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Posted by: atowhee | May 13, 2018

FREEWAY BIRDING THE SACRAMENTO VALLEY

SUNDAY, May 13

Today Dylan, my eldest son, and I birded several spots south of Chico.  Our first hotspot was the Thermolito Forebay in the Oroville Wildlife Management Area, just east of Hwy 99 between Chico and Gridley.  The highlight there was a small flock of Black Terns feeding over the water.  There we also found a pair of Killdeer nesting near a parking area, and we found an egg after going right when the adult birds tried to decoy us into following then toward the left.  But it was not the speckled Killdeer, egg what was it? Perhaps a Red-winged or Brewer’s Blackbird, as it was right color and some of their eggs have little black speckling like the one we found, and left there on the ground.B-BIRD EGGhansumSure the Cinnamon Teal male has some nice sun glow, but then look at the iridescent White-faced Ibis:ibis aglowBut who could possible outshine a Tree Swallow in full sun…maybe a hummingbird?ts-bright

Along Hwy 162 we found a raven’s nest on a power pole.ravnestravnest2

Next it was south to Gray Lodge Wildlife Area where we found a desert bird that loves water—a Phainopepla feeding from atop a small dead tree in the middle of a nearly dried-up marsh pond.  This area is near the northern edge of their breeding range which reaches another forty miles north to Red Bluff. PHAIN-APHAIN-BPHAIN-C

There were three very busy flycatcher species: Western Kingbird, Ash-throated Flycatcher and Black Phoebe.  One phoebe we watched feeding a fledgling along the edge of a pond (which was getting water pumped into it).  The turtles there must have been grateful.  All around it marshes were drying up.

From there we drove past the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area and found several shorebirds: a half dozen Long-billed Curlews and a single Whimbrel.  Also, here we found our first White-faced Ibis of the day and a Common Gallinule.

Onward to the auto tour route of the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, much of it dry or drying.  There we got our first harrier of the day, a male.  And our only Swainson’s Hawk, far up in the sky, harassed even there by blackbirds.  There were both pheasant and Wild Turkey there and our only night-heron of the day.  Thence to Delevan NWR to find—and we did—our Yellow-headed Blackbird.yhb3

We had three Long-billed Dowitchers at Colusa, then five more at Delevan. The most abundant bird of the day must have been Cliff Swallows, nesting in colonies under almost every bridge we crossed or drove past. Just a handful of the many Cliff Swallows swarming around a single bridge, and their condo nests below the roadbed:cs frenzycs nestrowNot a single avocet or stilt all day.  No kite, no shrike, no eagles.  One deer, one jackrabbit and countless Turkey Vultures.  Death must be doing well.

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