Posted by: atowhee | February 19, 2017


Feb. 19-2017, Sunday

This morning Nora and I got in a walk under sunny skies, wind from the west.  It rained all night and the wind is bringing in the next rain storm.  At 13th and Michelbook the oaks had a trio of Robins, White-breasted Nuthatch, Anna’s Hummingbird and Acorn Woodpecker.  In one garden below the trees there were Juncos and a vocal Spotted Towhee.  One of the male Juncos sang, first time I’ve heard Junco song this year.  Yesterday there was a singing Flicker at Joe Dancer and one male actually gave the bubbling hiccup call that you only hear in courtship situations. Two male Robins were sparring.  Also at Dancer a male Anna’s Hummer was in the same spot on the same limb in the same tree for a second straight day.  That is apparently going to be his stronghold as he awaits the return of migrant females.

Yesterday at Dancer all the starlings lifted up from the grass and whirled around in a confused and confusing flock.  Then I saw coming at me, only fifty feet above the ground, the cause: a Cooper’s Hawk heading to the trees along the river.

For the first time today a Myrtle Warbler came into our garden.  This is NOT War-war who is a brightly colored male Audubon’s.   This warbler is very pale and its only visible yellow was the rump patch while War-war flashes his yellow crown, has a bold golden throat and yellow side-lines below each wing. We have two Varied Thrush, one male and one female but they never appear together.


Many species of wildlife have adapted to accommodations and habitats that are artificial.  I’ve seen mammals and birds in the midst of people and their machines around the world. When I was a kid Barn Swallows nested just overhead in the barn where I milked the cows. A small sloth lives in a tiny clump of trees at the edge of the bay in Panama City.  Lesser Kestrels hawk insects as they swarm around the rooftops on summer nights in Trujillo, Spain.  A gang of agouti shuffle through the leaves in a hotel garden in Coca, Ecuador. In that same garden a huge macaw came to our breakfast table, flew on board and proceeded to take all the butter in one greasy gulp. In England Jackdaws prefer human monuments for nesting—from Stonehenge to Tudor castles.  Brewer’s Blackbirds clean abandoned plates outside the student union cafeteria on the Stanford University campus. At dawn a fox hunts the alleys between Blackfriars train station and St. Paul’s in London. One fox stole my boots from behind our house in New Cross Gate, London.  Christmastime will find Black Redstarts catching insects on the spires of the Gothic cathedral in Chartres, France. The same species patrols the ruins of the Roman Forum. White Storks and Red Kites plunder the city dump on the eastern edge of Rabat, Morocco.  Nearby those storks nest on the ruins of the old Roman capital, Volubilis.  Three species of swifts nest under the old Roman Bridge in Merida, Spain. Rose-ringed parakeets scream overhead near Amsterdam’s Vondelpark.  In Frankfurt Egyptian Geese now graze on park lawns. A Dalmatian Pelican took up residence at one town’s fishing dock on the island of Lesvos.  In daytime foot-long fruit bats hang from the ceiling of our hotel near Lake Victoria in Uganda. In Ashland, Oregon, Dippers regularly nest under the bridge in the center of town. An Asian Cuckoo lives in a tiny courtyard of a high-rise hotel in central Tokyo. Pukeko wade through roadside pools in New Zealand, impervious to speeding traffic. Yellow Wagtails run up and down the park paths in Rome’s Aventino.  Yellow Warblers patrol the docks and sidewalks of towns in the Galapagos.  Common Kestrels nest in the stonework around the gigantic rose window on Notre Dame’s river side. House Sparrows have the timing down so they come and go through the doors of the Deux Magots café in Paris’ Saint Germain quarter.  Hand-raised green sea turtles will swim up and touch you as you swim offshore of Hawaii Island’s west side resorts. California sea lions prefer fishing docks at Pier 39 to hard rocks in San Francisco Bay. Peregrines all over the world love high-rises and tall bridge towers for nesting.  In San Francisco Killdeer nest on flat roofs while Western Gulls patrol playgrounds for discarded goodies.

In tropical lands small primates are often the most successful interlopers in the world of man.  But in San Francisco I believe it to be the corvids: raven, crow, two jay species. They are smart, social, communicative omnivores.  Sound familiar?

By 1900 the corvid family was on most Americans’ kill list.  They supposedly ruined crops and killed lots of baby birds.  So they were summarily executed.  There was no “corvid lives matter” movement until they almost disappeared.  It wasn’t until the 1970s that jays, crows and ravens actually began to survive and reproduce in San Francisco.  Now they thrive and are not shot on sight.  Sound like a good idea for some other social omnivores?

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