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Saturday, March 2, 2013

 

The sun was actually out this morning, although by the time I was ready to head off to the park to look for birds, the clouds had taken over.† It was unseasonably warm, though, in the mid-50ís, and from time to time the sun tried to burn through.

 

I was looking for a particular species in the area around the parking lot, and this time I started on the west side, as opposed to the east side, where I had looked last week.† I immediately saw a little bird fly in, but it was one of a pair of Chestnut-backed Chickadees Ė cute little birds, but not the species I was looking for.† Very soon after that, as I was preparing to play the song of the bird I was looking for, I spotted a little bird on the trunk of a tree, acting like my target species.† It turned out to be a Red-breasted Nuthatch, though, another attractive and desirable bird, but again, not the one I wanted.

 

So, I played the song on my phone, and soon another little bird flew in and proceeded to forage around on the trunk of a tree close by.† Bingo!† There it was, BROWN CREEPER.† I hadnít been there for five minutes, and I had my target bird.† It hung around, but didnít sit still for pictures for very long at a time.† I got this one that shows him pretty well, though.

 

 

Here is one that shows him probing his little curved bill into the bark, looking for insects, I presume.

 

 

So, having gotten that one so quickly and so easily, I got my scope and went on down to the lake, to look for a duck species I need for my year list, Eurasian Wigeon.† On the boardwalk to the view point, I saw a couple of Song Sparrows, and I stopped to take pictures.† I donít usually take pictures of common birds, and they deserve a little of the spotlight, too.

 

 

Here is another one that I particularly like.

 

 

The thin branches in the foreground would usually be considered undesirable, but I kind of like them in this case, for some reason.† The camera did focus on the branches, so the bird is a little out of focus, but I still like the picture.

 

At the lake, I saw that the coots on the lake were all spread out.† Usually they are gathered into tight rafts, for protection from predators, so I assumed that there werenít any eagles around today, and indeed, I didnít see any eagles while I was there.† Here is a picture of Juanita Bay, and maybe you can barely see the coots out on the water.

 

 

There were a few ducks scattered around, and I scoped them, looking for a Eurasian Wigeon, but only saw a few American Wigeons, along with a few other species.† There were five female Hooded Mergansers, but the light and distance kept any of my pictures from coming out any good.† Later there were also two male and two female Common Mergansers, but they were far enough away that Iím not going to bother showing them either.† There was also a beautiful male Wood Duck in his colorful breeding plumage, accompanied by his mate, much less colorful but still an attractive bird.† Iíve had so many good pictures of Wood Ducks at the park that I didnít bother trying for one today, as they were not very close.

 

I didnít see anything else for my year list, only the creeper, but it was nice to get out and stretch my legs and enjoy the lake.† That puts me at 220 species for the year, of which 6 are lifers.

 

 

Monday, March 4

 

I was having a nice indoor day today, while the sun was shining outside, and I got a call from Christina from her cell phone, as she was leaving to go out this afternoon.† She was calling from the driveway and told me that there was a bird on the suet feeder I would like to see.† I hustled to the back porch, and there was a lovely male PILEATED WOODPECKER on the suet feeder.† I ran downstairs and grabbed my camera and got a few shots from the back door.† Here is the best of them.

 

 

Pileated Woodpecker is a big bird, larger than our local crows, which are a smaller subspecies of crow.† It obviously was the inspiration for Woody Woodpecker.

 

I stole out to the garage, to take a look through the window.† He flew off the feeder before I could get any pictures from that vantage point, but I did get this one on the birch tree, showing his black back.

 

 

I went outside as it worked its way up the trunk of the tree, and I got one that shows how he can raise his red crest when he wants to.

 

 

The red streak below the eye indicates it is a male.† The female lacks that red streak.

 

So, that was my little adventure for the day. †That brings me to 221 species for the year, of which 6 are lifers.

 

 

Saturday, March 9

 

This is a non-report; I didnít see anything new today, but I saw a species in my yard for the first time, and I got pictures of it.† I had heard a Pileated Woodpecker in the distance, and I took my camera out into the yard and played the call on my phone.† I heard it some more, but it never approached.† Since I was out there anyway, and since there was lots of activity at our feeder, I took some pictures of some of the regular visitors.† While I was doing that, I noticed a couple of strangers, and I got some pictures of the first Red Crossbills that Iíve ever seen in our yard.† They are the first I have seen in this county, for that matter.† The males are indeed red, and the females are olive green.† Here is my best picture of a female Red Crossbill:

 

 

Note the crazy bill that is crossed at the tips.† Supposedly, that helps the bird dig out seeds from cones.† Here are a couple more pictures of the same bird:

 

 

 

Normally I donít keep pictures that donít show the birdís face, but the back of the Red Crossbill has an interesting pattern on it.

 

 

So, that was the excitement for the day.† Here are some pictures of some of the other visitors today.

 

Red-breasted Nuthatch:

 

 

Chestnut-backed Chickadee:

 

 

Here is the more common (around here, anyway) Black-capped Chickadee:

 

 

There were lots of Pine Siskins today.† Hereís one of them:

 

 

There were some larger birds there today, too.† The larger ones chase away the smaller ones and eat their fill, before moving on.† Here is a female Red-winged Blackbird:

 

 

And here is a European Starling in its iridescent winter plumage:

 

 

Here is a Song Sparrow on the ground under the feeder.† The starlings are particularly messy eaters, and they strew seed all over the place when they feed.

 

 

Here is a male Dark-eyed Junco.† They normally feed on the ground, but will go to the feeder, too, if there isnít food on the ground.

 

 

I always like pictures that show two species, for size comparison, and today Iíll end with a picture of a Dark-eyed Junco and a Pine Siskin on the ground.

 

 

In addition to these birds, today there were three Northern Flickers, a Spotted Towhee, at least one House Sparrow, and the usual American Crows.† Not bad for 30 or 40 minutes out in the yard on a lovely sunny Saturday.† None were new for the year, but the Red Crossbills were new for my King County list.

 

Sunday, March 17

 

Here I am again.† Iím in Sacramento, at a reunion of old high school and college time buddies.† Three of us have gotten together 21 times since 1998, when we reconnected after a 25 year hiatus.† There used to be four of us who got together, but John hasnít joined us in recent years.† We spend three or four days talking about our lives and playing cards.† Today we took a break from the cards and took Fredís dog, Tugboat, down to the American River for a little exercise and swim.† I wish I had taken pictures at the river, but I wasnít expecting to write a report today, so I didnít.

 

We walked around, and just as we were getting back to the car, I spotted a LARK SPARROW in a tree.† One for my year list.† There were several of them, and I chased them for pictures.† Here is a Lark Sparrow in a tree.

 

 

Here is a picture of three of them foraging on the ground.

 

 

Here is a close up of one of these distinctively marked sparrows on the ground.

 

 

So, I had a bird for my year list, when I hadnít expected one today at all.† On my way back to the car, I heard a woodpecker calling, and it turned out to be a Nuttalís Woodpecker.† It wasnít one I needed for my year list, but it is a California only bird, and I managed to get some pictures I like.† Nuttalís Woodpecker.

 

 

The bird is about the same size as a Downy Woodpecker, and the main difference is that the Downy has a big white patch on its back.† This picture shows that this a Nuttalís.† Here is another picture that shows it is a male, due to the red patch on its crown.

 

 

Here is a picture of William B Pond Park, on a sunny Sunday with lots of people enjoying life.

 

 

OK, you canít see any people in the picture, but there were plenty of them out there enjoying the sunshine today.

 

So, thatís my report for today.† One more for my year list.† Iím now at 222 species, of which 6 are lifers.† What a life!

 

 

Tuesday, March 19

 

I have a report for today, but first some pictures from yesterday.† Yesterday we took a break from the non-stop card playing and took Tugboat to another park on the American River, Ancil Hoffman Park.† There were birds around, but I didnít get anything new for my year list.† There were a lot of butterflies, though, and it turns out that Chris knows butterflies.† Here is a picture of a Pipeline Swallowtail.

 

 

Hereís a picture of the underside, which has different coloration.

 

 

I like the way you can see the butterflyís legs holding onto the two blades of grass.† Later, I got a picture of another one with a dandelion in the picture to add color.

 

 

OK, enough with the butterflies.† Here is a picture of the American River, with Fred, Chris and Tugboat.

 

 

There were a number of Northern Flickers feeding in the grass, and here is a picture of a female Northern Flicker.

