25 June 2012

Bidwell Park, Butte County

We swung up to Bidwell Park in Butte County for a day trip this past weekend.  

Our main target was to hear the reliable BLACK RAILS present in the seeps in the upper canyon.  We did, two of them.  Very cool.  Here's a look at the habitat they're found in:

The rest of the day proved to be fruitful for insects, specifically dragonflies and damselflies.

This BISON SNAKETAIL was a new one for me:

The above snaketail wasn't the only clubtail present though, there were several PACIFIC CLUBTAILS also around:

Not unfamiliar, this VARIEGATED MEADOWHAWK was the only representative of that species that day:

Following are a couple of distinct and easily-recognizable skimmers.  First up is the bright FLAME SKIMMER:

... as well as the striking TWELVE-SPOTTED SKIMMER:

This picture isn't great but I can't remember the last time I saw a BLACK SADDLEBAGS actually perched!  Of course, it did this about 25 feet up in a tree:

The majority of damselflies were actually unidentifiable.  They were either AZTEC or CALIFORNIA DANCERS.  Anyone an expert on these two?  If so, have at it:

One of the species that WAS identifiable was a lifer for me, the SOOTY DANCER:

Here's a nice sooty-colored male of that species:

The black marks on the sides of these dancers gave them away as VIVID DANCERS:

Another nice surprise was my first EMMA'S DANCER:

Ashley called me over saying "What about a damselfly with red wings".  That caught my attention.  Sure enough, the last damselfly of the day was an easy one to ID; the AMERICAN RUBYSPOT:

Yes, there were some butterflies around although not as many as I had hoped for.  Here's a record shot of one of the many PIPEVINE SWALLOWTAILS:

Another prevalent species was the COMMON BUCKEYE:

I'll leave you with a scenic shot of the river canyon there at upper Bidwell Park:

24 June 2012


A perk to living in this part of California is having Yosemite National Park only 2.5 hours from home.  We took advantage of that last weekend and spun up for a day trip.

Our first and main stop was the trail to the Merced Grove.  Our purpose was to find the "common" WHITE-HEADED WOODPECKER which was anything but common for us on previous visits.

The bird activity at the trailhead was a good indicator that the walk would be fruitful (and there were NO people there, just how I like it).  The parking area had things like MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLERS and GREEN-TAILED TOWHEES.  Shortly down the trail was this distant but calling DUSKY FLYCATCHER:

Trying to be artistic with the sun didn't exactly pan out.  Not surprising considering I used a phone camera:

It wasn't long before we found some WHITE-HEADED WOODPECKERS, but to find them with their nest 3 feet from the trail was more than we could have asked for:

Farther down the trail was a mixed flock containing this CASSIN'S VIREO:

... this HERMIT WARBLER carrying food:

... and this singing NASHVILLE WARBLER.

Despite my knees that wanted to throw me off a cliff to put me out of my misery, I DID make it to the actual Merced Grove.  Kinda big trees, huh?

A focus of mine throughout the rest of the day were the butterflies.  Here's a PACIFIC FRITILLARY, a species similar to the MEADOW FRITILLARIES I'm used to out east:

I finally caught up to my lifer MILBERT'S TORTOISESHELL too:

At a random pull off within Yosemite, I heard a bunting singing and thought it would be cool to see the presumed LAZULI.  Well, I didn't... but that's because the singing bird was an INDIGO BUNTING instead:

We were pretty floored, we had no reason to think we'd find this eastern species here in Yosemite.  We snapped some pictures, took GPS coordinates, and went on our way.  Turns out this was a first Mariposa County record of this species within eBird.  Some other birders returned a couple of days later and relocated it.  Sweet.

Another one of our stops was along the Foresta Road heading south from Big Oak Flat Road:

Honestly, the only reason we stopped was because a BLACK-CHINNED SPARROW had been seen there earlier this year.  We didn't have any BCSPs here but the stop ended up being fairly productive anyway.  First up were two LAWRENCE'S GOLDFINCHES that flew in, hovered above us, and then decided to land in a tree for a couple of seconds:

I also snapped a picture of butterfly here which was a GREAT BASIN WOOD-NYMPH, a lifer for me:

At the same location was this MARBLE flying around.  I'm not sure if it's a LARGE or CALIFORNIA MARBLE however.  Anyone out there have an opinion?

Farther down Foresta Road I realized I heard a bird singing that didn't really ring a bell for me.  I raised my bins and could barely make out this distant sparrow singing... but what was it?  I mumbled to Ashley, as I often to, that it reminded me of a BLACK-THROATED SPARROW or something weird like that... but they're not supposed to be here.  Well, turns out, it WAS a BLACK-THROATED SPARROW and David Suddjian had been on top of these birds (yes, there are several) at this location for some time.  I honestly had no idea they were even there but I'm glad I was at the right place at the right time either way!  Here's a terrible and distant photo of the sparrow:

We ventured further down into the Yosemite Valley but were pretty repulsed by the enormous crowds EVERYWHERE.  Turns out, they kind of had a reason to be there.  This:

Here's a waterfall from across the valley thanks to my 300m lens.  I can't be sure but it looks like it's on the tall side of things.

A quick stroll around the meadow in Yosemite Valley actually provided me with another unexpected lifer butterfly, the SONORAN SKIPPER:

In the meantime, a couple of PEREGRINE FALCONS were tussling overhead:

Another random roadside stop provided plenty of butterflies to keep me busy.  First up was the always-familiar SILVER-SPOTTED SKIPPER:

Maybe the most abundant butterfly at this spot was the CALIFORNIA HAIRSTREAK, another new species for me:

This CALIFORNIA SISTER posed briefly.  This isn't a species I see often, at least in the Central Valley where I spend my time:

Any day with parnassians is a good day.  We saw a couple of CLODIUS PARNASSIANS including this one that Ashley picked out:

Another new species for me was this PACIFIC DOTTED BLUE.  I can't say I had even heard of it before:

I'll leave you with a few more "scenic" shots taken with my phone: