Saturday, July 28, 2018

Blue Grosbeak on the Tuolumne River in Ceres

This is one I was really excited about. Blue Grosbeaks (Passerina caerulea) are not all common in our area, as we are pretty close to the edge of their range. I've been watching the Tuolumne River Parkway Trail like a hawk hoping to see one, but the only dependable sightings this year in our county have been farther to the west, at the Ceres River Bluff Regional Park, and at the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge in the western part of the Great Valley. They've been seen elsewhere in the county, but not for years at a time.

So I delved into the records at eBird and found that some Blue Grosbeaks were seen at the Ceres park for the first time in three weeks, so I passed on my normal morning walk on the Parkway Trail and headed to Ceres on the off-chance that I would actually manage to see one. I haven't had much luck in situations like this, and the first results weren't promising, just a lot of Eurasian Collared Doves, California Scrub Jays, House Finches, and Rock Pigeons. I saw one bird across the river and snapped a picture, but figured it was just a European Starling, and I hiked on.
Ceres River Bluff Regional Park is actually an athletic field complex, but there is an undeveloped section of the park on a terrace just above the river. It used to be a walnut orchard, but the land was purchased by the city and is being returned to a native state. There are some ponds on the site, so it provides excellent bird habitat.

I was walking along the river and reached the northwest corner of the property and saw another dark colored bird in the distance, but this time the sun was at my back and when I zoomed in I saw blue, but not the blue of a California Scrub Jay. It was a Blue Grosbeak. I started snapping pictures like the one below, thinking that it might be my only chance to get any pictures at all. But then to my surprise it flow towards me and overhead, landing in the top of a young sycamore tree only 100-150 feet away. I was able to get the pictures above before the bird moved on.

The European Starling that I mentioned earlier? When I downloaded the picture at home, I found much to my surprise that it was also a Blue Grosbeak. I'm glad I saw the second one, because it would have been rather frustrating to think of a single sloppy shot as my only record of this incredibly beautiful bird.

The birders report that there are females in the park as well so I hope they are breeding and that they'll move on upstream to my daily walk on the Parkway trail.

ADDENDUM: Got a few more pictures the next day. Here is the best one...

1 comment:

  1. Good job!

    I have a few photos of Blue Grosbeaks in San Diego County queued up to post on August 6th.