Posted by: atowhee | January 24, 2020

FRIDAY’S EAGLES

Our Snow Goose Festival field trip here in Butte County today was focused on ducks, but as we quickly learned waterfowl here in winter do not come without certain observers.  Not just birders, but a ring of Bald Eagles along the edge of Llano Seco NWR.  While we watched one adult eagle flew over a large shallow pool and sent thousands of ducks and geese and even some of the coots into squawking flight.  In one distance tree through the fog we could see a trio of first year eagles shoulder to shoulder.

More images, including a belching Turkey Vulture:

Sacramento River NWR–Llano Seco Unit, Butte, California, US
Jan 14, 2020
35 species

Snow Goose  X
Greater White-fronted Goose  X
Canada Goose  X
Tundra Swan  X
Wood Duck  10
Northern Shoveler  X
American Wigeon  X
Northern Pintail  X
Green-winged Teal  X
Bufflehead  X
Ruddy Duck  X
Mourning Dove  1
American Coot  X
Sandhill Crane  X
Black-necked Stilt  X
Killdeer  X
Greater Yellowlegs  X
Herring Gull  X
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  1
Turkey Vulture  X
Northern Harrier  2
Bald Eagle  X
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  X
American Kestrel  X
Black Phoebe  3
Loggerhead Shrike  1
Common Raven  2
White-crowned Sparrow  X
Savannah Sparrow  X
Western Meadowlark  X
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Brewer’s Blackbird  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1

Posted by: atowhee | January 24, 2020

GOOSE FESTIVAL GALLERY

In the phoebe-on-phence photo you will see a crane in the far lower right corner.  The nest was an oriole’s from last spring.  The Greater Yellowlegs was at Llano Seco.
The large white birds rising in the air are Tundra Swans, note there is no black on their wings unlike white geese and most pale gulls.  The meadowlark was singing from his scrawny tree perch at Llano Seco.  Not many of our songbirds will actually sing in January.

Posted by: atowhee | January 23, 2020

DAY OF THE CRANES

A field trip today at the Chico Snow Goose Festival…we were focused on cranes and raptors.  Red-tails galore, kestrels, far-off Bald Eagles, one distant Peregrine.  And one posing Harrier in perfect light at Llano Seco:HARR BRIGHT (2)CRANE GALLERY

Thus lone heron was along the berm near the cranes and when the cranes did their territorial dance this heron moved away from the larger birds to an empty stretch of berm.IMG_4127 (2)

SHRIKE GALLERY

Loggerhead Shrike at viewing platform for Llano Seco along 7 Mile Lane.

Sacramento River NWR–Llano Seco Unit, Butte, California, US
Jan 23, 2020
32 species

Snow Goose  X
Ross’s Goose  X
Greater White-fronted Goose  X
Cackling Goose  1
Canada Goose  X
Northern Shoveler  X
American Wigeon  X
Northern Pintail  X
Green-winged Teal  X
Bufflehead  X
Ruddy Duck  X
American Coot  X
Sandhill Crane  X
Black-necked Stilt  20
Killdeer  2
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Ring-billed Gull  X
Great Blue Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  2
Northern Harrier  1
Bald Eagle  8
Red-tailed Hawk  3
American Kestrel  2
Black Phoebe  3
Loggerhead Shrike  1
American Crow  X
Tree Swallow  6
American Pipit  1
Savannah Sparrow  15
Western Meadowlark  X
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Brewer’s Blackbird  X

Posted by: atowhee | January 23, 2020

PINTAIL PLEASURES

Llano Seco NWR, Butte County, Californiapt8

Pintails paddling about, feeding with heads down in the water, butts up.  The pin tails waving like banners of bravado.  No other ducks hereabouts have such a lance to lift.  In mellow evening light the pinions preened with precision.  Other creatures may be pinnate but Pintails present pinnation at pinnacle.  Please to admire my plumage, the propinquity of my mate is propitious and pleasing but perhaps pro forma.  For who could resist?  Pintail elegance is beyond the rest of us.  Sure Wood and Mandarin Ducks are showy,  Hooded Mergansers can display and surprise, even Gadwalls can show us how nature does the finest tweeds, but Pintails humble, humor and honor at once—behold and be in awe for living beauty is afloat.  Gotta go eat now, butts up.PT1PT1PT2PT3PT4pt6PT5

I am here in Chico for the annual Goose Festival, which could be Waterfowl Wonderland  or Duck Delirium or Pintail Parade.

