20 December 2011

Game of Fly Overs

It's no surprise that I keep all kinds of bird lists, I've been doing that ever since I was a young kid.  However, one particular list has been especially fun to work on the last several years, the yard list.

I recently moved to California from Ames, Iowa where I also kept a yard list.  My urban yard there provided me with more than 120 species.  However, once I realized where I was going to live in California, I realized my yard list was going to be dismal.  Not to fear, that's kind of the fun aspect of keeping a yard list.  Sure, it may not be anything great or have tons of species on it.  Instead, it's just another way to keep me actively looking for birds.

My "yard" in Elk Grove literally only consists of a patio deck up on the second floor.  Instead of facing a stream like it did in Iowa, my patio faces a four-lane boulevard.  The road is lined with some kind of ornamental cherry tree but other than those and a couple hedges and trees across the road, there really isn't much to work with.  However, there is sky... and plenty of it.

When I moved here I told myself I would be happy if I could get to 20 or 30 species.  Pretty high standards, eh?  Soon after, I actually managed 20 or 30 species but thought that 50 species would be completely out of reach.  Well, just the other day it finally happened; number 50 came in the form of a NUTTALL'S WOODPECKER that landed briefly in a tree top across the boulevard.

This raised a question I had; "How many of my yard birds have I actually seen PERCHED from my patio/yard?".  For example, a flyover gull or hawk wouldn't qualify but the Nuttall's Woodpecker that landed within view for 20 seconds would.  I started keeping track.

As it stands now, 66% of my yard birds are fly-over only, species that I have NOT seen perched.  I imagine in Iowa, that percentage was lower than 20%.

Anyway, since I hit the 50 mark, I just thought I'd throw a post together to show folks what truly is common around this neighborhood.

Goose, Canada
Swan, Tundra
Pintail, Northern
Goldeneye, Common
Cormorant, Double-crested
Egret, Snowy
Egret, Great
Ibis, White-faced
Vulture, Turkey
Kite, White-tailed
Harrier, Northern
Hawk, Sharp-shinned
Hawk, Cooper's
Hawk, Red-shouldered
Hawk, Swainson's
Hawk, Red-tailed
Kestrel, American
Falcon, Peregrine
Crane, Sandhill
Yellowlegs, Greater
Curlew, Long-billed
Sandpiper, Least/Western
Gull, California
Pigeon, Rock
Dove, Mourning
Swift, White-throated
Hummingbird, Anna's
Kingfisher, Belted
Woodpecker, Nuttall's
Flicker, Northern
Phoebe, Black
Scrub-Jay, Western
Crow, American
Raven, Common
Swallow, Tree
Swallow, Barn
Kinglet, Ruby-crowned
Robin, American
Mockingbird, Northern
Starling, European
Pipit, American
Waxwing, Cedar
Warbler, Yellow-rumped
Blackbird, Red-winged
Blackbird,  Yellow-headed
Blackbird, Brewer's
Grackle, Great-tailed
Oriole, Bullock's
Finch, House
Goldfinch, American

19 December 2011

Stockton CBC

We participated in the 44th annual Stockton Christmas Bird Count this past weekend.

The tule fog made it difficult to see much until about noon but it eventually cleared.  We tallied 88 species in our area in about 8 hours:

