Thursday, May 31, 2012

Birding the East Bay

.At 7:15 on Saturday morning I drove out of San Francisco and across the Bay Bridge, heading for Mount Diablo. My plan was to start with a couple of hours of birding along Mitchell Canyon, usually one of the most productive - and most beautiful - sites in the Bay Area.

Within a few minutes I had seen California and Spotted Towhees, Ash-throated Flycatchers, Dark-eyed Juncoes, Oak Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatch, American and Lesser Goldfinches, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Cassin's Vireo and California Quail.

Unfortunately, though, all of the birds were either too distant or too concealed in foliage for me to get photos.  A Lazuli Bunting was typical. It perched in the open, positively glowing in the sunlight, and sang its heart out for 10 minutes but there was no way I could closer than this.

A Bewick's Wren was a little more cooperative.

An Anna's Hummingbird let me get close, too.

Back in the parking area, Acorn Woodpeckers were now up and active, looking as comical as ever.

So was the first Black Phoebe of my trip.

Then a Western Scrub-jay swooped in.

By now it was late morning and so I decided to leave Mitchell Canyon to drive over to my favorite California nature site - Black Diamond Mine Regional Park. It's a small park but it's really beautiful and it's usually a great place to get close-up photos of birds.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

California Birding

.I was hoping to fit in several hours of good birding in San Francisco on Thursday. However, things didn't work out quite as planned. Getting through security at IAH took 90 minutes and, as United refused to delay my flight by 5 minutes, I and a bunch of other passengers had to rebook on a later flight. Then, when I arrived in SF and rushed over to the Cliff House area, I found it was incredibly windy - not at all good birding weather.

Seal Rock was busy with both Brandt's and Pelagic Cormorants, while Sutro Baths had a flock of Western Gulls.

The wind was so bad on the heights above the baths that I wasn't able to take photos of a Brown Pelican and a Red-tailed Hawk that passed overhead, although I did manage a quick shot of a Western Scrub-jay that was fighting to keep its perch on a snag.

I walked a mile along the path towards the Golden Gate Bridge.

Surf Scoters were riding the huge waves, while a Black Oystercather huddled on a rock well out of the water's reach.

Back at Cliff House, I spent an hour birding Sutro Heights Park. Common Ravens soared over the park and occasionally landed in it.

As always in this area, there were plenty of Brewer's Blackbirds.

White-crowned Sparrows are other common residents.

House Finches and Eurasian Collared Doves tried to perch on high branches while California Towhees scuttled around in the undergrowth.

I wasn't able to get pictures of a couple of Allen's Hummingbirds as they chased each other from tree to tree, but an Anna's Hummingbird let me watch as she explored some flowers.

My final bird in the park was an American Robin, which was busy pulling up and eating worms.

So, although my California trip hadn't started well, I had already seen several interesting birds. I wouldn't have any time for birding the following day but I was planning to spend Saturday exploring a couple of my favorite sites in the East Bay. I was sure these would produce some rewarding birding.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Last Hoorah?

I spent a fruitless hour on Sunday morning looking for migrants at Kleb Woods. I enjoyed the walk, though!

After seeing no migrants at either W G Jones State Forest or Kleb Woods on the weekend, I resigned my self to the thought that spring songbird migration was finally over. So I was very surprised to find the CyFair nature trail busy with warblers on Monday morning.

Yellow Warblers seemed to be everywhere I looked.

There were lots of Chestnut-sided Warblers also.

Mixed in among the warblers were several Red-eyed Vireos.

As usual, there were some Eastern Wood-Pewees, too.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to ID a couple of Empidonax flycatchers that I spotted.

BTW, our resident male Northern Cardinals seemed rather put out by the arrival of the migrants. I guess they don't like having competition for the title of prettiest-bird-on-the -block.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Last Week at CyFair

Apart from migrants and Purple Martins, last week was fairly quiet for birds on the campus.

One pair of Western Kingbirds is hanging out around the tennis courts but I haven't yet seen any sign of their nesting in the roof of the basketball court.

Nearby a Killdeer is sitting on its eggs while a partner hovers anxiously around. Both parents are always ready to start playing the broken-wing trick if anyone ventures close to the nest.

A Yellow-crowned Night Heron has taken to sunning itself on the streetlights north of the nature trail.

Our Loggerhead Shrikes prefer to sit on fence posts.

Now that it's nesting season, our Red-tailed Hawks are having a hard time. Whenever they fly over the campus they are attacked and driven off by Northern Mockingbirds. A Crested Caracara which flew over received similar treatment from a Loggerhead Shrike.

By the Way
Usually by this time of the year I've already done a couple of short out-of-state trips but I haven't been out of Texas so far this year. However, when you read this, I'll be in California, where I'm visiting a school in San Francisco. I've arranged my arrival so that I'll have time to do a little birding in the city on Thursday afternoon. Then I've rented a car for Saturday and will drive across the bay to check out some of my old birding haunts. With any luck, I should get to see quite a few different birds while I'm away!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Endangered Woodpecker

Saturday morning I drove up to W G Jones State Forest to look for the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

It didn't take long to find a nest hole. The woodpeckers tap sap so that it covers the bark below the nest and keeps snakes away.

Over the next 20 minutes I watched as first one parent and then the other returned with food.

Most times the parent would perch at the nest for only a few seconds and then fly off. Occasionally, though, one of them would climb down into the cavity before re-emerging and flying away.

At one point, both parents spent some quality time together exploring a nearby loblolly pine. 

I saw few other birds except a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers, three Red-headed Woodpeckers, a couple of Eastern Bluebirds and a handful of Blue Jays. However, the native garden near the offices had several species of butterflies, including Palmares Swallowtails.