Category Archives: birding

Onesies and Twosies, 02-05-21

Guh!  I didn’t sleep very well last night, and woke up twice with a lot of pain in my left hip. When it gets growly like that, I can’t find a comfortable position in which to lay or sit up, and I just have to wait until the meds kick in. I got myself up around 7:00 am, and headed over to the Cosumnes River Preserve to see how things are developing there. It was slow-going because of the pain, but I really feel the movement is good for me.

There’s more water on the ground now, not only in the preserve itself but in the ag fields surrounding it. There’s also water in the slough that runs along Franklin Road. I drove around Desmond and Bruceville Roads, and then went up and down the boardwalk area at the preserve. There were only a few large flocks of Snow Geese – and even a flock of American White Pelicans(!) – in the distant fields. Otherwise, I was seeing solitary birds are small groups of waterfowl in a variety of species; almost 40 different kinds. Onesies and twosies.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I see Black Phoebes almost everywhere I go, which is why it’s kind of my soul-bird spirit guide. But it seems like lately I’ve been seeing almost as many Say’s Phoebes in the area. I don’t know if they’re really more populous now, or if I’m just learning to recognizing them more readily.  There were also a lot of Audubon’s Warblers flitting around along the fence lines.

Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni

At one spot, I found a Song Sparrow singing away in the tules. I got some photos and a video snippet of him.

As I was heading out of the preserve, a couple of small flocks of Sandhill Cranes came flying in overhead and landed in a distant field. They should actually be on their way out of the area, so I was a little surprised to see them at all.

I walked for about 2½ hours before heading home. This was hike #13 in my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  3. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  4. American Wigeon, Anas americana
  5. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  8. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  9. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
  10. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  11. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  12. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  13. Clustered Dock, Rumex conglomeratus
  14. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  15. European Water-Plantain, Alisma plantago-aquatica
  16. Filamentous Green Algae, Spirogyra sp.
  17. Gadwall Duck, Mareca Strepera
  18. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  19. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  20. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  21. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  22. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  23. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  24. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  25. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  26. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  27. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  28. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  29. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  30. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  31. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
  32. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  33. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  34. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  35. Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya
  36. Slender Clubrush, Isolepis cernua
  37. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  38. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  39. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  40. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  41. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  42. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys

Looking for Burrowing Owls, 02-03-21

I got up around 6:30 this morning, and was out the door by 7:00 am with my friend Roxanne to go look for Burrowing Owls in Davis. It was breezy and cold, in the high 30’s, in the morning, got more densely overcast by the midafternoon, and then turned sunny by the late afternoon.

We went over to the Wildhorse Ag Buffer because there had been multiple reports that Burrowing Owls had been spotted along the trail there. I had never been to the place before, so I was just going by an eBird sighting to try to find the location where the owls had been seen.  We parked in the parking lot and took what we thought was a sidewalk along the back of the houses in the neighborhood, not realizing that the paved path was actually a golf cart route for the golf course there. 

One of the course markers on the golf course

So, we were getting a lot of dirty looks as we walked along, and finally a guy drove up in a cart and asked if we wanted to get hit by golf balls.  Rox quipped that a hit in the head might be helpful. Hah! The guy laughed. Then he said that we were walking right near where golfers who tee off often hit their balls, and pedestrians weren’t supposed to be walking there. We told him we were looking for the ag buffer, and he pointed ahead of us and said it was over there. He let us continue on our way, but said we’d need to walk back through the neighborhood to get back to the car.

We did eventually get to the ag buffer path which sits between the golf course and an area of protected special habitat that runs alongside some agricultural property. 

When we got to where the owls had previously been sighted, we were angry to find an incredibly stupid and selfish man letting his dog run through the area unleashed. The dog was posturing, threatening us and barking, and the owner didn’t even look at it; he kept walking along looking straight ahead, pretending he didn’t know what was going on. The weather may have been a factor in keeping the owls aground, but I’m certain the dog running back and forth over the spots where their burrows were, barking and growling, pretty much made certain that we would not see the owls this morning. 

So, that part of the trip was pretty much a bust.  However, Rox and I are of the mindset that we are willing to note whatever Nature wants to show us at any given place on any given day, so we were still grateful for the walk.  Along the way, we saw several species of songbirds, and also saw a Kite, a Kestrel and a young Cooper’s Hawk. I think, under better weather conditions we would have seen a lot more. We also know, now, where the buffer is and can get to it more easily without trespassing on the golf course again.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii, juvenile

As we were walking back to the car, we checked out the expensive properties there (over a million $ or more), and took photos of some of the plants in their front yards along the sidewalk. One of the oddest things, to me, was seeing a Buddha’s Hand citron tree heavy with fruit. The fruit looks like a big yellow octopus with fat legs. Rox knew what they were, but I had never seen them before. So weird!

Buddha’s Hand, Citrus medica sarcodactylis

The walk there was over a mile, so I was able to count it as hike #12 on my #52HikeChallenge. Yay!

