08 May 2014

New bugs & birds

It looks like it's already been 5 days since my last post.  That just won't do.  Early-May is still a pretty interesting time here in the CEVA and I had my eyes on hunting down a few more year birds before I depart for the north.

It all started with a search for a recently-reported YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT up in Folsom.  Well, that DIDN'T happen... not even close.  I may look again for it but regardless, we had a nice walk-around at a new spot that neither of us had been to.

Highlights included a singing CASSIN'S VIREO and yet another HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER:

Even though this species in flagged in Sacramento County, this is our 5th of the spring.  Note the small, mostly dark bill as well as the fairly-long primary projection.  The bird was also actively calling and even giving bits of song.  Although the twig is in the way, it's the best picture I managed considering the bird fed fairly high up in the trees most of the time.

There were also ACORN WOODPECKERS around, as you would expect for the foothills:

It was a treat to watch VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS at close range as they gathered nesting material.  This species doesn't typically nest in the bottom of the valley but I suppose we were far enough up in the foothills for them to be around.  Here's one before dropping down to the path edge to gather grass:

We've continued to bird our local patch too.  On this particular day, a flock of 30 WHIMBREL flew over:

This species is actually a common spring migrant here in Sacramento County (very different story in the fall).  It's not uncommon to hear the flight call, look up, and see them trucking it overhead.  You could be just about anywhere... the grocery store parking lot, your yard, etc.  There are even a couple of city parks that act as staging areas for a few Whimbrel which is pretty random.

The marching hoard of CANADA GEESE continue to dominate Don Nottoli Park:

A quick check of Desmond Road in the howling wind actually provided us with some quality birds.  We saw our first RED-NECKED PHALAROPES of the spring as well as these two BLACK TERNS (which you can barely discern):

This was actually a new species for both of our Sacramento County life lists.  We returned the following day and they were still present.  We checked the day after that, which happened to be today, and it appeared that they had departed.

Speaking of new Sacramento County birds, I joined Jeri Langham on one of his bird box checks.  It was pretty cool checking out the nesting wrens, Wood Ducks, and the like.  However, I was especially happy to get a chance to glance inside the WESTERN SCREECH-OWL box to see the 4 youngsters:

The adult owl, which wanted nothing to do with trying to sleep with 4 pestering youngsters, took a nearby box instead:

This species was also a new Sacramento County bird for me.

Today Ashley and I checked out Mather Lake in the eastern part of the county.  Although it was decently birdy with things like GREAT-TAILED GRACKLES and a singing AMERICAN BITTERN, perhaps our most-uncommon sighting was of a few WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS which were flagged due to being on the late side.  It looks like they were the 5th latest spring date for the county (at least in eBird).  Here's one of them behind a GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW:

At a different stop, this one along the American River in Sacramento, I was super excited to find my lifer Sinuous Snaketail:

Ok, so maybe I wasn't sure if it was a lifer at the time BUT I knew right away that this was something I needed photos of to double-check.  We also scored our first OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER and WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE of the year (this brings me to 210 species so far this year in Sacramento County).

Along Desmond Road (part of Cosumnes River Preserve), we spotted this guy half exposed on a roadside shoulder:

Snakes aren't my forte but several people have helped me out and identified it as a "California" Common Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula californiae).  As an FYI, kingsnakes are immune to rattlesnake venom and this species is even known to eat rattlesnakes!

My time here in the CEVA is quickly dwindling.  Stay tuned....