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.
3 bobcats: 1 adult and 2 juveniles, presumably born in 2010
yellow eye, dark marks more or less running lengthwise down middle of belly scales
The following information is based on some bird surveys that I conducted on a private ranch outside of Valley Ford.
A good number of Short-eared Owls inhabited the ranch during the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 winter seasons: at least 20 owls were observed during a survey conducted in winter 2010-2011, and at least 18 owls were observed the following winter. The landowners reported seeing an even larger number of owls during both winters, estimating the number at 30-50 owls on some days; the accuracy of this estimate is not possible to determine. It seems that most, if not all, of the Short-eared Owls that wintered on the property roosted communally (behavior typical for this species during winter months) in a single large group. Findings from my winter 2010-2011 surveys demonstrated that the location of the communal roost is not necessarily stable over the course of an entire winter season. Rather, roost locations can shift, probably in response to prey availability or changing habitat conditions. All roost-sites that were found occurred in ungrazed grassland habitat that was tall enough (~30-60cm (1-2ft)) and dense enough to conceal roosting owls. I am happy to report that ~136 acres of this grassland habitat was recently protected as a "Forever Wild" area under a conservation easement.
Owls were flushed from communal roost-sites during four different surveys: February 11 and March 4, 2011, and January 1 and January 11, 2012. The pictures that I've posted were all taken on February 11, 2011. The wing is from a Short-eared Owl that was presumably predated. The second to last picture shows the dense grassland at one of the roost-sites. The last picture shows what the habitat looks like in the general area.
stalking a Ferruginous Hawk
cow jumping, trying to chase off coyote
Sitting in shrubby grassland
I took these pictures of a Eurasian Collared-Dove on its nest on 4/21. I first observed a dove on the nest on 4/10. I went to check the nest on 5/9 but couldn't find it. The homeowner said she had seen 2 small nestlings about 1 week before but was pretty sure the nest had failed. The nest was fairly well hidden within the middle of a deciduous ornamental tree. It was made of small sticks and not very substantial.
On 4/10, several hummingbirds were foraging in rosemary-like bushes with red flowers (some sort of drought-tolerant, non-native, ornamental plant). I was able to confirm 1 male Rufous Hummingbird. On 4/21, there were at least 2 male Rufous Hummingbirds and several Selasphorus females fighting at the same location. In addition, I believe I observed an Allen's Hummingbird display - I noticed it shuttled back and forth a few times, like a swinging pendulum; then it ascended and then dove, making a high pitched noise at the bottom of the dive.
Hutton's Vireo hunkered down in nest on 4/21 (if you look closely, you can see its eye poking up from the nest in the picture I've posted). I first became aware of this nest on 4/17, when I heard a pair of Hutton's Vireos quietly talking to each other; one also sang a few times. Eventually, I saw one of them carrying a piece of fine grass or something similar in its bill (perhaps rattlesnake grass?). I followed the pair and watched them go to a certain spot in a live oak. Next, I saw a vireo take a fluffy white feather up to the same spot. Then lichens? Overall, I saw them carry various nesting materials at least 4 times. They always went up to the same spot and seemed to be arranging things in the nest; though I'm not sure if it was just one of the vireos doing the nest-building or both. The nest was a relatively small cup, covered with lichen on the outside. It was still occupied on 4/28 (adult sitting on nest), but had apparently failed by 5/13. As far as I could tell, the fluffy, white lining had been pulled out of the nest a bit, and some was even scattered on the surrounding vegetation. My best guess is that a scrub-jay or gray squirrel got into it, but could have been something else.
Gray fox observed crossing Bodega Hwy, going south, near Sexton Rd.
Watched female feed 2 young at nest in live oak tree; young still present on 5/7. What a cryptic nest! I was leading a bird walk and had the nest in the center of my spotting scope - even so, one woman wasn't able to see it the first time she looked in the scope; and when we assured her it was there, she had to stare for another 10 seconds before realizing that she had been looking at it all along.
1 adult and 1 downy nestling seen in nest in large eucalyptus. Nest is visible from small pullout on south side of Lytton Springs Rd, between Hwy 101 and Chiquita Rd, just north of driveway for Salvation Army deliveries.
Adult at nest with at least 1 small, downy nestling, probably 2. Nest is in large eucalyptus on north side of S. Fitch Mountain Rd, between Hidden Acres Rd and McDonough Heights Rd; best viewed from McDonough Heights Rd near intersection with S. Fitch Mountain Rd.
Female Anna's Hummingbird on nest. First observed on 4/28, when the nest was still in progress. The female kept leaving and returning to the nest, sitting in it as she stitched things into the rim with her bill; kind of like a sewing machine. Most of the time, I couldn’t see what she was carrying (if anything) – I figured she must be working with spider webs. On two occasions, I was able to catch her working something fluffy and/or light green into the inner part of the nest; but both times, I saw it just before she placed in into the nest out of sight. By 5/13, the exterior of the nest was more fully camouflaged, and the female was simply sitting on the nest.
The nest is actually sitting on the hooked end of a stick that fell out of an overhanging walnut tree and ended up suspended in a smaller understory tree/shrub. It seems rather precarious, but so far, so good.
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.
I've been keeping my eye on this nest since early April. I'd heard a Red-shouldered Hawk calling from it several times but could never see the hawk. I've had similar experiences at other Red-shouldered Hawk nests this spring - seems they really hunker down while they're incubating eggs. Yesterday (5/16/11), I finally got a good look. One hawk flew out and another flew in within 30 seconds, carrying what appeared to be a partially skinned bird. I wasn't able to see exactly what was happening, but I could tell the adult was tearing off strips of meat and feeding them to at least one small, downy nestling. Very cool! It started to rain pretty hard and the adult climbed down into the nest; looked like it was doing its best to provide some shelter from the rain.
The nest is visible from the base of the two large valley oaks at the entrance to the preserve. It's near the top of the large live oak that's just beyond the black metal gate on the paved road.
Update: On 5/20/11, I watched an adult feeding two downy nestlings at the nest. Later, while the adult was still in the nest, I witnessed some behavior that I couldn't figure out. A second Red-shouldered Hawk flew to the nest with what appeared to be a stick (it definitely didn't seem to be anything to eat) and dropped it in the nest; it perched in the nest tree for awhile and then flew off. A little later, the hawk in the nest became agitated when a Red-shouldered Hawk flew low over the nest. Even later, a Red-shouldered Hawk flew away from the nest area carrying a stick; and a short while later, there was an apparent chase between two adults in the nearby woodland (I believe the original adult was still in the nest). Perhaps the one that was carrying the stick away from the nest was an intruder?
Although I visited Healdsburg Ridge several times after that, I don't have any record of what was going on at the Red-shouldered Hawk nest. I'm not sure why - bad record keeping! Perhaps there was nothing going on, but I wish I had bothered to make a note of it.
Pictures: the first two pictures were taken on 5/16/11. The third picture (blue sky) was taken on 5/20/11 and shows the adult with a downy nestling.
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.
This pair was hanging out along a fire road on the northwest end of the Parkland Farms subdivision in Healdsburg.
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.
On multiple occasions in 2011 and 2012, I've observed an Osprey sitting in a stick nest that's built on a nesting platform. The platform is located at the end of Foreman Ln (south of Healdsburg) and stands on the edge of a vineyard, close to the Russian River. In 2011, I saw an Osprey on the nest on April 19, May 27 (two Ospreys), and June 23. So far in 2012, I saw one on the nest on 5/10 and two on 6/1. I have yet to see any young in this nest.
The pictures of the Osprey with the fish were taken on 5/27/11. Earlier that day, I'd seen two adults in the nest (shown in the last picture). Later, an Osprey flew to a telephone pole within a few hundred meters of the nest. It was picking at the fish while a second Osprey was calling repeatedly from the nest. I'm assuming this Osprey was the male associated with the nest on the platform. However, there were two other nests a little further to the south, so it could have belonged to one of those.
The poor fish was still alive, wiggling and trying to escape, as the Osprey picked out pieces of flesh with its super-sharp beak. What a horrible death! Glad I'm not a fish.
Nothing special about this guy's behavior. I just like this picture.
On 4/28, there was an adult on a nest in a large eucalyptus. The picture of the nestling was taken a month later on 5/28. There were actually 2 nestlings in the nest. The young have since fledged (I'm assuming, since the timing was right). The nest was in a lone eucalyptus, larger than others in the area, ~100m west of Fredson Rd.
Update: This nest was used by Red-tailed Hawks in 2012, as well.
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.
I found two Turkey Vulture fledglings hanging out on a large oak on May 30 and returned the next day to take pictures. I had the great fortune to be in the area as an adult came in to feed one of the young. The adult landed a few feet away from the fledgling, so the fledgling held out its wings for balance and clumsily hopped down to the adult. Next, it thrust its bill into that of the adult, and the adult started regurgitating food. It seemed like a struggle as they wrestled their heads back and forth for 10 seconds or longer. Incredible! Definitely one of those nature experiences I'll never forget.
I'd appreciate some help identifying this grass. Even genus would be useful. There were dense stands of it on private property in the Estero Americano watershed.
Nuttall's Woodpecker nest in a live oak in a rural residential neighborhood in Healdsburg, CA. I could hear young calling inside the cavity. Interestingly, there was a European Starling nest not more than 2 feet away on the same limb. It was actually the starlings that caught my attention. While I was watching them, I noticed a Nuttall's Woodpecker disappearing on the opposite side of the limb. What a nice surprise to find that it was nesting. I've posted a picture of the male (red on head) and one of the female.
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 found this Turkey Vulture fledgling hanging out by itself in a small canyon on Fitch Mountain in Healdsburg. It had fluffy white, downy feathers around its neck and on its breast and belly; it also had some down on the back of its head. It was sitting in a tree only about 10 feet from Riverview Dr (a dirt road where cars aren’t allowed). Though it was probably about 10 feet up in the tree, because it was on a steep slope below the road, the vulture was at eye level. I actually didn’t notice it when I walked past (I guess it was screened well enough by the broom growing on the side of the road). I only noticed it when I rounded a bend in the road and was ~30m away from it. It was pretty-well camouflaged in the dense hardwood forest, so I'm not sure how I saw it. I think I just felt its presence and looked over in its direction. It was a lucky find.
I took pictures (terrible lighting) from only 10 feet away and it didn’t move. I’m pretty certain I could hear it quietly hissing at me – the same sound I heard coming from a nest that I once found in Hopland in Mendocino County, though not nearly as loud. My guess is that this vulture would have flown away were it able to do so. I’m not sure where it nested. The tree it was sitting on didn’t look like a good candidate. There was a larger tree nearby, but I didn’t see any large cavities.