Sunday, April 9, 2017

Wrentit - Extended Trill

        Hazard Canyon Wrentit Habitat
The male Wrentit song consists of a few sharp whistled "pit" notes with a descending 3-4 second trill at the end.  It is considered the classic sound of the Coastal Sage Scrub community. This week I hiked up Hazard canyon.  Wrentits were active and singing.  One Wrentit was defending his territory of blooming Hemlock from a persistent Anna's Hummingbird.  Every time the hummer hovered over a blossom, the Wrentit chased her off.  
 Wrentits are faithful to their territory, remaining in the same area for up to 12 years; they defend and define their territory by singing.  About a mile up the canyon I heard a Wrentit song with an extended trill.  Fortunately, he repeated it several times.  I felt his breathlessness, if that was possible.  His song was saying, in no uncertain terms, "This is my territory and you do not belong."  It is more than likely that his life mate was sitting on their nest.

The video consists of three segments. The photo of the Wren separates the segments. For comparison, the first and last segment are the usual song with a 2.83 sec. trill.  The middle segment has the extended 9.13 sec. trill.  When you are watching the video keep in mind that, as he trills, his tail is vigorously vibrating.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Birding Montaña de Oro - Sunday/Wednesday

Birding Montaña de Oro - Sunday/Wednesday

Islay Creek riparian habitat - Right, Islay Creek Road
left 2 mile loop Reservoir Flats Trail

Sunday - Islay Creek is located about 30-40 feet below a rough, unpaved road that follows the creek east for about 3 miles.  Due to the intense growth of Willows, Oak, Sycamore and native shrubbery, there are few places along the road where one is able to glimpse the water, much less see a tiny bird.

Since it was unlikely that I would see a bird in the creek, I identified the majority of them by sound - Birds heard but not seen were: Pacific Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Warbler, Wilson's Warbler (below), and Northern Flicker. Wilson's Warbler were numerous.  I was fortunate to see Mr. Wilson's as he flitted through a cluster of roadside Willow. 
  Wilson's Warbler - 3-5 inches, .30 ounces, is considered by Audubon, "Climate Threatened."

In the brush along the road were California Quail, Bewick's Wren, California Thrasher, Spotted Towhee, Wrentit, a very perky Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and a flock of Bushtit (below).
One of the perks of birding is the other animals one might see.  An Alligator Lizard was in the middle of the road.  It is much longer and thicker than the local lizards, about 15 inches.  The lizard was in no hurry to move.  With my walking stick I encouraged it to move into the brush, as I did not want it to be run over by a bicycle.
Sticky Phacelia blooming on the north side of Islay Creek Road

Wednesday - Hazard Canyon, a 1.5 mile road/trail that intersects Manzanita and East Boundry Trails.  The canyon is narrow and has a small seasonal creek.  The birds were the same as the Islay Creek birds with a few exceptions: Swainson's Thrush, a pair of Nuttall's Woodpecker checking out a hole in a Willow tree, and two active Scrub Jay (below).   
One of the marvelous aspects of Montaña de Oro State Park is the vast majority of it is inaccessible to humans.  Poison oak, stinging nettle, and densely vegetated creeks and hills keep people on the trails, which allows birds and the park's wild animals to thrive. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Birding Southwestern Arizona

Saguaro Cactus - White Tank Mountain Park, Arizona

My trip to Arizona was for a visit with family and a little birding.
                   View from Goat Camp Trail
White Tank Mountain Regional Park - The largest park in Maricopa County covers 29, 572 acres over 45 miles.  The range rises sharply from its base of 1400 feet to its highest peak (Barry Goldwater Peak) at 4,083 feet.  Climbing Barry Goldwater Peak was a bit beyond my capabilities.  I took the leisurely Goat Camp Trail with high hopes of seeing a few desert birds.  
Before I stepped on to the trail, I heard a Cactus Wren.  It took several minutes to locate the little darling, as there were many cacti.  Success at last.  A Cactus Wren was singing from a rather hefty Saguaro.  Although the Saguaro has a prickly nature, it plays host to a variety of animals. The Gila Woodpecker excavates nest cavities.  When the Woodpecker abandons the nest, an Elf Owl, Screech Owl, Purple Martin, Finch, or Sparrow may take up residence.  White-winged Dove, occasional visitor to the Central Coast, feast on the Saguaro fruits; Lesser Long-nosed Bat feeds on the nectar and pollen.  The Saguaro is a valuable asset to desert creatures.
The temperature was warm, 92° - 95° (33 C - 35C).  Fortunately, the birds cooperated - Curved-billed Thrasher, Costa's Hummingbird, Canyon Towhee, Gila Woodpecker (heard, not seen).  Upon leaving the park a Roadrunner sped across the road.
 Avondale Arizona - The tiny, 2oz Verdin is prolific.  Nearly every Palo Verde tree has a Verdin nest (photo taken in my brother's front yard).  It's light and cheerful song can be heard from dawn to dusk. 
While cruising through the agriculture areas of Avondale I was amazed to see an Osprey (common on Moro Bay) perched on a utility pole.   Although the Osprey possesses specialized characteristics that assist it in catching fish, they will also, on occasion, prey on small critters such as rodents and birds.  While looking at the Osprey a flock of Yellow-headed Blackbirds took flight from one of the fields.
Great-tailed Grackle (above) were abundant in the agriculture areas, especially where there were farms and dairies.  On the trip to Arizona I stopped in Blythe Calif., near the Arizona border.  Great-tailed Grackle had set up residence in palms trees that lined the parking area between two fast food establishments.  I have to admit I did leave them a few crumbs.  On the Central Coast Great-tailed Grackle can be found in the Costco parking lot near the food court.              
Estrella Mountain Regional Park - 19, 840 acres.  My brother and I walked up the Gila trail.  We saw or heard Cactus Wren, Say's Phoebe, Costa's Hummingbird, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Gambel's Quail, Red-tailed Hawk, and a male and female Phainopepla (below).
                        Male Phainopepla
The final Arizona bird on my journey was Arizona's state bird, a Cactus Wren.  He was boldly singing from atop a Palo Verde tree at an active Arizona rest stop on Interstate Highway 10; the fact that cars and trucks where coming and going nearby, did not faze the little singer one iota.

Back home - Today, in a Food 4 Less parking lot I saw a flock of Cedar Waxwing.  When you are out and about keep in mind, that birds can often be found in parking lots, highway Rest Areas, and around fast food restaurants.   Happy Spring Birding!


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Pre-Spring Observations

Montaña de Oro State Park - Oystercatcher's can often be seen on the rugged shale formations that reach out into the sea (above photo).   A few days ago observed three Oystercatcher's participating in what could be described as a mating ritual.  A pair possibly males, while cheeping loudly, were in unison, prancing and bobbing their heads while another Oystercatcher (below photo), possibly a female and slightly larger than the two prancers, sedately observed the action.  
Obviously she was not impressed with their performance, as she flew off.  The two males wasted not a moment, cheeping loudly, they dashed after her.  To my disappointment they flew out of sight.
Continuing with Montaña de Oro Observations - About two weeks ago California Thrasher, known as an exuberant songster, began his spring song fest.  Thrasher vocalizations mark territory, demonstrate motivation, and if luck prevails, attract females.  Like their cousin, the Northern Mockingbird, they are mimics.  The more varied their repertoire, the greater their attraction to females.

One of the delightful aspects of Thrashers is when they sing, they are perched atop a large bush and easy to observe.  The California Thrasher in the photo is perched on a Dune Lupine Bush.
Another songster that has begun his pre-spring vocalization at Montaña de Oro is the perky Wrentit.  Although the male sings all year, as spring approaches his song is more frequent.  Unfortunately, unlike the Thrasher, Wrentits are difficult to observe, as they spend most of their time well hidden in the brush, which this year is dense due to abundant rain.  When birding the coastal areas of California and you hear a song ending in a descending ping pong ball trill, you know that somewhere in the brush is a Wrentit. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Birding Before the Big Storm

Morro Bay Estuary - A  stormy, windy morning  - wind gusting at 16-27 mph. - a major rain storm was due.   I had walked to the Audubon Overlook.   Song Sparrow welcomed me with a cheerful greeting.  Kingfisher, making its usual rat-a-tat sound, landed on one of the pier pilings.  

The tide was on the way out.  In front of me, a large flock of Ruddy Duck floated peacefully.  Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Scaup, Green-winged Teal and one Cinnamon Teal, were feeding in the shallow water.  Along the edge of the receding tide, Long-billed Dowitcher and Willet probed the sand.  A vocal flock of Brant Goose, feeding across the bay, suddenly took flight when a high flying Osprey appeared. 
 The unofficial bird of the morning was the male Northern Shoveler.  A few minutes of sunlight highlighted the Shoveler's colors and in particular its white breast and deep cinnamon side.  (photo by Dick Daniels)
As the tide receded Willet, Long-billed Dowitcher (above), and Avocet arrived to feed in along the edge of the water.  On a nearby fence perched Say's and Black Phoebe.  Hidden in the brush a Spotted Towhee called.  I could have stayed at this peaceful overlook for hours, but the winds was picking up and it was time to head home.    

The Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival is next weekend.