 

 

There were five or six Yellow-billed Magpies around, and they were more cooperative about pictures than usual, so here are three pictures of those striking birds.

 

 

 

 

They look black and white until the light hits them right, and you see the iridescent deep blue color.

 

To finish off yesterday, here is a picture of a Western Scrub-Jay.

 

 

So, moving on to today, we played cards (no surprise there) and then on our way to take Chris to the airport, we drove through the Vic Fazio National Wildlife Reserve, in Davis, known to us simply as ďFazioĒ.† It was a quick drive through, but on our way in, we spotted this American Bittern posing for us.

 

 

Also on the way in, we saw huge flocks of various species of blackbirds, including YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS, which I needed for my year list.† They were very skittish, and it was hard to get pictures, but here is a picture of some of them on the ground:

 

 

You can see why they are called Yellow-headed.† Here is a picture of a male, posing for the camera on a reed.

 

 

I was looking for another bird for my year list, Lesser Yellowlegs.† We never saw one, but saw a number of Greater Yellowlegs, which are much more common in California than the Lesser.† Here is a picture of a Greater Yellowlegs.

 

 

A lesser Yellowlegs is about 2/3 of the size of the Greater, and the bill is shorter with respect to the head.† Otherwise, they are very similar in appearance.† We plan to go back to Fazio tomorrow, to try again for the Lesser, which were reported there on Saturday.† If Iím lucky, Iíll have pictures of Lesser Yellowlegs tomorrow.

 

There was really a good selection of birds there today, but we didnít have time to get many pictures.† Here is an American Avocet, just coming into its breeding plumage.† In the winter, they would have no brown on them at all, and now this bird is coloring up for the breeding season.† Later the head and neck will be a rich reddish-brown color.

 

 

We got Chris to the airport at 5:15, as he had requested, and now I plan to stick around until Saturday to do some birding with Fred.† There arenít many species that are possible for my year list, but weíll give it a shot.† Iím now at 223 species for the year, of which 6 are lifers.

 

 

Wednesday, March 20

 

Today was a very laid back birding day.† It rained overnight and showers continued this morning.† The showers were supposed to stop by late morning, so we headed off about 10:30 or so.† After stopping to get gas and do some grocery shopping, it was noon by the time we started birding.† Unfortunately, the showers continued most of the day, contrary to what had been forecasted.† We went up to Folsom Lake, which is east of Sacramento toward the foothills.† I was looking for Rock Wren and Rufous-crowned Sparrow, which we had seen up there a couple of years ago.† The guy at the gate of the state park at the big marina on Folsom Lake let us in for free ďfor ten minutesĒ, so we could look around.† The parking charge is 12 bucks, which seems high to me.† We drove to where we had seen the Rock Wren before, and I played the song from the car, but didnít see any birds.† There were a lot of birds on the ground at various points, but they were mostly Yelow-rumped Warblers, Dark-eyed Juncos, and House Finches.† It is a pretty big place, and it was probably a half hour later when we drove out and waved to the guy in the booth.† The rain didnít let up during our stay there, and we never got out of the car.

 

Next we moved back west and stopped at Folsom Point, where there is another park.† This time there wasnít anyone on the gate, and since we werenít planning to park, we skipped paying the 12 buck parking fee for day use.† Again we drove around.† There were a few birds on the ground, but not anything I needed.† As we left the park, there were a couple of birds on some barbed wire at the top of a chain link fence.† We stopped to look at them, and they were NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS, a bird I fully expected to see eventually, but these were the first of the year for me.† I donít think I have ever gotten a picture of a Northern Rough-winged Swallow before, and these were perched there so nicely that I got out to get some pictures.† The rain had just stopped a couple of minutes earlier.† I got a number of pictures, and here is my favorite of a Northern Rough-winged Swallow.

 

 

They are very plain and nondescript, and I find it difficult to identify them when they are flying around, so it was nice to see a couple of them perched so cooperatively.† They look a lot like female or immature Tree Swallows when flying around.

 

While I was taking pictures of the perched swallows, I suddenly noticed another bird that flew in.† Amazingly, it was a male LAWRENCEíS GOLDFINCH, which is a bird that is pretty uncommon and I always spend a lot of time looking for.† I certainly hadnít expected to see one today, and I only had it at a 60% probability for the entire year.† Here is the male Lawrenceís Goldfinch, sitting on the wire next to the swallow.

