returned to the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary to find the pond adjacent the Sea and Sage Audubon House as I had left it yesterday...rife with AMERICAN AVOCETS and a few CINNAMON TEAL.

There was a bit of interaction as well as avian romance on the pond. I never get tired of avocets.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

I have been sent to Irvine for work and found myself with a few hours this morning. A quick Internet search led me to the Sea and Sage Audubon Society's San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary...and it is just a few blocks south of the Marriott where I am staying! BELL'S VIREO was very vocal but difficult to photograph...maybe I'll get some shots tomorrow. This ALLEN'S HUMMINGBIRD landed right next to me and seemed to be "licking his lips"!

As I returned to my car I almost stepped on this SAN DIEGO GOPHER SNAKE...scared the gopher out of me! I was looking up into the trees as I walked and by the time my eyes landed on this guy, I was a mere 2 feet away. This impressive snake measured approximately two and a half feet long and didn't seem too bothered by me. I really like the Alice Cooper eye makeup!

I didn't have time to visit the Audubon House but will return in the morning. There were AMERICAN AVOCETS and CINNAMON TEAL in the pond adjacent to the center seemingly unaware of the parking lot...I hope they are there tomorrow.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sacramento Mandarin Duck

After shooting an adventure racing team at Lake Natoma, I spent the afternoon with my 5 year old son, Simon at McKinley Park in East Sacramento. This is a great spot for close views of wild WOOD DUCKS as the pond there has several pairs. Today the pond held a adult male MANDARIN DUCK (who copulated with a very willing female Wood Duck). This is a free flying bird that is likely an escape...but you never know!

No leg bands...

...primaries are all intact...

...somehow, though, I don't think any rare bird committee would accept this one! Regardless...he's quite a stunner!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Summer Tanager in El Dorado Hills!

Chris Conard got wind of a returning SUMMER TANAGER staked out off a nature trail in a suburban neighborhood about a week ago. I finally got a chance to get over there and check it out. I was there for about 20 minutes when Fritz Steurer appeared and pointed me to the bird. I got off a few poor shots before it flew out towards the neighborhood. Dave Johnson and Dee Wyrencia were also there at the time. The others left but I wanted to try and get another chance for photos. About 5-10 minutes later the bird reappeared and allowed fairly close approach. Nice bird!

It was feasting on bees that were slowly appearing from an oak. You can see bee parts on it's bill in these photos.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Texas: Day 6. Last half day...a great way to end the trip!

We decided to use the remaining half day of my involvement in this trip to check local parks in Harlingen for Groove-billed Ani. Since it was local, we didn't get up until 7:00am (vs. the 4:30am and 5:30am alarms of the previous days). It was a beautiful day with very little wind! It figures...last day here...and it's a half day!

While getting ready I checked the Texbirds listserv and saw that there was a TROPICAL PARULA found the day before near the Convention Centre on South Padre Island. This was one species I was hoping for but really didn't expect. Plans changed immediately. South Padre Island is only a 35 minute drive from Harlingen and, since the Spring breakers were all still sleeping or hung over, there was no traffic.

Upon arrival I was pleased to see that the spot where this bird was found is a very small grove of trees next to the Convention Centre which is surrounded by salt marsh...this was an isolated oasis. As I returned to the car to get my camera, Dad came running around the corner to get me because he had found it! It gave all great views for the hour that we were there...beautiful lighting and it seemed oblivious to our presence as it would feed in the trees right over our heads.

Also in the grove were several butterflies...

...roosting MONARCHS...


There was a BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER present as well. This is a very active species that rarely sits still. The nice weather following such severe winds was probably the reason this bird took a few minutes to preen itself...a sight I've never encountered in the 31 years I've been birding.

All in all a good trip despite the weather. 4 life birds for me and a few state birds for Dad. The Tropical Parula was such a great way to end the trip.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Texas: Day 4. Another windy day

We began our day at Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park in search of Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. We walked into the park about 45 minutes before dawn and almost immediately heard an EASTERN SCREECH-OWL trilling in the dark. A short walk from the entrance yielded 3 more. PAURAQUE (pah-RAH-key) were calling around us and one flew within feet of us. We were able to get one in the flashlight beam for a moment and saw the unmistakable orange "eye shine."

It began to get lighter and suddenly, we both heard a FERRUGINOUS PYGMY-OWL from the trees ahead. It gave us perhaps, 8-10 toots and never called again and we never did see it. After searching through a passerine flock for the previously reported Tropical Parula (without luck) we decided to leave.