Another bird of interest at Llano Seco was a Loggerhead Shrike, more of challenge to photograph, not a big fan of social media.LOSH HIDES (2)

Posted by: atowhee | January 22, 2020

BEFORE THE GOOSE FESTIVAL

Chico’s annual goose fest is underway.  I lead my first field trip tomorrow and today my wife and I did some scouting after we arrived mid-afternoon.  An hour or so at Llano Seco along Seven Mile Lane was bird-jammed.  First we went south on Hwy 99 a few miles from Chico to watch cranes dancing afield.  Then at Llano Seco the sun was lower in the sky and looking east the colors of dusk began to glow.  Then a flock of at least 100 peeps–I suspect western Sandpipers–began to perform a swirling murmuration against dark blue hills and gray sky.  They shown brightly, silver splinters, as they performed their synchronized swim through the air.CRANE DANCE2 (1)SILVER BIRDS (2)Sacramento River NWR–Llano Seco Unit, Butte, California, US
Jan 22, 2020
33 species in less than two hours

Snow Goose  X
Ross’s Goose  X
Greater White-fronted Goose  X
Cackling Goose  X
Canada Goose  X
Northern Shoveler  X
American Wigeon  X
Northern Pintail  X
American Coot  X
Sandhill Crane  X
Black-necked Stilt  X
Killdeer  X
Western Sandpiper  X
Greater Yellowlegs  2
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Great Egret  1
Turkey Vulture  30
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Northern Harrier  2
Bald Eagle  2
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
American Kestrel  1
Black Phoebe  1
Loggerhead Shrike  1
American Pipit  2
White-crowned Sparrow  20
Golden-crowned Sparrow  10
Savannah Sparrow  40
Western Meadowlark  8
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Brewer’s Blackbird  X

Posted by: atowhee | January 20, 2020

TODAY’S THEME: EATING

Bushtits.  Lesser Goldfinches.  Juncos.  Red-breasted Sapsucker.  Fressing.  And one of the Bushtits has pale eye, a mature female.  Today’s lone loafer, a resting male Anna’s Hummer.

House Finches:ho finch x 3 (2)b-trayed (2)In the last two images we see junco arrival and two of the finches giving him the eye:

SAPSUCKER AT JOE DANCER PARK
Don’t you wish you could own a sweater or pair of socks that copied the scalloped pattern on this guy’s chest?

Hummer and hellebore, one of winter’s flowers:

Some of the latest evidence on birds and their dino-ancestors.  Click here.

Posted by: atowhee | January 19, 2020

JAN-GALLERY

Above: lone siskin who appears occasionally.  Auddie, the warbler, who’s been here multiple times each day since November.
Below: Myrtle Warbler who’s been daily for about a week, does not consort with Auddie.  Red-breasted Nuthatch with hidden junco in background.  Nuthatch on left, one of our trio of CB Chickadees on the right.

Pre-digital Bewick’s Wren…analog…logged on.  Twittering in third shot:

IMG_2961rnbow (2)My next blog is likely to be from California.  I am headed to Chico for some field trip leading at the Goose Festival later this week.  Lots of cranes and wintering waterfowl.  Maybe a few California specialties like Nuttall’s Woodpecker.

Posted by: atowhee | January 17, 2020

WINTER HUNTERS

I have seen three small raptors here in McMinnville in the past 36 hours.  Yesterday morning at Joe Dancer Park we were walking two dogs.  High in a bare cottonwood was a small hawk with its back to us.  I often see the kestrel pair that live in and around that park.  Light was bad, it was rainy, I had no binocs.  My wife and I assumed it was one of the kestrels.  I took a few shots anyway. Here is what I saw and then what was revealed by enlarging the digital image:

Those white patches on the back are indicative of an accipiter with its feathers fluffed up for insulation.  Temp was mid-thirties at the time, 100% humidity.  I think this was a male Cooper’s Hawk.  I can see the dark malar stripe down the face, hint of a flatish head…and it was perched in more exposed position than a typical sharpie would use.  Then mid-day today an adult female Coop zipped into our garden emptying all feeders of diners.  Freaking out the squirrels.  I grab my camera in pursuit.  I walked across a small wooden footbridge we have and from beneath shot a doubly terrified little squirrel…first death from the sky, than a giant crashing along his roof.  Eeek.  The other eight squirrels were up in the trees , complaining loudly.
I found the Coop, across the street in the tallest tree, looking longingly back at our feeder display:coop looksbackThen our re-visit of Joe Dancer today: a kestrel as usual, causing no alarm for the robins, juncos and flicker ground feeding beneath its falcon flight.
MYRTLE GALLERY

Since the first week of November last year we have been owned by a possessive, aggressive Audubon’s Warbler.  He has the self-righteous personality of some people we see too much on TV.  The myrtle has only been around a few days but seems able to come and go with no interference from the established co-gener.  Last year our yellow-rump(s) were seen here until early April.
Some other garden visitors:

Posted by: atowhee | January 16, 2020

GETTING CLOSE TO MY NEIGHBORS

UPDATE: I got this email from Dr. Sarah Sloane. She wrote the BNA species account for Bushtits.  Her university post is in Maine so I am convinced she studies Bushtits because they are cool, and they live in warm places.
“In answer to one of your questions on your blog: Both bushtit males and females flock together year round. Small flocks of females may peel off and disperse in early spring. At least that’s what they did in Arizona. I’m not sure yet about the Pacific NW, but I should know soon. Female eye color is fully changed within a few weeks of leaving the nest, so your dark-eyed birds in January are most certainly males! All winter flocks I’ve seen have both males and females, but there is a male-biased sex ratio in general, so females are less common.”
Thanks, Dr. Sloane.  I shall closely surveying our Bushtits for pale eyed ones.

The Bushtits come, the Bushtits go, but they never leave the area.  Somewhere nearby they all pack into a tree cavity at night, sharing  body warmth*.  They are the only member of their genus to live in Americas, their cousins are all in Eurasia.  They share that with the Wrentit, another western bird whose ancestors must have come over from Siberia.  Neither species is a notorious distance flier, not even a migrator.

Today I refilled our suet logs in late morning.  That is their favorite food source though they will use suet blocks or even an occasional sunflower seed chip.  After I re-hung the logs I stepped a few feet to watch.  Within seconds the Bushtits were back.  The bushes were aflutter with tiny wings and  bold with staring eyes.  They ignored me as either friend or irrelevant.  My wife can hear their high-pitched tittering.  Perhaps they were commenting on the excellent cuisine on offer.  I could hear only the faint fluffing of tiny wings beating against air, nano-turbulence creating a sound that hinted at being imagined.  If I closed my eyes I might have thought of falling leaves.

Here we wee one Bushtit come in from the right, talons extended for landing.  Then he lands smoothly:

If I smeared suet on my hat, they might land on my head.  Don’t think I’ll try that.
BUSHTIT GALLERY
I note they all seem to have black eyes, meaning male or juveniles.  Do the females form gender-specific flocks in winter as some shorebirds tend to do, or Red-winged Blackbirds sometimes do?

*Here’s what Birds of North America online has to say about Bushtit body heat and metabolism: “Body temperature 38.6°C () [101.5 Fahrenheit].  Small body-mass-to-surface ratio (average 5.5 g) results in high heat loss. Individuals need to eat about 80% of body mass/d in insects to avoid losing weight (at 20°C ambient temperature; ). When stressed by having less food, individuals lost weight, moved more, and exhibited slight hypothermia at 10°C; unlikely that Bushtits use hypothermia as a way to deal with extreme cold, however ().  Huddling is a major behavioral adaptation for coping with cold. In Washington State, when ambient temperature below freezing, Bushtits perched tightly packed together; when above freezing, spacing is greater (3 cm; ). Huddling conserves both heat and energy.”

Posted by: atowhee | January 15, 2020

SNOW, ALERT

There was light snow here in McMinnville this morning.  The dog and I went for a late walk hoping for better times, and around 1030AM when we were out there just a few spits of tiny flakes.  But it was still only 32 degrees.  I was surprised to see an Anna’s Hummingbird sitting up in a bush at a neighbor’s home.  Fifteen feet away was his nectar feeder, apparently some liquid inside and presumably not frozen.  No torpor for this guy–alert to protect his food source.

I was heavily clothed.  The dog wore two layers.  We were cold and we each have a body temp well below that of a living hummingbird.  My temp was the ordinary 98.6 of our species.  A dog is usually from 100 to 102 degrees.  Mr. Hummer is running at around 107 or more!  So he was 75 degrees hotter than the air he was inhaling.  Imagine the energy he needs just to maintain that body temp.
Moral: if you’re gonna feed hummers in winter.  Do it, don’t be lackadaisical.

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