Monday, July 17, 2017

Hooded Oriole

Hooded Oriole aka. Palm-leaf Oriole
Alvarado Park, Richmond, California, USA
July 2017
Member of the Blackbird/Oriole Family
§A Split of Orioles§

~true bird fact~ He's called a Palm-leaf Oriole especially in California because of the unusual way they make their nests. A female Oriole will poke holes in the underside of a palm frond and then thread fibers through these holes, essentially sewing a nest to the bottom of the leaf. In fact, the northward expansion of his range is largely owed to more people planting more ornamental palm trees. These birds certainly live up to their nickname in your Amateurnithologist's own neighborhood, as this bird was observed flying to and from a palm tree (actually I've seen him for a few years now, but this was the first time I was able to get a decent picture).

Loves citrus fruit (this one sounds like something I would make up, but appears to be true)
Always on the lookout for a shortcut to avoid hard work
Summer is his favorite season
Just very chill

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Trip Report: Cosumnes River Preserve

Cosumnes River Preserve, Galt, California, USA
January 2017

Duck, var.

Another day in paradise, another trip to a local birding destination. These pictures were taken when your amateurnithologist found himself with some unusual time off and was able to go on some fun day trips to birding locales slightly further afield.

Cinnamon Teal, has a youtube prank video series

Today's pictures come from the Consumnes River Preserve and the adjacent Woodbridge River Preserve in eyebrow-raisingly named Galt, California. The preserves are part of California's heavily farmed central valley and the Consumnes River represents the last free flowing river of the valley. Located between Sacramento and Stockton, there are 46,000 acres of protected land, 40,000 of which are farmed.

Green-winged Teal couple, collect salt and pepper shakers

It's an important spot for birds, and your amateurnithologist was blown away by the variety and sheer quantity of birds present. And that makes a lot of sense, since this spot is part of the Pacific Flyway, one of the 4 major migration routes for American birds. Among its 250 native bird species are the rare Sandhill Cranes (got em') and Tri-colored Blackbirds (WHEN?). Both the Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy have declared it an "Important Bird Area."

Sandhill Crane, always stands next to shorter birds to make himself appear taller
The preserve itself is beautiful and well-maintained, and given that we attended in the middle of the day, on a weekday, it was surprisingly well-attended, mostly by like-minded bird people. Some serious scopes were on display.

White-fronted Goose, high tolerance for crowds
It was mostly a waterfowlful affair, and all manner of ducks and geese and assorted others were on display. I had the great experience of getting a much, much better shot of a Northern Pintail immediately after I had posted a blog about him. Such is the life of a bird blogger. We appeared to be right in the middle of White-fronted Goose migration, who got riled up and all took off together and blacked out the sky a few times.

Northern Pintail, always acts weird when you try to take a picture of him

Best spots for me were the rarely observed Sora (still have no idea how I spotted him in the reeds) and the vaunted and endangered Sandhill Crane. It was my first time getting a shot of the California subspecies (all previous cranes I had seen were in Florida). Other birds seen, but not included in this photo essay included Great Egret (in breeding plumage), Northern Shoveler, Belted Kingfisher, Canada Geese, American Kestrel, and Black-necked Stilt.

Sora, loves to do amateur research on topics that interest her

Overall I would give Galt, CA objectively high marks. It's a veritable fountainhead of birds, and you won't find yourself shrugging off enough birds to fill a whole atlas. Take the train. Go Ayn-y time.

Final Rating: Yes

Friday, June 30, 2017

Eared Grebe

Eared Grebe aka. Black-necked Grebe
Lake Merritt, Oakland, California, USA
April 2017
Member of the Grebe Family
Cirque du Soleil presents §A Water Dance of Grebes§
World's Most Abundant Grebe (congratulations!)

~true bird fact~ Eared Grebe goes through a pretty astounding cycle of transformations every year. While 'staging' (the period of prep time before migration), his body doubles in weight and he becomes completely flightless to bulk up. Then, right before migration, his digestive organs all shrink and his flight muscles and heart increase in size dramatically, allowing him to make the mirgratory flight. This process takes so long that this grebe has both the Latest Fall Migration of any North American Bird and the Longest Period of Flightlessness for any flighted bird (9-10 months of the year). I guess this goes without saying, but he also seasonally gets those cool head frills. This bird is a more compelling transformer than anything in those terrible Michael Bay movies, and you didn't even have to pay 15 dollars to see him.

Very high level of energy, seems to never run out of things to do
Cares a lot about being addressed with "respect"
Loves bawdy jokes
Has a pretty deep knowledge of old time-y hair products that he uses to get that look

Sunday, June 25, 2017


Hayward Regional Shorelines, Hayward, California, USA
April 2017
Member of the Sandpiper Family
§A Trip of Dunlins§

{Etymology Corner} Derives from 'dun' the color, which is a dull, greyish brownish number. It's basically a name that means 'boring-colored'. There are way, way drabber shorebirds than this, so I don't know what they*'re on about.

*- The 'They' of the previous sentence refers to the international bird-naming consortium.

~true bird fact~ The Dunlin is a very successful shorebird and has a mind-boggling range that most other birds could only dream of. He can be found on most shorelines around the Northern Hemisphere, making him a very common bird. Take a look for yourself! Still, he was one your amatuernithologist hadn't quite 'gotten' until he did this blog. If you, dear reader, are looking to up your Dunlin-Identifying game know that he has a distinctive black belly-patch and reddish back, but only in summer. The real trick is the slightly droopy bill that makes him look a bit sad or melty. He is, apparently, a good one to learn to ID other shorebirds by.

A bit 'judgy' of shorebirds who haven't traveled as much as him. Not everyone has that much disposable income, Dunlin
Long periods of inaction, followed by bursts of manic productivity
Still acts like a young adult despite being well into adulthood. This is a problem that could get worse with time
Thinks he can just tell what's true and what isn't by gut instinct, but honestly doesn't have that good of a radar