 

 

Here is a closer look at the goldfinch.

 

 

This afternoon when I processed my pictures, I was surprised to see that a couple of the first shots I took of the swallows had a female Lawrenceís Goldfinch in them!† I hadnít even noticed that bird.† Here is a picture that shows one of the swallows, three male House Finches, and the female Lawrenceís Goldfinch on the left.

 

 

Just for the record, here is a close-up of the female Lawrenceís Goldfinch.

 

 

It looks like the male, but without the black face and yellow patch on its breast.† I found it very interesting that I hadnít even noticed the bird, because I was so focused on the swallows.

 

So, that was a true twofer Ė two for the price of one.† I got out of the car to get pictures of one year bird, and another one flew into my camera viewfinder and posed for me.† Amazing.

 

From there we moved a hundred yards up the road to the park entrance, and stopped there because we saw a bird fly across the road.† It turned out to be a Western Scrub-Jay.† There was a very vocal Oak Titmouse flitting around there, too, but I couldnít get a picture.† There were Western Bluebirds, too, but the only pictures I got are pretty poor, because of the lighting.† Here is one anyway, as there are so few other pictures today.

 

 

The bird wasnít really quite that bright and colorful, but that is how it came out when I tried to process the picture to make up for the bright backlight of the cloudy sky.

 

Then, as we were about to leave, Fred noticed a raptor flying overhead.† OSPREY!† A third year-bird in about ten minutes and a hundred yards, and just when the rain stopped for about 15 minutes or so.† I knew I would see ospreys this year, but they spend the winter in Mexico or farther south, and this was the first one I have seen this spring.† We had great views of it as it flew overhead, but I wasnít fast enough to get a picture.

 

Here is a picture of part of Folsom Lake (which is formed by Folsom Dam on the American River) on a gray spring day.

 

 

From there, we headed toward home and stopped at Negro Bar and Sailor Bar on the American River on the way home, but it was raining again, so we just looked from the car and I didnít get anything else new.

 

It was a short, easy birding day, mostly done from the car in the rain, and yet I came up with three year birds, all in a short space of time when the rain had stopped briefly.† An amazing day, in some ways.

 

So, with that, Iím now at 226 species for the year, of which 6 are lifers.

 

 

Thursday, March 21

 

It was sunny when I got up this morning, although it was still chilly, in the high 40ís.† Fred and I took Tugboat with us today and went out to Fazio NWR to see what we could find.† First we drove south of Davis to a park where we have seen a particular hawk in the past.† This species of hawk migrates south in the winter, and they should just be getting back here about now.† We checked out the park to no avail, and then drove down the road a bit.† On our way back, there were a couple of raptors flying around overhead.† We couldnít get a good look at them, but we pulled over to scan the sky.† I spotted a couple of raptors perched in a tree, and they turned out to be my target hawk, SWAINSONíS HAWK.† They took off before I could get a picture, but then they flew around overhead a little, and I got this picture of one of them from underneath.

 

 

Not a great picture, but it does show the characteristic markings of a light morph Swainsonís Hawk.

 

So, having got that one under my belt, we stopped at Subway for a tuna sandwich for me for later (Fred only eats one meal a day), and headed for Fazio.† At one point, we were stopped while I tried to get pictures of some sparrows, and Fred noticed a couple of Black-crowned Night-Herons flying nearby.† Typically, night-herons roost in the daytime and are active at night.† It turned out that there were well over a hundred of them roosting in the reeds, with ones flying around almost all the time.† Here is a picture that shows a couple of them in the reeds.

 

 

Here is a picture of one of the flying ones, either taking off or landing.

 

 

Here is another perspective on a flying Black-crowned Night-Heron.

 

 

At one point, most of them rose up and flew around for a minute or two.† Here is a picture of about a hundred of them in the air.† All you can see are specks, of course, at this distance and zoom.† Neither Fred nor I had ever seen anything like it.† Iíve seen one flying from time to time, but never more than one or maybe two at a time in the air.

 

 

I wonder what made them so restless today.

 

We moved along, mostly looking for the Eurasian Wigeon that has been reported out there.† We found some American Wigeons from time to time, but never saw a Eurasian one, which is fairly rare here in the US.† There were lots of Northern Shovelers, with their goofy bills.† Here is a picture of a male Northern Shoveler.

 

 

Here is a Pied-billed Grebe in a pose and light that I like.

 

 

There was a small group of egrets on an island, and I got this picture of the two at one end of the group.† The bigger one on the left is a Great Egret, and the smaller one is a Snowy Egret.† Both of them have breeding plumes, which are long feathers that they get in breeding season.† The wind was blowing the plumes.

 

 

When we had made our quick drive through on Tuesday, we hadnít seen any swallows in one place where they have nested in previous years.† Today was a completely different story, two days later, and there were dozens of them flying around, building nests.† Here are some pictures of CLIFF SWALLOWS, my second bird of the day that added to my year list.

 

 

 

 

In the first picture you can see some mud nests under the structure.

 

Soon after that, we stopped on the edge of Putah Creek, where some people were fishing, and Fred let Tug out for a little exercise.† I ate my Subway tuna sandwich while Fred and Tug walked around and Tug took care of his business.† On our way back from there, Fred stopped because he had spotted a small shorebird.† It turned out to be the very one I was looking for, LESSER YELLOWLEGS.† Here is a distant picture of it.

 

 

You may remember that on Tuesday we saw several Greater Yellowlegs.† You are supposed to be able to tell the difference between the two species by the length of the bill with respect to the head.† I had a hard time doing that through my binoculars today, but the other difference is the sizes of the two species.† Greater Yellowlegs is about 14 inches long, and Lesser Yellowlegs is about 10 Ĺ inches long.† This bird seemed small to me, but size is very tricky when there arenít any other birds around to compare to.† Fortunately, while I was watching it, a Red-winged Blackbird walked along the shore behind the yellowlegs.† The yellowlegs was clearly only a little bigger than the blackbird, so it had to be a Lesser.† Here is a picture of the bird with another blackbird in the frame.

 

 

If the blackbird is 8 or 9 inches long from the tip of its bill to the tip of its tail, the yellowlegs is clearly closer to 10 Ĺ inches than to 14 inches, like the Greater.† So, thanks Fred for spotting it, and thanks blackbirds for giving me the size comparison.† Three birds for my year list today.† Outstanding.

 

A little later, I took this picture of a Greater Yellowlegs.

 

 

It doesnít look to me like the bill on the first bird is that much shorter with respect to the head than that of the second bird, but the size is enough for me to say that the first one was a Lesser Yellowlegs.† Thank you again, blackbirds, for wandering through.

 

Here is a nice picture of a male Green-winged Teal standing on the shore in the sun.

 

 

Here is a picture of a Least Sandpiper, which is one of the smallest shorebirds in the US.† The yellow legs, combined with the size, are diagnostic of that species.

 

I showed a picture the other day of an American Avocet, but I got one today in the sun that I like enough that Iíll show it anyway.† I think they are really attractive birds.

 

 

Another interesting difference from Tuesday is that on Tuesday there were hundreds of Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and today Fred saw just one, in a flock of other blackbirds.† I didnít even see that one.† Theoretically, they migrate through here, and so I presume we just got lucky on Tuesday and by today they had moved on north.† On Tuesday, we saw no swallows and tons of Yellow-headed Blackbirds.† Today, there were tons of swallows and one Yellow-headed Blackbird.† Migration.

 

Finally, there were White-faced Ibises on both days, and here is a picture of one from today.

 

 

In the summer, they develop some white feathers around the base of the bill, thus giving them their name.† They are also iridescent and multicolored, and you can see just the beginning of that on the back of this bird.† This bird is pretty much still in its winter plumage, though.

 

So, that was our day today.† We only birded for about five hours altogether, and did very well, I think.† I added three birds to my year list, to bring me to 229 species for the year, of which 6 have been lifers.† It was great to be out in the sunshine and away from people and civilization, too.† I have one more day of birding here before Iím scheduled to fly home on Saturday morning.† I donít know where we will go tomorrow, but it will be pretty difficult to add any more birds to my year list, so there probably wonít be a report tomorrow.

