Saturday, February 21, 2015

Mute Swans on the Tuolumne River

I'm finding I might have a new favorite local birding site. A week or two back I was looking for some additional access on the Tuolumne River where it flows through Waterford. I knew that plans were on the boards for a two mile river trail, but I didn't realize there were plans for a park at the far end (I've spent a fair amount of time at Appling Park on the upstream side). But there it was on the GPS map: South Reinway Park just south of the town's high school. I went down to have a look.

It's not at all developed yet, so it consists of a large overgrown field, a smattering of oak trees on the bluff edge, and a steep cliff leading down to the floodplain of the Tuolumne River. There is fair amount of riparian habitat on the riverbed with lots of birding possibilities, but no access yet. The cliff is sheer. The view is nice, and extends across the river to a pond formed when a gravel quarry was abandoned. It filled with groundwater. I don't know if the Frantz Nursery allows access (their employee parking is adjacent), but I'll try to find out sometime.
I saw two Canada Geese the other day, but this morning the pair of water birds looked different, i.e. they were totally white. The zoom lens confirmed that they were swans, specifically Mute Swans (Cygnus olor). They are not native to North America, but have established breeding populations in many places. I don't know if these are escaped domestic swans, or feral ones.
In three quick visits to the site, I've seen a White-tailed Kite, a Red-tailed Hawk, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Western Bluebird, a Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, one or two kinds of Vireo, Yellow-billed Magpie, Northern Mockingbird, Scrub Jay, Turkey Vulture, European Starling, American Robin, Golden-crowned and White-crowned Sparrows, American Goldfinch, Crow, an Egret, and Canada Goose. A friend in the neighborhood reported a Bald Eagle a few days ago. Twenty-plus species in three short visits.

I expect there will be more in days and weeks to come!

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