Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Last Thursday's Hike

Once again I got out to Sierra Vista to do a little hiking while I was feeling okay. When I started out I thought I should have gone over to the gardens as I haven't been there in awhile. After awhile I was glad I had taken this hike at this time.
I had the closest encounter with coyotes that I have ever had other then in a car.
While I was walking along the ridge just up from the Chumash Center I looked over and there were two coyotes walking along hunting for ground squirrels. They noticed me there but really didn't care at all! I got to stand there and watch them for at least 20 minutes. It was neat. The female was a little more nervous about me but the male didn't seem to care at all!! He just went along looking into all the holes in the ground. The pictures didn't turn out real good but they will serve to remind me of a very nice hike.

This is the first sight I had of them. At this point I was sure they would take off the second they saw me. How wrong I was.

This is the two of them together. The female came over to see what he was checking out but it was too close to me so she wandered off again the whole time giving me dirty looks!

This is the male checking out the squirrels holes. Compared to the coyotes we see at Death Valley these two were very, very well fed!!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Hike to Sierra Vista

On Saturday we headed out to Sierra Vista to take the camera out for a hike. It was a beautiful day. The weather was perfect. After a couple of weeks of cloudy and cool days it was good to have the sun back!

We had headed out there as we wanted to see if the White-tailed Kites (hawks) were still there. When we had been out there on October 10th they were massing in a couple of the trees there. There were about 20-30 on that day. I had read on the message board that someone had seen them in the past few days so we were hopefully. When we were there we could only see about 8 so don't know if they have moved on or if we just didn't find the right area. It was midmorning by the time we got there so they might have been out hunting further into the park. As you can tell the oak tree they were sitting in was a ways away so the picture isn't very good. Think you can see three or four of the 8 that were sitting there. They spent the whole time preening so was hard to get a picture with their heads up!

The highlight of the hike was a Red-Shouldered Hawk. (Thank you Steve for getting the correct ID!! I knew I liked having smart kids!!) She was sitting on a post right next to the road with people walking and riding bikes right next to her!! We couldn't believe that nothing was bothering her! Paul was able to get several great shots of her. The first picture is to show how close she was to the road. Lots of people were going by her. A couple of people were asking Paul what kind of bird it was as they were right next to her. Didn't bother her at all. She finally flew off when Paul got a little too close to her while he was taking pictures. Either that or she just figured with him there she wouldn't find anything to eat!!

Short list of birds but we didn't stay out long and we were working with the camera most of the time.

Blackheaded Phoebe (lots and lots of these)
California Towhee
Mourning Dove
House Finch
House Sparrow
White Crowned Sparrow
Western Kingbird
Scrub Jays
Becwick's Wren
Yellow-rumbed Warber (lots)
Northern Mockingbird
American Coot
Anna's Hummingbird
Cooper's Hawk
Redtail Hawks
White-tailed Kite
Nuttall's Woodpecker
I think I saw a couple Common Yellowthroats but they were backlite so couldn't be sure.

The Nuttall's Woodpecker was busy catching bugs in the tree. I was surprised how great a picture Paul got of him.

All the pictures are Paul's with our new Canon EOS20D with the 70 - 300 lens.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Couple more birds from the back yard

The hummers are still around in force. Most of them like the front yard but there are still several that use the backyard feeders. This was taken from the yard looking up to the oriole feeder on the hill. Both of the pictures today were taken with the 70-300 zoom lens. Think I'm going to like this lens.

This is a male House Finch that was very helpful in staying still and showing me all his different poses.

Friday, October 21, 2005

New Camera

We just got a new camera and guess what I went out and took pictures of. You guessed it, The Jays!! They are so easy to take pictures of as they are always begging for more peanuts. These are the picture of one of them when he found the swarming flying ants. He just sat there and had a feast!
Hopefully we will get out this weekend for more pictures. That is if the weather clears up a little.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

They are back!

For two days there were no scrub jays around! Now everyone that has been here lately knows that they are always around begging for peanuts. My question is where do 7 scrub jays go for two days? Think there was a Jay convention that they all went off to? What is everyone else's guess?

Guess the important thing is that they are back!!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Snapple fact #11 & 48 & 126

#11: Flamingos turn pink from eating shrimp.
What color would you be?

#48: Cats can hear ultrasound.
Ever have a Cat Scan?

#126: A piegon's feathers are heavier than its bones.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

First White Crowned Sparrow

I saw the first White Crowned Sparrow in the yard this morning. Fall has arrived!

There were still a lot of them in Alaska when we were up there. I wonder how long it would take them to fly down from there?

This picture was taken last winter at Sierra Vista here in Thousand Oaks.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Big Bird Kills Famous Dancer

It was on this day in 1927 that dancer Isadora Duncan died. She went riding in a convertible on the French Riviera. She was wearing a six-foot, fringed, scarlet shawl, embroidered with Chinese asters and a great yellow bird, and the shawl got caught in one of the car's tires, and it broke her neck.

Could this be?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Alaska Birds

Grey Jays
(not my picture.... I couldn't get one of them. Boo Hoo!)

Trip to Matanuska Glacier

(* = Life bird) It is great being a beginning birder, you can get so many lifers!!!

Golden Eagles (several along the way)
Grey Jays *
I saw these in the parking lot of the rest area. I didn't bring Paul over to see them as I thought they would be there when we were done with the picnic. Of course when we went to leave there were none to been seen!! Luckily we saw more the next day!
Bald Eagles (several flying together)
Common Loon
Juncos (many)
Yellow Warbler
Common Raven ( there are loads of these very large birds everywhere we went)

Wasilla Lake and Lake Lucille: http://litsite.alaska.edu/uaa/akwrites/gallery11/jessicacard.html

Boreal Chickadee *
Horned Grebe *
Rednecked Grebe *
Pacific Loon
Lots of dead salmon floating in Wasilla Lake. Don't know what that was all about!!

Eagle River Nature Center http://www.ernc.org/

Black-Capped Chickadees *(lots in the trees on the nature walk)
Black-Billed Magpie *(one of my favorites along with the Grey Jay)

Eagle River - pull over stop

We walked down to the river at one trailhead (don't remember the name of it) and there were a group of
Grey Jays in the trees. While we were watching a Sharp- Shinned Hawk started to harass the Jays! He kept dive bombing them and moving them from tree to tree. I don't think he was trying to catch them, just move them on.
Downy Woodpecker I would like to say it was a Hairy Woodpecker but I don't really think so.... But it might have been.... but I don't think so.....
Several Mystery Hawks flying. Who knows, I don't! One did look like a Red Tail Hawk so will count that one too.

Road into Denali National Park & at the Lodge

Magpies *
Northern Harrier ( saw several of these hunting on our way out of the park)
Orange Crowned Warbler *
White Crowned Sparrows

Rock Ptarmigen * see pictures ---------------->

That was about all we saw while we were up there. Next time we go up I think we will try and get up there a few weeks earlier as a lot of the birds had already started their flights south. Also I think we will get a birding guide for at least one day. That really would add to the list!

I almost forgot, when we were landing in L.A. there was a Kestral flying next to the runway. I know it really wasn't in Alaska but I thought I would add it as it was so weird to see it so close to where we were landing. I think it was looking for the mice or ground squirrels that would be in the dirt area.

8 Life birds.

Thoughts on Returning Home

I will do a post on the Alaska birds but first I thought I would put down some thoughts on our yard and all the birds there.

We got home Saturday evening after dark so it wasn't until morning that I could see how the yard made out.

Sunday morning when I woke up I could hear bunches of Goldfinches at the sock feeder by the bedroom door. I looked out and the sock was completely full of them. There were the "houses" pecking around on the ground and a Titmouse making lots of noise in the tree tobacco. I then got up and started the coffee and then walked out back while waiting for it to brew.

First thing I saw was all the empty feeders that I needed to fill! Then I heard a bunch of noise and looked up at the oriole feeder in the back corner of the yard and there were three young orioles fighting over the feeder. That one still had nectar in it. The ash trees on the side of the yard were filled with the normal birds, house sparrows and house finches. Then I looked up at the maple tree and there was a Wilson's Warbler hopping around eating ants. Next I could hear hummingbirds and looked up and there were two fighting over the one hummingbird feeder that still had food in it. I had been standing there under 5 minutes not making any noise, just looking at everything when JayJay came swooping in for peanuts! I got a peanut out of the can that I have on the back porch and he jumped up on my hand took the peanut and then stayed there for a minute "talking" to me! Guess he was either welcoming me back or most likely scolding me for leaving in the first place! He took off and Mrs came down next. I fed them peanuts for awhile and then went back in the house with a big smile on my face and got my coffee.

I love to travel and see new things but when we have a yard like this it is really nice to get back to see all our "old friends"!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Snapple fact #416

Many Butterflies and moths are able to taste with their feet.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Orioles are Moving On

I can tell that fall is getting close with the changes in the birds around the area. Even if the weather doesn't seem like it the birds sure know what the season is. Most of the adult Hooded Orioles have moved on. I don't think I have seen an adult male for over a week now. Harder to tell about the females as they look a lot like the youngsters. We still have quite a few of the young guys left though. They always hang out longer than the adults. Hey, talk about empty nesters wanting to Party!!!! Kids are out on their own and it is time for fun stuff! They don't even need to buy a RV!
They will head back up to our area around February of next year, raise a bunch of kids and then head back down for vacation. There are sometimes one or two that will stay in the area all year but I don't always see them every year. Most of them take off for warmer lands. I always look forward to seeing the first one of the season. They are such pretty birds. When they come back it is the breeding age males that come in first to stake out their territories so they are ready when the females make it in. They like to nest in the palm trees which we have several in the neighborhood.
In the small picture (click on it so you can see better) the female is on the top and male is down on the feeder. The larger picture is of a male. As in most all birds the female is fairly plain while the male gets lots of bright colors.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Grampa Pickles and the Hummers

Lucky we haven't had the problem with the bees this year! (Click on comic to read. You can also click on the title to go to the comics. )

Monday, August 15, 2005

Chumash Interpertive Center Hike

Sunday we took a late morning hike over at the Chumash Center. It was the first time we had been there to hike. I was over the a couple of years ago with Jessy when we took a very short hike and I remembered that there were a lot of Oak trees. I figured it was so late by the time I got ready that would be nice and shady and not as hot as hiking at Sierra Vista.
Kind of a quiet day as far as birds. We "saw" several up in the tree tops that we couldn't ID and heard several that we couldn't spot. We did get one life bird so it was a good day anyway. It is really nice over there. It opens up into the Lang Ranch Open Area. It is amazing how much open space we have around us here. There are so many places for us to go within a few miles of us.

  1. Scrub jay
  2. Black headed Phoebe
  3. White-breasted Nuthatch (lots of these around)
  4. Anna Hummingbird.
  5. California Towhee
  6. Spotted Towhee
  7. Bushtits
  8. Nuttall's Woodpecker (I thought we would see Acorns there but didn't. Heard alot more Woodpeckers then we saw though so they might have been there)
  9. Cactus Wren
  10. Titmouse (lots)
  11. Blue Gray Gnatcatcher (new to us) Cute tiny bird there was a whole flock of them in one tree on the upper trail.
  12. Cooper Hawk
  13. Mule Deer Okay, not a bird but.... Lots of ground squirrels too.

The Chumash Center wasn't open so couldn't go in there. I have never been in so I don't know what it is like. Doesn't look like it is used much but not sure about that. They do have a couple of outside areas with huts (don't remember what they call them) and some pow wow gathering areas. Interesting place.

Equestrian Center Birding 8/11/05

Paul and I took a quick walk over to the Equestrian Center across Janss Road on Thursday evening:

  1. Say's Phoebe
  2. Black Headed Phoebe
  3. Mourning Doves
  4. Crows Lots and Lots
  5. House Finches
  6. House Sparrows
  7. Mockingbird
  8. Scrub Jays
  9. Western SeaGull
  10. Juvenile Western Bluebirds (lots)
  11. Kestral

Thursday, August 11, 2005

News of the Weird

While I was out in the sunroom talking on the phone to Ron this morning I was feeding peanuts to 7 Scrubjays! That would be all of the family if I am correct in how I am figuring who is who.
We have the parents; JayJay and Mrs. Then we have the "Youngsters" ; the three offspring from the first nest this year. Then we have the two "Babies" from the last nest. Yes, I found out there are two not just the one I thought there was. In another month I won't be able to tell anyone apart! They were all taking peanuts off the ground in front of me and a couple took them from my hand. I think more would but there was so much going on it was a little stressfull!
A couple of them came up and sat on the back of the futon and "talked" to me for awhile. It was like they were "telling" on the other ones. I know, don't read human behavior into their actions! (I forget, what is that called?)

One of the youngsters took a peanut opened it up and ate part of it. Then he took half of the peanut that was left and brought it over to the sunroom and jumped on my foot that I had over the arm of the futon. He then "hid" the peanut under my shoelace!!!!! He then went off and got another peanut, guess he thought that was a great hiding place!
They have taken to "knocking" on the peanut containers to get our attention so we will open the containers and feed them! They aren't shy with us at all!!!

Later this afternoon I was back out in the sunroom reading when I heard some bird on the futon in back of me. I was in the middle of a sentence so wasn't really paying much attention but thought it was one of the jays. When I finished what I was reading I looked around to say Hi to the Jay and to get him a peanut but there was a baby Titmouse chirping at me!! He was about a foot from my face "begging" for food!! The parent was up in the lattice in back of me going crazy!! The parent finally got his attention away from me and he went up and started begging from her. Talk about surprised!! The Titmouse is normally pretty shy around me but this baby sure didn't know that! They are a tiny bird with a cute little tuff on their head. They take a sunflower seed from the feeder one at a time and then they go and eat it in the bushes. When they are done they come back for more. One at a time each time.

All in all a great day at Plymouth Gardens!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Birds seen in or from yard 8/9/2005

Here is the list of all the birds that I saw in the yard on Tuesday.

House Sparrow (many, many)
House Finch (again, too many to count)
Hooded Orioles
Black Headed Grosebeaks
Black Headed Phoebe
California Towhees
Spotted Towhee
Morning Doves
Lesser Goldfinches
White Breasted Nuthatch (one or maybe two)
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Anna's Hummingbird
Allen's Hummingbird
Scrub Jays
Western Seagulls (seen flying over)
Turkey Vulture (seen flying over)
Another Hawk (most likely Redtail but didn't come close enough to tell)
Rock Dove (a flock of pigeons let out to fly from someones cage flying off by Windsor Drive)

Not bad for not leaving the house all day!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Brown-Headed Cowbird

If a vote were taken tomorrow to find the most popular bird in the country, it's doubtful that the cowbird would win. That's because the cowbird has the nasty habit of laying its eggs in other birds' nests.
It all started back in the days when American Bison ruled the Great Plains. At that time a rather nondescript grayish or black bird followed the herds around, feeding on seeds in the abundant supply of buffalo excrement. Settlers on the plains came to calling these animals buffalo birds. But since the birds depended on wandering herds for food, they needed to wander as well if they wanted to survive. The problem, of course, is that wandering birds can't tend their nests. So the buffalo birds decided to leave their young in the care of other birds, an arrangement that seemed to work, at least from the buffalo birds' perspective. Then, during the 1800s, the prairies and buffalo disappeared, replaced by pasture and cattle. But the birds remained and started keeping company with cows instead of buffalo, eating insects in the grass, ticks on the livestock, and seeds and grain. The buffalo bird eventually became known as the cowbird.
A female brown-headed cowbird will watch potential host birds, such as song sparrows, chipping sparrows, phoebes, yellow and chest-sided warblers, and cardinals, as they build nests and begin laying their eggs. In the middle of the host's egg laying period, the female cowbird will sneak into the nest late in the afternoon, remove a host's egg, and then replace it with one of her own at dawn the following morning. Some hosts are hit more than once by cowbirds removing eggs and replacing eggs of their own.
The host birds, apparently unaware that one or more of their youngsters is an alien cowbird chick, will continue the rearing process. Sometimes, the cowbird chick grows faster than the host's own youngsters, and the larger chick may push the smaller chicks out of the nest. In the end, the host parents feed the baby cowbirds as if they were their own, and will protect them against predators until they are large enough to be on their own. From Enature.com

We get these birds around the house quite often. I can always tell they are around before I see them as they have a very high whistle that is very noticeableble. They hang out in in groups in parking lots like Costco with the Brewer's Blackbirds. I have never seen a baby cowbird getting fed by any other of the birds so I guess they don't bring them to the feeders before they are fully weaned or maybe I just haven't been looking at the right time.

Saturday, August 06, 2005


There are several Black -Headed Grosbeaks in the yard now. There is often one or two off and on during the year but now there are at least 6 of them. I have seen three males but I haven't got a good picture of those yet. They are more colorful with the head being completely black and bright rust orange on their breast and body. (Halloween birds) The rest are either young males or females. I like their voice, to me it seems real "sweet" and soft. They have very large and strong beaks. (Grosbeaks!) Click on the picture and it will enlarge so you can see how heavy the beak is.
They are on their way down to winter in Mexico. I was reading that near Mexico City they eat a lot of Monarch Butterflies. They will eat for several days and then stop for a week or so. Experts think that it is because of the poison in the Monarchs. The birds have to stop so they don't build up too much in their systems.
I wonder what else we will be getting during the migration period. Hard to believe it getting on to fall already!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

New Kid on the Block

A new Jay has shown up the last few days. I thought for awhile it was one of the last set of babies acting a little "needy" by begging for food again. I got a good look at him this morning and it is a new baby. There is only one new one so most likely only one egg survived this time. With what it is costing me in peanuts maybe it is a good thing!! I could tell this one is young as it still has some of the pink on his beak. I guess they have the bright coloring so the parents can find their mouths easier! It isn't afraid of me as he was begging and checking out the peanuts out back right next to me while I was reading the paper this morning. He won't come up to my hand yet but he was "talking to me". No one seems to be feeding him so his parents must think he is old enough to go on his own. In fact Mrs. was half heartily chasing him away. She would make a dive bomb run at him when she came down but then left him alone. He did find a few bugs on his own and finally figured out how to crack open a peanut. I shelled a couple and threw them down and next time he came back he went for those first. I know, I know, spoiling him already!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

JayJay waiting for peanuts

Yard birds and off site too

I am starting to write about the all the birds in the yard and also the ones we see on our birding outings.
The most noteable activity is the increase in Hummingbirds. Just this week it seems that the numbers have doubled! We are getting several Blackchinned Hummers along with the normal Anna's and Allens. I now have 14 necter feeders! Four of these are Oriole feeders that the hummers can use also.
The Hooded Orioles are out in force this year also. I have no idea how many are around but I have seen as many as 6 at the back feeder and 4 at the feeder at the side. Mostly young with half a dozen adults. The young males have their black chins already. It took them along time to come to the fountain in the front of the house but they are now coming in the morning for their baths. They seem to like to come in groups.