Tuesday, November 11, 2003

The Ever Elusive Wood Duck

We are sure never disappointed after a trip to the refuges. We saw about six new species today. We heard a Common Loon, but didn't see one yet. Those and the Wood Ducks we have yet to see. Someday.

We saw a flock of pelicans, coots, egrets, shovelers, Great Blue Herons, and thousands of Snow and Ross's Geese. There were so many geese that the sky and water were filled with them. They're very noisy, too! We saw mallards, Connamon Teals and Wigeons. We saw five turkey vultures eating a carcass. They were ugly and frightening, especially when they started circling the truck!

We saw two Common Moorhens for the first time. They look totally different walking than they do swimming, like chickens with roadrunner legs.

There were a few Buffleheads. They are very distinct, black and white and have huge white heads. We saw lots of Black-crowned Night Herons hiding in the bushes along the riverbank. They looked like juveniles because they were brown with stripes. There were at least twenty that we could see, poking out of the brush.

We saw lots of hawks flying overhead and perched in trees. They were probably Coopers, Swainsons, and definitely Red-tailed. I also saw a praying mantis. But it wasn't green, it was brown and looked like a stick.

Every time we go it's an adventure!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Wait, where did you come from???

I was just going through some pictures we got back from when we went to the bird place last. I noticed a new species that I didn't even know we had seen. We saw of ton of Northern Pintails and didn't even know it. When you're there, you see so much at once that it's hard to identify everything.

I'm sure glad I was studying those pictures!

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Back Again

We finally went to the bird place for the first time in months! It was awesome and we saw much more than I'd expected. All of the marsh hasn't yet filled up with water, but should be in a matter of weeks.

There were thousands of Greater White-fronted Geese in the water and flying overhead. They were very noisy but scared away easily. A snake slithered across my shoe without me even seeing it and we saw tons of frogs jumping into the water. We saw Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets paired together. The usuals were there, too: American Coots, Mallards, pheasants and hawks, pelicans, Shovelers, squirrels, rabbits, Wigeons...

We saw some new stuff, too, which was exciting. The Black-necked Stilt was really easy to identify. They have really long legs and straight black beaks.

At the Colusa NWR we saw three Great Blue Herons. A Double-crested Cormorant was perched in a tree and then dove into the water. On the bank of the river we saw a truly amazing sight. There were two Egrets, two American Bitterns, a Cormorant, AND a Black-crowned Night Heron, all in the same spot. It was amazing to see the Bitterns out away from the marsh grass.

I can't wait to go back!!!

Friday, August 22, 2003

Auklets, Guillemots and Puffins, oh my!

We just got back last night from a three day trip to the coast. We had a wonderful time and got to see some new birds yesterday. We went to the Oregon Coast Aquarium where there was an awesome aviary.

We saw a Cassin's Auklet, Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, and the incredible Tufted Puffin. We got to see all of them extremely close up and it was an amazing experience. They weren't skittish because they're so used to people going through all the time.  Some were almost penguin-like and they all dive for their food. The Puffins are so exotic looking it was a great pleasure to see them at such close range. I know we got some awesome close-up pictures.

We also saw a Double-crested Cormorant in the bay at Bandon Harbor, along with a Western Gull flying overhead.

Oh, I forgot to add one other thing. We saw flocks of Barn Swallows. We had also seen them at the Humboldt NWR. I got a decent picture of them and they have the rust undercolor that the Tree Swallow doesn't.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

The "Bird Place" on the Coast

We went to the coast today! It was 110 degrees here yesterday and we couldn't stand it anymore. It was foggy when we first arrived in the morning and then it started to clear up in the afternoon. It was beautiful! We went to the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge. At the beginning of the trail we saw a deer not too far from us, drinking from the stream. We saw quite a few new species of birds, but they're very difficult to identify. Besides all the different variations, the pictures in the book don't match up to what we saw.

There were a lot of little birds flying around that looked like swifts, but I think they were some type of Tree Swallow. I'm not sure though. They had bluish wings on top and rust and white on the stomach.

