Saturday, July 5, 2008

Bulletin #45 – Sierra Mountains, CA #3

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
July 5, 2008

Bulletin #45 – Sierra Mountains, California #3

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.

We found three members of the New World Sparrow family.

The first was one of the prettier ‘sparrows’, the Green-tailed Towhee (Pipilo chlorurus). This beautiful little bird has an olive green back and tail, gray breast, rusty cap on his head and pure white throat. There is never any difficulty in IDing this bird when seen. The sexes are the same color.

Here are 2 photos of the same bird. click ‘next’ once

The second sparrow was the Brewer’s Sparrow (Spizella breweri). This is a plain brown sparrow of the arid southwest. The adult is clear breasted, but the juvenile has a streaked breast. This was a lifer for me.

Here are the adult and juvenile photos. click ‘next’ once

The third sparrow was the Fox Sparrow. It is a large sparrow, (7”) that has several subspecies that range in color from reddish like a fox to dark gray brown. This is the sooty race form the Pacific coast area of California.

The Western Tanager is brightly colored like most members of that family. The male is yellow with a red head and 2 wing bars on black wings, the upper bar is yellow and the lower white. The female is mostly green with dark wings. Here are photos of a male and a second bird that had just ½ his head red. Sibley calls this a winter male, but the National Geographic guide book has the winter male without any red. My guide thinks it is a first year male. I couldn’t find any photo in a guide book labeled 1st year male, but as the time of year (June 15th), that makes more sense than a winter plumage bird! click ‘next’ once

The Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) is related to the Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the cardinal family. The male is unmistakable with the black head and wings with white patches, orange breast and belly, and a central yellow patch on the belly seen in the second photo. He has the typical large beak. click ‘next’ once

There was 1 thrasher in the Sierra Valley – Sage Thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus). This is the smallest ABA thrasher at 8.5” and the same size as the Gray Catbird. As its name implies, it lives in the arid sagebrush country.

It is brown with a streaked breast and yellow eye. The bill has a slight curve like most thrashers. This was another life bird for me.

There were 2 members of the Corvidae family (crows, jays and magpies).

The first is the Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia). This bird was split from the similar magpie in Europe. These large birds are unmistakable.

The other was the Common (Northern) Raven (Corvus corax). Ravens are like large crows and are of the same genus, but this bird has a wedge shaped tail. The pointed tail is visible in this photo of the raven in flight. They also have a massive bill.

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2008 David McDonal

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