On our way out we bumped into the daily bird walk and the leader happily showed us this roosting EASTERN SCREECH-OWL.

This insect (Hoverfly?) was guarding one of the interpretive signs...there seemed to be one at each sign.

We then headed for Frontera Audubon where there had been Groove-billed Ani reported recently. No luck with the ani but we did have some nice birds, leps (butterflies), and odes (dragonflies).

This GREAT KISKADEE was coming to the water for a drink.

TELEUS LONGTAILS and BROWN LONGTAILS were braving the winds.

This BUFF-BELLIED HUMMINGBIRD was coming in to feed at one of the several nectar feeders.

A short walk through the grounds found us at a feeding station that held an OVENBIRD, INCA DOVES, and several CHACHALACAS, like this one. He seemed to be displaying...all puffed up.

I believe this is a mature (past it's prime) ROSEATE SKIMMER.

I was told that this butterfly is a TEXAS CRESCENT but can't find that common name referenced.

After Frontera we decided to give another shot at Aplomado Falcon and headed east to Laguna Atascosa. A large falcon perched on a radio tower gave us hope and a pursued a NORTHERN HARRIER that had a prey item and forced it to relinquish the meal. We found it a little bit later on the ground and it turned out to be a PEREGRINE FALCON.

In pursuit of the falcon I almost stepped on this WESTERN DIAMONDBACK RATTLESNAKE...a life herp (reptile).

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Texas: Day 3. Another day, another life bird

Today we spent the entire day (yes 7am-7pm) waiting for the Muscovy Ducks to show themselves on the Rio Grande at Salineno. They never did. Neither did Hook-billed Kite. RED-BILLED PIGEONS showed well providing me with a new species. The sky was overcast all day which made photography difficult. We did have some highlights...3 ZONE-TAILED HAWKS joined the vultures soaring above. A COMMON BLACK HAWK sat partially obstructed in a tree upstream frustrating some birders. Below are some of the birds present.

GREAT KISKADEE sounds filled the air most of the day. There were several at a feeder nearby fighting over the peanut butter tray.

AUDUBON'S ORIOLE is a specialty of Salineno. This male was at the feeder eating oranges.

This CURVE-BILLED THRASHER was new for this trip. Love that orange eye!

One of the most common birds in the valley is GOLDEN-FRONTED WOODPECKER.

LEAF-CUTTER ANTS created a nice diversion while we waited (and waited...and waited).

On a side note...we watched many large bales of marijuana trafficked across the border on boats and witnessed (quite close) a boat of illegal immigrants come ashore as 2 vehicles raced into the parking lot to pick them up and drive off in haste.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Texas: Day 2. Second day, first lifer!

It seems we've been here for a long time and it's only been 2 days! My first life bird came in the form of a tyrant flycatcher...COUCH'S KINGBIRD at Estero Llano Grande State Park (where Jim Booker resides as Park Naturalist). This cooperative individual allowed fairly close approach and preened for us. Also in the area was a female Vermillion Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Cinnamon Teal, Blue-winged Teal, and Green Kingfisher.

We also looked for Groove-billed Ani among the reeds across Llano Grande with no luck. There were lots of BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING DUCKS, AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS, 2 ROSEATE SPOONBILLS, and a PEREGRINE FALCON but the gale force winds beat us into submission quickly and we had to retreat off the levee and back to the trails.

At Santa Ana NWR there was a brief look at what may have been Hook-billed Kite but neither of us are comfortable with the sighting to call it. At the headquarters feeder there was this female YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER that is quite unusual in that it has an entirely black cap. Typically there would be some red in there. Allegedly, Ken Kaufmann was here yesterday and said that he's only seen one other like it in his life.

Other highlights of the day included:

OLIVE SPARROWS were ubiquitous in the undergrowth.

Gotta post another GREEN JAY from'd think they'd be orange with all the citrus they eat!

A couple of life odonates...BAND-WINGED DRAGONLET flutters in a jewelwing-inspired way. Very different flight behavior than I've seen.

This emerald beauty had me thinking "darner" it was so big. It turns out to be a GREAT PONDHAWK...very different from Western Pondhawks in California.

Finally, there was this QUEEN stopping for a moment to allow a photo.

Despite the high winds and lack of Hook-billed Kites and Groove-billed Anis, we had a good day with many nice birds and bugs.