Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bird of the Day: Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Stone Lake and San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuges

Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge was an interesting little discovery this last week, but one of the things I've discovered is that there are birds that are very difficult to capture on digital media. First, it was the Sora and Sandhill Cranes I featured yesterday. Today I am featuring one of smaller birds around that aren't hummingbirds, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula). They average 0.2-0.4 ounces which compares to the 0.15 ounces of the Anna's Hummingbirds I see around the house.
Before this week, I had captured pictures of a Kinglet only once before, but it happened twice this week, and it wasn't easy either time. The birds move through the underbrush and never seem to stop. I have a bunch of shots of reeds and brush containing no birds, because I took an extra half second to focus. Most of the rest of the pictures show only a blur as the bird hopped to the next branch.
Where's the Kinglet? No wonder these little beasties are hard to photograph.
Are they hard to see? Take a look at the picture above. Even with a sharper contrast, how long did you take to find it?

Because it is only eight miles from the edge of town, we stop in fairly often to see what is going on at the Beckwith Observation Platform in the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge. It was built to allow distant views of the geese and cranes, but a lot of brush has been planted around the parking lot, and the plants always have a bunch of smaller birds hanging out, including Phoebes, sparrows, and as I found out yesterday, Ruby-crowned Kinglets.
If you are wondering about the "Ruby-crowned" part of the name, look carefully at the very first photo. You can just make out a bit of red on the head. It usually isn't visible except when the males are trying to impress the ladies.

As usual, I'm doing my best at bird identification as an amateur. The Kinglets look really similar to Hutton's Vireos, for instance. The small bills and the red patch in the first photograph were the identifying characteristics for me.

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