An adult Flammulated Owl near Lake Davis in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California.
Flammulated Owl is a spring and summer resident throughout the California Sierra Nevada Mountains. It is the second smallest owl in North America, and smallest of the eared owls. Only the Elf Owl is smaller. It is also the most migratory owl in North America, completely leaving the US every year for its winter haunts in Southern Mexico and Guatemala.
The Flammulated Owl is just slightly larger in size than a House Sparrow and often 30 to 40 feet high in thick pines. Being dark brown in color and having a very ventriloquial call it is difficult to locate. The strictly nocturnal Flammulated Owl can be extremely difficult to get good looks at in the darkness of night. This is further complicated by the fact that he is mostly completely mute outside of about a month between mid-May and mid-June during its breeding season (which is not now). Continue reading
A Mountain Garter Snake captures a California Vole.
We’ve written before about the featherless joys of birding (Desert Bighorn Sheep, Western Zebra-tailed Lizard) – those occasions when being out birding puts us in the right place to see other animals doing what they do. So on a recent Sea & Sage Audubon trip to the eastern Sierra Nevada, we were treated to the spectacle of a garter snake that had just captured a vole.
Gray Thrasher at Famosa Slough August 2, 2015
Gray Thrasher is a non-migratory endemic to Baja California, so when Sunday afternoon on August 2, 2015 was interrupted with a report of the first US occurrence in San Diego, we had to make the 75 mile drive and take a look.
Finding the Gray Thrasher
The Gray Thrasher was found by John Bruin, Lisa Ruby, and Terry Hurst at the southwest end of Famosa Slough. This is an area that has had its share of rarities, including Bar-tailed Godwit. Once we arrived and parked, we quickly found a couple of dozen birders standing around or off to other parts of the area looking for the bird. We learned where it had been seen (about 45 minutes before our arrival) and which way it went. Since it obviously wasn’t where everyone was standing, we decided to look around. Just after our fourth pass by a large lemonade berry bush, someone spotted the Gray Thrasher deep in the foliage. Birders surrounded the bush looking for a better angle. All of a sudden, the thrasher decided it was hungry and came out onto the slope to forage in the leaves and twigs only about 15 feet away from us. That was too close for my Kowa TSN-884, but just right for binoculars.
Happy 4th of July 2015
This year we stayed close to home to watch the 4th of July 2015 fireworks. Walking to the top of the hill that is next to our local high school we were able to see several fireworks displays from one place. The beauty of our local 2015 firework shows were quite impressive and certainly worth an attempt at taking nice photos of. Since I had tried taking photos of the fireworks last year I figured my 2015 firework photos might be a bit better. As it turns out they are! Hope you enjoy the pictures and that this year will continue to bring many outdoor viewing opportunities. A good pair of binoculars and or spotting scope from Optics4Birding makes the viewing experiences of life more enjoyable. Happy 4th of July to you from all the Optics4Birding staff.
2015 fireworks in Southern California (click image to enlarge)
Puerto Rican Todies are fairly common in the rainforests. We saw these in both El Yunque and Bosque Estatal De Río Abajo.
Mid-April we took a trip to Puerto Rico to see the Puerto Rican birds and wildlife. As would be expected, the weather was warm and humid. Luckily we did not run into any rain at all, which made for a very productive nature watching adventure. The birdlife was abundant. The coastline and rainforests were absolutely beautiful. There are 18 endemic species of Puerto Rican birds and 30 endemic reptiles and amphibians. Our main interest was the birds but we did run across a few of the other endemics too. I am sorry to say that there are also 13 wildlife species that have gone extinct. One of these was a Puerto Rican Barn Owl that I would have really liked to have seen. Several species that are there now are threatened and currently in jeopardy. Continue reading
Posted in Birding
Tagged Antillean Sister Butterfly, Banded King Shoemaker Butterfly, Green Mango, Mangrove Cuckoo, Puerto Rican Amazon Parrot, Puerto Rican Birds, Puerto Rican Bullfinch, Puerto Rican Emerald, Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo, Puerto Rican Oriole, Puerto Rican Screech Owl, Puerto Rican Spindalis, Puerto Rican Tanager, Puerto Rican Tody, Puerto Rican Woodpecker, Puerto Rico Trip Reports, Yellow-shouldered Blackbird
We took a very brief trip (2 nights) during mid-May to see the Yosemite owls. The timing of this quick trip was principally planned to correspond with the peak calling period of the Flammulated Owl and before end of May when masses of people arrive for Memorial Day. What we did not plan for was the moon phase and rising. With no moon and overcast skies, managing to photograph this sparrow sized owl on a pitch black night, in a dense forest is almost impossible. After spending several hours on our first evening trying to locate this very small owl we decided to modify our focus to some of the other Yosemite owls.