Pied-billed Grebe - 4
Double-crested Cormorant - 10
American Bittern - 3
Great Blue Heron - 4
Great Egret - 9
Snowy Egret - 5
Cattle Egret - 1
Green Heron - 1
White-faced Ibis - 87
Tundra Swan - 289
Greater White-fronted Goose - 160
Snow Goose - 152
Ross's Goose - 8
Cackling Goose - 632
Wood Duck - 1
Gadwall - 1
American Wigeon - 7
Mallard - 8
Northern Shoveler - 5
Northern Pintail - 41
Green-winged Teal - 5
Canvasback - 12
Common Goldeneye - 1
Ruddy Duck - 1
White-tailed Kite - 8
Northern Harrier - 12
Sharp-shinned Hawk - 1
Cooper's Hawk - 2
Red-shouldered Hawk - 3
Red-tailed Hawk - 14
American Kestrel - 6
Sora - 1
American Coot - 395
Sandhill Crane - 124
Killdeer - 19
Black-necked Stilt - 27
Greater Yellowlegs - 7
Least Sandpiper - 10
Dunlin - 1
Long-billed Dowitcher - 6
Wilson's Snipe - 21
Bonaparte's Gull - 108
Ring-billed Gull - 97
California Gull - 1
Herring Gull - 6
Forster's Tern - 2
Rock Pigeon - 22
Mourning Dove - 20
Barn Owl - 8
Great Horned Owl - 2
Belted Kingfisher - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Nuttall's Woodpecker - 1
Northern Flicker - 2
Black Phoebe - 5
Say's Phoebe - 2
Western Scrub-Jay - 5
American Crow - 30
Horned Lark - 45
Tree Swallow - 7
Bushtit - 4
Bewick's Wren - 2
House Wren - 3
Marsh Wren - 5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 2
American Robin - 24
Northern Mockingbird - 1
European Starling - 40
American Pipit - 50
Orange-crowned Warbler - 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler - 2
Common Yellowthroat - 5
Spotted Towhee - 3
Savannah Sparrow - 31
Fox Sparrow - 4
Song Sparrow - 17
Lincoln's Sparrow - 5
White-throated Sparrow - 1
Golden-crowned Sparrow - 26
White-crowned Sparrow - 135
Dark-eyed Junco - 25
Red-winged Blackbird - 335
Western Meadowlark - 45
Yellow-headed Blackbird - 2
Brewer's Blackbird - 265
Great-tailed Grackle - 2
House Finch - 50
American Goldfinch - 3
House Sparrow - 44

Here are a few pictures from the CBC starting with a BEWICK'S WREN:

We had several COMMON YELLOWTHROATS as well including this male:

The WHITE-TAILED KITES were present in strong numbers as would be expected:

One of the better birds we stumbled on in our area was this WHITE-THROATED SPARROW:

We ended the day by watching up to 8 BARN OWLS hunting at a duck club.  On our way out, we spotted this guy perched on a power line right next to the car:

Other than the CBC, we went out to the coast the previous weekend.  Here is a WESTERN SCRUB-JAY near Bodega Bay:

I've enjoyed seeing MEW GULLS on a more regular basis.  This adult was in Bodega Bay:

Ash spotted this flock of BLACK TURNSTONES and SURFBIRDS on Bodega head:

We swung by a Hudeman Slough in Solano County which has been hosting a RUFF.  As usual, my distant digiscoped pics are pretty terrible:

While at the Ruff spot, this WHITE-TAILED KITE gave me a look I couldn't pass up on:

While working on Staten Island the other day, this AMERICAN MINK came out of the cattails while I was pishing for sparrows:

This FORSTER'S TERN also flew by at the mink spot:

A little later that morning this ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK put on a good show overhead:

I'm sure this isn't the first time I've posted a picture of an AMERICAN PIPIT, it probably won't be the last either:

A little closer to home, this NORTHERN HARRIER apparently had an itch to scratch right as it passed over my home patio:

Last but not least, I swung up to the Yolo County Landfill.  My target was to relocate a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL and GLAUCOUS GULL that had been reported by SH.  I worked through the flock for maybe an hour and came away with the LBBG but not the GLGU.  Here is a very distant digiscoped picture of the LBBG:

10 December 2011

Already December

If you don't check my Flickr page, many of these images from the last week will be new to you.

Last weekend we took a hike up along Cache Creek in Yolo County.  Pretty neat country!  We heard/saw things like VARIED THRUSH, CALIFORNIA THRASHER, and RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKERS.  

