Monday, October 31, 2022

Fox Sparrow

I saw a new sparrow on Saturday out at Big Morongo Canyon. It was feeding on seed on the ground near some bird feeders and I was pretty sure it was a bird I'd not seen before, but I had no clue what it was. 

This has introduced me into the interesting world of the fox sparrow. Depending on which birding group you look at, there are either four subspecies or four separate species: (1) the red fox sparrow, the brightest colored of the four; (2) the sooty fox sparrow, which is browner and darker than the red; (3) the slate-colored fox sparrow, which has a gray head and mantle, brown wings, brown breast streaks and a russet tail; and (4) the thick-billed fox sparrow, which is similar to the slate-colored, but has a much thicker bill. They vary quite a bit and all of them are beautiful. 

I submitted it to iNaturalist as a slate colored. The only responder so far says he would lean toward a red. As I look at the range map, it would appear more likely to be a thick-billed. 
Range map from Wikipedia.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Oak Titmouse

In 1996 the American Ornithologist Union split the plain titmouse into two separate species, the oak titmouse and the juniper titmouse. They appear virtually identical (the oak titmouse has a browner back than the juniper titmouse), but differ in voice and range. It is mostly gray and has a crest or tuft on its head. It is extremely quick, moves around almost constantly and is very difficult to photograph. 

I got some relatively good photos yesterday at Big Morongo Canyon.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Western Meadowlark

It was meadowlark week. I don't see them very often and I got some of my best views ever in three different places: Fish Springs NWR in west-central Utah, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge on the northern end of the Great Salt Lake, and Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.
This and the following were at Bear River MBR. 

This one was at Fish Springs. 

Meadowlarks do migrate, so I must have caught them during their migration. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Sandhill Crane

The sandhill crane is a beautiful bird that I first saw in January 2018 in Lakeland, Florida. In the summer of 2020, I saw a few more at Lower Klamath NWR in northern California. Subsequently I spent quite a bit of time during the height of the Covid pandemic going to the Salton Sea in Imperial County, California. There I encountered them quite a few times and got some fun photos. I share those photos below:
Sandhill cranes with snow geese behind them. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

California Scrub-Jay

I did a post on the western scrub jay in 2009. It has since been split into two separate species, the California scrub jay and Woodhouse's scrub jay. It is found along a strip of the western coast from Washington state to Baja California. 

Recent photos of California scrub jays follow:
In Live Oak Canyon. 

Near Live Oak Canyon. 

At Big Morongo Canyon. 

At Big Morongo Canyon.

At Lake Silverwood. 

At Lake Silverwood. 

Monday, October 3, 2022

Spotted Towhee

The spotted towhee is a bird I remember seeing in our backyard years ago, when it was known as a rufous-sided towhee, but only recently saw them again when we got our bird feeders. 

Even then, they stay on the ground and are skittish, making them difficult to photograph. 

I saw some last year in New Mexico and did a post on them.

Saturday I was at Big Morongo Canyon and got the best photos of a spotted towhee so far. 


Sunday, October 2, 2022

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

I was at Big Morongo Preserve yesterday for an hour or so, before meeting Judy at Whitewater Rock. I stood near the bird feeders most of the time hoping to see a new bird for my bird list. Amazingly I did. 

There were some grosbeaks mostly sitting in seed feeders that I assume were black-headed grosbeaks which I have seen there before. Then a group of fairly young men arrived arrived and were watching and proclaimed that several of them were rose-breasted grosbeaks. They noted red under the wing and some red streaks on the breast. 

As I came home and looked it up I was surprised to see how far out of their normal territory they were. About the closest they normally get is New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. 
Range map for rose-breasted grosbeak (Wikipedia). 
The male does not look anything like a female. It has a black head and back and white underparts with a big red splotch in the middle. The female looks amazingly like a black-headed grosbeak female. 

As I read about them I begin to wonder if I may have seen hybrids between the rose-breasted and black-headed grosbeak.