11 October 2011

Fall continues

Time is flying by here in the Central Valley.  In fact, it looks like it's been 1-2 weeks since I last updated my blog.  Time to fix that....

Because I'm in the valley most of the week now, most of my birding excursions happen on the weekends.  One example excursion was up to Folsom Lake in Placer County.  Although I didn't find any jaegers or odd gulls, it was nice to find a big body of water to scan.  It provided grebes though, no doubt of that.  We had:


In one of the parking lots was a NUTTAL'S WOODPECKER in a sycamore:

... along with the common OAK TITMICE:

I was at Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area just west of Sacramento early one morning for work.  I couldn't pass up this eerie opportunity:

It was a dewy morning; here is a plant with some wet spider webs:

AMERICAN BITTERNS are quite common at Yolo, I'm gathering.  I've seen multiple AMBIs each of my visits there and they actually stay year round.  Here is one sticking it's head up above the field:

The highlights from Yolo that morning was a swarm of swallows that I scanned through for a couple of minutes.  It was fun trying to photograph swallows in flight although it resulted in a hundred blurred photos.  A couple turned out; here is a VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW:

... and a BARN SWALLOW:

Probably the neatest picture of the day was this TREE SWALLOW mirrored against the water:

However, my best BIRD of the day was this late CLIFF SWALLOW.  I'm not entirely sure of the typical departure dates for this species here in California but I'm guessing this could be a new Yolo County record late:

Back at home, I continue to snap shots of my local ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRDS:

I've mentioned how common things like BREWER'S BLACKBIRDS were in previous posts.  I decided to snap another picture of one considering the light was at my back:

Another very common species that has moved in for the winter is the WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW:

A juvenile SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER was found over in Petaluma last week which caught my attention; it was a no-brainer to go chase it one evening.  Thankfully it worked out.  We spotted it way out on a mudflat which was lucky considering the tide was out.  The pictures are NOT good enough to ID it but I'm not heartbroken about it:

Another highlight in Petaluma was seeing and photographing PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVERS.  This was a new ABA photographed species for me and the first ones I've seen in the ABA area in probably 10 years.

I was surprised to see a super-flock of LONG-BILLED CURLEWS regularly using a field along Interstate 5 just south of where I live.  Even though I had worked on this species for several years, I had never seen a flock of 500+ before!!  I stopped one evening and took a record shot of a part of the flock:

I continue to check a flooded wheat field on Staten Island on my own time to see what new shorbs have dropped in.  To date, I've tallied 14 species (ordered from most abundant to least):

Least Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
Greater Yellowlegs
Wilson's Snipe
American Avocet
Black-bellied Plover
Western Sandpiper

Black-necked Stilt

Lesser Yellowlegs
Pectoral Sandpiper
Long-billed Curlew
Red-necked Phalarope

Here is a flock of LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS flying around that field:

Staten Island has hundreds and hundreds of SANDHILL CRANES now as well.  You can't visit and not constantly hear them in the air or in the harvested corn fields.  Here are two as they flew by:

By far the most impressive spectacle at Staten Island for me so far are the huge numbers of CACKLING GEESE that can be found.  These "Aleutian" CACKLING GEESE breed on the Aleutians of Alaska and winter in the Central Valley of California.  Pretty neat to see such huge flocks; I'm fairly certain that EVERY bird in the next three photos is a CACG:

Another weekend trip took us up to the Bodega Bay area.  Although I didn't take many pictures, I snapped some of this HARBOR SEAL down in the ocean below us:

There was a nice diversity of shorebirds in the bay once the tide went out a little.  We tallied 16 species:

Black-bellied Plover
Black Oystercatcher
American Avocet
Black-necked Stilt
Greater Yellowlegs
Long-billed Curlew
Marbled Godwit
Ruddy Turnstone
Black Turnstone
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher

There were several FOX SPARROWS singing at Hole-in-the-Head as well:

I'll close with a picture from Bodega Head:

02 October 2011


This evening there were 8 shorebird species in a flooded wheat field on Staten Island, San Joaquin County:

Black-bellied Plover (3)
Killdeer (20+)
Greater Yellowlegs (5+)
Dunlin (3)
Western Sandpiper (3)
Least Sandpiper (200+)
Long-billed Dowitcher (150+)
Wilson's Snipe (10)


Here's a look at a small portion of the shorb flock:

Visibility was pretty good out at Staten tonight.  I'm not exactly sure how many miles those foothills are to the south-southwest but probably about 20:

Back at home, I had several raptors migrating overhead earlier today including this SWAINSON'S HAWK:

01 October 2011

81 species

I spent the morning birding a couple of spots in southern Sacramento County and northern San Joaquin County.  Specific locations included Cosumnes River Preserve, Staten Island, and Woodbridge Road.

Although I'm new to the area and not really sure what is supposed to be around, I thought there was more of a fall feel to today with sightings like DARK-EYED JUNCO, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, HERMIT THRUSH, and DUNLIN.

