Saturday, November 7, 2015

Can you Spot a Spotted Towhee? Here's one on the Tuolumne River

Do you ever get the feeling you're being watched? If you are exploring my part of the world, you may indeed be watched by a creature with reddish eyes, hiding in the brush. It's not a scary creature though, just a reclusive one. It's a Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus), a large member of the sparrow family. I've posted one picture of the bird previously, a breeding male (it makes them more brave, so they perch on high branches) in the Grand Canyon last summer. I've seen them in the brush at the Joe Domecq Wilderness on the Tuolumne River on lots of occasions, but they've always been too cautious and fly deeper into the forest before I can snap a picture.

The Joe Domecq Wilderness is a special spot on the Tuolumne River where it passes through the Mother Lode of California's legendary Gold Rush. The land here was subjected to gold dredging, which destroyed the riparian forest and left a barren pile of boulders. Time has softened the devastation a bit, and the small park and pond is now a nice spot for birdwatching. It's administered (somewhat) by Stanislaus County (hey folks, the picnic tables need to be replaced).
I was there this morning just prior to meeting a group from the Tuolumne River Trust for a canoe trip down the river for a few miles. It was a marvelous day, and I appreciated the chance to see a section of the river I've never seen before (there are lots of those, actually). The Towhee was darting in and out of the branches of a large oak tree, but it finally stopped long enough for a few relatively sharp shots.

And then, it disappeared again.

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