Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: first sightings (page 2 of 2)

Downy Woodpecker

I saw this downy woodpecker banging away on a branch about ten feet above the trail yesterday. Everyone I passed on the trail was talking about the woodpecker. Did you see the woodpecker? Did you see him?

Loud as he was, he wasn’t hard to miss.

E-gad(wall) That’s Some Birds!

I took my survey walk along the trail near the house on Saturday morning. The first thing that hit me when I walked outside was the sheer number of birds that were singing. It’s been a while since it was that loud. It was a beautiful spring day, and the birds knew it.

The pond held a few northern shovelers and a bunch of gadwalls (lousy over-enlarged picture above), a duck I hadn’t previously met in the neighborhood. I counted six of them in the pond with the two shovelers, but all the ducks flew away as one when a family walked up to the edge of the pond to skip rocks.

I got this shot of one of the gadwalls on the way out.

Along the way, I saw the usual suspects: mourning dove, carolina chickadee, northern mockingbird, American crow, killdeer, and lots of noisy blue jays.

The blue jays were a nice surprise. They’ve been lying low these past months, but with such a perfect spring day, they were out in substantial numbers. I heard far more than I saw, but I saw quite a few. They are also back in the yard for the first time since August.

The white-winged doves are back as well. Most of them left in November, leaving only a few stragglers behind. Saturday morning, I saw one of those clean-out-the-feeder-in-ten-minutes flocks that hasn’t been around in months.

So it’s spring, although a front came through today to give us one last bite of cold, and I’m curious to see when the ducks will leave for good and when the scissor-tails and swallows will return. I bet the swallows are here by next weekend.

One other thing I noticed on Saturday afternoon. I took the dogs out and the trees were erupting with chatters, screeches, cooing, twirls, and any other sound a backyard bird can make. The jays especially were having a fit. Then, silence as a hawk flew over. As soon as the raptor was gone, the singing resumed, but in a much less agitated manner. Nice of them to warn us.

Birdz in the Hood

Last week’s Great Backyard Bird Count project got me thinking about long-term counts around the neighborhood. What species come and go over the course of a year? Which are the year-round residents in our neighborhood?

I know that the ducks like this lesser scaup only come to the pond in the winter.

But what of the others? On Saturday, while walking along the trail down to the pond and onward to the creek, I decided to try to take a weekly count of birds and other wildlife I happen to see. If I can maintain this for a year, perhaps I’ll really know my local wildlife. Who knows, maybe they’ll start inviting me to their nests for insects and seed.

Red-shouldered Hawk

The two red-shouldered hawks that circled and swooped over the pond were by far the highlight of Saturday’s walk. One of them even came close enough to let me take this fairly decent picture.

Farther down the trail, I heard a faint tapping up in a tree. I saw two ladder-backed woodpeckers, male and female. The male is the one with the red cap. The female’s is black.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Along the way, I heard great symphonies of bird song, but only saw these:

  • 1 Lesser scaup
  • 2 Red-shouldered hawks
  • 4 Blue Jays
  • 1 Turkey vulture
  • 4 Black vultures
  • 2 Ladder-backed woodpeckers
  • 1 American crow
  • 1 Killdeer
  • 2 Bewick’s wrens
  • 2 Chipping sparrows
  • 4 House sparrows

Other than birds, the only animals I saw were dozens of turtles on the pond including a few that decided to pile up and sun themselves.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

While we were in Orange, I kept seeing this fellow standing in a ditch by the road hunting crawfish. Finally, I stopped to take a picture so I could ID him. He’s a yellow-crowned night heron.

I love the name night heron. It’s such an evocative name, one that fires the imagination. Not quite as good as the Latin version of the black-crowned night heron (nycticorax nycticorax), which translates to night raven, though.

The picture here doesn’t really do him justice as his crown appears more white than the pale yellow it should be. Blame the photographer. The bird himself was living up to his name, which he claimed was actually Moe.

I also added another bird to my life list: the fish crow. I heard what sounded like a nasal quawking, but the birds flying over looked like crows, but the sound was definitely not the hard caw-caw. I listened to some recordings online and consulted many a tome to learn that I had seen fish crows, a fairly common coastal bird.

Bird Blogging

This is for I and the Bird

Birds have always been a source of endless fascination for me. I had parakeets when I was in high school and spent hours photographing them and watching them fly in circles around my bedroom.

Parakeets Sam and Pat

For awhile my dad was breeding canaries and finches and so no matter where I went in the house, there were birds. I suppose my love of watching birds was inherited from him.

Every place I’ve lived I set up a bird feeder and have spent hours happily watching the birds come to the feeder and doing what they do. We had a purple martin house at our old home, and I used to love sitting on the porch watching the flying lessons every spring. I always felt a little sad each July when they left.

So what’s so interesting about birds? I think it’s the wildness. There’s something about seeing wild animals that makes me just stop and stare, that reminds me that as far away from nature as I sometimes feel, it’s still there. Birds – beautiful, funny, graceful – are the wild animals that most of us see most frequently and so watching birds is something of a way to reconnect with nature without leaving our cities or even, for that matter, our homes.

Whenever I see birds while I have my camera on me as I did on our recent trip to Lake Tahoe, I always try to photograph them simply because they’re so hard to shoot. A good bird picture is an accomplishment. I don’t know how good these are, but I’m happy to have shared a space with these birds for a few moments as our separate journeys brought us all together for a few fleeting moments.

A seagull flying over Lake Tahoe (taken in Tahoe City, CA):

Seagull over Tahoe

Canadian Geese at the Tahoe City Commons:

Canadian Geese

Canadian Geese

A Stellar’s Jay at Sugar Pine Point State Park on Lake Tahoe in California:

Stellar's Jay

Birds are transitory creatures. They’re here for a while and then they move on. Whenever I see a bird, I wonder where it’s been, what it’s seen.

I get jealous.

Bird Pictures from Canyon of the Eagles

Here are a few of the better pictures of birds from Saturday’s trip up the Canyon of the Eagles.

This is a bald eagle. They roost there this time of year. We mostly saw juveniles, which look more like hawks because they don’t have the white heads yet. This is the best shot I could get of an adult. A 300mm lens doesn’t do it justice, but that’s all I’ve got. It looked stunning through the binoculars.

Bald Eagle

Next up we have some pelicans chilling with a flock of ducks…


A couple of blue herons standing in a tree on top of a cliff…

Blue Herons

And finally some seagulls who didn’t mind getting closer to me and my camera…




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