In addition, we had great looks (which aren't all that common) of a WRENTIT:

The common CALIFORNIA TOWHEES were abundant.  This one perched in nice light for a few seconds:

Later in the day we spun down through Solano County to look for various open-country birds.  Our best sighting was this ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK which was my first of the fall:

If you spend much time in the Delta, pishing at most thickets will pull out GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROWS:

Another bird that is hard to miss are the many SANDHILL CRANES.  Here is a particularly tame one:

NORTHERN HARRIERS seem to be the most common raptor where I spend my time working.  Here is one that was soaring around me:

RED-TAILED HAWKS are also common.  This one was being pestered by a PEREGRINE FALCON which resulted in some pretty amusing interaction poses:

I've really enjoyed being around shorebirds this late in the winter.  I've essentially lived my whole life in places that had no winter shorebirds.  One day this past week I tallied 11 species of shorebirds including this WILSON'S SNIPE:

... and this LEAST SANDPIPER:

The many canals around here host many AMERICAN COOTS and various grebes.  This is a HORNED GREBE:

By far the most common winter warbler here are YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS:

Not entirely abundant but not all that rare either are COMMON GALLINULES:

The biggest highlight for us this month so far was seeing the FALCATED DUCK up at Colusa NWR in Colusa County.  This ABA Code-4 bird was a lifer for both of us and would represent the 3rd state record for California (pending acceptance).  The looks were very distant and the pictures are of a very poor quality (the duck is the sleeping bird in the back with the silver mantle):

Working around here near dusk provides some nice photo opportunities.  Of course, this is only taken with my phone, nothing fancier:

03 December 2011

Lazy Saturday

I didn't get out early today, instead we spent the late afternoon at a couple local spots here in Sacramento County.  We visited the short, public loop at Stone Lakes NWR as well as the Cosumnes River Preserve.

I typically don't post entire lists from outings, I usually find them annoying.  However, before long we noticed we were amassing a little bit of a day list.  If nothing else, one can get a good grasp on what's common in our area.  So here are our 70 species from this afternoon:

Greater White-fronted Goose
Canada Goose
Green-winged Teal
Northern Pintail
Northern Shoveler
Cinnamon Teal
Common Goldeneye
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret
White-faced Ibis
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Black-bellied Plover
Black-necked Stilt
Greater Yellowlegs
Long-billed Curlew
Least Sandpiper
Wilson's Snipe
California Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Anna's Hummingbird
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Western Scrub-Jay
Yellow-billed Magpie
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Oak Titmouse
House Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Western Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Spotted Towhee
Lincoln's Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Western Meadowlark
Red-winged Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Lesser Goldfinch

I didn't take many pictures of birds (dragonflies took most of my attention).  However, I did capture a couple of species.

First up is this COMMON GALLINULE along with a PIED-BILLED GREBE:

Next, we have a HERMIT THRUSH:

Last but not least, there were a couple of PURPLE FINCHES in an Ash tree.  Here is one:

02 December 2011

Sea Lion? Here?

What I saw today in a canal along the east side of Staten Island in San Joaquin County really surprised me.  A sea lion!

Turns out, they can frequent the Sacramento River and I found a couple of articles online talking about how the sea lions are taking a bite out of the salmon numbers in those rivers.  Either way, I was pretty shocked to see one here.  Here are some pics:

Here is a map of exactly where I saw it.   You can zoom in with the controls to have a better idea of how in the middle-of-no-where I really was:
View Sea Lion in a larger map

While on the topic of mammals though, I was also happy to see this NORTHERN RIVER OTTER in a flooded potato field on Staten Island as well:

The resident BURROWING OWL was active and curious as ever this morning at Staten:

Along the theme I previously posted about, I also had this SWAINSON'S HAWK circling over Staten Island today:

Other raptors were circling today as well including these two RED-TAILED HAWKS:

In scanning the goldeneye flock on the canal between Bouldin and Staten islands, I spotted what I'm calling a female BARROW'S GOLDENEYE (on the right side of the flock).  There was no sign of the male I saw at the same location a couple of days ago.

Canvasback anyone?

These WHITE-FACED IBIS were more tame than usual...

...whereas this flock of CACKLING GEESE along with a ROSS'S GOOSE was not: