Friday, June 14, 2019

Backyard Birds ☼ New Friends
I'd like to introduce you to my backyard buddy! This Black-chinned beauty has been camped out at my hummingbird feeder, and I have to say that it's comforting to look out and see him there every day.
He's claimed our feeder as his own, and doesn't tolerate any visitors. This immature male Anna's hummingbird was promptly chased away, but not before voicing his protests...
I'm also excited to announce the sighting of our first-ever Ash-throated Flycatcher! At first glance, I thought it was a Western Kingbird, but this guy's yellow belly is more pale and has a peaked crown. "Peaked crown" is what calls it, but I, of course, referred to it as "that kingbird's hair was all messed up."

Let's go birding!
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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Birds and Barbed Wire ☼ Rural Birding ☼ Glenn County, California

As you've probably noticed by now, some of our best (and most memorable) bird sightings have been on the country backroads around the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. So, I just had to put together a little tribute video in honor of my favorite road...

Some of the birds in this video include: Red-tailed Hawk, Western Kingbird, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Belted Kingfisher, American Kestrel, Sandhill Crane, and Cattle Egret.

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Sunday, June 9, 2019

Beautiful Modoc National Wildlife Refuge ☼ Alturas California

Out of the all wildlife refuges I've been to in northern California, Modoc National Wildlife Refuge is my personal favorite. This gorgeous spot in remote Alturas has 360 degree views and hardly anyone around to distract you from getting your nature vibes.

From the auto tour route, you can blindly stick your camera out the window, snap a photo and it's guaranteed to be amazing! I literally did that very thing, and when I went through my photos after we came back home, I couldn't figure out which photo it was.
Tricolored Blackbird

There is a paved walking trail, viewing blind, and the Visitor Center is shiny and new after being completely rebuilt after a fire in 2015. The staff is very friendly and helpful.
Tree Swallow

During our visit, we spotted Northern Shrike, American Kestrel, WilletNorthern Harrier, Black-necked Stilt, Sandhill Cranes, Cinnamon Teal, Marsh Wrens, among dozens of other birds. I made a video of the refuge which includes--you guessed it!--a 360 pan of scenic gorgeousness. I also threw in some dashcam footage of the auto tour and boundary roads, a Northern Harrier in flight, and a Willet with its wings spread...

Visit the Modoc NWR refuge website here.

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Friday, June 7, 2019

10 Best Things About Birding

Wings and Daydreams northern California birding photography blog birders

Why do I like birds so much? Why do I blog about birding and post my bird photography on social media? Why do I look forward to the weekend when I can go on new birding adventures and look for more birds even though I've already seen hundreds? All will be answered in today's post! Here are my 10 Best Things About Birding...

1. They're always on the move. At least some of them migrate, anyway. You can see different species during different times of the year depending on their migration habits. Birding is a hobby that offers a nice variety and I like looking forward to the different seasons when I'll see new faces in my corner of the Pacific Flyway.

2. The thrill of spotting something new (or rare to the area you're in). Who needs to go skydiving when you can get an adrenaline rush from seeing your first-ever Phainopepla?

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Red-tailed Hawk, Sacramento NWR boundary road

3. Finding the same birds in the same places. We always look forward to visiting the Kingfisher of Road P. and the Merlin I've spotted in the same exact tree on several different occasions on County Road Z. And I can't leave out the Peregrine Falcon who hangs out at the Sacramento NWR! Learn where certain species live and congregate and then you can revisit old friends when you're in the area.

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Northern Flicker, Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge

4. You never stop learning. First their names, then gradually you learn about their habitat, behavior, range, etc. And then comes their sounds and songs. Learning the many different songs that go with each bird opens up a whole new world. Then, when you're walking through the forest and hear yank-yank, you immediately know there are Red-breasted Nuthatches nearby. Same with the delightful waka-waka of Acorn Woodpeckers. I could go on and on...

5. Every time you step outside or simply look out your window, it's like you're on a scavenger hunt. What will I see flying by or perched in a tree today? Will I get lucky and finally spot a (insert elusive bird here) today? What a wonderful reason to get up in the morning! birder blog
Great Blue Heron, Gray Lodge Wildlife Area

6. It's addicting. Once you take that first drive through the auto tour route at your local wildlife refuge, you'll want to turn right back around and go again. As far as addictions go, it's a great one to have. I constantly want to go out and find new birds for my lifelist. Don't even get me started on doing a Big Year! If only I had an endless amount of gas money...

7. Birding get's you out of your own head. It's nice to have something positive to take your mind off of whatever problems or ailments you're dealing with at the moment. Spending some time out in nature is a great way to focus on the beauty around you and the birds going about their business, flying and foraging and hunting for the sake of survival.

birds of prey backyard birdwatching photography
Cooper's Hawk, my backyard birdbath

8. You don't even have to leave your house. But, if and when you do, the possibilities for bird sightings are endless. Birds are everywhere and you don't have to go far to find them. Sure, they're abundant in nature, but I've spotted some cool birds in plenty of parking lots, too.

9. It can be a solitary endeavor or fun to share with others. I was into birding long before my hubby. He enjoyed the nature aspect of it, but it wasn't until after my first Big Year that he became interested in the birds themselves. Now he's my right hand man in every way, and eager to set out on birding trips to see what exciting sighting we can share and what different species we can find and take photos of.

