Tag Archives: Long-eared Owl

Anza-Borrego Super-Bloom

The wildflowers north of Borrego Springs

The wildflowers north of Borrego Springs

Just when you think you understand things a little, along comes an event that puts you in your place! The rainfall here on the west coast of the United States in 2017 has been a bit odd. Very welcome, to be sure, but a bit odd. We greatly exceeded expected rainfall this winter and spring. From Washington down to northern California, experts declared an official end to a drought that lasted about a decade. This refilled reservoirs and lakes in that region  to capacity.

In southern California, the rain didn’t erase that long drought as completely, but it still had staggering effects locally. One factor that makes the rain so odd is that it occurred completely outside the Pacific oscillation cycle. The El Nino and La Nina events govern these oscillations. These rains at Anza-Borrego State Park produced a huge wildflower super-bloom. That greatly benefited White-lined Sphinx moths and their predators. Continue reading

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Zeiss Victory SF Experience Tour – Part 2

Eurasian Spoonbills on the Zeiss Victory SF tour

Eurasian Spoonbills on the Zeiss Victory SF tour

Neusiedler See

For our first day of birding on the Zeiss Victory SF tour, we boarded the bus in Vienna at 6:30 the next morning and headed for Neusiedl am See, our base of operations for the rest of the tour. Neusiedl am See is located on a large lake, the Neusiedler See, in the southeastern part of Austria, nestled in the wine country near the Hungarian border. This lake has extensive marshy edges, making it a haven for waterfowl, herons and shorebirds. With laudable directness, we drove right past our lodgings and got straight to the birding, traveling clockwise round to the southeastern shore of the Neusiedler See. Continue reading

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Excursion into the Eastern Sierra Mountains

Long-eared Owl in the Eastern Sierra Mountains

Long-eared Owl in the Eastern Sierra Mountains

This last Memorial Day weekend (5/24-5/26) we decided to take a look in the Eastern Sierra Nevada for Broad-tailed Hummingbird. After much research on where to look… we found none. I had hoped, as we blog on the regular occurring California hummingbirds, this last one might be easier. On the other side of the coin we did find some interesting places and interesting birds in our Eastern Sierra exploration.

We left on Saturday after work and headed north. By the time we got up into the southern part of the Eastern Sierras it was late at night. Our first stop was to look for Long-eared Owl just south of Bishop. Searching for owls in unfamiliar areas is difficult enough. Adding the navigation on dirt roads on a moonless night. While trying to find proper habitat. Once out in the unfamiliar dark desert, I figured I may have underestimated the challenge.  All of this said I was very surprised when an owl found me. Continue reading

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Big Morongo Field Trip

I recently led a field trip for the Sea & Sage Audubon chapter to Big Morongo Preserve in San Bernardino County, CA. Big Morongo Preserve sits upon the outflow of subterranean water that supports a marsh and cottonwood forest. Water anywhere in the Mojave desert always brings in migrant birds. Big Morongo is a place where desert inhabitants mingle with marsh and forest birds.

Yellow-breasted Chat singing at Big Morongo Preserve

Yellow-breasted Chat singing at Big Morongo Preserve

We arrived at Covington Park at 6:00 for some early birding before the official field trip began at 7:00. The park was awash in song as Yellow Warblers shouted from the cottonwoods. A Summer Tanager proclaimed his turf and Eurasian Collared-Doves (yes, they’re here too!) called from the tamarisks along the road. In the dryer areas, Gambel’s Quail sang their odd songs. Meanwhile, a California Thrasher added sweetness and endless variety to the morning chorus.

Lesser and Lawrence’s Goldfinches were flying back and forth between town and the park. Big Morongo and Covington are one of the most reliable places in southern California to see Lawrence’s Goldfinch in spring. They are a beautiful bird with their greenish wingbars, gray and black faces and yellow chests. At 7:00, we tore ourselves away from the birds and went to collect the larger group.

Brown-crested Flycatcher hunting at Big Morongo

Brown-crested Flycatcher hunting at Big Morongo

Big Morongo Preserve

I was fortunate to have with me Vic Leipzig, an experienced birder and field trip leader. We split the group of 20 birders in half so folks would have a better chance to see the birds. The often narrow and intimate trails of the preserve make this difficult for large groups. This worked perfectly. I took a group out on the Marsh and the Desert Loop Trails. Vic led his group on the Marsh, Mesquite and Canyon Trails.

The two groups found nearly identical lists of birds, with the exceptions being a calling Virginia Rail found by Vic’s group. My group caught fleeting glimpses of a gorgeous Cassin’s Vireo. Not everyone saw this bird, but all got to hear it’s halting, burry “elevator” song – “going up… going down…” Other highlights of the walk included great looks at the singing Yellow-breasted Chats, the Brown-crested Flycatchers and threatened Least Bell’s Vireos. We also got up close and personal with several Verdins in the mesquite trees.

Long-eared Owl roosting at Big Morongo

Long-eared Owl roosting at Big Morongo

Covington Park

Next, we led the participants over to Covington Park for great looks at Bullock’s and Hooded Orioles. Summer and Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, and several pairs of Vermilion Flycatchers also lurked there. A Lark Sparrow was a pleasant surprise for the group. But the absolute glory of this stop was the pair of Long-eared Owls that. For the second year in a row, they raised a brood of chicks in the greater Morongo area. Our visit produced both adults and the youngest two of the five chicks they had this year.

We stopped to watch the bird traffic at the feeders across the street from the park. With a waterfall going, many of the birds from the park would fly across to this yard to bathe and drink before returning to the park. We had a group lunch there under the canopies in Covington Park. Some of the group left after that, but many continued with us to the Black Rock Canyon Campground unit of Joshua Tree National Park, roughly 20 miles further east near the town of Yucca Valley.

Red Diamondback Rattlesnake

Red Diamondback Rattlesnake

Black Rock Canyon

We visited Black Rock for a chance at some of the desert specialties and it paid off handsomely. The Black-throated Sparrows practically stepped on our feet while singing to us. A pair of Scott’s Orioles was a bit more shy. But the male did give us extended views from a not-too-distant yucca plume. Additionally, there were singing Cactus Wrens, displaying Gambel’s Quail and calling Ash-throated Flycatchers. As a crowning touch, some Great Horned Owls were nesting in a large Joshua tree. Everyone got excellent looks at one very pale adult and three rather fuzzy chicks.

The snakes were also fabulous that day. We found this Red Diamondback Rattlesnake crossing the road, and it allowed close approach while scarcely even rattling at us. Near the Great Horned Owl nest, I caught a placid 5-foot Gopher Snake, giving people great views of it.

White-headed Woodpecker at Humber Park

White-headed Woodpecker at Humber Park

San Jacinto Peak

By this point, we were down to just 9 people, but they were game for more. So we drove up to Idyllwild for a bit of mountain birding. We made a series of short stops, starting at Lake Fulmor, with a Hairy Woodpecker and several raucous Stellar’s Jays. Joining them were bunches of Mountain Chickadees and a host of Violet-green Swallows. Humber Park netted us Band-tailed Pigeons, Brown Creeper, singing Purple Finches. Finally, after a long search, a White-headed Woodpecker flew right over the cars! At Idyllwild County Park we finally found the Pygmy Nuthatches that had teased us all day. We also added Oak Titmouse and American Robin there. The day ended with a total of 78 species and a large group of happy customers.

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