in 2015, but memories are short, right? And I blogged about Phainopeplas just a month ago when I saw them again for the first time in almost a year on the Tuolumne River Parkway Trail. But darn if they don't keep beckoning me to try and get that perfect photograph. I've seen them a couple of times now in the elderberry bower along the west part of the Parkway Trail, but today's female (the males are nearly pure black) wasn't too concerned that I was snapping pictures. They are members of the silky flycatcher family and that's exactly what this one was doing, sallying forth from her perch to snag a bug out of the air before returning to the branch.
I hope they'll be sticking around for the winter. They are one of my local favorites.
Monday, October 22, 2018
Sunday, October 21, 2018
I was pleased that the bird could care less that I was standing beneath the tree. I even had enough time to get a few seconds of video of the bird at work.
Monday, October 15, 2018
Great Horned Owls at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge are usually visible when the trees lose their leaves in winter, and there is a singular Burrowing Owl that hangs out on Dry Creek that we'll sometimes see when taking the backroads to Knight's Ferry on the Stanislaus River. But today we had a nice surprise. We were out on a spur-of-the-moment birding trip at Turlock Lake State Recreational Area, which is an irrigation reservoir in the Sierra Nevada foothills just east of Modesto. We saw a fair assortment of bird species, but as we were leaving I saw one more bird perched on a fencepost and I knew right away that it was too stocky to be another Meadowlark. It was a Burrowing Owl (Athene cuicularia) only about fifty yards from the highway. I got a couple of decent shots before it took off into the adjacent field.
Thursday, October 11, 2018
Does anyone know what reptile the victim is?
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
There was something new in the sky above the Tuolumne River Parkway Trail this morning. Large graceful birds were gliding over the water, and it took me a moment to realize who they were. The baby Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) have taken to flying!
There is a certain ambivalence about the presence of Mute Swans here in the valley. They are not native to the region and are instead the offspring of European ancestors who were brought to America to be accessories in the landscaping of rich estates. The escapees have caused problems because they are voracious consumers of water plants (pounds per day) to the detriment of other freshwater bird species. I've suspected that the parents of these birds have clipped wings simply because I've never seen them flying except for a semi-gliding motion when chasing off of Canada Geese.
Sunday, October 7, 2018
Thursday, October 4, 2018
Luckily, the bird seems to be making something of a comeback. Some of the birds may have developed some immunity to the infection, and my impression is that there are more of them on our West Campus. The flock seems to be about 25 strong. I've been having problems getting close enough to them for photography, but today one landed just outside my classroom and I just happened to have my camera at that moment. I'm hopeful for their future; the world would be a dismal world without them.
Wednesday, October 3, 2018
The problem with Lava Beds is that the monument and the lava flows it protects has no surface water. Rain and snowmelt drain into fractures and fissures in the basalt, so with the exception of some ice pools in the bottom of a couple of lava tubes, birds have no water unless they fly several miles to the Tulelake basin. I've therefore had some great birding experiences in the park campground near the water spigots because the birds gather there in the morning for a drink. This time, though, I was at the visitor center and I didn't expect to see many birds out and about.