Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Spotted Towhee on the Tuolumne River Parkway

Spottted Towhees (Pipilo maculatus) are another of those birds that drive me nuts by being hard to photograph. I've seen a fair number of them during my walks along the Tuolumne River near my home, but they are fond of hiding in the underbrush and rarely stick around when I walk by.

The Towhees are one of the largest members of the sparrow family. There is an Eastern Towhee species with a range in (surprise!) the Eastern U.S.that is very similar, but the populations were separated by the vast continental glacier that moved repeatedly into the midwest states during the ice ages. With different climate and habitat, the two groups diverged.
I was walking under a large oak tree along the River Parkway Trail in Waterford when I noticed the buff-colored bird. I thought it was a Robin at first but quickly realized the coloration was wrong. For once the bird remained still while I pulled out the camera and got a few pictures off. They aren't the best shots I could hope for (yet), but sunny days will come. One thing that doesn't come through in today's pictures are the incredible orange-red eyes. So you can appreciate them, I've included a shot from last November when I saw a Towhee creeping through the brush at the Joe Domecq Wilderness on the Tuolumne River.

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