Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Green Heron Near a Flooded Tuolumne River

It's been a hectic time and I haven't been back to the Tuolumne River in a week. It is still an artificial flood as the operators upstream at Don Pedro Dam are keeping flows very high to build flood storage capacity. The river has been high for two weeks now, and the entire floodplain is under water this week. I imagine a great many animals have been flooded out of their homes. I was wandering near the water treatment plant when I realized there was a large bird to my left, away from the river. I realized it was a Green Heron (Butorides virescens) standing very still, so much so that all six pictures I took are identical!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Canada Geese at the West Campus Pond

With the cessation of the seemingly endless rains of the last month (okay, for us Californians it felt that way), the drainage pond on our west campus is filled to the brim, and the local ducks and geese have taken note. I've seen a dozen or Mallards lurking in the brush, and this evening there were four Canada Geese (Branta canadensis). There was nothing overly remarkable about seeing geese in the pond, but I really liked the way they grouped themselves to pose for tonight's photograph.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Cassin's Kingbird on the West Campus: Is Spring Early?

(Updated)There were a couple of surprises on our west campus today. I was out for the usual walk at lunchtime and was out in a remote corner of the campus near the drainage pond. There was a bird in the top of the tree that looked out of place, a bird with a certain amount of attitude. It had the yellow breast of the goldfinch, but was way too large, and the beak was wrong. I started to realize that even though spring has not yet arrived, the Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis) has. Postscript: Or is it a Cassin's Kingbird (Tyrannus vociferans)? On reexamination I'm seeing the white tail tips, and lack of white outside tail feathers. Either way, I'm surprised to see one this month. Update: Stanislaus County birders tell me it is a Cassin's.
The Kingbirds are tropical species who only spend summers here in the far north, so I don't know how unusual this might be. Spring may be arriving earlier these days as the climate warms. I'll be watching to see if this one has buddies near by (they tend to be very territorial in the breeding season, though). If anyone can clear this up, I'd appreciate your comments!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Western Bluebirds on the Campus Quad

It's been gloomy of late, what with six days of rain, and five days of fog and overcast skies. The conditions weren't ideal for photographing birds, but while I wandered the campus on Tuesday, I did run across a number of Western Bluebirds (Sialia mexicana) in the main quad. Nothing else was likely as a photography target, so I snapped a couple of shots in the gray conditions. They are beautiful birds even if the prevailing skies are not!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Spotted Towhees from All Over

Spotted Towhees (Pipilo maculatus) are beautiful colorful birds that I've seen a fair number of times, but I've found them difficult to photograph. Most of the time it is because they are foraging in thick underbrush, and they never seem to sit still. A case in point: I got a nice shot of the Towhee above at Silver Lake near Mt. St. Helens in Washington at Christmastime. But it never turned around to show its colorful breast.
Then, I was at Don Pedro Reservoir on the Tuolumne River to take a look at water levels prior to the big storms of last week (which also explains why no birds for two weeks; I was distracted by events being posted at Geotripper). There was a Towhee in the parking lot foraging for seeds or bugs. I got a shot of the bird's front, and a video as well. But no side shots!

Finally, I was out on the Tuolumne Parkway Trail today for the first time since the storms began, and I saw another Towhee foraging in the open. I got the side shot I wanted, so I was finally able to cobble together this post, from three different locations and with three different birds.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Belted Kingfisher at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

I've seen the Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) a few times on my trail along the Tuolumne River, but they've kept their distance, and it has been fairly hard to get clear pictures. We were headed home from the holiday travels, and noted previously, we stopped at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge in the Central Valley of California. We were excited to see a pair of Bald Eagles while we were there, and thought the birding was over with when we got back to the visitor center at the end of the auto-tour. And wouldn't you know, there was a Belted Kingfisher hanging out around the pond at the visitor center!
I got a couple of fairly decent shots, although they are still a bit fuzzy at the distance. The brown-colored breast feathers indicate a female (one of the few birds in which the females are more brightly colored).