Wednesday, July 17, 2019

American Dipper ☼ Hat Creek, Lassen Volcanic National Park

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Spotted this cute little American Dipper in Hat Creek next to Paradise Meadow in Lassen Volcanic National Park...



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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Grebe Photography ☼ Western, Clark's, Pied-billed and Eared

Enjoy this collection of my some of my best Grebe photos (so far!) featuring Clark's Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, Eared Grebe, and Western Grebe...



Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Ducklings Chasing Bugs at Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park

These baby Mallard ducks were having a blast chasing bugs on Manzanita Lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park!



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Friday, July 5, 2019

5 Worst Things About Birding

Last month, I posted my 10 Best Things About Birding list. Today, I'm flipping over to the other side of the coin and sharing the five worst things about my favorite hobby.

If you follow any of my accounts on social media (author, travel, birder), you know that I'd gnaw off my own arm before posting something negative. Goodness knows there's already plenty of negativity out there and I only want to put positive things out into the universe for people to enjoy. Good thing this list isn't meant to be negative at all! If anything, the title is just click-bait, but sometimes you have to be a little sneaky to get your message out, am I right?

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Let's see if you agree with these observations about the downsides of birding...

1. Not everyone gets it. The things I'm fascinated with may seem as dull as dirt to others, but to me, birds are extraordinary and worth talking about and photographing and obsessing over. Own it. It's your hobby and you don't have to explain your love of birds to anyone. Especially me. They're birds. They can fly. That alone makes them the most interesting creature on the planet, in my opinion.

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2. Birds are naturally flighty and wary of humans--no matter how pure your intentions are. It can be frustrating when all you want is to take their picture, but then again, maybe that's what makes each bird sighting so unique. You never know how long its going to last, so you are forced to cherish every single second of it.

3. It's addicting. It's all I want to do. I want to travel across the country and get my National Wildlife Refuge Blue Goose Passport stamped at every refuge, but unfortunately, I haven't found a way to get paid to do it. After all, I do need money for gas, food, etc. Let me know if you're a willing sponsor with deep pockets!

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4. Birding sometimes exposes you to the not-so-warm-and-fuzzy side of nature. Not that that's a bad thing. It just takes some getting used to. Some birds kill other birds in order to survive and put food in their bellies. It's simply a fact of life, but it can be a little strange to witness the first time you see it happen with your own two eyes. Especially if you're squeamish and don't want a glimpse behind that particular curtain. I'm sure no one is clamoring to watch me scarf down a Quarter Pounder with Cheese after a long day of birding, but it's a natural part of life.

5. Insane jealousy of other people's sightings. I don't know about you, but I usually find myself gravitating toward wanting what I don't have. Therefore, I get a little jealous of other people's White-tailed Kite sightings, for example. I want so very badly to see a Kite and don't care to be left in the dust by other birders. Maybe it's time I take my own advice from my 5 Birding Tips for Beginners list and be patient. I'll get one someday. The anticipation of that magnificent sighting is what fuels me.


After all, after years of waiting, we finally spotted a Western Tanager and it was truly spectacular. Be patient, grasshopper! You'll get that bird that's been eluding you for what seems like forever. You'll have an awesome, unexpected sighting of a rare bird that makes everyone else green with envy. Mwa-hah-ha!

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Well, there it is! See, I told you the negative things about birding weren't that bad. If everything was perfect and hunky-dory all the time, you'd never appreciate the good times and be grateful for them, right? That's what I tell myself anyway.

What are your least favorite things about birding? I know, I know, I'm a firm believer in taking the negative and turning it into a positive. Now, where's that handy-dandy magic wand of mine? I know I left it around here somewhere...


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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Canada Geese ☼ Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park

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Wonder if these Canada Geese realize they're livin' the good life at Manzanita Lake? I can't think of a more beautiful place to spend the summer in Northern California than Lassen Volcanic National Park...


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Sunday, June 30, 2019

American White Pelicans ☼ Best Of

Here's a video I put together of my best photos of American White Pelicans. All photos and video were taken with my little Canon SX530 and have not been filtered or altered in any way.


HERE is a link to all the White Pelican sightings on my website.


Friday, June 28, 2019

5 More Birding Tips for Beginners

Wings and Daydreams northern California birding photography blog

Last month, I offered some birding tips to keep in mind while you start the wonderful adventure that is birding. (You can read that post here.) Because this hobby is the ultimate learning experience, I thought of a few more bits of advice that might help...

1. If you find yourself having trouble identifying a bird you spotted, keep in mind that it could be a juvenile. Some species of birds start out looking nothing like the end product. Take, for instance, the Black-crowned Night Heron shown below. Even though their body shape is similar, their markings make them look like completely different species. There is a heron rookery on the auto tour of the Colusa NWR and we're lucky to get to see them in both stages of life.


You might wish the bird to be a different species, just so you can add a new bird to your lifelist, but sometimes it's just a youngster growing into his own. Take comfort in knowing that birds go through that awkward adolescent stage just like humans. For example, it takes Bald Eagles a few years to grow into their regal plumage. So, if you can't ID a particular bird, consider that it might just be a teenage version of one you already know and love.

Get yourself a good field guide and familiarize yourself with the birds in your area and what they look like when they're immature and adult. The one pictured below has birds separated by color which was extremely helpful to me as a beginner. Stan Tekiela has a ton of guides for every different state which you can purchase HERE.


The Merlin Bird ID app has also been awesome for identifying birds I'm not familiar with. It's free and you can download it HERE. The iBird Pro Guide is packed full of information about birds, too.

2. Don't make assumptions. Check again. Even if you think it's "just a blackbird," zoom in and double check for sure. I'll give you two examples of when I was guilty of this and almost missed a sighting. Phainopepla. I thought it was just a blackbird in the distance. Then we saw white on the wings when it flew away and heard another one make a sound we'd never heard before. Luckily there were several in the trees, fluttering from one branch to another, so I could get a closer look. Check it out, otherwise you might miss a great/rare sighting.

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Female Phainopepla (the male is black)
Example number two: My first American Kestrel. I thought it was a sparrow in the top of a tree. Nope. It was an American Kestrel, North America's smallest falcon. I had no idea a bird of prey could be that small!

American Kestrel
Bonus example: Western Meadowlark on a telephone wire. Again, we thought it was "just a blackbird" when we looked up. We'd never seen a Meadowlark on a phone line before and had only ever seen them on the ground and occasionally in trees. Birds will continue to surprise you no matter how long you've been watching them. That's one of the things that makes birding so fun!

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Great Egret

3. Keep track of your sightings. In a journal, a blog, etc. On a really good day at the refuge, you might see dozens of different species in the span of only an hour or two and remembering everything you saw can get overwhelming. And, for future reference, label the folders of photos on your computer by date and location so you can easily refer back to when and where you saw a bird.

4. I found it helpful to switch from binoculars to a camera. Instead of taking the precious time to focus and find a bird through binoculars and try to remember identifying details, now I simply use my camera, snap a few photos, and that way I can identify it later on the app if needed. That's the great thing about digital cameras--the photos are free and you can take as many as you want without having to wait for your expensive film to be developed. There will be plenty of blurry, non Instagram-worthy shots, but no one has to see those!

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Llano Seco Unit, part of the North Central Valley Wildlife Management Area

5. Go on your birding trips whenever you can, all different times of day. Most people recommend spotting birds in the early morning and late evening, but we manage to see them at all times. Find what works best for you and switch it up occasionally for a change of scenery and lighting. Cloudy days are even better than bright sunshiney ones so you don't get that harsh glare from the sun.

All righty, that's it for today. I hope you can take something away from these tips and get the most out of your birding adventures!

Happy Birding!
Rachelle Vaughn

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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Spotted Sandpiper ☼ Manzanita Creek, Lassen Volcanic National Park

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Just about every time we walk by the spot where Manzanita Creek flows into Manzanita Lake, we see either an American Dipper or a Spotted Sandpiper. Today, we're focusing on the cute little Sandpiper we had the pleasure of watching during our latest visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park.

If you've never seen a Spotted Sandpiper, well, they do this funny butt bop that we like to call The Sandpiper Boogie.

I did a little digging around and the function of the teetering motion hasn't been determined. Apparently, chicks teeter nearly as soon as they hatch from the egg. Whatever the reason, I could watch this bird bee-bop around the creek all day long! This guy even did it while standing on one leg. Shake that rump!

Here's some video so you can get an idea of what the heck I'm talking about...


(You can find my footage of the dancing American Dipper HERE.)

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Sunday, June 23, 2019

Moment of Zen ☼ Snowy Egret

Today's relaxing Moment of Zen is brought to you by two beautiful Snowy Egrets at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge...



Friday, June 21, 2019

Best of Shorebirds Video

It's the first day of summer and I'm celebrating with my favorite shorebird photography!

Birds in the video include: White-faced Ibis, Greater Yellowlegs, American Avocet, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Spotted Sandpiper, Long-billed Curlew, Black Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Ruddy Turnstone and Semipalmated Plover.



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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Male Pileated Woodpecker Sighting ☼ Lassen Volcanic National Park

It's always exciting to spot a new bird to add to your lifelist. Especially one you've seen photos of and wonder if you'll ever get lucky enough to take some of your own.

Well, I'm happy to report that we spotted our first-ever Pileated Woodpecker while walking the trail around Manzanita Lake!
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I was surprised at the sheer size of this magnificent bird. Like how I didn't realize Red-breasted Nuthatches were so tiny until I finally saw one with my own eyes, this woodpecker is HUGE!
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This is a male (you can tell from the red on its cheeks that the female doesn't have) and I could have watched him peck around at the logs all day long. Other woodpeckers peck so quickly that they are practically a blur, and the Pileated chips away at trees like a big hammer. (You can see him in action in the video down below.)
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Birding is such a thrill! You never know what new or exciting birds your going to come across in your travels! Of all the places in Lassen VNP we've gone birding, Manzanita Lake is by far the most fruitful. You can read more about the birds we've spotted in Lassen HERE and also over on my travel blog Vaughn the Road Again where I've cataloged all of our hikes around the park.



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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge ☼ Auto Tour

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge California birding hotspot
It's always nice to get out into nature and take a few deep breaths of fresh air. The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge is one of my favorite places to unwind and appreciate the beauty of the wildlife around me.
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge California birding hotspots
I hope you enjoy today's video of some of the birds you can find on the auto tour route...



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Friday, June 14, 2019

Backyard Birds ☼ New Friends

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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.
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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...
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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 allaboutbirds.org calls it, but I, of course, referred to it as "that kingbird's hair was all messed up."
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