Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Hooded Oriole at Fox Grove on the Tuolumne River

The Stanislaus Audubon Society publishes a guide called "The Birding Sites of Stanislaus and Merced Counties" (available through the website or from the store at the Great Valley Museum). It's a great resource for finding birding locations in our region, and it had one almost cryptic passage about Fox Grove, a fishing access park on the Tuolumne River between Modesto and Waterford. It mentioned only one kind of bird: the Hooded Oriole (Icterus cucullatus). I hadn't seen any yet in my birding adventures, so I stopped by the park for a few minutes this afternoon. I didn't really think I would see anything, but the sun was setting, the birds were chirping, and a hawk was screeching in the trees above. I saw a few other birds, but then I saw what looked like an oddly colored bird very high in the palm trees, and snapped a few shots. They are a bit fuzzy, but I realized a short time later that I had my first Hooded Oriole! I'll be working as I always do to get sharper pictures the next time around.
The brightly colored Hooded Oriole is more of a tropical species, spending much of the year in Mexico and Central America. During the summer they move north for breeding purposes, and we live pretty close to the northern margins of their range in California. They prefer desert oasis environments with their palm trees, but they have done well with the ornamental palms found in much of central and southern California. They build unique hanging nests among the palm fronds.

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