Posted by: atowhee | June 22, 2010

Calaveras Big Birds

Our group went into the Sierra foothills today to Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Most visitors know it as the home of the giant sequoia, inland cousin of the coastal redwood.  But on and among the sequoia are some fine birds to be seen.  White-headed Woodpecker.  Pileated Woodpecker.  Red-breasted Sapsucker, parent and fledgling learning to forage.  Townsend’s Solitaire.  Canyon Wren signing beneath Stanislaus River Bridge for better reverb.

Two shots of a White-headed Woodpecker on a sequoia’s trunk.

Some of our group heard the magical, musical Canyon Wren song before we located the bird.  He was using the echo and amplification effect of the high bridge to good advantage.  His song is a musical chime bouncing smoothly down the scale.  And he’s an active forager, under and over and around the boulders along his native river bed.

Left to right: two shots of a Solitaire.  Pileated Woodpecker up high against the sky.  This bird had been calling for some time before we found him.


Before we reached Calaveras Big Trees State Park (BTSP) at 4300′ elevation, we climbed up through several miles of already sere oak savannah on both sides of California Hwy 4.  At one pull-out, bingo: Pac-slope Flycatcher, Bullock’s Oriole, Western Bluebird, Lazuli Bunting who sang as soon as we got out of the car.


This bold Douglas squirrel attended our mid-day meal at a large picnic table in Calaveras BTSP.  He’s named after the same David Douglas as the iris and “fir.”

Other luncheon attendees included a  pair of quarrelsome Steller’s Jays who had many loud comments about the fare, the fairness of the portions we served them and one another’s willingness to be greedy.


We were scoping a large farm pond along Hwy 4 in the arid eastern section of Stanislaus County.  Meadowlark, blackbird, Mallard X Peking Duck, Great Egret, Barn Swallow, Avocet, Killdeer, baby Killd… no wait, those are TWO SEMIPALMATED PLOVER!  Huh?  Turns out they are occasional over-summering birds that do not migrate.  Also, do not breed here apparently.  They were on the mudflats right where they belong and only about 100 miles from the coast.

We now have 132 bird species for our California expedition.  We added twelve new ones today.  Everybody in the group got at least one lifer, including the Hermit Warbler who was new for even the trip organizers from Cheepers, and they’ve birded the West frequently.  Tomorrow: Monterey Bay.



    In case you want to see what a hermit warbler looks like.

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