Saturday, November 28, 2020

Another Fine Day for Phainopeplas!

It often seems to happen this way. I don't post for a long time, then I finally do, and like the next day I get far better pictures than the ones that I posted earlier. And that's what happened. On two different days this week, I had some beautiful moments with the Phainopeplas (Phainopepla nitens) that have temporarily taken up residence on the elderberry bushes along the Tuolumne River Parkway Trail. I got decent pictures of a male (the black one), and the female (gray).
The Phainopeplas are really a desert species, most at home in the arid regions of the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, especially Baja California. They have been seen more and more in California's Great Valley, presumably as drier and warmer climates begin to prevail as the average temperature of the Earth continues to rise. They are now breeding in the valley as far north as Redding.
Phainopeplas are in the family of the silky-flycatchers, but they are not closely related to other flycatchers found in the United States. According to Ebird, they are most closely related to the Cedar Waxwings.


Saturday, November 14, 2020

Finally a Few Phainopeplas on the Tuolumne River Parkway!

I really miss blogging. I miss the freedom and creativity that comes with writing these posts, but the COVID pandemic has affected my output in the worst way, for the sole reason that I have been spending all my time preparing classes for our online teaching environment. There is creativity sometimes involved with it, but not in a fun way.
In any case, they finally arrived! I have a lot of favorite bird species, and I see some of them every day, but some stand out because of their relative rarity or spectacular plumage: the Orioles, Grosbeaks, and Buntings come to mind. But for whatever reason, the birds I really look forward to sighting for the first time each year are the Phainopeplas (Phainopepla nitens). And they were a long time coming this year. In 2020, I saw the first Phainopepla on the Tuolumne River Parkway Trail only three or four days ago. The first gave me fits, because the only picture I achieved that first day was the one above. Can you even see it?
I had better luck the next day, catching a male (the black ones) out in the open. I had trouble figuring out just how many there were, either two or three, including a female.
Today was the best, as a female broke away from the Elderberry thicket and landed on a Russian Olive only a few yards from me. The only difficulty was the blowing wind. The bird stuck around for at least five minutes in perfect range for photos, but was a moving target the whole time.
The Phainopeplas are actually a desert species more likely to be seen in the Southwest states. Apparently they have been expanding more to the north, perhaps related to the changing climate. In any case, a day with Phainopeplas in it is always a fine day!