Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Upper Truckee Marsh 10/27/09

On my return trip from a business trip to Fallon, NV I stopped to see what the winds had brought into Lake Tahoe. I felt the best spot to check would be at the end of Tahoe Keys Blvd in South Lake Tahoe at the delta of the Upper Truckee River. There was a strong, cold, and persistent wind the majority of my stay that left my hands numb. Snow put in a cameo appearance at one point and from the northeast I could see much more as it was engulfing that end of the lake.

A few birds were nice, if a bit unexpected...

A juvenile RED-SHOULDERED HAWK was hunting the meadow to the south of Vienna (the entrance road to the Tahoe Keys Marina).

2 AMERICAN AVOCETS looked very cold in the water just past the jetty.

A single HERRING GULL was in with California and Ring-billed Gulls.

This LARK SPARROW was foraging on the ground near the car as I returned. I'm not sure of the status of Lark Sparrow here but it looked a bit out of place sitting in an evergreen.

Other highlights included 2 BALD EAGLES (1 adult and 1 sub-adult), 1 NORTHERN HARRIER, 1 RED-TAILED HAWK, 12 HORNED LARKS on the shoreline, and a bevy of waterfowl-1 RUDDY DUCK, 4 AMERICAN WIGEON, 18 NORTHERN PINTAIL, 1 NORTHERN SHOVELER, 16 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, MALLARDS. To top it off were several BLACK-BILLED MAGPIES that are resident here.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Monterey Seabirds Trip 9/26/09

Pink-footed Shearwater

Had a great outing with Monterey Seabirds with the annual Sacramento Audubon Society chartered trip. Highlights included 1 TUFTED PUFFIN (a lifer!), 1 FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER, 1 adult SABINE'S GULL, a few BULLER'S SHEARWATER, BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS, ASHY STORM-PETREL, BLACK-VENTED SHEARWATER, PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER, COMMON TERN, POMERINE JAEGER, PARASITIC JAEGER, and NORTHERN FULMAR. On the marine mammal front we had some good looks at RISSO'S DOLPHIN, HUMPBACK WHALE, COMMON DOLPHIN, and PACIFIC WHITE-SIDED DOLPHIN along with the ubiquitous CALIFORNIA SEA LION, HARBOR SEAL, and SEA OTTER.

Sabine's Gull

A Pomerine Jaeger raises hell with a Pink-footed Shearwater and a Heerman's Gull

Heerman's Gull

A pod of Risso's Dolphins

Tufted Puffin

Pink-footed Shearwater

Humpback Whale giving the boat a wave

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tahoe in September 9/17/09

Left a day early for a yearly "golf" weekend and hit a couple spots on the Lake. I started at Pomin Park where the Coast Guard station is on the west shore (Placer County) and had a few decent birds between there and the park just north at the end of Bristlecone.

Pomin Park
No sign of the previous day's black and white warbler though there was a lot of activity in the park.

Empidonax sp.

Bristlecone St(?)
At the park just north of Pomin and the Coast Guard station there was quite a bit of activity. Several waves of birds came through the trees during my ~4 hr stay.
SANDERLING 1 juv out at the point in the rocks

MARBLED GODWIT 1 roosting at the point

SABINE'S GULL 1 juv feeding approx 300 yds off the point with a Sterna tern that will remain unidentified
Phalarope sp. 2 flying around and sitting several hundred yds offshore (likely Red-necked Phalarope)
FORSTER'S TERN 1 at the point
VESPER SPARROW 1 in the grasses at the point

YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD 1 imm male in the grasses at the point

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER 1 in the trees at the point
MARSH WREN in the grasses

El Dorado County:

Tahoe Keys



RED-NECKED PHALAROPE 4 in the outlet of the river allowing close approach

Monday, August 31, 2009

Searching (in vain) for Red-necked Stint

Todd Easterla has done it again. He has the uncanny ability to find the vagrants. He is a rare bird magnet. This time it was aRed-necked Stint at the Vic Fazio Wildlife Area in Yolo County (just West of Sacramento, CA). I tried on my lunch break today without success but did have a decent peep study (dare I say "peep show?").

An adult LEAST SANDPIPER. By far the most numerous shorebird species today.

An adult WESTERN SANDPIPER. Note the overall white and gray appearance, large bill with a slight droop at the tip and rufous fringed scapulars.

A juvenal LEAST SANDPIPER. Note the warm brown upper parts, yellow legs and the finely pointed bill.

Another treat was a close encounter with 4 RED-NECKED PHALAROPES. Here is an adult with a juvenal in the background.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Yellow-billed Cuckoo in El Dorado County

On June 30th Bill Wade reported to the CVBirds list that a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO had been brought to a local bird rehabilitator in Shingle Springs (El Dorado County). He had also solicited the assistance of a photographer to document this occurrence as it is a fairly remarkable record being away from known breeding sites in the Central Valley. I responded and the next morning, July 1st, Nancy the bird rehab lady called and we set up a time for me to stop by.

The bird apparently flew into a neighbor's window and was then caught by a cat which accounts for the missing tail. I would like to thank Nancy for her warm hospitality and tour of the "facility". She was also working with several orphans including 3 sibling Pacific Slope Flycatchers, Black Phoebes, House Wrens, Killdeer, and Anna's Hummingbirds, as well as Acorn and Nuttall's Woodpeckers, Western Bluebirds, and Western Tanagers.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Flash Workshop with Steve Ting

Took a flash photography workshop with Reno area wildlife photographer Steve Ting. I realized that I have a lot of practice ahead of me to get anywhere near the results that I aspire to (click on Steve's name to see his amazing work!). Here are a couple shots of Western Bluebirds coming in to a nest hole near Reno.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Modoc, Lassen Counties and the Warner Mountains

UPDATE: On June 28, Dan Singer reported the confirmation of the Eastern Kingbirds at Blue Lake (see below) are breeding and that he obtained photos of one bird sitting on a nest.

Black and White Warbler on Jess Valley Rd., Modoc County

Took a trip up to the northeastern corner of California for birds, butterflies, and odonates with Bruce Webb on June 1st and 2nd. The weather cooperated the first day but was not so conducive to flying bugs the second day. Highlights were several Great Basin Snaketails and Gray Sanddragons on the creek at Zamboni Hot Springs, a single River Jewelwing on the Susan River in Johnstonville, a BLACK AND WHITE WARBLER singing along Jess Valley Rd (approx 7.3 miles east of Likely, Modoc County), 2 EASTERN KINGBIRDS at Blue Lake (Lassen County), and a pair of Bald Eagles feeding a large eaglet in a nest (also at Blue Lake.

Eastern Kingbird at Blue Lake

Eastern Kingbird flying overhead showing the notched primaries and white terminal band on the tail well.

Distant shot showing both kingbirds.

One of many Tree Swallows

A pair of Mountain Bluebirds were a nice addition to the list at Blue Lake

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Return to the Owl

My father and I returned today with my son, Simon (6 1/2 years old) in hopes of another encounter with the GREAT GRAY OWL in Durham. As we arrived we heard the disappointing news that it had been there 15 minutes before we arrived and hadn't been seen since. As we contemplated our move, Simon remarked that we should just walk into the woods to look. What a brilliant idea! We soon came across some photographers in the woods who were on the bird. Simon was so excited to have his first encounter with such a mythical beast! He and I were about 40 feet away and he loved it when the owl "looked right at him!"

Formidable talons!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

April Trip to New Hampshire

It was serendipitous that as my son Simon and I were flying East to visit family a GREAT GRAY OWL was discovered a few miles from my parents' house. Dennis Abbott, Davis Finch, Todd Day, myself and others conducted the search of the Wildlife Management Area on Dame Road in Durham, Todd (on his way home to Virginia from Maine) had found the owl perched nearby. It flew up the hill a short distance and out of sight. We all split up and I followed the flight of the bird up the hill. Not 10 minutes later I spotted the owl as it flew in about 120 feet away. It allowed my approach to 40 feet where I reveled in the sight.

I have seen several Great Gray Owls over the years but never this close. The sheer size of the bird was quite surprising! He knew I was there but really didn't seem to care! It then flew....right at me! Exhilarated, I watched as it flew within 6 inches of me to a perch about 100 feet behind me. I followed and it continued to an opening where it sat in the open for a short time. Several attempts to alert the others finally succeeded at this spot. The bird then flew toward the road and out of sight....just as the others came into view.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Slaty-backed Gull in Davis, CA!

Slaty-backed Gull

On Friday, February 27, Todd Easterla and John Sterling reported a SLATY-BACKED GULL at the Davis Oxidation Ponds. This year has been fantastic for gulls at this site and the adjacent Yolo County Dump. As luck would have it I had Saturday off and headed over as soon as I was able. After scanning the available gull groups and finding 2 first winter GLAUCOUS GULLS, several THAYER'S, GLAUCOUS-WINGED, HERRING, CALIFORNIA, and RING-BILLED GULLS (and an apparent "KUMLIEN'S" GULL) someone had alerted another birder that they had refound the Slaty-backed in a field about a mile away.

I arrived to a decent sized flock of gulls and almost immediately came across a dark backed gull in front of all the others. My excitement quickly subsided as I realized I was looking at an adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL and not the Slaty-backed. This is only the second Lesser Black-backed I've seen in California and was still excited to see it but I thought it was the bird people were calling the Slaty-backed. Soon, tough, I was on the SLATY-BACKED GULL and had moderate looks at quite a distance. The following digiscoped shots were all I could get.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Slaty-backed Gull

Slaty-backed Gull

"Kumlien's" Gull? Comments welcome on this one! The primaries look good and the tertials are ok but the bill seems too big to me. What do you think?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Quick Trip to Southeast Arizona

I was in Phoenix for a convention and thought I'd try for some of the recent rarities in the Tucson area. After dipping on the Patagonia Lake Rufous-backed Robin I headed for Florida Canyon for Rufous-capped Warbler. I had forgotten to print directions up the wash but had read them enough I had unknowingly memorized them! The entire canyon was silent. I heard the distant call of a Lesser Goldfinch at one point and began to feel as though I was hiking in vain. I reached the spot where the warblers had mostly been seen and spent 20 minutes without luck until I remembered there was another spot upstream that was favored more recently. After another 200yds up the canyon I reached a flat area where there had been a fire at one point. It was there that one of the reported three RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLERS made itself known in the thick brush on the side of the wash. I was able to get a couple great (but brief) looks as it foraged about 6-10 feet back in the brush. What a stunner! It never came out for a photo.

The next day my time was short as I was planning on having lunch in Scottsdale with an old friend. I decided to head over the the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for some photo opps. I was not disappointed...

BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS made a nice showing in the Hummingbird Aviary

This male COSTA'S HUMMINGBIRD was very difficult...often perching in terrible light or under cover of the dense vegetation

There was a single female RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD vigorously defending her feeding station

This BARN OWL was on the arm of a docent at one of the educational stops

In the aviary there was a WESTERN TANAGER...

...several doves including this BAND-TAILED PIGEON...

...a very out of place BLUE-WINGED TEAL...

...and one of the ubiquitous CACTUS WRENS.

In speaking with one of the volunteers I found out that most of the birds are from local rehabilitation facilities.