When we got back to the car, we decided to head over to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. It was darkly overcast and a bit windy there, so, once again we were kind of thwarted as to how many birds we could see, but we still managed to see quite a few hawks, herons and egrets, and a smattering of different species of ducks.

Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
Great Egret, Ardea alba

We came across a flock of Coots, and found some of them doing that same side-face dirt digging behavior we’d seen before (at a different location). Where they turn their heads sideways to the ground and scoop up dirt with the side of their bill. Trying to get gravel for their crops, I think.

American Coots, Fulica americana,do the side-face digging thing…

We drove the auto-tour route and then headed back home and were back at the house by about 1:00 pm.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. American Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  4. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  5. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  6. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Bladderpod, Peritoma arborea [kind of looks like Jerusalem sage but gets bladder-like seed pods]
  9. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
  10. Buddha’s Hand, Citrus medica sarcodactylis
  11. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  12. Bull Thistle, Cirsium vulgare
  13. Candleflame Lichen, Candelaria concolor [bright yellow-orange]
  14. Carrot, American Wild Carrot, Daucus pusillus
  15. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  16. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii
  17. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  18. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  19. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  20. Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens
  21. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  22. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  23. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  24. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  25. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  26. Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  27. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  28. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  29. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  30. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  31. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  32. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  33. Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
  34. Pointleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos pungens [small leaves and flowers]
  35. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  36. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  37. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  38. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  39. Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya
  40. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  41. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  42. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  43. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  44. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  45. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  46. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  47. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys

Some Bluebird Love and the First Few Shrooms of the Season, 01-31-21

I got up a little after 7:00 this morning, and headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk. My medication hasn’t arrived yet, so I was in a lot of pain. It was 37° when I got to the park – which seems to be the general morning temperature here lately – and got up into the low 60’s by the afternoon.

When I first got there, I was driving down the road, and found my way blocked by a small flock of male Wild Turkeys strutting and showing off to one another. I tried creeping the car forward to get them to move, and I think they thought the car was “strutting”, so they moved in further, collecting around near the bumper. I flashed my headlights and honked the horn at them, and they’d gobble-obble-obble! But wouldn’t move. Hah! I was there for about 10 minutes waiting for them to get interested in something else and move off the road.

Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia

            Lots of birds around today.  There was a small flock of Bufflehead ducks on the water, males and females, but no one was doing any of their courtship stuff… I noticed that the Acorn Woodpeckers were taking full advantage of the windfall acorns after last week’s storm. Rather than pulling acorns off the trees, the birds were collecting them from the ground and poking them into their granary trees… When I was standing in the spot where I was seeing the woodpeckers, I also saw European Starlings, Dark-Eyed Juncos, an Audubon’s Warbler, White-Breasted Nuthatches, and little Oak Titmice all around me. I got photos of most of them, but the Juncos were being shy and kept themselves in the tall grass where I couldn’t focus on them.

There were also several pairs of Western Bluebirds around, and I saw and photographed one pair as they were checking out a nesting cavity together. I’m hoping to see more of that kind of behaviors as we go forward toward spring.

Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana, male

Near to where the bluebirds were doing house hunting, I also saw a male Nuttall’s Woodpecker looking for bugs in the bark of an oak tree. So, like I said, lots of birds!

I was less lucky with fungi. I only found some common brown Brittlestem mushrooms, bright Yellow Fieldcaps, and a few outcroppings of the Magpie Inkcap mushrooms.

The inkcaps are a species of mushroom disburses its spore in a sluice rather than as dry dust. The ‘shroom is so water-dense that as it ages it liquifies. All the “white stuff” on the cap is actually the residue of a veil that covered the mushroom when it was underground. I found some very fresh, newly “popped” specimens that haven’t opened up yet, and some where the cap was already liquifying and oozing toward the ground.           

I also came across a few Barometer Earthstars, and was able to get photos and a little video of how they puff out their spores.

I did get to see a couple of small herds of Columbian Black-Tailed deer, including one that was all bucks and one that was all does. In the bucks’ group there was a young spike buck, and a few larger ones, including 3- and 4-pointers. I haven’t seen the big 5-pointer buck, that has been around in previous years, at all, anywhere, this year. I don’t know what happened to him…  The in the doe-group was a matriarch and a young yearling. They were all sitting down in the grass, and got to their feet when I walked by – the matriarch putting herself between me and the younger does.  Just beautiful.

I walked for 3 hours, but it was slow going because of my pain. This was hike #11 in my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  3. Barometer Earthstar, Hygroscopic Earthstar, Astraeus hygrometricus
  4. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  5. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
  6. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  7. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  8. Common Pin Mold, Mucor mucedo
  9. Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
  10. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  11. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  12. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  13. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia [hoary, brown apothecia]
  14. Magpie Inkcap, Common Inkcap, Coprinopsis picacea
  15. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliate
  16. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  17. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  18. Pleated Inkcap Mushroom, Parasola plicatilis
  19. Red Edge Brittlestem Mushrooms, Psathyrella corrugis
  20. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  21. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  22. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  23. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  24. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  25. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  26. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  27. Yellow Fieldcap Mushroom, Bolbitius titubans