We saw a Marbled Godwit. It was pretty big, specklety brown with long legs and bill. There were little sandpiper-like birds that were either Semipalmated Plovers or Killdeer. They were brown on top and white on the bottom half.

In the office, before we went on the trail, they said a Green Heron had been spotted and later on we saw one fly off in front of us. We also saw a Long-billed Curlew. It was rust-colored, long black legs and a long bill that curved down. A mom duck had four or five babies swimming in the creek.

The last thing we saw at the refuge was a weird looking duck. It kept diving down into the water. It had a white stripe by its eye and had sort of spiky feathers on its head. The closest I can find to it is the Pied-billed Grebe.

Later, by the ocean, we saw several different flocks of seagulls. There were about four different species, but I only found one in the book. It was a Ring-billed Gull.

Hopefully when I get my pictures back they will help identify these birds better.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Back to our old stomping grounds...

Today we set out for the bird place even though it's the heat of summer. It was still really warm, even at 7 a.m. Most of the water has been drained and is gone. We saw a neat green frog on the ground. It was so still that I'm lucky I didn't step on it.

We saw a lot of jackrabbits running around, too. We also saw several groups of pheasants where there were about 6-8 females with one male. Before, we have only ever seen a pair of a male and female together.

There was also a Great Blue Heron. He was so huge with its long skinny neck. Tons of gigantic dragonflies, Mourning Doves, Meadowlarks, blackbirds with red shoulders, a flock of pelicans and also a group of baby pheasants. We saw a deer by itself and then later two ran out in front of the car. We saw a Northern Harrier up close and a bunch of Greater White-fronted Geese.

We also saw an all-black duck with a red bill and yellow tip. We can't seem to identify it through any of our resources though. And I know we've seen it once before, which makes it even more frustrating trying to figure out what it is.

Friday, May 30, 2003

Identify Yourself

While I was out filling up the bird bath, I noticed a new bird today. It looked like a female all-brown Cardinal or something. It had a crest on its head and a thick bill and it was a dirty, mousy gray-brown.The closest thing I could find in the book is an Oak Titmouse. She came pretty close to me, the book says they're sociable and tame.

We've also have been having these little black birds with yellow eyes hanging around. They are really tame and let you get pretty close to them. They aren't afraid of much. They must be Brewer's Blackbirds.

Thursday, May 8, 2003

One of the Gang

A couple of days ago, after I had filled up the feeders, I noticed a flash of orange at the cedar feeder. I knew right away that it was completely different from our yellow goldfinches.

It turned out to be a Hooded Oriole! He's been hanging out with all the finches like he's one of them.

I'm still amazed at how many new birds we keep seeing in our backyard.

Sunday, May 4, 2003

Picture Perfect

The last time we went out to the bird place, we got a good close-up picture of a cool little bird. We didn't know what it was then, but we just got the film back and it posed for us so well that I think I figured out what it is.

It looks like a Killdeer. I almost thought it might be a Semipalmated Plover because they look so similar and it had orange legs, but it had two black stripes, so it must be a Killdeer.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Flying Flowers

It's been raining pretty hard for the last few days, but that hasn't kept away the birds. There are quite a few Goldfinches flying around. They really seem to like the cedar feeder the best. It's neat to see them fly because you can see these little flashes of yellow. They look like flying flowers.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Sharing is Caring

Today we saw something out front that, until now, I only ever saw in pictures...

We had FOUR Anna's Hummingbirds sitting at the kitchen feeder eating together--at the same time! It was quite a sight!

We couldn't get a picture because it happened so fast, but I'll never forget how cute they all looked sitting there together. It was amazing because I usually just see them competing for the feeders by chasing each other off.

There's always something going on around here!

Thursday, April 17, 2003

The Place to Be

Well, we headed out to the bird place again today. We got an annual pass so we can just go back whenever we want. We saw a few new things and it was still an incredible experience. It seems to get better every time. I can't imagine going in the fall when everyone comes back for winter. It's supposed to be the best time to go, but we've been going when there's hardly anyone left and we're still seeing tons of new stuff every time.

