March 8th GGID Journal

Dear me,

No true journal writing today – it’s rest day for the brain + soul. Instead, I thought I would document the birds I saw in my yard yesterday and today as I took my backyard breaks in the sunshine. Since I sit there either reading on my ipad (a silent function requiring very little movement), or just sit and watch the wind through the trees, or sit with my eyes closed – birds tend to view me as just another inanimate object after a bit. Consequently some rather shy, not always seen species came around AND I was able to see them and ID them clearly. No, I didn’t take these photos. No iphone would produce a quality photo and of course the birds would have flown away had I tried!

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

Orange Crowned Warbler

Orange Crowned Warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler (aka, Butterbutt)

Yellow Rumped Warbler (aka, Butterbutt)

Townsend's Warbler

Townsend’s Warbler


Black Headed Grosbeak – New backyard visitor!

A bit of a lucky break yesterday afternoon – while sitting for a quick snack as I waited for my son to finish homework before we went out for the evening, I happened to look up and see a brand new visitor to the backyard feeder:

Focus on the larger bird on the platform vs the white crowned sparrow on the gravel. It’s a female black headed grosbeak. You can see how much bigger she is than the resident sparrows and clearly see her yellow-orange shadings on her breast and head. Here is a better photo of one that I found on the web:

I only had my Iphone near me and I did the best I could leaning across the table and pulling the zoom as much as it will go to snap the photos. Thankfully she was there long enough for me to at least get that, but of course Amber noticed MY interest in the yard and ambled over to check it out and promptly scared it (damn cats!)

Still – a very cool new siting. And yes, the white crowned sparrows are still dominating the yard. Their song is all I hear most of the time. I feel like this is later into the Spring than we usually see them in these quantities, but I could be wrong.

Also – hey – hi – I didn’t forget this space, we just haven’t been terribly focused on hiking or bird watching for awhile. I think this will always be a rather random site for updates!


Song sparrow

Snagged from You Tube, this is what I hear through my open windows every morning recently. It is also the first bird I see very morning at the backyard feeder as I eat breakfast – the bird was named very aptly:

You never know what you will see when watering your yard

The title is my disclaimer up front that the two photos were not taken by me! My camera was inside the house charging in preparation for an upcoming trip. My phone was also inside. I merely stepped outside to water before heading out for a run this morning and I was greeted first my the unusual calls of both birds, and then rather brilliantly with close encounters with each. The first was the rather striking head of a Townsend’s Warbler:

He was checking out the peach tree while I was watering the plants in the other corner of the yard but I was able to get quite close to him to see all of his gorgeous markings. After he flew off, I went over to the peach tree to water it and heard a woodpecker calling fairly close by. I figured it was in the dense branches of the pine trees behind my neighbors house so I didn’t really look for it. Then I see something larger than the usual finch or sparrow bouncing around in the bottle-brush right behind the peach tree. As I stepped forward to look closer, he came right into clear view – a Nuttal’s Woodpecker with it’s distinctive all striped back and red crown on top:


Next time, I’m carrying the camera around my neck just in case. Which will most likely be followed by a post titled “wet cameras don’t take good pictures!”

Who got your tail?

California (Brown) Towhees are occasional visitors to my backyard. They particularly enjoy the corn. Normally, they look like this:

As a size comparison, they are slightly bigger/bulkier than a House Sparrow or House Finch and have, as you can see, a rather long tail.

Normally anyway. Then his guy showed up in my yard this week:

Something seems to be missing here

The shape reminds me of a baby chicken

He seems perfectly fine. I've seen him over several days now and he hops around and flies off as easily as the others

I do wonder though – how did he lose all of his tail feathers so completely without any further injury? Do Towhee’s have a lizard like capability to abandon their tails and then grow them back?

I guess we’ll see!

On another birding note – I went for a run last weekend on the trails. Yes, a run. Meaning no camera to slow me down. Which was unfortunate since the birds were literally posing everywhere I went! In fact, I added a new bird to my Life List (which I actually need to put together again perhaps on an added page here?). Anyhow, I *may* have seen this bird before but couldn’t specifically identify it. As I said though, birds were just flat out posing and if I’d HAD my camera, I’d have a gorgeous photo but instead I have to steal one from the web:

Rufous Crowned Sparrow - the one I saw stood on a fence post & pretty much looked at me like this

The Rufous (birding ID for Brick colored) crown was very prominent

I think I need to get back out there with my camera 🙂

Sharp Shinned Hawk in the yard!

My favorite birds of all time have always been birds of prey. American Kestrel, Osprey, Peregrine Falcon, Golden Eagle..the list goes on. If it feasts on meat, I am fascinated! One of my hopes when I put up the feeder was that the flocks of sparrows & especially doves would attracted a bird eating hawk or two. I’ve caught brief glimpses of what I thought was a Sharpie or maybe a Coopers in the yard over the past year. But, they would either just fly through, or land on the fence only long enough for one of the cats to leap at the window and scare it away. Today though, SUCCESS! The hawk landed in the yard while the cats were in their deep daytime sleep cycle – settled well away from the backyard window. I heard a bird just chirping away in alarm and since THAT call was unusual, I went to investigate and thankfully I spied the source of the smaller bird’s alarm in time to not frighten it away myself.

Juvenile Sharp Shinned Hawk resting in my yard

For a better perspective of size in relation to the yard, I pulled back a bit. Sharpie was quite content there and didn’t seem disturbed or able to detect me behind the french door. It even stretched out so that I could see the complete set of streaks under it’s wings & super long tail.

Feeder is abandoned - wonder why? Humminbirds hovered near, but didn't divebomb.

After about 5 minutes Sharpie flew up just above to a pine tree in the yard next door where I could get a better view of how long his tail is. It also provided him the classic hawks eye view of the yard just in case an unaware dove decided to come to the feeder.

Unfortunately for both Sharpie and me, no lunch presented itself & eventually he flew off.

Next time 🙂