Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Natural World Goes On: The Bullock's Orioles Arrive!

These are interesting weeks in the bird world. As spring ramps up many of our winter "snowbirds" have left, on their way to Arctic regions to breed for the summer. It would feel like a real loss, but at the same time we are starting to see the arrival of some colorful migrants out of the tropics. I saw the first Western Kingbirds earlier this week, and yesterday I had a pleasant surprise of coming upon a Bullock's Oriole (Icterus bullockii) feeding in the wild tobacco plants by the Tuolumne River. They're among my favorites (although I'm really partial to blue; I am really hoping to run across a Blue Grosbeak or Lazuli Bunting soon).

Shades of yellow and orange are breaking out all over. Golden Poppies are blooming right now along the river.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Natural World Goes On: Western Kingbirds arrive on the Tuolumne River

Life is uncertain right now, and things are chaotic, but it is sometimes nice to know in the midst of sadness and troubles that the natural world continues, and beauty is still all around us. I've been trying to keep some balance by getting out on the Tuolumne River Trail (usually by myself of course), and today including a treat.

It's always a pleasant surprise the first time you see them. They will be here by the thousands in a week or two, but there are always those few leaders who arrive before the others. When you see one for the first time you might mistake it briefly for a mockingbird until you see the bright flash of yellow on their frontside. These are the Western Kingbirds (Tyrannus verticalis), and they've arrived on the Tuolumne River this week. I saw two of them this morning. It's a sure sign that spring has arrived (the first one seen in our county was literally on the day of the spring equinox).

The birds have been wintering in Mexico and Central America, but soon they will be all over the United States and southernmost Canada to breed during the summer.

Stay healthy all. Hiking and walking while maintaining physical distance is still allowed, and is safe if you avoid any crowds.

Friday, March 13, 2020

The Bashful Great Horned Owl at Robert's Ferry Bridge

There's a beautiful covered bridge on the Tuolumne River a few miles upstream from my town called the Robert's Ferry Bridge. It's not the original, which was damaged in the 1997 flood, but it is nicely designed complete with walkways on both sides. It's a nice spot for birdwatching, and in the spring it is a great spot to look for nests. Ospreys, Black Phoebes, and Cliff Swallows raise their young there, but the one I look forward to the most is the arrival of the Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus). They've used the same corner for a couple of years, and so I've been watching for their return.

I finally saw one of them today, and it clearly saw me, but I sure didn't see much! Were it not for the eye, I would have missed it entirely. I hope to see some babies in a few weeks.