Wednesday, January 26, 2022
Sunday, January 23, 2022
Monday, November 29, 2021
|Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) with juvenile|
|Ross's Goose (Anser rossii)|
When I mention that there were thousands, I was not exaggerating...they filled the skies, and the sound of their squawking in any other setting (for instance a horror movie) would be terrifying.
|Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)|
Our biggest thrill was catching sight of a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus). We had finished with the eagles and told ourselves we were out of time and that there weren't any birds that would stop us from finishing the loop, but of course only 200 yards down the road we had this falcon politely posing for us. Of course, we stopped and spent an inordinate amount of time taking pictures. We made it home in time to pick up our precious kitties from the kennel, but only barely.
Monday, November 1, 2021
I was at Yosemite National Park this weekend and I saw dozens of them, but one stood out, the star in the picture above. It was at the edge of a meadow below El Capitan, and it allowed me to get some close shots before I realized it could care less about me and Mrs. Geotripper, because it turned out we were standing in front of a fast-food bag someone had left next to their car. As we moved on, the bird jumped down and started to work on the folded-up bag. It really wanted to know what was inside.
|Photo by Mrs. Geotripper|
Instead of just tearing it open, the bird used its beak and foot to unfold the top. It started to remove and inspect the trash within one piece at a time, but it felt uncomfortable putting its head all the way in for the deepest bits. Once again, instead of tearing it open, it simply grabbed a corner with its beak, and turned the bag upside down, spilling the contents. It scored a banana peel and one or two fries for its trouble. The bird displayed a rather organized approach to getting to its goal.
Some would insist the bird was spreading garbage about, but really, the humans had done the garbage spreading. It was just making sure that none of the food inside was going to waste...
Sunday, October 24, 2021
According to AllAboutBirds, the sparrow is one of the more poorly studied species in its Arctic summer home. Maybe there is a job for a budding ornithologist there...
|"I'll thank you not to study ME, good sir"|
Saturday, October 16, 2021
The Black Phoebe is one of my dependable favorites. I see them often on my home turf, and they are tolerant of the bumbling human with the camera. They display typical flycatcher behavior, that is 'fly-catching'. They'll pick a perch, sally forth to acrobatically nail a fly or other insect, and then perch again in the same spot. The Black Phoebes are primarily southwestern birds who mainly live in riparian habitats. In 2019 I saw a particularly memorable individual, a leucistic Black Phoebe, meaning a Black Phoebe that wasn't black at all.
So cue the big birds, the Snow and Ross's Geese, and the Cackling Geese. It's going to be a raucous party soon!
Thursday, September 30, 2021
For years, I've been watching the couple of species of shorebirds that hang out at the water treatment plant on the midway part of the trail. There are almost always Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers, and Killdeers. I get to the point that I don't think other birds will show up, so I don't look for them. This is usually a bad idea in birding!
So it took another birder, someone more perceptive than I, to wander along the bluff, watching the shorebirds in the treatment plant ponds. Yesterday that person was fellow nature blogger Siera Nystrom (Natural History Journal) who walked the trail and noticed a bird that was not like the others. She got some pictures and reported that she had found a Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos). It's a special find, as it is rare in the region. It's the first sighting in the county this year, and only the 12th sighting of all time on eBird in the Stanislaus region. The nearest other known bird of this species is presently at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge an hour to the south of the Tuolumne River. So all in all, quite an accomplishment for Siera, and for the bird itself, which happens to be on a very long journey.
|Source: Pectoral Sandpiper Range Map, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology|
Once I saw Siera's species report, all I could do was sit on my hands and teach my courses all day. I waited very patiently while the students finished up the last of their labs, and I rushed out to the river trail, camera in hand, hoping against hope that the bird would still be hanging out at the treatment plant. Much to my relief, I saw it right away, because as I said above, "you see what you are looking for". I was able to get a fair number of decent pictures to share. If you decide to seek it out, it is a medium-sized shorebird with yellowish-olive legs. It's slightly bigger than a Killdeer (I think), and definitely smaller than a Greater Yellowlegs. The most distinctive coloration is the brown streaks that run down the breast, but abruptly change over to a white belly.
There is one other point of distinction about the discovery of this Pectoral Sandpiper. It is the 150th species reported for the Tuolumne River Parkway Trail! It is also the 123rd species seen this year on the river, which is a one-year record, and we still have three more months to find a few more.