We saw a few Common Moorhens. They look like a Coot, but have a red bill instead of white. We saw more American Avocets with their scooped up bill, brown head and black/white body, Green-winged Teals and American Wigeons. Northern Shovelers have a huge spoonbill!

And I figured out that the gray herons we keep seeing are actually Great Blue Herons. We heard the Least Bittern and it sounds like a jungle bird. I don't think we've actually seen one though.

And best of all, we saw a whole flock of American White Pelicans. They are huge! I never even thought pelicans lived anywhere but on the coast.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Playground for Birders

Today we went to "the bird place" again!! I didn't think it was possible, but we saw so many new things! I think we'll end up going about once every month or two to see all of the changing seasons.

Most of the Marsh Wrens had made nests in the grasses. We saw lost of swallows flying overhead, but they were really hard to identify. We saw a Spotted Sandpiper and a male and female Cinnamon Teal. The Pie-billed Grebe kept diving underwater to hide from us. We also saw a HUGE crow-like bird with a white diamond on his chest. We couldn't figure out what it was, but it was mammoth!

Gadwalls, Meadowlarks (they seemed a lot bigger out here!), Canada Goose, Brewer's Blackbirds were very blue with black heads, American Avocet. The Ring-necked Duck had yellow eyes and a black and white striped bill. We heard Mourning Doves, a frog, saw more rabbits and three deer (a mom with her two babies). The White-faced Ibis had a curved bill and was reddish, but mostly dark. There were gulls flying over, but those are probably the hardest thing to identify. The Snowy Egret and Great Egret are very similar and we saw lots of both. We saw a dark (blackish) heron that looked like a Little Blue Heron, but the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge brochure doesn't show anything like it. The Eurasian Wigeon looks a lot like Cinnamon Teals and there were several sets of males and females.

And I've saved the best for last. The American Bitterns were incredible. They make an outrageous bloop-de-bloop! sound that we heard all day but couldn't put two and two together until we heard the sound later on the computer program. They freeze with their head straight up to blend in with the grass because of the stripes on their necks. They think if they stay still enough you can't see them. Wow!

What another awesome day!!

Friday, April 4, 2003

Cray Cray Scrub Jay

Spring has sprung! There is so much bird activity outside, it's crazy. The Scrub Jay is taking the food I put out and hiding it in the yard. He puts the bread in the grass and the corn in the flower bed dirt.

The hummingbirds have all come back, though it's hard to identify them. I saw an American Goldfinch on the hummingbird feeder this morning. Later, he was with all the House Finches at the seed feeders. He's a very pretty bright yellow and I hope to see more of him.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Feathered (and furry) Friends

Well, I guess our Sharp-shinned Hawk has settled down to live in the big palm tree across the way. We hear him several times a day as he circles the area overhead. Today he flew over holding something in his claws. It looked like it could have been a lizard or something.

The two crows are hanging out in our front tree. I'm also seeing more hummingbirds. They seem skittish though, I guess because they're just now coming back from wintering somewhere else. My little gray squirrel friend sat and ate at his feeder for about an hour this morning. He only ate the sunflower seeds and didn't touch the bread I just put out.

I'm excited about spring because there is so much going on in the yard now! I can't believe it's almost April already!!

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Signs of Spring

I'm sitting on the patio and it is a bird frenzy out here! Everyone is chirping and enjoying the beautiful weather. Somehow I've attracted these HUGE gigantic crows. There are two of them caw-ing in the trees and occasionally swooping down for some bread crumbs. After lunch, I put out some leftover potato sticks and one of them picked one up and took it up to the plum tree and ate half of it. Then he flew away with the rest. He seemed to really enjoy it!

There are tons of bees swarming around the cherry tree blossoms. I also saw my first hummingbird since winter today. I managed to get a picture of it. It had a green crown and was probably a Ruby-throated.