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Western Meadowlark

10. Birdsong is relaxing. Even if you can't identify the birds through all the leaves in the trees, or they're moving around too quickly, it's still nice to stop and listen to them chatter away and sing their beautiful, unique songs. Being serenaded by a Western Meadowlark is one of my favorite things in the world!

I'm sure I could come up with at least a dozen more reasons why I love birding, but we'll save those for another time. Here's to spotting something rare and having the time of your life watching the beautiful winged creatures I happily consider friends...

Happy Birding!
Rachelle Vaughn

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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

American Bitterns ☼ Bird Photography

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

For as elusive as American Bitterns are supposed to be, we sure have had some spectacular luck spotting them at the Sacramento and Colusa National Wildlife Refuges! Here are a few of our best sightings of these magnificent birds...

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Sunday, June 2, 2019

SacValley Birding Hotspot ☼ Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge California
One of the great things about the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge is that you can drive through the auto tour and then turn right back around and go through it again and see completely different birds. The wildlife and waterfowl is always busy fishing and hunting and they move around a lot, creating some fantastic photo ops for those of us who love spotting new birds.
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge California birding hotspot
You don't even have to get out of your car to get some amazing photos. But if you do, there's always the observation platform about halfway into the auto tour and it offers some great views of the refuge. I spotted several Yellow-rumped Warblers flittering around in the trees and waited patiently until one sat still long enough for me to snap a quick photo. Out of all the birds, I've found that these little go-getters are by far the most difficult to get pictures of. They never stop moving! So, even though this one's in the shade, I consider it a triumph!

Today's video is a compilation of the birds we saw during our latest visit to the refuge. Some of the birds featured are: Great Blue HeronRed-tailed HawkBlack-necked StiltWhite-faced IbisDouble-crested CormorantWestern KingbirdBlack PhoebeYellow-rumped WarblerGreat Egret, Northern Harrier, and some more of the Pond Turtles that I love so much.

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Friday, May 31, 2019

5 Birding Tips for Beginners

Birding can be as relaxing or as adventurous as you want it to be. Watching out the window from the comfort of your recliner at home, a leisurely stroll in the park, or a trip to your local wildlife refuge where you don't know what kind of birds you're going to spot. Every time we go out in search of birds, it's not only fun but an eye-opening learning experience. So, today I thought I'd share a few tips to help you get started in this wonderful, inexpensive, life-enriching hobby.

1. It's easy to get overwhelmed, but don't! Learning to identify the birds you see takes time and is completely worth it. You don't just jump into learning and mastering a new language in one day. Same thing with birding.

Like anything else, birding takes practice. At first, you might not know the difference between a finch and sparrow, but in good time you will. The more you see of different birds (and the same ones, too), you'll learn to identify their differences, no matter how subtle they might be. A little stripe here, a dash of coloring there just might be the difference between two different species.

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American Kestrel

2. Be patient. Birds don't always like to cooperate with your eyes or your camera. Waterbirds and shorebirds are larger and easier to spot, but they will fly away if you get too close. Imagine how wonderful it must be to be able to spread your wings and fly away at the first sign of trouble! Ah well, that's another post for another day.

Littler birds are even more difficult to pin down. Take warblers, for instance. Yellow-rumped Warblers can be the most frustrating to get photos of (at least for me anyway.) And don't even get me started on Mountain Chickadees. I'm sure every birder has one that continues to elude their eager camera lens.Yellow-rumped Warblers are quite possibly one of the cutest little birds I've ever seen and yet I can't seem to get a decent photo of one to save my life. Maybe that's part of what makes them so special.

There's a lot of luck involved when birding, and more often than not we find ourselves in "right place at the right time" scenarios.

Wings and Daydreams birding blog

3. Go easy on yourself. I've misidentified birds before (and still do!), only to have someone point it out to me here on my blog or on social media. There's always going to be someone better or more experienced than you, but that's all apart of the learning process I mentioned earlier.

Birds' plumage can vary greatly between summer/winter, male/female, and young/adult. Some birds (like Red-tailed Hawks) can even stump experts because there are so many different forms and variations.
American Robin

4. Get ready for an adventure. Not only are you opening yourself up to new knowledge about the wildlife around you, you're giving yourself the opportunity to see and experience the extraordinary. Spotting a Vermilion Flycatcher in a cemetery in Northern California continues to be one of the greatest experiences of my life. (Read more about that particular birding adventure here). Birds can go way off course from their migratory route and end up giving you the thrill of a lifetime!

You truly never know what you're going to see each time you raise those binoculars up to your eyes. Isn't that the reason for watching birds in the first place? The possibility of spotting something rare? You betcha!

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Red-tailed Hawk

5. Appreciate each sighting, no matter how common. No matter how many White-crowned Sparrows I encounter, I still love each and every one of them. I enjoy seeing them wherever I go--the mountains, the coast, and especially in my own backyard. They genuinely feel like friends, popping in to say hello, and I take pride in knowing that the ones with brown stripes on their heads instead of white are young juveniles.

Every bird is special and unique in its own way, and it's up to you to never take that fact for granted.

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Yellow-billed Magpie

I hope you find these tips helpful for when you're just starting out on birding adventures of your own. May you see flocks that take your breath away and individual birds that remind you that there is indeed an abundant supply of beauty still left in the world.

Happy Birding!
Rachelle Vaughn

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