A Raptor Morning, 02-26-20

I got up around 6:00 this morning, so I could get the dog fed and get myself dressed to go to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my weekly volunteer trail walking gig there.

My friend Roxanne joined me at the preserve. We saw and heard quite a few raptors throughout our walk, especially at the beginning of it.  A pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks were calling to one another across the treetops along the trail, and we were able to get photos of the female sitting in the top of a tree. 

A pair of mating Red-Shouldered Hawks, Buteo lineatus

A little while later, the male, who had been calling to the female, flew up and we got to see them mating.  The female was on a kind of precarious perch, so the male had to struggle to stay on top of her.  Eventually, he moved off to the side of her and then flew off.  Later, as we were leaving the preserve, we saw the female up near the rim of a nest that she and the male had built earlier in the year.  She didn’t linger near it though, so I don’t know if she’s going to choose that nest to lay her eggs and raise her brood. [[Hawks may build several different nests in a breeding season, and then the female chooses which one she likes.]]

After seeing the Red-Shouldered Hawks mating, we caught sight of another hawk in the top of a tree further along the trail. When we got abut closer we could see it was what I thought was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk and it was eating its breakfast. We were able to get quite a few photos of it from slightly different angles as it ate.  At first, we couldn’t tell what it was eating; and I had to wait until I got home and blew up the photos to see that the breakfast was some kind of bird. The hawk had yanked out the majority of the feathers, so, on the trail all we could see was pink skin and flesh. 

A Merlin, Falco columbarius,eating its breakfast

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Later, Ken Ealy, one of my naturalist class graduates and a birding expert, took a look at my photos and corrected the ID.  It was actually a Tiaga morph a Merlin, Falco columbarius!  My first close-up of a Merlin; so exciting!  The Merlins in the US have three color morphs: Tiaga, Black and Prarie.

As we were walking away from the Merlin, I saw a bird fly into a tree back down the trail and by its shape and size I thought it might be a Kestrel.  I used my camera’s telephoto lens like a monocular and could see that it was indeed a Kestrel – a male, and there was a female on the branch below it. I alerted Roxanne to the birds, and we back-tracked down the trail to see them. [[I wonder if this was the same pair I’d seen last week.]]

A pair of American Kestrels, Falco sparverius. The male is on top and the female is below him.

So, that was three different species of raptors on just one part of one trail, one after the other. An auspicious start to our walk… we thought.  For most of the rest of the walk, however, we were able to HEAR a lot of birds, but couldn’t see them, or could see them but couldn’t get decent photos of them.

We did see quite a few deer, small groups of bucks and small groups of does with their fawns and yearlings.  We saw a big 4-pointer buck who was still sporting his antlers.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

The wildflowers are just starting to appear – well, their leaves are anyway; no flowers just yet. And we looked over some lichen on both the trees and the rocks. 

We walked for about 3 hours before heading out.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Alder Tongue Gall Fungus, Taphrina alni
  3. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  4. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  5. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  6. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  7. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii [not sure; saw some kind of wren]
  8. Black Grain-Spored Lichen, Sarcogyne hypophaea [black, grainy, on rocks]
  9. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus [scat]
  10. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  11. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  12. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  13. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  14. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  15. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  16. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  17. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  18. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  19. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  20. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  21. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  22. Cinder Lichen, Aspicilia cinerea [gray to light gray/white on rocks with or without small black dots]
  23. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  24. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  25. Common Stork’s-Bill, Red Stemmed Filaree, Erodium cicutarium
  26. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  27. Crater Lichen, Diploschistes scruposus [gray/dark grey on rocks with dark apothecia]
  28. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  29. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  30. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  31. Farinose Cartilage Lichen,  Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  32. Giraffe’s Spots Fungus, Peniophora albobadia
  33. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  34. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  35. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  36. Green Trichoderma Mold, Trichoderma viride 
  37. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  38. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  39. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  40. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria [fly by]
  41. Lords and Ladies, Wild Arum, Arum maculatum
  42. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  43. Merlin, Falco columbarius
  44. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  45. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura [heard]
  46. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus [heard; caught a glimpse of]
  47. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  48. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus [heard]
  49. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  50. Olive Tree, Olea europaea
  51. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  52. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  53. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  54. Scattered Button Lichen, Buellia dispersa [gray/off white on rocks with black spots]
  55. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen Polycauliona candelaria
  56. Sierra Plum, Prunus subcordata
  57. Soap Plant, Wavy Leafed Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  58. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  59. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  60. Streambank Springbeauty, Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia parviflora
  61. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
  62. Tile Lichen, Lecidea sp.
  63. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  64. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  65. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  66. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  67. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  68. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  69. Witches Butter, Tremella mesenterica
  70. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis