Orioles and Waxwings

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) -P1
Willow Creek Recreation Area, American River Parkway, Folsom, CA; SEP 2019

Over the course of the current year, I have been busily photographing many birds; so many that I have gotten behind in my posts. Over the next few months I’ll do my best to catch up, interspersed with some other interesting aspects of nature such as the golden leaves of the aspens along the eastern sierra. In this post, I’ll start with sharing some birds that I find especially beautiful.

The Bullock’s Oriole (Icterus bullockii) is found in the western part of North America. They like open areas near trees where they can find caterpillars, fruit and nectar.

The Hooded Oriole (Icterus cucullatus) is found in the southwestern United States. However, in breeding season they reside in western California also. They live in more open areas, and especially like palm trees. They like fruit, nectar and the sugar water in hummingbird feeders.

The Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorumlives) can be found across much of the United States. They are social birds that flock together in trees. Their preferred diet is fruit and berries but sometimes practice the aerobatics of flycatchers chasing insects. Waxwings get their name from a waxy substance they secrete from their wingtips.

Here in the Sacramento area, we see the waxwings in the winter and the orioles in the summer.


Hooded Oriole (Icterus cucullatus)
Lake Natomas, American River Parkway, Orangevale, CA; MAY 2019
Female Bullock’s Oriole (Icterus bullockii)
Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Sacramento, CA; JUN 2019
Bullock’s Oriole (Icterus bullockii)
Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Sacramento, CA; JUN 2019
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) -P2
Willow Creek Area, American River Parkway, Folsom, CA; SEP 2019

These and other images are available to purchase on my website: www.earthwatcher.us or by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Squirrels

California Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi);
Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Carmichael, CA; APR 2019

I have mixed emotions about squirrels. I enjoy watching these industrious creatures foraging for food. I love watching them chase each other. I especially like their alarms when they rapidly shake their paw and cluck loudly. But, they do consume a lot of food meant for the birds at our backyard feeder. So, for the most part, I enjoy them.

As I have travelled, I have learned there are a large variety of squirrels. There are tree squirrels like the gray, red and fox varieties who live in nests in trees. There are ground squirrels who nest in burrows under the ground. Chipmunks and marmots are a type of ground squirrel. It has been many years, but I’ve even seen flying, or more appropriately, gliding squirrels.

One of the more interesting squirrels in this post is the black morph of the Eastern Fox Squirrel. I’ve done some research on these squirrels and learned that there is evidence that black squirrels were once the most common. But as we settled North America and cleared forests, evolutionary pressure selected the lighter colored squirrels. To me, they are uncommon, but I have spoken with some folks who are aware of places where they are more common.

Here are some of the squirrels I have seen in my travels over the past year.

Note: Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.

Juvenile Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger);
Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Sacramento, CA; MAY 2019
Black Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger);
Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Sacramento, CA; MAY 2019

Cliff Chipmunk, (Neotamias dorsalis);
Mather Point, South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park; AUG 2019
Western Gray Squirrel (Sciurus griseus);
Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Sacramento, CA; APR 2019
American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus);
Schwabacher’s Landing, Grand Teton National Park, WY; MAY 2019
Columbian Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus) – P2;
Glacier National Park; May 2019
Columbian Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus) – P3;
Glacier National Park; May 2019
Rock Squirrel (Otospermophilus variegatus);
Mather Point, South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park; AUG 2019
Least Chipmunk (Neotamias minimus);
Schullman Grove, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, CA; SEP 2018

These and other images are available to purchase on my website: www.earthwatcher.us or by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Seal Rock, Oregon

Seal Rock Beach at Sunrise
Seal Rock, Waldport, OR; AUG 2019

We recently spent a few days on the beach at Waldport, OR. It is located in Oregon Dunes area of the coast. Just outside of town sets a beach amongst a craggy, old volcanic lava flow. It is a beautiful beach with many tidal pools left teeming with wildlife as the tide recedes.

On this visit, the birds really took center stage. We saw some seals, but they were offshore and all I could see were heads bobbing. So, they weren’t photo worthy. But we found some Pelagic Cormorants (Phalacrocorax pelagicus); one with a chick on the nest. We found Western Gulls (Larus occidentalis), many of which were recently fledged juveniles.

The Pelagic Cormorant is found along coastal waters and eats fish and marine invertebrates. It roosts and nests on steep, inaccessible rocky cliffs. It swims and dives for food.

The Western Gull is the common gull that you find on US West Coast beaches. They like fish, marine invertebrates, bird eggs and jelly fish. They will also scavenge on carrion and human refuse.

Our experience with the Western Gull brought some amusement. The juveniles were in the water and along the shore. When they wandered too far inland, an adult would chase after and send it back to the shoreline with the others. In the early morning, we even saw adults force the young into the tidal pools to splash and bathe. It was great fun.

Note: Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution

Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus)
Seal Rock, Waldport, OR; AUG 2019
Juvenile Western Gull (Larus occidentalis)
Seal Rock, Waldport, OR; AUG 2019
Starfish in Tide Pool
Seal Rock, Waldport, OR; AUG 2019
Western Gull (Larus occidentalis)
Seal Rock, Waldport, OR; AUG 2019

These and other images are available to purchase on my website: www.earthwatcher.us or by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Some Interesting Wildlife from San Diego

Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina)
Seal Cove, La Jolla, CA; MAY 2019

Last May, we visited some family in the San Diego area. On one of those days, we visited some spots along the shore that teemed with wildlife. It was a great time.

Please note that the wild Red-crowned Parrot is a wild bird. Pet releases and other incidents have allowed a colony of these birds to establish themselves in the San Diego area.

Note: Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.

Juvenile Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina)
Seal Cove, La Jolla, CA; MAY 2019
Juvenile Western Gull (Larus occidentalis) – P1
Seal Cove, La Jolla, CA
California Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus)
Seal Cove, La Jolla, CA; MAY 2019
California Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Seal Cove, La Jolla, CA; MAY 2019
Wild Red-crowned Parrot (Amazona viridigenalis)
San Diego, CA; MAY 2019
Yucca Plant Seed Pods
San Diego Bay National Wildlife, Refuge, CA; MAY 2019

These and other images are available to purchase on my website: www.earthwatcher.us or by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Some Birds Photographed This Summer

Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) AKA Whiskey Jack
Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada; MAY 2019

I’ve been traveling a lot this year. In my travels, I have seen and photographed many interesting birds. I just haven’t made the time to share them. Here are a few of them. Others will follow.

First up is the Gray Jay. It is a corvid like other jays but is smaller and has a much less raucous voice. In November 2016 the BBC reported that Canada adopted this bird, also known as the Whiskey Jack, as its national bird.

The other Jay in this collection is Woodhouse’s Jay. Those of us in the west don’t see Blue Jays; they are eastern birds. Mostly, we see the scrub jay.  At one time, the Scrub Jay was just called the Western Scrub Jay. But recently, it was split into 3 separate species: the California Scrub Jay which we see here west of the Sierra Nevada mountains; the Island Scrub Jay which is only found in the Santa Cruz Islands, and Woodhouse’s Jay which is seen between the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Rocky mountains and from Southeastern Oregon into Mexico.

I found the Horned Lark and the Black-throated Sparrow at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. Ash Meadows is an oasis, a marshland in the Mojave Desert that is fed from springs that draw from an ancient aquifer. You’ll find it in Amargosa Valley, NV . It is a great place to visit, in the early morning.

The Yellow-headed Blackbird is a common bird in much of the western US. It thrives in marshes among the reeds and cattails.

Note: Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.

Woodhouse’s Jay (Aphelocoma woodhouseii)
Mather Point, South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park; AUG 2019
Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris)
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Amargosa Valley, NV; JUL 2019
Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata)
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Amargosa Valley, NV; JUL 2019
Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)
Mather Park, Sacramento, CA; JUN 2019

These and other images are available to purchase on my website: www.earthwatcher.us or by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

The California Condor

Adult and Juvenile California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus);
Mather Point, South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park; AUG 2019

This past week, I had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon National Park. While there, I saw a rare site: a juvenile and adult California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus). This vulture can reach 4 ½ feet long with a wingspan of nearly 10 feet; 25% larger than the more commonly seen Turkey Vulture.

What makes this bird remarkable, beside its size, is that it was nearly driven to extinction. Many millennia ago, it ranged across the entire North American continent. By the time European settlers arrived, it was found mostly in the western part of North America.

During the 20thcentury, California Condor populations declined until extinction became extremely likely. In 1987 all remaining 22 wild birds were captured. These birds formed the breeding stock for a federally sponsored program aimed at reestablishing them in the wild. These condors were bred and their offspring released into the wild. The birds have begun breeding in the wild. Captive birds continue to be released. The population is now expanding.

The birds can sometimes be seen in places like the Grand Canyon but seeing them is still the exception rather than the rule. So, I feel blessed to have been able to see and photograph these magnificent birds.

Note: Please click on caption to see images at higher resolution.

Juvenile California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) in Flight – P1;
Mather Point, South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park; AUG 2019
Juvenile California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) in Flight – P2;
Mather Point, South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park; AUG 2019
Juvenile California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus);
Mather Point, South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park; AUG 2019

These and other images are available to purchase on my website: www.earthwatcher.us or by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Elk, Moose and Pronghorn from A Trip Through the Rocky Mountains

Male or Bull Elk (Cervus canadensis) with Antlers in Velvet;
Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, WY; MAY 2019

In sharing these images today, I am using the common North American names for these animals. It was interesting learning about these animals though because, the names are not consistent. Even in North America, the Elk is referred to a Wapiti, from the Shawnee term Wa Piti meaning White-rumped. Also, Elk are sometimes claimed to be the same as the European Red Deer. However, mitochondrial testing in 2004 found that the much smaller Red Deer is a different species.[i] To confuse matters further, in Eurasia, the Moose is called an Elk.[ii]

The Pronghorn is sometimes referred to as an antelope but it is not a true antelope. Unlike true antelopes, the keratin sheathing on its horns is shed and regrown annually. The pronghorn is also the only animal that has branched horns.

The Elk and the Moose are members of the deer family, which means they have antlers made of bone. The pronghorn and true antelope, as well as cows, sheep and goats have horns which have a bony center covered by a keratinous sheath.

Anyway, forget the confusion unless it helps in social conversation and enjoy these magnificent animals.


[i] Elk Network. https://elknetwork.com/whats-the-difference-between-red-deer-and-elk/

[ii] Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moose

Note: Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.

Female Moose (Alces alces);
Moose Wilson RD, Grand Tetons National Park, WY
Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)
Female Elk (Cervus canadensis);
Grand Tetons National Park, Near Moran, WY; MAY 2019
Female Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana);
Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, WY; MAY 2019
Male or Bull Elk (Cervus canadensis) with Antlers in Velvet;
Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, WY; MAY 2019

These and other images are available to purchase on my website: www.earthwatcher.us or by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.