Finally a Few Phainopeplas on the Tuolumne River Parkway!
I really miss blogging. I miss the freedom and creativity that comes with writing these posts, but the COVID pandemic has affected my output in the worst way, for the sole reason that I have been spending all my time preparing classes for our online teaching environment. There is creativity sometimes involved with it, but not in a fun way.
In any case, they finally arrived! I have a lot of favorite bird species, and I see some of them every day, but some stand out because of their relative rarity or spectacular plumage: the Orioles, Grosbeaks, and Buntings come to mind. But for whatever reason, the birds I really look forward to sighting for the first time each year are the Phainopeplas (Phainopepla nitens). And they were a long time coming this year. In 2020, I saw the first Phainopepla on the Tuolumne River Parkway Trail only three or four days ago. The first gave me fits, because the only picture I achieved that first day was the one above. Can you even see it?
I had better luck the next day, catching a male (the black ones) out in the open. I had trouble figuring out just how many there were, either two or three, including a female.
Today was the best, as a female broke away from the Elderberry thicket and landed on a Russian Olive only a few yards from me. The only difficulty was the blowing wind. The bird stuck around for at least five minutes in perfect range for photos, but was a moving target the whole time.
The Phainopeplas are actually a desert species more likely to be seen in the Southwest states. Apparently they have been expanding more to the north, perhaps related to the changing climate. In any case, a day with Phainopeplas in it is always a fine day!