Posted by: atowhee | January 29, 2016


At the Chico Goose Festival today all 22 registrants showed up in the wind, spitting rain and cold…to go see Sandhill Cranes and look for raptors.  We found the cranes thanks to our local co-leader, then the raptors found us.  Some images of the day:EGL UPPThis is one of several Bald Eagles we saw.  Keep in mind it was rainy, very subdued light and colors were very hard to see against the muted skylight.

Cow and cranes, just a bit south of Chico.COZ-CRNS CRAN GANG CRANIAL1Cranes fly with legs extended as tail rudder or sometimes dangling down.  Swans fly with their feet pulled up beneath their body.  Both have their long extended necks in flight. CRANIAL2We saw plenty of cranes and Tundra swans in flight as they came and went from a magical mud patch right along Hwy 99 south of Chico a few miles:SWN FLITE1Swans up, legs tucked in, warmly. SWAN FLITE (1280x960)Swans coming down, landing gear in place: LANDING (1280x960) FLAT OUT (1280x960)Cranes in air, group of three is likely parents and youngster from last summer.  They migrate in family groups which is not usual for most bird species. cranial4 cranial3Here’s what the muddy field looked like from human eye level.  Cranes always most cautious and in the back.

big birds best BIG BIRDS1Click on images for full screen view, gray-necked cranes are youkng of last summer.  The colors on the cranes are staining from ground chemicals, like iron compounds. BIG BIRDS2Tow cranes doing a bit of a dance in the background.  Mostly the cranes were feeding lazily or simply lazing around, watching the hominids. BIG BIRDS3 At this location we saw additional Bald Eagles, a young Golden Eagle who sent most of the nearby ducks and geese into the air, numerous Harriers including the first male I’ve seen here.  One Harrier harried by a speeding Merlin (is there any other kind?  Yes, there are occasional perched ones.)  A Peregrine that put on a high speed (is there any other kind) aerial display in the gusting, blasting wind over our heads, Red-tails hung about and Turkey Vultures came and went.

Later a wind-blown Llano Seco we added a Loggerhead Shrike to a day list.  He was having real trouble with the wind.  Most of the ducks there were tucked in.  Three Bald Eagles were all on the ground.  We had a pair of Cackling Geese, not common this far south.

Butte County, California, US
Jan 29, 2016 9:50 AM – 12:50 PM
Comments:     Most sightings were south of Chico, west of Hwy 99
18 species

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)  X
Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens)  X
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  4
Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus)  1500
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)  X
Great Egret (Ardea alba)  2
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  X
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)  1
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)  4
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  7
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  4
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)  25
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
Merlin (Falco columbarius)  1
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)  1
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  6
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)  30
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  2000

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