Got up around 6:00 am and headed over to the Mather Lake Regional Park for a walk. On the way there, I saw a White-Tailed Kite “kiting” in the air; and later, when I left, I saw a Say’s Phoebe “kiting” in the air. Like bookends.
It was about 39°F when I got to the park, and remained relatively cool (under 60°) all day. A lot of the willows are now starting to get their leaves, the wild plum trees were in blossom, and some of the other trees were just starting to bud new leaves and catkins. Here and there, the Jointed Charlock plants were blossoming. They’re basically “weeds” but I think the flowers are pretty, especially in their variety of colors.
Among the sparrows, I also saw a couple of chubby Robins. One of them, seemingly, had lost an eye, but it was still able to get around all right. Robins hunt by sound, listening for worms under the surface of the ground…so losing an eye wouldn’t be too much of a disadvantage as far as finding food goes.
There were both Mourning Doves and Eurasian Collared Doves cooing from the trees and telephone lines. The Great-Tailed Grackles and House Wrens were out singing, too. So much birdsong!
The real standouts of the day, though, were the Tree Swallows. They were everywhere, foraging for bugs, chasing one another, singing their gurgly songs, looking for nesting cavities. One of the folks in the Birding California Facebook group suggested I read “White Feathers: The Nesting Lives of Tree Swallows” by Bernd Heinrich… so that’s on my wish list right now. Heinrich noted that the Tree Swallows line their nests with only white feathers.
There were lots of Coots and some Pied-Billed Grebes swimming and foraging around the edges of the lake. One of the grebes caught a little fish, and swallowed it down whole. I got a video snippet, but the bird turned its back to me for most of it. Hah!
I also got some really bad, really fuzzy video of a muskrat as it swam its way across the lake. It was headed toward shore, but I can’t move very fast with my cane. When I got to the place where I thought it might have landed, it was already gone. Sigh.
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.
One of the last bits of video I got was of a pair of Canada Geese. I’ve seen this species of geese all over the place, in forested areas, along the river, lakes and ponds, and in urban areas. But I’d never seen them mating before. The geese form pair bonds that last throughout their lives, but they won’t form a bond or start mating until they’re about three years old.
A lot of the display I watched, before I started filming, was the typical “Triumph Display” where the pair approach one another honking loudly. The honking is followed by a sort of “snorting” or “snoring” sound and the threat of a bite. Once in the water, the pair I was watching did the “head-dipping” routine — like they were bathing, dipping their heads into the water and then lifting the head so the water flowed over their neck and body. Then the male mounted the female. She was bouncing like a bobber, and he had trouble staying on top, so I don’t know if he actually accomplished anything. Poor dude.
As I mentioned before, on my way out of the park, I saw a brown bird “kiting” in the air over a field. I didn’t recognize what it was at first, so I took some video of it.
Luckily, the bird flew in closer to the edge of the road and landed briefly on the fencepost, so I was able to get a few clear shots of it. I was surprised to realize it was a Say’s Phoebe.
According to Cornell, these phoebes kite when they’re foraging and when the male is displaying around a nesting site to show the female where it is. Say’s Phoebes, unlike the Black Phoebes, don’t make mud nests to they don’t need to nest near a water site. They can sometimes use old nests of Black Phoebes, but otherwise build their nest of a variety of materials, like weeds, wood and other plant fibers, rocks, cocoons and spiderwebs, hair, paper, basically whatever is readily available and can be easily manipulated.
Like the Black Phoebes, the Say’s nest in or around ledges, where the nest can be partially or wholly covered to protect it from the weather, like on rafters, shelves, ledges, drainpipes, eaves, etc. I’ve never found one, but now, at least, I know what I’m looking for.
I walked for about 3½ hours and then headed back home. This was hike #27 in my #52HikeChallenge.
- Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
- American Coot, Fulica americana
- American Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
- American Robin, Turdus migratorius
- Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
- Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
- Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
- Beaver, American, Beaver, Castor canadensis [sign on tree]
- Bishop Pine, Pinus muricata [fascicles of TWO needles]
- Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
- Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
- Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
- California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
- California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
- California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
- California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
- Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
- Candleflame Lichen, Candelaria concolor [bright yellow-orange]
- Common Stork’s-Bill, Erodium cicutarium
- Cork Oak, Quercus suber
- Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
- Coyote Brush Rust Fungus, Puccinia evadens
- Coyote Brush Stem Gall Moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella
- Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
- Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
- Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
- Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
- Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
- European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
- Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
- Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
- Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
- Great Egret, Ardea alba
- Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
- House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
- Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
- Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
- Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
- Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
- Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
- Muskrat, Ondatra zibethicus
- Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
- Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
- Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
- Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
- Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
- Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
- Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
- Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
- Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus [tiny]
- Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya
- Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
- Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
- Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
- Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
- White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
- White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
- Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides