Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mute Swan

Mute Swan
Wetland's Edge Park, American Canyon, California, USA
Member of the Duck, Goose, and Swan Family
★The National Bird of Denmark
§A Bevy of Swans§

~true bird fact~ Mute Swans are not native to the United States and are considered a widely disliked invasive species. All Mute Swans in the states are descended from birds brought from overseas to decorate estates, zoos, and parks. They eat a ton of aquatic plants, making survival more difficult for other waterbirds, and are exceptionally aggressive, often attacking humans and pets. The attacks are no joke either, these are very big, strong birds, and a wing-beat is strong enough to break a person's arm. A quick google search was able to confirm that they have killed, but couldn't establish in what numbers.

~alternative bird fact~ Not so fast, say several advocacy groups. There are disputes about whether or not Mute Swans could actually be native to the US in some fashion (flying over from Russia, perhaps). "Save The Mute Swans" presented fossil evidence to this effect to the US Department of the Interior, but their claim was rejected. Mute swans continue to be the subject of culling efforts or even a kill-on-site species, especially on the West Coast, where they have not established themselves as fully.

~true bird myth~ The phrase 'swan song', comes from the Mute Swan, who is fairly quiet, although not silent, throughout his life (this is where his name comes from). The legend says that this bird is silent up until the moment of his death, at which point he sings an unbelievably beautiful song before expiring. Poignant stuff.

~true bird history~ Insanely, all Mute Swans are owned by the Queen of England. They were "Claimed by the Crown" in the 12th century and the ownership is retained to this day, although it's not really used for much other than some weird annual Swan ceremony.

~haven't had enough true bird facts yet?~ This is also the lead character in The Ugly Duckling.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Trip Report: Wetland's Edge Park

Well, I promised I'd highlight some local birding destinations, and now I'm doing it. Let's see how this goes. These trip report blogs are probably going to be heavy on the images, light on the bird characterization (mostly because I've already blogged these birds). Basically I want to show you what is there, and why you might want to go. Ok? Ok.

Wetland's Edge Park, American Canyon, California, USA
December 2016

Wetland's Edge Park is located in American Canyon, California, on the east bank of the lower Napa River. It's a delta-y area that drains into the San Pablo Bay, by way of Vallejo. Like many great birding spots, it's the site of a former landfill, and indeed, the trail hiked was the 'landfill loop trail'. Part of the park has access to the San Francisco Bay Trail as well. There are a few significant sloughs and drainage ponds of various sizes. And that means birds!


Mostly small shorebirds, egrets, herons, and ducks. Many of my recent exciting ducks have come from this trip, in fact. The park had a ton of Northern Shovelers, Cinnamon Teals, American Wigeons, and Coots.

Marbled Godwit - easily catches a chill
no one knows or cares what these birds are
 It's also where I got my sweet pheasant sighting.

Great Egret - a libertarian

But that's not all the birds you'll find at Wetland's Edge. The low grasslands adjacent to the trail have a bunch of shrubs and trees, and a number of other birds were on hand.

Lesser Goldfinch - incredulous
House Finch - helicopter parent
The most striking find of the trip (aside from aforementioned pheasant), was a very bold or very sleepy Turkey Vulture sitting placidly on a low branch of a tree beside the road, basically 10-15 feet away at eye level. Definitely the closest I've been to one of these extraordinary birds. As if that weren't enough, a noisy Raven flew up and seemed to attempt to harass him away with cawing.

Turkey Vulture - gracious
Common Raven - headstrong
Another great surprise of the park was an unnamed point that offered a great view of the bay and a glass/debris beach.

Overall, I give Wetland's Edge Park a review of 'do bird'. There's a huge variety of habitats, from tall marsh grass to eucalyptus grove, and I'm sure even on what felt like a very productive birding trip, I barely scratched the surface.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Red-breasted Sapsucker

Red-breasted Sapsucker
Healdsburg, California, USA
January 2017
Member of the Woodpecker Family
§A Slurp of Sapsuckers§ (.....gonna need a source on that

~true bird fact~ Sapsuckers, as a species, have an interesting way of sustaining themselves that perpetrates them from other woodpecker species. As you might guess from the name, they drink sap. In fact, it's their primary food source. The fact that the sap attracts bugs that they can eat or feed to their young is just icing on the cake (this sounds like a pretty bad cake). Sapsuckers are often considerd a pest species because of the damage they do to live trees via their method of feeding. They're especially detrimental to the Gray Birch, 67% of which die to their Sapsucker-related injuries.

Learns just enough about any given interest to be dangerously misinformed
Makes a mean fruit salad
Cares very much about sapsucker related issues. Other birds, not so much
Never met a community event she didn't like

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler aka. Audubon's Warbler (?)
Healdsburg, California, USA
January 2017
Member of the Warbler Family
§A Bouquet of Warblers§

~true bird fact~ He's got a special digestive system that allows him to eat waxy berries that other birds can't digest. As a result he can winter further north than any other warbler. Great job buddy!

Even though he can winter further north, that doesn't mean he's not cold all the time
Often touchy when he feels his hobbies or interests are being picked up by new people. Doesn't like 'bandwagoners'
Usually calm, but doesn't react well to conflicts
Has hometown pride