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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

 

The weather was so beautiful today that I decided to go down to my local park, Juanita Bay Park.† I haven't been doing much local birding this year and I hadn't been there for a couple of months.† I figured I'd pick up a swallow species there that I needed for my year list, and I also had a chance at a woodpecker species I still need.

 

As I walked out on the east boardwalk, I stopped in the area where last year I had seen the little woodpecker species I was looking for, but I had to settle for its larger cousin, Hairy Woodpecker.† Here is an unusual angle on a Hairy Woodpecker.

 

It looks very much like the species I was looking for, but it is quite a bit larger and has a stouter and longer bill.

 

Out at the end of the boardwalk I did see the swallow species I was looking for.† They seemed to be about finished with nesting for the year, as there seemed to be fledglings flying around and wanting to be fed.† It seems early to me, but I don't really know.† Anyway, here is a picture of some PURPLE MARTINS around the gourds they nest in.† Maybe all the birds I saw today were adults and they haven't yet hatched any eggs this year.

 

The gourds look a little worse for wear.† Maybe someone will replace them for next year.† Here is another picture of male and female (or young) Purple Martins.

 

The pictures are poor because of the distance, but it was a year bird, so it deserves to be shown, I figure.

 

There was a Great Blue Heron on a snag out in the lily pads, and I got this picture.

 

Later I got another picture of it, from the other boardwalk.† I was closer, but the light was coming from the wrong direction.† I think a comparison of the two pictures is a good example of what I mean when I say the light is poor for a shot, because it is coming from behind the bird.

 

While I was out on the boardwalk four eagles put on quite a show.† There was one mature Bald Eagle, one almost-mature one, and two younger ones.† It takes four years for a Bald Eagle to fully mature, and their plumage changes each year as they grow up.† Here is the almost-mature one from the back.

 

Note that both the head and the tail are getting white feathers and the bill is all yellow.† That makes it at least a third year bird, and maybe a fourth year one.† Here is a picture of it from the front.

 

Here is a picture of that bird flying.

 

The four eagles must have spotted a school of fish, because all at once they started swooping down over the water.† I couldn't tell if any of them ever caught any fish.† Here is a picture of the mature eagle.

 

While they were fishing, I concentrated on the mature bird because I think it is so much more attractive than the mottled young ones.

 

Check out that massive bill and those yellow feet.† Here is another one.

 

Here is a picture that isn't all that great, but it shows the bird as it made its attempt to catch a fish.

 

Here is one final picture of it in flight.

 

I notice that the tail feathers of that bird have some dark patches on them, so maybe this one is a fourth year bird, just getting its adult plumage.†

 

I think those are about the best in-flight pictures of Bald Eagle that I have ever gotten, so I was pleased.† All four eagles made repeated passes at the water.

 

As I was walking back on the boardwalk, I again played the call of the little woodpecker I was looking for, and a male DOWNY WOODPECKER flew in right away.† It flew to a couple of perches close by and checked me out.† I guess it didnít like what it saw, because it soon flew off, before I could get a picture.† I wasn't able to call it back again.

 

I went out on the west boardwalk and on the way back I got this poor picture of a Virginia Rail, a shy bird that doesnít usually come out in the open like this.

 

There were a lot of Red-winged Blackbirds around, but this was the only picture I got today.† This is a male Red-winged Blackbird.

 

So, I had a very nice walk on a beautiful day in a beautiful place, and I got two more birds for my year list.† That brings me to 347 species for the year, of which 8 have been lifers.

 

I leave for Yosemite a week from Friday, for our annual family get together there, and maybe I'll pick up a couple more year-birds on that trip.

 

 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

 

Yosemite Valley, California.† Christina and I had a very nice three day drive down, stopping in La Pine, Oregon, and Carson City, Nevada.† On Friday I added five species to my Klickitat county list, to take me from 38 to 43 species in that county.† Since my current goal is to get 39 species in each of Washingtonís 39 counties, getting those birds will save me having to go back to Klickitat county.† I got them at Brooks Memorial State Park, where we ate our lunch.

 

Today we took a little detour at Bridgeport, California, to look for Pinyon Jay and Clarkís Grebe for my year list, but I found neither of them.† I saw 8 or 10 Western Grebes, but no Clarkís.† Here is a picture of the Sierras from the shore of Bridgeport Reservoir.† In a wet year, I would have been in the water, but in this drought year, the lake was very low.

 

Next we took a detour to Virginia Lakes Resort, to look for a couple of species I needed for my year list.† There were a couple of feeders there at the resort, and I got this picture of a Pine Siskin, showing its wing and tail patterns.

 

Here is what a Pine Siskin looks like with its wings folded up.

 

Here is a picture of Little Virginia Lake, the location of the resort.

 

There were a couple of male Cassinís Finches there, and here is one of them.

 

Here is another picture of a male Cassinís Finch.

 

There were also two GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCHES there, one of the two year-bird species I was looking for there.† Here is a picture.

 

Hereís another picture.

 

Thatís a high altitude species that I wonít see anywhere else this year, so I was happy to get it.† Virginia Lakes is about 9000 feet elevation.

 

We ate our lunches there at Little Virginia Lake, and then went back down to highway 395 and continued south.† We took one more detour along Pole Line Road (highway 167), looking mainly for Pinyon Jay, but didnít see anything.† After that, we boogied on over Tioga Pass (elevation just under 10,000 feet) to Yosemite Valley, arriving about 3:45 PM.

 

We have a downstairs room on the south side of Yosemite Lodge, and this is the view from our patio.† Thatís a bike and walking path in the foreground, and I expect it will be interesting to watch people go by.

 

Hereís a picture of my cousin, Joe, and his daughter Laura, enjoying a glass of wine and the view, next door.

 

It is usually hot here in Yosemite Valley in June, and often the mosquitoes can be fierce.† Our room only got up to 78 degrees this afternoon, though, even though the forecast high was 93 outside.† At 9:30 PM, it has come down to 75 here in the room, although it is much cooler outside.† Our room only has one small window through which we can hope to get outside air to cool the room down tonight.† None of the rooms in the valley have air conditioning.† No a/c, the ice machine in our building is broken, and the wi-fi is down.† This is roughing it, but it still costs about 250 bucks a night and at this time of year, you have to make a reservation a full year in advance, and even that is difficult.† Location, location, location.†† At least I havenít seen a mosquito yet this year, and that is great.

 

So, I got one more species for my year list today, to bring me to 348 for the year, of which 8 have been lifers.† The wi-fi is down here at Yosemite Lodge, so I hope to send this out tomorrow.† I donít have data coverage with my cell phone from here in the room, either, so I canít use my phone data plan to send this out.†

 

I hope to pick up a couple more year-birds here, and if I do, Iíll send more reports and pictures.

 

 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

 

Yesterday I pretty much hung around the room and nearby.† In the morning I walked across the road to the paths leading to Lower Yosemite Falls.† I have a favorite spot to sit, on a stone seat with a view of the falls.† Here is the view from my seat.

 

I sit there and enjoy the view and the people who come to see the view.† People sure come in all shapes and sizes, and they do the most interesting things.† During the times when no people were there, some birds came around.† Here is a fledgling Brown-headed Cowbird.

 

Female cowbirds lay their eggs in other birdsí nests, and when the eggs hatch, the host birds raise the young cowbird.† In this case, the cowbird was following a male Dark-eyed Junco around, begging for food.† The cowbird was about twice the size of the poor little junco, but seemingly, the host birds donít notice that the bird in the nest is a completely different species.† I think that usually the female cowbird only lays one egg per host nest, and when the cowbird hatches, I think it pushes the host species nestlings out of the nest, so it gets all the food.† Here is a picture of the cowbird fledgling begging for food from the much smaller junco, which is just outside of the picture.

 

There are always robins around, and here is a picture of an American Robin.

 

I didnít get a picture of the Yellow-rumped Warbler that came through, but here is a picture of one of the Stellerís Jays that showed up.

 

Here is another picture of Yosemite Falls that shows all three falls Ė upper, middle, and lower.

 

So, all that action was Monday morning, and I spent the afternoon in our room reading and dozing.† It was in the 90ís outside, and I enjoyed the relative cool of mid-70ís in the room.† None of the rooms here have air conditioning, but we are downstairs and close up the room when the heat starts to rise outside.† It has only been getting up to about 77 or 78 here in the room in the afternoon.† In the evening we had our first picnic dinner of the week, with 27 people attending.