The song sparrows and mockingbirds are also out today. I also saw a black butterfly with yellow spots. It'll be interesting to see if my pictures turn out!

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Just a Lark

Wow--it's just been a great time for seeing new birds lately! Over at a friend's house I saw a Western Meadowlark. We don't have them in our own yard, but there were quite a few where we were visiting. They have a great song and are bright yellow on their chest.

I wish I could attract some to our yard!

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Our First Visit to "The Bird Place"

Wow!! Today we drove out to the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge. It only took about an hour and it was one of the nicest days I've had in a while! We saw so many different types of birds and ducks. Most of the park is wetlands and marshes. All over the place are these American Coots. They look like all-black ducks with white bills. We saw three types of cranes. Brown speckledy which could have been Sandhill Cranes or American Bitterns. The gorgeous white crane with big orange feet is actually the Snowy Egret. I also saw a black crane which turned out to be a Double-crested Cormorant. We saw several kinds of ducks. Male and female Mallard ducks, Northern Shovelers which look like male mallards but a little different. And Cinnamon Teals that had rust-colored bodies and maroon heads. There was also a giant flock of white Ross's Geese.

We saw some Red-winged Blackbirds which are very common, but I've never seen one before. We saw and heard lots of Ring-necked Pheasants, both male and female. Huge sea gulls were flying overhead, but it was difficult to identify which specific type they were. There were lots of sandpipers in the marshes. Some were all brown, some had white or black wings with white bodies.

The neatest thing we saw would have to be the Red-tailed Hawk. He was beautiful. He was snowy white with rust spots, light tan with a white chin. He sat in the tree and almost looked like a statue.

We got some really great pictures with our new zoom lens camera. We also saw Marsh Wrens, Beechy Ground Squirrels, Black-tailed Jackrabbits, two Black-tailed deer together and then later saw one running through water.

It was so beautiful out there. With the walking trails and auto tour, we saw so many different things. The sounds of all the birds was incredible, too. We will definitely go back to experience the different seasons when there are different species there :)

Monday, March 3, 2003

Gimme a Q! Gimme a U! Gimme an A!...

Wow! It's amazing how many different birds we keep seeing in our backyard!! Today I looked out the window and saw a pair of California Quail!! They were incredibly gorgeous and much move vivid than the picture in the book. They were really pretty and the pom-poms (plume) on their heads were so cool.

I just can't believe we've lived here almost two years and we still keep seeing different types of birds.

Sunday, March 2, 2003

Predator at Large?

For a few weeks now, we've been hearing this cry that sounds like some kind of hawk. Well, we finally saw it through the binoculars and it looks like a Sharp-shinned Hawk. It was in the big tree in the front corner, then we saw it in the palm tree across the street. It was really rust-colored on the body and had white spots on the edge of the wings. It doesn't really look like one in the picture, but the cry it makes matched the one on the computer program we have. That sound was what really gave it away.

The field guide says they prey on small birds at feeders. Oops!!

Monday, February 10, 2003

Bird Chaos

I just put some peanuts out and within seconds, the Scrub Jays are flocking to them! Somehow they sense that there's a new food out there and go crazy. They're fighting over them like I'm the only person in the whole town that feeds them!

I go through about a bag of seed a week and then when I put out special treats like peanuts and bread, they act like they've never eaten before!

Look at all this chaos I've caused :)

Saturday, February 8, 2003

The early bird...

This morning it was so cold that there was a blanket of frost all over. But that didn't keep away the American Robins. There were several males hopping around on the frozen grass. It looked like they were actually getting a few worms. The field guide says they are attracted to birdbaths and bread crumbs. I just put some bread out around the feeders and also filled up the bath. It was so cold that it actually froze solid!!

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Sparrow Pandemonium

There are so many birds out there that I can't keep the feeders full!! The House Finches are chasing off the White-crowned Sparrows. There are so many sparrows out there that I don't know which is what! The only way I could identify the White-crowned one is because of the black and white stripe on its head.