17 March 2013

More LOPA action

I haven't ventured east yet and so that means more pictures from local patches.

The last three days have seen a big increase in SWAINSON'S HAWKS on the move north.  I've seen probably about 10 so far this spring; this one is from my apartment patio:

Not much to explain here; just some AMERICAN COOTS at a local patch:

I went back up into Gates Canyon on Saturday but things were a little less birdy (see for yourself by checking out the checklist).  The ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS were still in full song though.  Here's one that came in to pishing:

As per the norm around here, the grassy/rocky foothills on the way down yielded RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROWS.  Here's a distant one I snapped some pics of:

Last (and least?) is one of the tame BREWER'S BLACKBIRDS at a nearby local patch:

I'll be heading east in the next couple of days so stayed tuned....

14 March 2013

Gates Canyon

I ventured up into Gates Canyon midday today to see what was happening.  Gates Canyon is in Solano County and is about an hour west of here:

View Gates Canyon in a larger map

I started by revisiting the spot I saw a Northern Pygmy-Owl at last year.  No luck with the owl but the highlight of the day happened here all the same; a MOUNTAIN QUAIL start calling from the side of the canyon.  Although I never saw the bird, it was great to hear it and have it so close.  I don't think I've heard this species more than 5 times in my life.

There were other things around, of course, including this CALIFORNIA TOWHEE:

I don't get to spend too much time with ACORN WOODPECKERS living in the bottom of the Central Valley.  They CAN be found at a couple of spots but usually they stay up in the foothills and over on the coast. This bird seemed at home on a telephone pole:

Fitting into the same category is the STELLER'S JAY.  These don't occur in Sacramento County with any regularity:

And yes, even the WILD TURKEYS were enjoying the spring day with temps in the 80s:

I may have been more interested in what butterflies were around than what birds, in truth.  The nice warm temps seemed to really liven things up.

I ended the day with 11 species:

Western Tiger Swallowtail
Pipevine Swallowtail
Cabbage White
Pacific Orangetip
Orange Sulphur
Echo Azure
Mylitta Crescent
Mourning Cloak
Painted Lady
Common Ringlet
Propertius/Persius Duskywing



And here are two awful pictures of a flying PACIFIC ORANGETIP (this was actually a new species for me):

13 March 2013

A meander through a local patch

I ventured to Don Nottoli Park here in Elk Grove midday today to see how many species I could tally.  This relatively urban park is 1.5 miles south-southeast of where I live and although it doesn't have a ton of habitat, it's fun to visit and fantasize about finding something really goofy.

It was a nice day (temps near 80 degrees) so I was hopeful there were birds to see and pictures to take.

This park continues to be a good place to check out and study up on the variations of NORTHERN FLICKERS.

First up is a female "RED-SHAFTED": 

A nearby flock of flickers had this male "RED-SHAFTED" mixed in as well:

Was I not going to find an intergrade on this visit?  I mean, I almost always find one of those dirty things.   Annnnd, wait, here's one.  Yet again, a (the?) male intergrade:

This COOPER'S HAWK was soaring around overhead.  Nothing special, just your standard accipiter:

Although it's feeling a lot like spring (ok, maybe it is here?), we'll continue to have GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROWS until sometime in May.  Here's one of many:

Only recently have we noted multiple DESERT COTTONTAILS around as well.  Apparently this is the only species of cottontail we have here in the Central Valley.  Seems pretty weird to have a species running around with "desert" in the name.  Oh well.

You know what, for being a pretty common species around here, I find that I rarely take pictures of COMMON GALLINULES.  This species used to be called "Common Moorhen", just so you know.  However, do yourself a favor and remember that it was switched!

Check out the checklist to see how many species I ended up with.  Think I topped 40?  50?

So yeah, stay tuned to the blog.  It won't be long before I venture to Arizona, Texas, and beyond...


... but no, it's not a raven:

11 March 2013

March non-madness

I haven't ventured far from Elk Grove in the past few days but here's what I've been seeing...