I can guarantee there will be ample fascinating birds for the viewing pleasure of the participants.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Birding the Elfin Forest on Christmas Day

 Looking down on the Elfin Forest from the top of the Elfin Forest boardwalk.
 December 25th, 2016 - The last birding blog of the year.   The Elfin Forest Preserve is densely populated with California Native plants.  Due to recent rains, the preserve flora are cheerfully expressing themselves with new growth. 
 The preserve's abundant Coast Live Oak has produced a robust crop of male catkins from which bees were gathering nectar and pollen.  Hear bees gathering nectar.      Video also captured sounds of people walking by on the narrow boardwalk.   Many families were out for a walk.
 In the same area of the flowering oaks were flowering Fuchsia-flowering Gooseberry, a favorite of Anna's Hummingbird.  Several Anna's Hummingbirds were zipping back and forth, defending their territory.

As I meandered along the boardwalk, I spotted not one but two Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.  Not far from the Gnatcatcher, a California Thrasher and an Oak Titmouse were singing a duet.  Actually, they were making call sounds, perhaps establishing their territory.  
 Mixed Flock of ducks Year 2006 - The Eurasian Wigeon is circled

Morro Bay Estuary Birds -  The Elfin Forest offers excellent overlooks where one can observe ducks, raptors, and shorebirds, and with a scope, the entire estuary.  From the overlook I could see a variety of water fowl, shorebirds and wading birds.  Birds of interest were Dowitcher, American Avocet, Black-bellied Plover, and an Osprey eating her prey while perched atop half a sunken tire.  This proved to be my lucky day as I managed to get a clear and precise view of an Eurasian Wigeon.  Finding an Eurasia Wigeon is similar to finding a needle in a haystack. The male Eurasian looks exactly like the Northern except the Eurasian has a red head.  I was delighted! 

Elfin Forest Birds - White-crowned Sparrow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Scrub Jay, California Thrasher, Bewick's Wren, Oak Titmouse, Bushtit, Anna's Hummingbird, California Quail, Turkey Vulture.

Morro Bay Estuary Water Fowl - Brant Goose, Green-winged, Blue-winged and Cinnamon Teal.  Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Eared Grebe, American Wigeon.  Thus ends the last Birding Blog for 2016.
                                 Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Birding the Last King Tides of the Year

                             Sweet Springs Wetlands
King Tides occur when the Earth, Moon and Sun are aligned at perigee (when the moon is nearest the earth) and perihelion (when the earth is closest to the sun), resulting in the largest tidal range seen over the course of a year. In other words King Tides occur when the Earth is closest to the Sun.  * 1 (see end of blog for more on tides)

Yesterday's morning tide was 6.8, the highest of the year.  I arrived at Sweet Springs at 9:45.  The tide was moving into the ponds.  From the small bridge I watched the water slowly cease its forward movement. For several minutes it was still, as if it were resting. Slowly the water began its journey back to the sea.  Within an hour the tide will be moving swiftly.  The higher the tide, the swifter the tide moves out of the bay. I have watched kayakers trying to paddle against the tide.  With great effort they make no progress.
     Two male Blue-winged Teal, one female Mallard
Blue-winged Teal and Mallards were the only ducks feeding in the flooded pickleweed.  There was a Song Sparrow singing which was delightful.  Watched a deer grazing on the far side of the wetlands.  Out from the overlook was a huge flock of resting winter ducks, primarily Ruddy Duck and Greater Scaup with a few Western Grebe on the periphery.  The below photo only shows a small section of the ducks.  Can you find the a Western Grebe?
 I could not linger at Sweet Springs, as I wanted to get to the Morro Bay Marina to get a photo of the  Winter plumage Red-throated Loon that had come in on the tide the day before. Seeing the Red-throated Loon, who may have just flown in from its Arctic breeding grounds, was quite exciting as I have seldom seen one and only at a distance.  (below photo by Roger Zachery.  I did get a photo, but Roger's photo was better than mine.)
 My faithful friend, the Spotted Sandpiper who usually probes in the wet sand along the edge of the marina was sitting on a post.  There were several Pied-billed Grebe,  two Common Loon, a pair of Red-breasted Merganser, and a Partridge in a pear tree.  In the below photo can you find the Red-throated Loon.  It does show, if you squint when you look at the expanded image.
The diving ducks, Brant Goose, and the Avocet were further out.  Most of the shore birds were clustered on patches of pickleweed waiting for the tide to go out.   My last bird of the morning was an Orange-crowned Warbler flitting through the brush. 

The Christmas Bird Count is Saturday, the 17th.   I will be counting yard birds.  Last year I had 23 species.   I have high hopes the local Bald Eagle will fly over.  That would be a real feather in my Bird Count Cap.

1. Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun combined with the rotation of the Earth.

                                   Merry Holidays