 

 

Friday, March 22

 

To my surprise, I have another report today.† We decided to go back up to Folsom Lake to look for the two species we saw there a few years ago but missed on Wednesday.† This time it wasnít raining, so we paid our 11 bucks (senior citizen rate) to get into the State Parks.† We ended up visiting four different State Parks, so we got our moneyís worth.

 

Our first stop was Brownís Ravine, but it was very dead there and we didnít see anything interesting. †There was a very cold wind blowing, too, and it wasnít pleasant being out where there wasnít any shelter.† Maybe the birds didnít like the wind either, which would explain why it was so quiet.† While driving out we saw a couple of Killdeer in the grass by the road, and I got this picture of one of them:

 

 

I see them often, but they are a handsome bird, and I havenít shown one recently.† Here is the other one, showing his or her caramel colored rump:

 

 

We moved on to Folsom Point, where I had picked up three species on Wednesday, but today it was dead there, too.† As we drove away from Folsom Point, there were some Wild Turkeys on a side street, and I got this picture of a couple of them:

 

 

Itís interesting that they can puff themselves up so big when displaying, like the one on the right.† Here is another picture of that guy, showing off.

 

 

I think the little tuft of feathers hanging from their breast is very interesting.† I have no idea what its function is, and I hadnít even noticed it for years.† Both males and females have them, but they tend to be larger on males, I think.

 

Next we tried a new place for this trip, Bealís Point, which is also on Folsom Lake.† I played the song of one of my target species, and almost right away a small bird flew out of some rocks toward me.† It was a ROCK WREN, the very species I was looking for.† It was extremely confiding, and hopped to about 5 or 6 feet from me, perching on rocks and checking me out, as I played its song.† I got lots of pictures.† Here are a couple of them.

 

 

 

After a while I stopped playing its song and headed toward a rest room.† But, the bird wasnít through with me yet.† It followed me and started singing back to me.† It carried on and on, and I took more pictures.† Here is a picture of it singing its heart out.

 

 

I also got a picture that shows its back and tail pattern.

 

 

So, I had one for my year list, and it was getting on for lunch time.† We drove to Negro Bar, which is on Lake Natoma, which is just downriver from Folsom Lake.† I had my Subway ham and cheese sandwich while Fred gave Tugboat a little exercise, and then Fred and I did a little walking.† I was playing the song of another species I needed for my year list, but there didnít seem to be many birds around in the middle of the day.† Just as we were ready to turn back, though, we heard a response to my playing, and a little bird flew in and showed interest in us.† It wouldnít sit still, but finally I got a good enough look to verify that it was a HUTTONíS VIREO, the species whose song I had been playing.† It hung around a long time, but I was never able to get a picture of any kind.† I really hadnít expected to see one at all, though, so I was quite pleased.† On the way back to the car, I played the song of Chipping Sparrow, another one that had been reported at that location recently that I also still need for the year.† We thought we got a response a couple of times, but never saw any bird, and the responses didnít continue.

 

We stopped once more, at Sailor Bar, on the American River below Nimbus Dam, which forms Lake Natoma.† Again we walked, this time taking Tug with us.† There were a few birds, but I didnít see any of the three potential ones I needed.† At one point a Bewickís Wren flew out and checked me out when I was playing the Chipping Sparrow song, and he answered me with his little wren song.† Then a little later, a House Wren did the same thing.† I guess that Chipping Sparrow sounds kind of wren-like.† I did get one picture of the House Wren as he was singing.

 

 

It looks a lot like the Rock Wren, but it is quite a bit smaller.† It also doesnít have the faint streaks on the breast that the Rock Wren has, nor does it have the wide buffy eyebrow of the Rock Wren, which you can see in some of my pictures, especially the last two.† Most importantly, probably, the song is very different.

 

I took one last picture there at the pond at Sailor Bar, of a Common Gallinule (which used to be called Common Moorhen).

 

 

So, that was it for our birding today.† We stopped at a supermarket and got some grub, then were home by about 3:10.† I processed my pictures and now have written this much of my report for the day.† I say this much, because I hope to be writing more later.

 

Last night I noticed a report online about a species of sparrow that I hadnít really expected to see this year.† Some guy locally has a couple of them that come in to be fed near his house.† I emailed the guy, got a response, called him, and now Fred and I are scheduled to meet him at his house at 6 PM, to go look for this sparrow.† Iíll finish this report later, after our evening birding adventure.