Yes, swallows are back.  I've seen good numbers of TREE, NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED, CLIFF, and BARN SWALLOWS back in the area.  Here is one of the latter from the Blue Heron Trails at Stone Lakes NWR:

Same location, same day, different bird.  Our local RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS are becoming more easily approachable with their defended territories near walkways and the like:

Now, not that I don't like kids, but the bus that then pulled up and unloaded seemingly millions of screaming toddlers with waving arms and snot trails flapping in the wind behind them was enough for me to seriously consider checking out a different park.  I left the park with this checklist.

I headed over to Elk Grove Regional Park where I continued snapping some photos of the common things.  Here's the omnipresent BLACK PHOEBE:

Finally, a seemingly pure NORTHERN FLICKER!  I had started to wonder if there were even pure birds around here anymore.  This is a male "RED-SHAFTED":

Be sure to check the shadows; this is a HOUSE WREN that was scurrying around next to a maintenance building:

This park is a completely reliable spot to see YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIES:

However, I'm still surprised once in a while with what shows up there.  This time, it was a female COMMON MERGANSER (albeit it looks injured).  This was my first time seeing this species at this park:

I ended the checklist there with 34 species in 55 minutes.  Moving on to a different location once more, this is a LINCOLN'S SPARROW that Ash and I had at our other local park, Don Nottoli Park here in Elk Grove:

Just this past weekend we ventured up to Michigan Bar Road to check on things.  No Lawrence's Goldfinches yet but they're probably less than a month away.

Instead, here is an AMERICAN KESTREL keeping watch on potential trespassers:

Both Ash and I have noticed how we just don't see many SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS here in the valley compared to Cooper's.  Despite that, this sharpie put in a nice show overhead:

07 March 2013

100+ in two

Some "interesting" birds were being reported at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area in Yolo County so I figured I'd go spend a couple of hours looking around. 

This is my story.

Ok, not much of a story but it didn't take long to spot the male EURASIAN WIGEON either way:

Just down the road, the adult-cycle GLAUCOUS GULL was roosting on a small island.  Although they are reported seemingly every year from the area, this was my first in the Central Valley.  That brings my Yolo County gull total up to 10 species:

By this point it was warming up into a nice spring day with temps in the 70s.  This got some bugs flying like this WEST COAST LADY:

The avocet show was particularly amusing.  I'm not sure if this guy is singing along to Carl Douglas or if it just tripped and is about to do a face-plant.  Either way, you don't need to slap the water guys, that's just not classy:

"Hey guys, everyone look over there... now squawk at it...."

The Three Stooges kept it up, this time apparently practicing some evasive maneuvers:

I was surprised to find six LESSER YELLOWLEGS on my visit; they're usually a bit more uncommon than that.  In fact, I'm not sure if I've ever seen more than six at a single location in California at this point.  Here's one:

And who doesn't just love comparison photos between LESSER and GREATER YELLOWLEGS?  I live for junk like this....

Not much to say about this guy, it's just your bonus CINNAMON TEAL photo for the day:

I ended the visit with 74 species.  If you're curious what they all were, be brave and click the CHECKLIST.

The next day I naturally wanted to see if could top that.  Off to the Cosumnes River Preserve I went.

Like the previous day, there were some butterflies bopping around including this RED ADMIRAL that simply wanted to stare directly at the ground:

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you our smallest dabbler:

Continuing on my recent "kick of flickers" (say it 5x fast), I raised my bins to look at this thing and... yep, another intergrade:

What the crap?  I mean, at this point I'm seeing more intergrades than pure "Red-shafted" Flickers.  Weird, I don't really get it.  I mean, it's interesting; it's just not what I expected for flickers here in California.

This HERMIT THRUSH was puffing out a little bit trying to grab some rays:

Yes, BUSHTITS remain one of the most common species around here.  Remind me of that once I leave California:

The FOX SPARROWS haven't left the valley floor yet:

As a farewell present, this PRAIRIE FALCON zoomed over as I was leaving:

In the end, I DID manage to top the total from the previous day.  I ended with about 80 species.  Here's the CHECKLIST.

The next day I naturally wanted to see if could top that.  Off to... well, no.. no where.  I stayed in and had about 20 species from the house.  That, and some rain clouds:

Those two days yielded more than 100 species, not bad for two spots in early-March.