Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bulletin #46 – Sierra Mountains, CA #4

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
July 13, 2008

Bulletin #46 – Sierra Mountains, California #4

Hello friends,

I did a birding/photography trip to the Sierras between Reno NV and Sacramento CA recently. Once more I used a guide to find the birds for me so that I could photograph them.

My guide here was, once again, Rick Fournier of Monterey Birding Adventures. This is another area of California where he leads tours. His web site is Monterey Birding Adventures.

This is the beautiful Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus). He is a marsh dwelling bird like the Red-winged Blackbird of the east. However, the male is a stunningly beautiful bird, with his yellow hood and white wing patches. The female is duller with a slightly yellow head and brown rather than black body.

Here are 2 photos of the male and 1 of the female. click ‘next’ twice

The only raptor that I was able to photograph was a cooperative Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni). This is a common hawk of the western USA. Like many haws, it has 2 color morphs, light and dark. This is the dark morph bird and is less common. He has very long wings and the primary wing tips usually project beyond the tail as seen in the first photo. A small projection is visible on the right ½ of the tail. click ‘next’ once

There were several warblers seen as well. The Hermit Warbler (Dendroica occidentalis) was a life bird for me. The male shown here has a yellow face with black throat, gray body and 2 wing bars. click ‘next’ once

I also got a much better photo of the MacGillivray’s Warbler (Oporornis tolmiei). The male in this photo is yellow with gray hood and black throat. The broken white eye-ring is the diagnostic field mark.

The last is the Nashville Warbler (Vermivora ruficapilla). He is yellow with gray head and complete eye-ring. The throat is yellow.

In the marsh where we found the Yellow-headed Blackbirds, there were 2 other interesting birds. The first was a family of American Coots (Fulica americana) with chicks. The chicks have red and yellow feathers on their head and red bill. This was a first for me to see these cute chicks. click ‘next’ once

A Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris) was busy making an unseen nest in the cattails. She made several trips carrying some nesting material. Then she suddenly flew out and landed on the top of a cattail and proceeded to take a mouthful of cottony material from the top of the cattail and went back to the nest area. I guess this was to line the nest. click ‘next’ once

After disappearing into the reeds with the nest material, she came back out and sat on a barbed wire fence in response to the tape. These are normally very secretive birds. She still had some of the white fibers on her feet, tail etc.

We also found an American Dipper nest under a bridge. Normally they make their nest under an overhanging rock or ledge along a stream.

Mammals are rarely seen as most are nocturnal and live underground. The squirrel family of rodents, are the most commonly seen. I always try to photograph mammals when we come across them.

This is the Lodgepole Chipmunk (Tamias speciosus), one of about 20 species of chipmunk in USA and Canada. It was a lifer for me.

There was an interesting plant, the Snow Plant (Sarcodes sanguinea). This plant lacks chlorophyll and thus is not green. It grows to 18” in height although the ones we saw in June were up to 12”.

All the birds from the Sierras can be seen from the beginning at this link to the first one and just scroll through by clicking ‘next’.

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2008 David McDonald

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