 

7:50 PM Ė OK, weíve done our twitch, and weíve had our dinner, and now Iíll finish my report.

 

We left here about 5:40 PM and got to Danís condo right on 6 oíclock.† He and his girlfriend, Rosa, led us out onto the bike trail along the American River, and we were birding.† We stopped at a place where there were Wood Ducks, which is a beautiful bird and one I donít see very often.† There was also a male Hooded Merganser in the distance.† From there we moved along the bike path to where Dan spreads seed for the birds.† He did some ďpishingĒ, which means making a sound like ďpshh, pshh, pshhĒ, and almost right away some birds came in and started eating the seed he had spread along the side of the path.† There were a couple of Golden-crowned Sparrows and a White-crowned Sparrow or two, and then our target bird came out Ė WHITE-THROATED SPARROW.† This bird does winter along the West Coast, but in small numbers.† Most of them winter on the East Coast.† They breed and spend the summer in Central and Eastern Canada, so it will be a long trip for our birds today to find their nesting grounds.

 

There are two ďmorphsĒ of the White-throated Sparrow, which means two types that look somewhat different.† The birds that we saw today are one of each Ė one Tan Morph (called Tanner by Dan) and one White Morph (called Whitney by Dan).† One of them has been coming back each winter for three or four years, and the other one for a year or two.† Dan assumes it is the same birds, but there is no way to know for sure, of course.† They spend the winter here each year.† Here is a picture of Whitney, the White Morph White-throated Sparrow.

 

 

Dan mentioned that Whitney is looking kind of scruffy, as he or she is coming into summer plumage.† Here is a picture of a White-crowned Sparrow that was also coming in tonight.† Superficially, it looks like Whitney, but you can see that Whitney has a white throat, has yellow spots in front of his/her eyes, and has a gray bill, not an orange one.

 

 

Here is my best picture of Tanner, the Tan Morph White-crowned Sparrow.† It is pretty poor, but you can see the diagnostic markings for the species and the morph.

 

 

You can just barely see the yellow spot in front of the eye and the white throat, which is not as obvious as on the White Morph.† The top of its head is tan, too.

 

Here is a picture of a male Spotted Towhee who was also partaking of the seed that Dan had scattered.

 

 

So, thatís my report for the day, including a late day twitch for a bird I hadnít expected to see at all this year.† I ended up getting three more for my year list today, against all odds.† That makes 11 species that I added to my year list on this trip, which wasnít really even a birding trip. †I had hoped for maybe 4 or 5, which shows how conservative I am in my estimates, I guess, or else it shows how lucky I was this week.† Iím now at 232 species for the year, of which 6 are lifers.† Tomorrow I head for home, and it is likely to be a while before I have anything else to add.

 

 

Sunday, March 31

 

Today was a lovely sunny Easter Sunday here in Kirkland.† We had our annual Easter brunch, and took this group picture in front of one of the blossoming plum trees.

 

 

My reason for making this bogus report today is that while most of the people were out walking off the brunch, Josh and I stayed home to guard the house.† We were walking around the yard enjoying the sunshine (and I was digging up dandelions whenever I found them), and I kept hearing birds up in the evergreen trees.† It took a while to figure out which tree they were in, but eventually we spotted one near the top of one of the pine trees.† It was the one nearest the street, which is raised a little higher than our yard, so I went out to the sidewalk and looked back at the tree.† There were several birds up there, and they were Red Crossbills, as I expected.† I think this was only the fourth or fifth time I have seen this species, and this was a closer look than most of the other times.† I posted pictures of a female Red Crossbill earlier this month, but today I got pictures of a male.† First, though, here is a female that I happened to get as she was flying up to a new branch.

 

 

The split tail and yellow-green on the sides is characteristic of a female Red Crossbill.

 

Here is a close-up of a male.

 

 

Here is a blurry one that shows the colors of the back and wings.

 

 

And this next one shows off the goofy crossed bill the best, I think.

 

 

The bill supposedly developed that way so the birds could dig seeds out of cones more effectively.

 

Thatís all Iíve got.† No new birds today, but my first pictures ever of a male Red Crossbill, and in my own yard, no less.