Wednesday, November 30, 2022


The bushtit is a bird I've probably been vaguely aware of, but never really gotten a good look at. It is one of those birds I see on a walk flitting around ahead and never getting two close to. I've only photographed the bushtit on two occasions, and none of the photos are very good. I'm now making a greater effort to look for and photograph the smaller birds and hope to add some better bushtit photos in the future. 

The bushtit is found in the western U.S., a little bit up into Canada quite a ways down into Mexico and a little bit of Guatemala. 
Bushtit range from Wikipedia.
There are 10 subspecies. It is gray-brown overall, has a large head, a short neck, a long tail and a short stubby bill. Males have dark brown to black eyes and females have yellow eyes. Coastal forms have a dark cap and interior forms a brown mask. 
This bushtit was photographed in Live Oak Canyon near Redlands.

This bushtit was found in the Irvine Ranch Water District in Orange County. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Western Bluebird

The western bluebird is a small North American flush found primarily in the western U.S. and Mexico. 
Range from Wikipedia. 
The male is bright blue on top and on the throat, has an orange breast and sides, a brownish patch on the back, and a gray belly and undertail coverts. The female has a duller blue body, wings and tail, a gray throat, a dull orange breast and gray belly and undertail coverts. 

I am seeing lots of them on the telephone lines on our street, but I've never seen one come to our birdfeeders in our backyard. 

The following are photos I've taken of western bluebirds:
In Live Oak Canyon in Redlands, near our home. 

At Big Morongo Canyon. 

Song Sparrow

The song sparrow is found throughout the U.S. and much of Canada (below the southern boundary of Alaska) and has an incredible 52 subspecies (being whittled down to 25 after a morphological review).  The subspecies are then broken down into an eastern group, a northwestern group, a cismontane California group, a southwestern group and a Mexican plateau group. In general, the song sparrow has brown upperparts with with dark streaks on the back, white underneath with dark streaking and a dark brown spot in the middle of the breast, a brown cap, a gray face with with a brown streak through each eye, and a long brown rounded tail. They are highly variable in size among subspecies. The likely subspecies I saw recently at Irvine Ranch Water District is found from the central California coast and Central Valley down to northern Baja California with dark upperparts, becoming darker as you go south, brown with gray mantle edges and a plump bill base. 

The following are photos of song sparrows over the last year or two:
At Batiquitos Lagoon near Carlsbad, California. 

At Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah. 

At Whittier Narrows in Los Angeles. 

At Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

At Irvine Ranch Water District.

At our home in Redlands. 

At Big Morongo Canyon.

Most recently at Irvine Ranch Water District where I saw lots and lots of them. 

Sunday, November 27, 2022

White-Throated Sparrow

 Saturday I was at Big Morongo Canyon with my daughter Rachael. Dan, the man that keeps the bird feeders stocked, mentioned that he'd seen and photographed a whited-throated sparrow recently, among a slew of white-crowned sparrows that were dominating the feeders. He pointed to the bushes on the left side and said it was darting in and out of the bushes there and a challenge to get a photograph in good light. Sure enough, the white-throated sparrow emerged, darting in and out among a bevy of white-crowned sparrows. I would never have noticed the difference in the sparrows without his mention of it. I took lots of photos, many of them very poor, but enough good ones to have a good record of it. I was happy to add a new bird to my list. 

Dan indicated it was a rare visitor to Big Morongo and the map, below, bears that out. It is mostly a coastal non-breeding visitor in California. 
From Wikipedia

It is a beautiful sparrow with reddish/brown upperparts with dark brown streaks and two white wingbars. There are two variations of head stripes. The white-striped form has a black crown with a white central stripe and a white supercilium. The tan form has a dark brown crown with a tan central stripe and a tan supercilium. Both variations have yellow spots between each eye and the bill. The bill is small and gray. The tail is quite long. The underparts are grayish with a white throat patch sometimes outlined with a black line. 

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Allen's Hummingbird

 I visited the IRWD (Irvine Ranch Water District) San Joaquin Marsh this morning and saw a new hummingbird, Allen's hummingbird. It is the fifth species of hummingbird I've seen in the U.S. and 20th internationally (all of the 15 outside of the U.S. were seen in Ecuador). 

It only has a small range in the western U.S. (it is even hard to see on the map below). It is only common in coastal California from Santa Barbara north and southern coastal Oregon. 
Yellow is breeding, blue is wintering and green is year-round. From Wikipedia. 
The male has rufous flanks, rump and tail, a green back and forehead, and an orange-red throat. The female and immature is similar, but has a speckled throat instead. 
Light always makes a huge difference in how hummingbirds look. Here the throat almost looks black. 

Here you see a little green on the back. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

I saw my first ruby-crowned kinglet on October 1, 2021 in the small grove of trees on the Garr Ranch on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. I just recently saw them at both Big Morongo Canyon and Whitewater Canyon Preserve, in Southern California, on the same day. It has olive green plumage, two white wing bars and a white eye-ring. Males have a red crown patch which is rarely seen (and which I have not seen). It is mostly migratory and breeds up north in Canada and Alaska and spends winters in the southern U.S. and down into Mexico and Central America, although there are some non-migratory populations in the mountain regions of the U.S. 

It is a bird that is usually moving and doing so erratically, so getting a good photo is difficult. 
In Whitewater Canyon. 

In Big Morongo Canyon. 

On Antelope Island.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

North American Barn Owl

I've done several posts on the barn owl previously, both relating to barn owls in our nearby Live Oak Canyon: here and here.  I've subsequently gotten better photos of barn owls in Live Oak Canyon and I've seen a number of barn owls in Big Morongo Canyon. So I'm sharing some barn owl photos that I've gotten since the referenced posts:
I saw this owl in Live Oak Canyon on July 5, 2021 in an arroyo leading into the wash. It wasn't visually injured and could fly, but it wasn't flying far. I suspect it was injured in some respect.  

A few months earlier, on May 10, 2021, I saw this barn owl in a Live Oak Tree in Live Oak Canyon while on a walk one morning. I went home, got my camera and came back for the photo. It flew away shortly after I took the photo. 

This owl was well hidden in a palm tree in Big Morongo on October 15, 2022. It was pointed out to me by another birder. I would never have seen it on my own. 

This barn owl was inside the heavy thatch of a Palm Tree in Big Morongo on October 1, 2022. The location was pointed out to me by another birder. 

This barn owl was in a pine tree in Big Morongo on October 28, 2022, the location pointed out to me by another birder. This is one of my favorite barn owl photos. I like the dark and light contrasts.