In the California county in which we live, Santa Clara County, there are well known migration paths used by passerine birds. These paths are usually creeks and small rivers that provide food and water to birds as they fly from as far as Alaska heading south to their boreal winter grounds ranging from Mexico to South America. The Yellow Warbler is one such species and every fall they appear reminding us that another northern hemisphere breeding season is ending.
The Black Phoebe is a common flycatcher on the West Coast. It is easily found in and around the San Francisco-San Jose area all year. Most of the time when we are doing local birding we will see one or two them. They tend to use low spots from which to do their fly catching, rocks, fence posts and the like, flying off a perch, grabbing an insect and then usually returning to the same perch. It’s my observation that they like green grassy areas, perhaps because of the type of insects that lawns draw. Since the drought in California and home owners have converted to xerophytic gardens I am seeing less of this species where in the past they were common.
American Dipper seen near Alyeska, Alaska
I love these birds. Seeing your first one ejecting from a heavy white-water rapid on a roaring mountain river is like viewing magic. This bird finds its food by flying down to the bottom of swiftly moving streams and walks upstream on the bottom hunting for insects. Many times I have seen them leave the water with a large insect larva in their beaks. Note the huge toenails that assist this bird in holding onto the bottom of creeks and rivers. One tough little bird.
The plaintive song of the Canyon Wren reverberates in canyons of the Western United States. They are not too shy so they make reasonable photo subjects. They are uncommon in Santa Clara County, California. Last I heard there are two known Canyon Wrens in the county. A beautiful wren with a white throat and rusty-red uppers.
This small sparrow is very difficult to see. In breeding season it can be heard, but barely. The pitch of its song is very high and has a insect-like buzz to it. If it’s a windy day they are difficult to hear.
I don’t have any exotic birds to follow Dave’s post but here is a painting of a common bird I recently completed. Snowy Egrets are a great subject to work with and I had fun placing this one amid tangled splashy branches.
The Green Turaco - Tauraco persa
Well, so far, all my photos were taken in the wild. I will try to adhere to this concept, but I had to post this one because it is such an unusual looking bird. It is found in Central-Western Africa. Technically it is the species Tauraco persa buffoni, the only subspecies that does not have a thin white line below the eye.
This photo was taken at the Bloedel Conservatory, Vancouver, BC.
This small wren of the eastern parts of the United States and eastern parts of Mexico is very noisy for its size. Its loud “tea-kettle tea-kettle” song lights up forests during the breeding season. They are hard to see because they favor brush thickets, but hearing them is not a problem when they are singing.
Photographed at El Franco Lee Park, Houston, Texas.
The Cooper’s Hawk is a sleek rapid flying hawk that negotiates tree limbs at high speed when chasing its prey. One of its favorite prey is the Mourning Dove. Our backyard feeders attract Mourning Doves so this means that Cooper’s Hawks are on the prowl. I have a saying that if you want to attract Cooper’s Hawks, throw a lot of sunflower seeds on the ground.
When the backyard birds spot a Cooper’s Hawk they are gone in the blink of an eye. One second there are 2-3 dozen birds on the ground and at the feeders and an eye blink later there are zero birds. When this happens I know to look out for a Cooper’s Hawk on the prowl.
The Whiskered Screech Owl is found over a small area of the Southwest United States. Its distribution extends down the western mountains of Mexico and into part of Central America. We heard several “tooting” during the night where we were staying in Portal, Arizona. Sometimes their toots sound like Morse code.
A truly beautiful flycatcher. The salmon-colored flanks are characteristic of this species. When it flies, the long tail reminds me of a train on a bridal dress. The area around the “armpit” or “wing pit” as it is sometimes called is a more intense redder salmon color.
This species breeds in the south-central U.S. and winters from South Mexico down into Panama.
We spent 9 days in Texas starting on April 20, 2019. The purpose of the trip was to experience landfall of some of the billions of migratory birds that have crossed long distances over the Gulf of Mexico to reach North America. Many of these birds will make their way into norther Canada.
The Chuck-will’s-widow was an unexpected find. We heard it was at Boy Scout Woods in High Island, Texas on our last day. I asked one of the volunteers at the entrance if she knew where I could find this bird. She did better than that and got up and said follow me! My lucky day because trying to find one of these in dense forest on your own is nearly impossible because of this birds’ wonderful camouflage.
The name comes from the sound it makes, an incessant “Chuck-will’s-widow”
The Blue-gray Gnatcher is a common bird in Central-Coastal California in the summer. It flits around in the brush wagging and lifting its tail which startles insects causing them to fly to become a tasty morsel for this bird. This photo is of a male because of the blue “V” on its forehead.
If lucky, you will encounter these birds nest building. They gather caterpillar and spider silk and use it to fasten fragments of lichens into a small thimble which becomes the nest. The nest looks like a bump on a tree’s branch and it’s impossible to know if it’s a nest unless you see an adult fly onto it.
Want to talk Gaudy? Talk about the Green Jay. This bird has a bizarre mix of colors: green, black, blue and yellow. I have encountered this species twice, once in Mexico and once in Southern Texas. I was unable to get what I consider great photos because the bird was either glued to a suet feeder or in the case of this photo, it stayed in the protective shade of vegetation. They have a well-developed family structure that cooperate to improved reproductive success. More information on this species can be found at: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/grnjay/introduction
There is nothing like coming up on this little bird. We were walking down a road with dry grass and barbed wire fence. Out of nowhere, a blue gem catches the eye - even with its flashy colors, it just barely catches the eye.
A warbler with a lemon-yellow face that is common in the Northeast United States and Southeast Canada in the northern summer. In the summer it feeds mostly on caterpillars in coniferous and deciduous forests. This species spends the northern winter in tropical America where it eats the buds of the cecropia tree.
We have seen this species in Northern Ohio as it makes its way across the lakes to northern forests in Canada.
Photo taken at Magee Marsh, 2018.
The sweet song of the Yellow Warbler always puts a smile on my face as it sings “sweet, sweet, I am so sweet”. The rich buttery yellow with the reddish streaks indicate a male Yellow Warbler in the photos. Females and immatures are not as bright and lack the rich reddish streaking on the breast. The plain face with a piercing black eye is a characteristic of this species.
These photos were taken at Magee Marsh, Ohio in 2018
The Palm Warbler occurs mostly east of the Rocky Mountains and breeds almost exclusively in Northern Canada. Some members of this species will spend winters along the west coast of the United States, however, most overwinter in the Southeastern United States and down into the Caribbean and Yucatan. The winter Palm Warbler, like most other warblers is drab brown, but the yellow under-tail area gives them away along with their habit of wagging their tail up and down as they forage on the ground. They are brave for warblers. In Florida a winter bird came up and pecked on my shoe.
The photo shows an adult heading for the breeding grounds. Photo taken in May 2018 at Magee Marsh, Ohio.
A common shorebird of South America but it is slowly spreading north into Central America. This is one of two that my daughter spotted close to the Arenal Volcano near La Fortuna, Costa Rica
This cute warbler usually inhabits marshy areas, often in and around reeds or other vegetative tangles. This is a photo of a male. The female’s colors are subdued. They skulk around in dense vegetation making them hard to see, but every once in awhile one will appear for a photo. In the spring they can more easily be found by their song which sounds like whichety-whichety-whichety and is quite a racket for a tiny bird. In the northern summer, this species can be found across the entire United States and the southern half of Canada.