Posted by: atowhee | March 24, 2008

Gray Monday, Great Birding

western_bluebird.jpg Male Western Bluebird, photo by Don Bruschera

Rainy, no blue sky to be seen, 45 degrees Fahrenheit.  Could be perfect weather for a Christmas Count or one of those other occasional masochistic forced marches birders are occasionally drawn to.  It is still the rainy season here in the Siskiyou.  Birsdsong, early wildflowers, a few buzzing insects, less snow on the mountain slopes–none of that means we’re through with rain, high elevation snow or just plain cold weather.  With the advent of birds all around the weather melted away like yesterday’s promise of sunshine.

The dense, heavy air kept the Turkey Vultures on their perches.  I passed a TV roost along Highway 66 on my way south toward Emigrant Lake.  They were all still hunched beneath the drizzle.  Some looked as if their small heads had actually been turtled back into their shoulders.  Some thin legs showed as I streaked past, so I turned the car around and got a binocular look.  Three Blue Heron nests among the TVs.

Once I got to Emigrant Lake the birding was fine, the action steady.  Three Lewis’s Woodpeckers were in the oaks before I even got to the toll booth (still closed) for the park.  Got out of my car at Parking Lot A.  I could see a couple RVs of sturdy folk across the lake in the campgrounds.  Otherwise it was me, the rain and the birds.  Wetsern Grebe: one pair was neck bobbing and calling. Common Mergansers, now most are in pairs. Not the uni-sex flocks so prevalent during the winter.  Noisome Mallards.  A pair Wood Ducks squeak an fly off in a panic.  There is hunting in some parts of the Bear Creek Valley.  Canada Geese, of course.

Nothing surprising in the oaks.  Yellow-rumped Warblers now in their mikgratory flocks.  Most will be leaving soon.  The Fox and Godlen-crowned Sparrows still around.  The year round residents were active, vocal.  Acorn Woodpeckers, Robins, Spotted Towhee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Oak Titmouse.  The White-crowned Sparrows were in breeding plumage though they mniay be wintering birds.  For color: the electric blue refracted off thwe wings of male Western Bluebirds.  The grass now is a rich, moist green, tree trunks a wet charcoal color, the sky was a dark gray.  Then suddenly your eye’s hit with  a spark of fluttering color.  A blue that March can only envy, a blue that May will show each morning in the sunrise sky, a blue I’ve seen in a Hawaiian lagoon, in the depths of the Ozarks’ Blue Spring, in the hardy bloom of the vinca minor.  There’s the male Bluebird, down in the wet grass, his head and back barely showing, but showing a deep azure, a joyous blue of vitality and vigor.

 There were two Osprey over the lake, not apparently paired.  A oone Bald Eagle sat erect but motionless in a bare tree onthe far side, watching the wet boat rowers moving about.  Despite the wind, the lake was flat as a small puddle. No wind, and no waves.  More ducks south of the old cemetery overlook.  And two California Gulls, first of many that will be in the area over the summer.  They do not breed nearby but do east of the Cascades.

Then I spot three shorebirds patrolling a weedy shoreline.  Taller than the nearby Killdeer. vividly mottled brownish backs, spotted chests.  Thin, yellow legs.  At first I imagine I’m seeing Lesser Yelloowlegs but the shape is not right, the body too heavy.  Later I check my field guide.  Breeding plumage Spotted Sandpipers.  My first of the season. It’s early but they do arrive in larger numbers in a few weeks and breed along streams and lakeshores here.  Unlike the pale gray wintering Spotties you get along the California Coast, these are spotted Spotties, brightly marked and altogether a comely critter to behold.

Location:     Emigrant Lake
Observation date:     3/24/08
Notes:     Western Grebe in courtship mode.  Spotted Sandpipers in their striking breedking plumage, early arrivals. Lewis’s Woodpeckers in oaks just before toll booth to developed park. 45-degrees with light rain, not good weather for soaring birds: swallows and raptors.
Number of species:     41

Canada Goose     13
Wood Duck     2
Mallard     84
Green-winged Teal     18
Ring-necked Duck     1
Bufflehead     4
Common Merganser     14
Ruddy Duck     2
Western Grebe     6
Double-crested Cormorant     7
Great Blue Heron     2
Osprey     2
Bald Eagle     1
American Coot     5
Killdeer     5
Spotted Sandpiper     3
Ring-billed Gull     1
California Gull     2
Mourning Dove     1
Lewis’s Woodpecker     3
Acorn Woodpecker     14
Western Scrub-Jay     9
American Crow     11
Tree Swallow     2
Oak Titmouse     1
White-breasted Nuthatch     1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     2
Western Bluebird     6
Hermit Thrush     2
American Robin     25
European Starling     60
Yellow-rumped Warbler     14
Spotted Towhee     2
Fox Sparrow     1
White-crowned Sparrow     6
Golden-crowned Sparrow     23

Western Meadowlark 5

Red-winged Blackbird 20

Brewer’s Blackbird 12
Purple Finch     9
House Finch     6

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

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