 

After dinner I sat out on our patio and enjoyed the view.† There were birds flying around up high over the valley as the sun was going down.† Some of them were swallows, probably Violet-green Swallows, but some were swifts.† I got good looks at them, and decided that the length of the wings and overall shape indicated that they were BLACK SWIFTS, a good one for my year list.† The only other possibility was White-throated Swift, but I never saw any sign of any white on any of them, and the shape also indicated Black Swift.† [Later I decided that the birds I saw that night might have been White-throated Swifts, so I took Black Swift off my year list.]

 

This morning (Tuesday), my brother, Rick, and I headed out a little after nine, to look for birds for my year list.† Our first destination was the road to Foresta.† We stopped a few places and played some bird calls, but I didnít see anything new for my year list on the way in.† In the forested area where there are cabins, I stopped along a creek and tried again.† This time I attracted a MACGILLVRAYíS WARBLER, and I even got these two pictures.

 

 

Thatís the first time Iíve seen MacGillvrayís Warbler in Yosemite, I think, so I was happy to get it for my year list.

 

As we drove out there was a bird near the road, so we stopped to check it out.† As so often seems to happen, I didnít see that bird again, but there was a lovely male Lazuli Bunting there and I got its picture.

 

I played its song on my phone, and it sang back to us.

 

He was so handsome that Iím going to show another picture of him.

 

Next we drove up Tioga Road to Tamarack Flat Road.† It had been closed on Sunday when we went by there, for a two week Indian meeting and campout of some kind, and I was hoping it would be open today.† The signs were still up saying Campground Full and Do Not Enter, so I turned around.† I noticed a ranger truck coming out, though, so I stopped and waited.† A ranger got out of the truck and turned the Campground Full sign around, and they stopped as they came by us.† I asked if it was open now, and was told yes, it had just re-opened.† Perfect timing!† So, we drove down the road, looking for more birds.

 

I stopped where the habitat was right for one bird I was looking for and played the song on my phone.† A bird flew in right away, and we got good looks at a GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, a species I have seen along that road a couple of times before.† No pictures, although we called in another one at a later stop as well.† While trying to get a picture of Green-tailed Towhee, we saw two or three Fox Sparrows at various points.† Here is a picture of the ďRedĒ subspecies of Fox Sparrow.

 

Here is another picture of a Fox Sparrow from a different viewpoint.

 

Tamarack Flat Road had been repaved since I was last there two years ago, and it was very nice now.† It is about three miles in to the campground.† Here is a part of the road.

 

Here is a picture of my brother, Rick.

 

We had our lunch at Tamarack Flat campground, and there were lots of birds, but nothing new, and not much that I was able to actually see well enough to identify.† On our way out, a woodpecker flew across the road and landed in a tree.† I got a very brief naked-eye view of it, and after thinking about it decided that it had to have been a male WILLIAMSONíS SAPSUCKER, a great one for my year list.† We stopped and I tried to lure it back with calls, but never got another view of it.

 

We went on up Tioga Road, but there was road paving going on, and when we got to the second place that traffic was stopped, we turned back.† We stopped a couple more places, though, and saw some birds.† I got gas at Crane Flat and we tried once more along the road into Foresta for the quail species I wanted and this time we heard MOUNTAIN QUAIL (heard only) pretty close by, so Iím counting it for my year list.† I count ďheard onlyĒ birds now if Iím sure of the identification, and Mountain Quail has a very distinctive call.† We had heard them earlier in the day, but in the distance, and I didnít count it until we heard it up closer.

 

We got back to the hotel about 4, after a nice day of birding that was very successful as far as getting year birds for my list.† I donít think there are any other species Iím at all likely to get here in Yosemite now.† We had our second picnic of the week this evening, and the number was up to 31 people tonight.

 

So, my Black Swift last night and todayís four species brings me to 353 species for the year, of which 8 are lifers.

 

Wi-fi has been just about unusable here at the lodge.† It is either just plain not working or it is extremely slow, and I mean EXTREMELY SLOW.† Iíll send this out when I can.