Great Gray Owl in Yosemite Wawona Meadow
On our way into the park we had heard Great Gray Owls calling in the Wawona meadow. We headed back to this location to see what we could find. Two Great Gray Owls were calling in the forest across the meadow. After about a half hour of trying to entice them out of the forest and over to our side of the meadow one of the owls flew over to the tree that we were standing under. The problem was that he was about 40 feet up and there was no clear view to the owl. After another half hour of trying to get him to fly over to the next set of trees, that we had walked over to, he flew back across the meadow into the forest. At this point we decided to try another location just outside the northwest side of the park. Continue reading
American White Pelicans preening
The American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) is one of two species of pelican in North America, along with the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis). While occasionally seen in the same locations, they prefer different habitats and their manner of feeding is as different as their plumage.
The Gray Jay ranges from east to west across the northern boreal forests of America. They are popularly known as “camp robbers” and may even fly onto peoples hands or heads for food.
Description and Family
Gray Jay is unique in appearance, relative to the other crow, jay, and magpie members of the Corvidae family. The most notable difference is its small black bill which leads to it sometimes being described as looking like an oversized chickadee.
Gray Jay is a medium sized, fluffy, pale gray jay with a light underside and no crest. All races have black eyes, feet, legs, and bill. In North America there are three readily distinguishable populations of Gray Jay. The photos here show the Rocky Mountain version or color pattern. Pacific birds have a darker head and brownish tinged backs. Taiga (northern) populations are grayer above and have a slight grayish belly. 11 defined races are distributed among these three color morphs. Continue reading
Male Vermilion Flycatcher, Mazatlan, Mexico
The Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) is a small tyrant flycatcher in the family, Tyrannidae. Vermilion Flycatchers have a huge range in the New World, being found as far south as central Argentina and covering much of South and Central America. Across this vast range, there are at least 12 sub-species of Vermilion Flycatcher recognized by ornithologists, including one race on the Galapagos Islands that some regard as a separate species. In the United States, Vermilion Flycatchers are mostly limited to the desert southwest, where their range extends as far north as southern Nevada. Their California range includes much of the Mojave Desert, in San Bernardino County, across most of Riverside and Imperial Counties and across into Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. In coastal California, they are less common and more likely found as winter visitors, though there are indications that their breeding range is expanding towards the coast. Here, Vermilion Flycatchers often use edge habitat like golf courses and athletic fields. Continue reading
This Black-billed Magpie was photographed in Denver Colorado. It is common to see either of the American Magpie species walking on the ground foraging for food.
The magpies of North America are very visually distinctive from other birds and thus easy to identify. Although the Black-billed Magpie is very similar in appearance to the European Magpie, it is larger and genetically unique. DNA analysis places our two magpies as separate from the European Magpie. Under the same DNA distinctions that the American Magpies were divided from the European Magpies, the Korean subspecies should also be divided as a unique species. The ancestral magpies, after dispersing across Eurasia and becoming isolated in Korea, then crossed over the Bering Land Bridge into the Americas at about 3 to 4 million years ago. Strictly speaking, using DNA comparisons our two magpie species could also potentially be merged as a single species. Continue reading