While visiting downtown Indiana for a wedding, my husband and I were surprised to find a beaver in downtown Indianapolis. It was hanging out in a small area of open water on the mostly frozen White River, whittling away at some sticks. The last picture shows the frozen river just upstream from the beaver.
2 males and 1 female were swimming on a large pond on private property, visible from the eastern edge of Foothill Regional Park along Oakwood Trail. The third picture shows the pond.
Several dozen peeps were feeding in shallow water and on mudflats at a few of the ponds at the Healdsburg wastewater treatment facility. Most, if not all, appeared to be Western Sandpipers - dark legs, pale rufous on scapulars and head, relatively long and slightly down-turned bill.
I found the wings, tail, and scalp of a small owl (comb-like edges on wing feathers) on a dirt road in mixed hardwood-conifer forest; some skull bones and the bill were still attached to the scalp. There was no meat left, and I'm assuming the bird was predated. The feathers on the head seemed to be downy (they didn't appear to be normal contour feathers), and as far as I could tell, the wing feathers had not totally emerged from their sheaths. Therefore, I'm thinking this bird was a fledgling.
I compared the tail and wing feathers with various pictures from USFWS's Feather Atlas (a great resource; see http://www.lab.fws.gov/fa/browse-common.php?Family=Strigidae). The small owls that occur in Sonoma County are Western Screech-Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, and possibly Flammulated Owl (which are very rare if they do occur here). My feathers are a good match for Western Screech-Owl and a so-so match for Flammulated Owl. They don't look like Northern Saw-whet or Northern Pygmy-Owl. I highly doubt they belong to a Flammulated Owl. If that species does occur in Sonoma County, it would most likely be in the higher elevations on the eastern edge of the county.
The only thing that doesn't match Western Screech-Owl is the bill, which was pale yellowish. Western Screech-Owls are supposed to have a dark bill with pale only at the tip. Perhaps the bill is pale because it's a juvenile? But I can't find any good information that backs this up. Also, the forest was more dense and mesic than what I consider to be typical screech-owl habitat in this region. Perhaps the bird was carried there by whatever predator nabbed it. I went out to the same location that night to listen for owls but heard nothing.
The pictures are as follows:
1) My attempt to reconstruct the bird from the four big pieces that I could find - wings, tail, and scalp
2) the top side of a wing - notice the comb-like edges on the top two primaries
3) the underside of a wing - notice how the feathers have not fully emerged from the sheaths
4) the top side of the tail
5) the underside of the tail
6) the scalp - notice the yellowish bill
7) the top side of 3 tail feathers and 3 wing feathers
8) the underside of 3 wing feathers - notice how the feathers have not fully emerged from the sheaths
9) a close-up of the feather sheaths
Buffleheads are rare in Sonoma County in June and July. I imagine this is the same individual that was at the wastewater treatment facility on June 15.
I heard the call first - "tew tew tew" - then saw the bird.
While canoeing down the Russian River, I observed one Osprey sitting in a nest in the dead branches of an oak tree and another sitting a little above the nest with a fish in its talons. I'm pretty certain both were adults as neither showed any white speckling on the wings. I could see no signs of any young in the nest. It seems rather late in the season to have a nest with no young. I wonder what the story is. There was quite a bit of calling coming from the tree - the bird on the nest was definitely doing some calling, and I think the other was calling a little as well. The nest tree was in a narrow strip of riparian woodland along the Russian River, not far downstream of the Alexander Valley Road bridge. The nest is circled in red in the second photo.
Mom with 5 ducklings on the Russian River.
For the Sonoma County Breeding Bird Atlas, I went out looking for evidence of nesting by American Kestrels around Healdsburg on July 3. I was following up on two good leads but was unable to find a nest in either location. Disappointed, I decided to go look for Chipping Sparrows. I drove over to an area where I never spend time, and lo and behold, there were kestrels calling in the distance. I was able to track down the calls to a large valley oak growing along Lytton Springs Rd. It sounded like a young kestrel calling in the tree and I eventually saw one sitting on a branch, occasionally calling. I could hear another kestrel calling in the area, and it sounded different: "klee klee klee" - one of the parents. I saw an adult female fly into the tree and it looked like she might have delivered food, but the view was obscured by foliage. Then she started moving around stealthily and eventually climbed down into a cavity at the end of a broken limb.
I went back the next day and there were two males on telephone poles within 100m of the tree. They were doing the same begging call that I had heard the day before. Eventually, they ended up on the same telephone pole. After waiting 45 minutes or so, the mother finally started hunting over the nearby grassland and bringing in food. Two times she flew to the telephone pole and apparently delivered something to one of the fledglings, who then scurried a few feet away, huddled over his prize with a protective stance, and gobbled it up. The second time this happened, he was followed by the other fledgling who jumped on his back and tried to take away whatever the mother had brought. After another hunting trip, the mother flew to the oak tree and at least one fledgling flew over there. At this point, I had to leave.
The adult male was nowhere to be seen on July 4. I think it might have been somewhere in the area on July 3, but I'm not sure. I wonder if maybe the pair has started a second brood and the male was incubating? It seemed odd that I couldn't hear any young calling in the cavity when the female climbed down in there - it seems like they would have been calling if there were any young in there. Maybe she was just trying to distract me from the fledgling? I'll have to check on this tree later this summer.
You can see a short video of one of the fledglings begging at http://youtu.be/_WTYF7yIZd8
My husband and I heard a Common Poorwill calling at night in chamise-dominated chaparral along Pine Mountain Rd in southern Mendocino County (accessed from Cloverdale). We first heard it calling from quite a ways away (at least half a mile, as the crow flies) and were able to track it down to within 25m or so. It was calling pretty loudly below the road. Another could be heard calling in the distance, toward the north.
I've uploaded a video to YouTube at http://youtu.be/g274PF7l80M that captures the calls. You can't see the bird, but it should be good enough to confirm the id. The bird was close enough that we could hear a third syllable at the end of the call: "poor-will-ow". That's the first time I've ever heard that. You can just barely make it out in the video.
This male Gadwall (on the right) was hanging out with a bunch of Mallards at the Healdsburg wastewater treatment plant. Perhaps he was transitioning from breeding plumage to eclipse plumage?
Quite a few jackrabbits hanging out within a couple hundred meters of the buildings on this private ranch.
There were two-striped skunks traveling down a dirt road on a private ranch. I was only able to get a picture of one of them. This guy actually started running toward me when I was attempting to get a picture of the other one. I imagine it would have sprayed me if I hadn't retreated into the car.
During the first half of yesterday, a pair of mockingbirds was acting really agitated whenever my husband, I, or our cats set foot outside our front door. I hadn't even noticed this pair around our house until yesterday, so I thought it was strange that they were so agitated all of a sudden... unless they had a fledgling nearby. And finally, in the late afternoon, a fledgling started calling. It was hanging out in a salvia bush near our front porch. Its wings and tail were very short, and it was incapable of flight. I imagine it fledged very recently. The parents were coming in to feed it every so often. I can still hear the fledgling in the same location today, but I can no longer see it. I guess the cats will be staying inside for awhile.
I saw a Rufous-crowned Sparrow singing on the northern boundary of Foothill Regional Park, along the Oakwood Trail, on May 30. On May 31, when I took this picture, it was singing in the same general location.
Nothing special about this guy's behavior. I just like this picture.
On May 16, 2011, I could hear “scheuh”ing coming from this owl box at about 11pm. I stayed for about 20 minutes and no parents came. I revisited the box on either May 17 or May 20 (see below). I arrived at dusk (~9pm) and could once again hear “scheuh”ing at the box. After about 20 minutes, I could hear the clicking of a Barn Owl in the nearby oak savannah. Eventually, I saw a Barn Owl fly to the box. Soon, it was up on top of the box – if it delivered food it did so very quickly. It was standing on the box top for awhile and I got some pictures of its silhouette. It flew off. A little later, an owl flew out of the box. I wondered where it came from and thought maybe the female had been in the box with the young. Then a little later, another owl flew out of the box. I think I may have been watching young fledge! (Or maybe they had already fledged but were roosting in the box during the day.) I could see 2 owl silhouettes against the sky, sitting on vineyard trellising. They were flapping their wings, not going anywhere, and looked unsteady. It also seemed like they were bobbing their heads up and down, side-to-side, and around in circles. I could hear them “scheuh”ing. After awhile, a third owl flew in and things got a little chaotic. One of the owls on the trellis seemed to fall off, and I lost track of the owls. I couldn’t tell if the one that flew in had food. In about 5 minutes, one of the presumed fledglings was visible on a telephone post in the same area, “scheuh”ing.
*Note: Based on my notes and my memory, I believe the date of these observations was June 17. However, the internal date for the digital image is June 20, so that may be the actual date.
I "discovered" this Great Blue Heron and Great Egret rookery on May 23, 2011 (I'm sure the neighbors were already aware of it; it's hard not to notice the bizarre noises at a heron-egret rookery). Great Blue Herons used to nest a little ways up the hill, near Villa Chanticleer. According to Audubon Canyon Ranch's Heron and Egret Atlas, that rookery was last known to be occupied in 2002. It looks like the herons have since moved down near the Russian River, and now the rookery includes Great Egrets. It appears two trees are being used, although it's difficult to see the rookery from publicly accessible locations (I imagine it's quite visible from the river itself, if you're boating down). From what I can tell, the Great Blue Herons primarily nest in a redwood, while the egrets nest in a nearby Douglas-fir (this tree is especially hard to see).
In 2011, I was able to see one Great Egret nest from N. Fitch Mountain Rd (everything else was obscured by the branches of neighboring trees). It was in a Douglas-fir. In 2012, I could see egrets in a Douglas-fir on several occasions from a great distance (from Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve); presumably, it was the same Douglas-fir that was used in 2011. I couldn't actually see any nests because of the distance. On May 1, 2012, when I was near the rookery, I could definitely hear heron and/or egret calls coming from two different trees.
In the last photo, you can see what appears to be the long back plumes of an adult.
I "discovered" this Great Blue Heron and Great Egret rookery on May 23, 2011 (I'm sure the neighbors were already aware of it; it's hard not to notice the bizarre noises at a heron-egret rookery). Great Blue Herons used to nest a little ways up the hill, near Villa Chanticleer. According to Audubon Canyon Ranch's Heron and Egret Atlas, that rookery was last known to be occupied in 2002. It looks like the herons have since moved down near the Russian River, and now the rookery includes Great Egrets. It appears two trees are being used, although it's difficult to see the rookery from publicly accessible locations (I imagine it's quite visible from the river itself, if you're boating down). From what I can tell, the Great Blue Herons primarily nest in a redwood, while the egrets nest in a nearby Douglas-fir.
I could see at least 3 Great Blue Heron nests in the redwood on May 24, 2011. One had a relatively old nestling (as seen in the pictures that I've posted) and the other two seemed to be occupied by adults. There were 2-3 large herons in the nest tree on June 18, 2011, but I didn't have my spotting scope with me so I couldn't tell if they were nestlings or adults. The rookery was also used in 2012. On May 1, I was able to see one Great Blue Heron nest in a redwood (presumably the same tree used in 2011; I was at a different vantage point and could barely see anything) with an adult and two small young. There were at least two other Great Blue Heron adults in the tree. It looked like there also might have been a Great Blue Heron in a nest in a Douglas-fir (presumably the same tree that the egrets like). I checked on the redwood today (June 20) and I could see no activity in the tree - a good number of used nests, though, and lots of whitewash covering the tree.
All of the pictures were taken on May 24, 2011, from a beach access trail at the end of Redwood Dr (there's no nearby parking; you have to walk in from N. Fitch Mtn Rd). The bird on the right is a nestling; the one on the left is an adult.
This fledgling Black Phoebe was hanging out in willows and other riparian vegetation growing along a small stream in northern Healdsburg. Notice the yellowish bill and the short tail and wing feathers. The fledgling was calling occasionally and sounding like a baby phoebe. It wasn't very mobile and seemed like it probably couldn’t fly all that well. Most movement was by hopping and very short flights. Both parents were in the area. They got very agitated when a scrub-jay flew in and chased it out of the area. I saw probable feeding by the parents a few times, but it was hard to see what was going on, since the fledgling was often hidden in the vegetation. The stream went under a bridge nearby. I wouldn't be surprised if the phoebes nested under it.
I first found this Anna's Hummingbird nest on March 29 when I heard the female buzz above my head and then saw it fly up to sit on a nest in a leafless blue(?) oak. At some point, the female left and later returned with a small feather, which it quickly worked into the rim of the nest. On April 7, the female was sitting on the nest when I first arrived. She came and went a few times. I believe she sat on the nest for awhile each time she visited, but I didn't record the details in my notebook. One time she seemed to be working something into the rim of the nest. When I arrived on April 12, the female was again sitting on the nest. She left a few times and returned. She was either working something into the nest (I didn’t see her bring in any nest material) or feeding very small young. I suspected the latter. It had been raining in recent days so it would make sense if she was brooding the young in between feedings. I checked the nest again on May 2, but it looked like the nest had been predated. The feathers in the cup were visible and looked like they had been loosened.
The nest was covered in lichen and expertly camouflaged. It looked very similar to another Anna's Hummingbird nest that I found in an oak last year. The nest was on a limb overhanging Westside Trail.
The first two pictures were taken on April 12, and the other two were taken on April 7. The last picture shows the nest-site; the nest is circled in red.
Was out trying to find some owls. Found this guy instead.
I first noticed this nest on May 10, 2011, when a male Northern Flicker was looking out of the cavity. The male was looking out again on May 17, and then it backed down into the cavity. On June 11 and 12, I saw the parents feed nestlings at the nest multiple times. On June 11, I was able to see 3 nestlings. They were fully feathered but the egg tooth was still visible. The nest was in an alder(?) snag, along West Slough.
I have posted a few videos on YouTube that show the male and female feeding the nestlings (http://youtu.be/PFISMbqf3Yw, http://youtu.be/VdT5ywXNEG0). In the video with the male, you can see that he seems to be feeding the nestlings by regurgitation. The Northern Flicker species account in the Birds of North America says: "Pharynx of adult expands to form a crop, which is engorged, particularly with ant larvae, when adult returns to nest. Young fed by regurgitation." The video with the male also shows him removing a fecal sac.
The pictures that I've posted here show the male approaching the nest cavity (June 12), the male removing a fecal sac (June 12), one of the parents feeding a nestling (June 11), a nestling looking out of the nest (June 11), and the nest-site.
I could hear nestlings calling in a cavity in a small hardwood snag along Old Felta School Rd. As I was checking out the cavity, a fairly old Northern Flicker nestling briefly looked out. The cavity was only about 8-10 feet off the ground. I waited in the area for about 15 minutes but the parents didn't show up. Later, as I was driving by, I was able to get a few pictures of the mom visiting the nest. If you zoom in, you can actually see the nestling looking out of the cavity in the first picture.
On June 15, there was a female Bufflehead (or possibly a subadult male - check out the picture) swimming on a large, deep pond at the Healdsburg wastewater treatment facility. According to Bolander and Parmeter's "Birds of Sonoma County, California: An Annotated Checklist and Birding Gazetteer" (revised in 2000), Buffleheads are quite rare in June in Sonoma County - there were only two June records as of 2000. Last year, there were two female or subadult Buffleheads at the wastewater treatment facility on May 27 (also unusual; Buffleheads normally leave Sonoma County by early May).
This is the second time I've seen a Caspian Tern at the Healdsburg wastewater treatment facility. The last time was April 19, 2011. Note the dusky tip on the bill.
This turtle can often be seen hanging out at Fox Pond at Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve. Whenever I see it, it's usually lounging on a fallen branch that sticks up out of the water. I've never seen more than one turtle at the pond (going back to May 2008). The last time I saw it was sometime in April or May of this year (2012). This picture was taken on May 16, 2011.
On July 3, 2009, my husband and I observed three Burrowing Owls in Bear Valley, Colusa County. We saw them along a section of Bear Valley Rd that runs east-west, 11 miles from Hwy 20. The owls were hanging out along a dry creek that runs parallel to the road, primarily perching on a fence that runs between the road and the creek. We weren't able to tell if any were juveniles (though we weren't trying very hard - it was getting late and we were on our way to Snow Mountain Wilderness), but I'd imagine the presence of three individuals in early July indicates likely breeding.
I was able to find a post on the central_valley_birds Yahoo! group that reported a Burrowing Owl in what seems to be the same location on Feb 28, 2008. I was not able to find any reports of summer sightings in Bear Valley. The map of current breeding range in the California Bird Species of Special Concern book (published in 2008 by the Western Field Ornithologists and CDFG) does not quite include Bear Valley. However, the expansive grassland populated by ground squirrels provides suitable breeding habitat, so it would not be surprising if Burrowing Owls breed here. Bear Valley is fairly remote, so it's not visited by birders very often.
Sorry, no pictures. This was back in the days when I never bothered to take pictures of things. After I reported the sighting to central_valley_birds, someone else went out there and reported seeing one Burrowing Owl on July 10, 2009, in the same location.
As I was walking on the bridge over Felta Creek on Felta Rd, I noticed what I thought to be a young cat headed for a patch of blackberry bushes. "Hi kitty," I said, and then it looked up at me. Oh! That's not a cat, but rather a gray fox pup. It then crept into the blackberries. And then I noticed a second pup curled up in the sun on the dry creek bed. I think my eagerness to get out my camera was a little much for it, and it too crept off into the blackberries. I was able to get a few pictures of that one, but none of the face. There was no adult in sight.