 

 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

 

We left Yosemite this morning and are in Sacramento tonight, visiting my friend, Fred.† I have some pictures of Yosemite from the last few days, but before I show those, I wanted to mention that I decided that the swifts I saw on that first night in Yosemite could have been WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS, so Iím counting that one for my year list for that day, rather than Black Swift.† It doesnít change my totals, though.† I saw White-throated Swifts several more times from the patio of our room at Yosemite Lodge, and I got excellent looks at them.

 

Most of the women who come to Yosemite for our big family week are members of the Yosemite Gals.† They have a new T-shirt made each year, and here is this yearís shirt being modeled by the Yosemite Gals themselves.

 

Bridal Veil Falls didnít have much water this year.

 

Here is a view of the top of Bridal Veil Falls.

 

Here is a classic view looking up Yosemite Valley.

 

Here is another classic Yosemite view, showing upper and lower Yosemite Falls.

 

Finally, here is a picture of the Merced River and Half Dome, taken from the bridge near Yosemite Village.

 

I didnít see any other birds for my year list in Yosemite this year, but today on our way into Sacramento I saw a swan on a small lake east of Sacramento.† I decided it was most likely a MUTE SWAN, a European species that doesnít live many places in this country.† Any ďwildĒ ones in this country are descendants of escapees or released birds.† There is a small population that lives in the area where I saw the swan today, and it is extremely unlikely that either of the two native swan species would be in this area in June, so Iím counting it as a Mute Swan.† I just looked it up and one Mute Swan was reported on that very lake for the last two days.† We also stopped at nearby Mather Lake, where a small population lives, but I didnít see any there.

 

We had also stopped at Michigan Bar, on the Cosumnes River, to look for Lawrenceís Goldfinch, but didnít see one.

 

So, I added one species to my year list today, to bring me to 354 for the year, of which 8 have been lifers.

 

 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

 

I took Christina to the Sacramento airport this morning so she could fly home.† Then I came back to Fredís house and we went looking for birds.† I had a list of three species to look for, all of which have been reported this month in the places we were going to look.† Our first destination was Vic Fazio Preserve, also known as the Yolo Bypass.† Itís on the edge of the town of Davis, west of Sacramento.† I was hoping for American Bittern, which I have seen there a number of times, but not today.

 

There wasnít much water, but eventually we found an area with some shallow water suitable for shorebirds.† Here is a picture of a group of five Wilsonís Phalaropes.

 

The two smaller birds on the lower right are Western Sandpipers, I believe.† I usually see phalaropes swimming, not standing on the shore, so this was different today.

 

Hereís a picture of a Greater Yellowlegs and an American avocet with its head tucked in.

 

Here is an avocet, the Greater Yellowlegs, and a Long-billed Dowitcher (or possibly a Short-billed Dowitcher, but they arenít usually here in June).

 

I ended up seeing about a half dozen Greater Yellowlegs today, and finally there was one LESSER YELLOWLEGS, one of my target birds for today.† It was too far away for a picture, but now I have it on my year list.

 

There were dozens of White-faced Ibis around, and here is a picture of three of them.

 

There were also a few dozen Black-necked Stilts around, and here is a picture of two of them.

 

After we finished driving around the auto tour route at Fazio, we drove south on Mace Road, looking for Cattle Egret, which has been seen there this month.† No luck on that one today, though.† After that we made a stop at Subway and I got a tuna sandwich, which I ate while Fred drove to our next destination, which was a small wetland near Mather Field, east of downtown Sacramento.† American Bittern has been reported there recently, but we again didnít see one.† We checked out a couple of other places in that area and then called it a day.† It was ďonlyĒ in the low 90ís today here, but that is still much too hot for my taste.† Tomorrow is supposed to be high 90ís and then the next day is supposed to be triple digits, which is pretty normal here in the summer.† Iíve decided to head for home in the morning.† It has been hot in Seattle lately, too, but not triple digits, and it cools down at night, too, usually.† I feel like Iíve been on the road long enough now.† Iím about 12 driving hours from home here, and I plan to do it in two days of driving.† Itís always nice to get home after a trip.

 

So, with the addition of Lesser Yellowlegs today, Iím now at 355 species for the year, of which 8 have been lifers.† I donít have any birding trips planned for July at this point, but I might do a little Washington county birding Ė either day trips or short overnight trips.† There are a couple of species that I need for my year list that I can look for around home, too, and I might do that.† If I get any new species for the year or get any pictures I want to share, Iíll send out another report.