Evolution of a Bird Nerd

For my birthday last month the Ramblette got me a cool book “What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Animal World” by naturalist and Californian Jon Young.

Yes it does sound a tad New-Agey but it does give a nice gameplan for going out into nature and getting the most of the experience with your fellow furry and feathered friends.  Maybe it’s just coincidence or just a good time of the year but I have had a veritable flock of fascinating avian interactions lately.  Come join me for a tour.

Sorry no plant talk today, we will return to our regularly scheduled broadcast next week.  If you don’t like birds then go back to watching Price is Right or whatever it is you people do on a Friday morning.

When I asked local bird stud Jesse Grantham what new birds I should be looking out for in springtime chaparral, his first answer was this stunner:

Lazuli bunting

Lazuli bunting

And wouldn’t you know it, I saw a male and female pair the very next day on the way up Laguna Ridge.  I’ve seen a few in the Orange Grove of VRP as well.  Lazuli Bunting males each develop their own unique song which they repeat for their entire lives.  Dexy’s Midnight Runners have nothing on these guys.   I would say this was the most colorful new bird I had discovered, until I ran into its cousin coming down Murietta a few weeks later:

Western tanager

Western tanager

A male and female chillin’ in the Hoary ceanothus branches, the shock of orange is really impressive.  Both tanagers and buntings are relatives of the cardinals of the east.  The other common cousin are these stout-beaked fellows:

Black-headed grosbeak

Black-headed grosbeak

I was coming down Cozy Dell and happened to hear a somewhat unfamiliar song 10 feet off the trail, 10 feet up in some Green-bark ceanothus.  As I whip out my 7×35 Bushnells I was rewarded by a Rockwellian scene of papa Grosbeak feeding 3 cheeping hatchlings.  He lovingly shared his goodies, sang a lovely little arietta (Puccini I think,) and settled into the nest with his brats.  I didn’t even have to pick up my feet when I heard the all-to-familiar ping pong ball call of this inconspicuous gray skulker:

Wrentit

Wrentit

She was cool enough to sit still and let me watch, which is rare, but then I saw her main squeeze cruise in right beside.  They then proceeded to start nibbling at eachother’s cooties, a behavior known to bird-nerds as allopreening.  Supposedly a pretty rare sighting, I was jazzed.

As usual the OVLC Ventura River Preserve is a gold mine for bird watching with its mix of chaparral, riparian and scrub areas.  I was exiting the cow gate at Rice Canyon when I saw this fellow alight on a large hollow gate post with a juicy green katydid in his mouth:

Ash-throated flycatcher

Ash-throated flycatcher

I then heard intense cheep cheeping, papa just sat there, for literally 30 seconds as I stood not 10 feet away; he seemed quite fond of the attention.  He then dove in, fed the little beggars and then flew off for more.  Dad’s work is never done.

Elderberries have been abundantly awesome this year, which is why I think I’ve been seeing so many of these handsome black devils about:

Phainopepla

Phainopepla

From its dapper crest to its cunning red eye and flash of white tail feathers when he flies, the Phainopepla is just a cool bird to see.  The name is Greek for “shining robe” and besides elderberries they looooove misteltoe.

A pair of these hovering predators have taken up residence in the Rice Creek Replanting (Orange Grove):

White-tailed kite

White-tailed kite

I’ve been seeing them almost every time out, beating their wings and diving for varmints who are no doubt ruining all the plantings the crew did this year.  Keep up the good work kites (and crew.)

I know it is birding anathema, but I refuse to keep bird lists.  I’ve seen over 40 species in my yard over the last 3 years and I had 3 new ones in the last month or so.  I always have tons of Acorn woodpeckers, but the other day I positively ID’ed this guy ripping through my rapidly rotting loquats:

Nuttall's woodpecker

Nuttall’s woodpecker

Big difference is the zebra striped back and eye stripes, different call too.

Then it was the call of this guy that got me excited:

Brown-headed cowbird

Brown-headed cowbird

That burbly underwater call had been frustrating me for months.   Then I read how mama bird is looking for a nest to hijack with her eggs, and my excitement dissipated quickly.  As her babies grow they outcompete or simply chuck out the hatchlings that actually belong. Real charmers these cowbirds.

While common in upper elevations and many other parts of the country, these guys rarely visit the valley:

American robin

American robin

Lack of water and food at home maybe?  Anyway I see one almost everyday, usually perched on a wire observing the fray below.  I’m guessing the rough winter is the same reason I heard the raucous calls of these normally high elevation birds:

Stellers jay

Stellers jay

Sisar Canyon, just yesterday.  I thought you don’t usually see them below Wheeler Gorge.

Plus I read recently about a Mountain lion sighting in Horn Canyon, and a brown bear not far up Sulphur.  Looks to be fauna-tastic summer, stay safe fellow Ramblers.

 

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3 Responses to Evolution of a Bird Nerd

  1. myrna says:

    hah … you forgot the bald eagles at lake casitas

  2. ocdreader says:

    You are turning into such a bird nerd!
    Those are some pretty stunning birds, it sorta makes me want to take the binoculars with me hiking…

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