Monthly Archives: August 2015

Flammulated Owl in the Northern Sierras

Flammulated Owl – Movements

Adult Flammulated Owl in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

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. This owl completely leaves the US every year for its winter haunts in Southern Mexico and Guatemala.

Flammulated Owl – Size and Habits

The Flammulated Owl is just slightly larger in size than a House Sparrow. Quite often it is 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 it is almost completely mute outside of its breeding season. That time is not now. It is vocal for about a month between mid-May and mid-June. Continue reading

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Garter Snake vs. Vole

garter snake vs vole

A Mountain Garter Snake captures a California Vole.

We’ve written before about the featherless joys of birding (Desert Bighorn SheepWestern 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.

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Gray Thrasher: 1st US Record

Gray Thrasher at Famosa Slough August 2, 2015

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 area 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. Others were searching for the bird in other parts of the area. 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.
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