As the corn disappears and flooded fields become more prominent, waterfowl diversity and crane numbers continue to rise.  GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE have been here for a week now and today I had my first fall flock of leucopareia (Aleutian) CACKLING GEESE.

I started the early morning out at Cosumnes River Preserve where this backlit ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD was already awake:

This DARK-EYED JUNCO was my first of the season here in the Central Valley:

On Staten Island, there was a flock of Cackling Geese back from the Aleutians:

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS are also back in the area; here is a 1st-winter bird along Woodbridge Road:

I ended the morning with 81 species.  Here is the entire list:

Greater White-fronted Goose
Cackling Goose
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Green-winged Teal
Northern Pintail
Northern Shoveler
Cinnamon Teal
Ring-necked Pheasant
Pied-billed Grebe
Snowy Egret
Great Egret
Great Blue Heron
White-faced Ibis
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Swainson's Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Virginia Rail
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
American Avocet
Black-necked Stilt
Greater Yellowlegs
Long-billed Curlew
Least Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe
California Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Northern Flicker
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Warbling Vireo
Western Scrub-Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Oak Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Bewick's Wren
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
American Pipit
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
California Towhee
Spotted Towhee
Savannah Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Western Meadowlark
Red-winged Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

At home in California

We have lived in the Sacramento area now for a couple of weeks.  My updates on this blog haven't come as regularly as I would have liked but here is a summary of some of the birds we've seen lately.

Where to start?  We can start with my new yard (and new "yard list", of course).  Although I was lucky to have a stream and some trees by my old yard in Iowa, my current and rather urban yard has given me a change of scenery and the chance to learn birds all over again! 

For example, it didn't take more than 120 seconds of hanging up my hummingbird feeders that we were visited by an ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD.  This species is by far the most common hummingbird in the Central Valley as far as I can tell.  We were visited by at least 6 different Anna's within a day or two which was really neat to be around.  Here is a variety of pictures of ANHUs from my yard:

Some other species on my new (and short) yard list include:

Double-crested Cormorant
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Swainson's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
California Gull
Belted Kingfisher
Western Scrub-Jay

In total, I think I'm at the 30 mark for the yard list.  I WAS happy to spot this extremely distant PEREGRINE FALCON from my porch though:

My work puts me around a lot of raptors and I'm not complaining!  For example, WHITE-TAILED KITES are one of the most common raptors I see on a daily basis:

Another common raptor around here is the RED-SHOULDERED HAWK:

As usual with being in open spaces in this part of the world, RED-TAILED HAWKS are common and seen on a daily basis.  Here is a youngster:

I have been seeing many SWAINSON'S HAWKS on the job as well.  Here are a couple different SWHAs:

A lot of what I do in the Central Valley revolves around shorebirds.  Speaking of shorebirds, how can I not mention that a LONG-BILLED CURLEW found me rather quickly:

When moving to a such a different place, one isn't sure what is uncommon and what isn't.  I saw these GREAT-TAILED GRACKLES and didn't think much of them.  Turns out, I have yet to see more of these; I think they might be fairly uncommon this far north?

One thing I AM certain of, EUROPEAN STARLINGS are not hard to come by out here:

Another species that is just plain abundant is the BREWER'S BLACKBIRD.  I see hundreds of these things each day:

I don't see these every day but they're definitely around my neighborhood in good numbers; the BUSHTIT:

One of the target birds I had in mind when I moved to this part of the country was OAK TITMOUSE.  Sure enough, they aren't too hard to find if you find some warm forests with large oaks.  This was a new ABA photo bird for me and only the second time I've seen this species before:

I'll be honest, seeing hoards of SAVANNAH SPARROWS each day doesn't exactly turn me on.  Oh well, what can you do other than take a picture now and then:

This guy was NOT keen with me peering at it.  It's a VIRGINIA RAIL keeping an eye on me from a few feet in a marsh.  VIRGINIA RAILS are year-round residents in a good chunk of California:

I haven't seen many flycatchers here in the Central Valley as of yet other than BLACK PHOEBES (which are exceedingly abundant here).  Thus, it was a nice change up to find a SAY'S PHOEBE at an open space near our neighborhood.  These guys are winter-only visitors here:

A quick trip up to Yosemite National Park (which is only 2-3 hours from home!) yielded some expected birds like this AMERICAN DIPPER:

... as well as this rather unexpected BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER:

Another change I've had to make in living here is expecting egrets everywhere I turn.  GREAT EGRETS are downright abundant and SNOWY EGRETS aren't uncommon either.  Either way, I'd hate to be a frog in THIS ditch:

Another heron that I've seen many of already this month is the cryptically-colored AMERICAN BITTERN:

I'll close with a photo of a typical flooded agriculture field here in the Central Valley.  Note the LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS huddled together in the background: