Archive for the ‘Bird Reports’ Category

Yesterday I was snooping around our extended backyard looking for some possible areas where the bobcats might have a den. I was also armed with my telephoto lens in hopes of recording any other activity that might cross my path. The weather was cool and overcast, there wasn’t much activity. The motorized trail bike didn’t help much either but the individual controlling the noisy device was quite pleasant. He stopped and we chatted for awhile. He seemed to have an active appreciation for the nature and wildlife.  He asked me if I had seen any snakes, I told him unfortunately not. He then asked, if I saw one would I take a picture of it? I responded, “Absolutely!” I am still curious about the question and what other answer he thought I might provide.

I did come several unfortunate wildlife victims, a dead Western Fence Lizard frozen in the position at its time of demise. The lizard was on the dirt road but didn’t appear to be the victim of this days bike rider. Further along several crows were agitated at something, and thinking a possible predator, I went to take a closer look. As I approached the area I noticed one of their comrades was lying beneath a power pole. It too was frozen in the position at the time of its demise. The crows were apparently offering final rights and a eulogy to their fallen comrade. They left soon after I arrived. It appears that the crow had been electrocuted on the old power pole that still displayed exposed insulators and wires. This day there didn’t seem to be much active wildlife activity in the extended backyard.

Expired Western Fence Lizard and American Crow (Click on photo for larger image)

I was on top of a ridge with wooded canyons on either side when the fire engine raced up Clinton Keith Road with sirens roaring . After slowing its way through the Palomar Street/Clinton Keith Road intersection the sirens increased in volume and were loud and clear as the fire engine passed only a half mile away from where I was standing. It was then that I heard what I thought was a child imitating the siren, then another joined in, and another, and  another. Suddenly a chill went down my spine. The sounds were coming over my left shoulder only 15-20 yards from where I was standing. More individuals joined the chorus in response to the fire engine siren. The chorus finally ended in an explosive crescendo. With the fire engine now far in the distance, I stood there with my mouth wide open as  the sounds over my left-shoulder slowly subsided and quiet returned.

I estimated that there must have been 6-8 pups and 3 or more adult coyotes responding to the fire engine siren as well as trying to scare the hell out of me. They did a pretty good job at both. I cautiously tried to locate where the coyotes might be residing in the small canyon from several different vantage points. I was however unable to detect any trace or movement of the coyotes. The interior live oaks (Quercus wislizeni) that make up the woodland community in this area provide a great cover for wildlife with the foliage dropping all the way to the ground.

Yesterday also conducted my annual “casual”  Birthday Big Day bird count (BBDBC) – rules for BBDBC are still in development after establishing the BBDBC tradition over the past 15 years. So, I spent a lot of time looking at birds in both our backyard and our extended backyard. I didn’t have a particularily great count day (26 species) for the limited time I counted but this will set a mark for future BBDBC at our new location. I did however add 2 new nice birds to this years CA list (both seen in the extended backyard) – Golden Eagle and Phainopepla.

Ah, living on an urban/wildlife interface is proving to be a wonderful experience.


Another nice Dudleya shot and sunset closed the day!

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO in Southern California

Santa Rosa Plateau Fog Blog

Today the Santa Rosa Plateau (SRP) was covered with fog which occasionally reached down towards our home but remained mostly on the plateau.

I took the opportunity to visit the foggy plateau with the idea that I might be able to capture the fog burning off the plateau with my camera. Driving up to the plateau, only 5 minutes from our home, the fog became thicker the further west I traveled on the plateau and near the vernal pools the visibility was reduced to under 10 feet. I pulled into the vernal pools trail-head  parking lot, after carefully locating the parking lot entrance. Realizing that the fog was not going to lift for some time I decided to head back east to a lower part of the plateau where the visibility might be better.

I settled on the Hidden Valley trail-head parking lot to explore the plateau where the visibility was much better. The fog ebbed and flowed through the valleys and up the slopes creating dynamic soothing images. I had hoped that the sun would break through so I could capture some contrasting photos. The fog and overcast remained quite heavy and did not provide the best photo opportunities. I was able to capture a number of images that provide an accurate account of the changing fog conditions.


The Santa Rosa Plateau blanketed with fog – click on photo for a larger image.

TOP ROW: Common Mullein-not native (1,2), water droplets on grass, 
MIDDLE ROW: water droplets on spider web, Mariposa Lily, water droplets on foxtail grass 
BOTTOM ROW: , Elk thistle, water droplets on BIG spider’s web
CLICK on photo for a larger image.   

As the heavy fog begin to set in where I was located I decided to head up a trail that I hadn’t yet tried. I only intended on using the trail to gain some elevation so I would be in a position to watch the clearing fog over a larger vista. All I was doing however was moving into an area of denser fog. My camera equipment began to collect moisture looking more and more  like the water-droplet covered vegetation I had been photographing earlier. Realizing that there was going to be no fog burn-off today, I packed up the camera equipment to keep it dry. I continued on the same trail since I felt that I had already passed the half way point of the loop that would bring me back to the trail leading to the parking lot. I was now walking through a thick fog, well let’s face it, I was literally in the clouds. To be more accurate by western meterological terminology, I was actually, smack dab in the middle of  a marine layer that was coming off the Pacific Ocean and riding over the Santa Ana Mountains and lapping into the Temecula Valley.

Hiking on an unfamiliar trail in dense foggy conditions is an interesting experience. Intellectualy I knew I was going in the right direction and I was sure that the trail, well pretty sure, I was on connected to the trail that led back to the parking lot where I had left the car. The trail climbed a ridge adjacent to what appeared to be a deep ravine which was hidden from full view by the fog. Wrapping through oak woodlands the trail finally desended to a somewhat familiar area, but not entirely so. It appeared to be a portion of the Hidden Valley, but an area that I had not yet explored. While continuing on the trail in the fog covered valley the birds came vocally alive. The Acorn Woodpeckers cackled and laughed, while the Mourning Doves provided soothing coo’s. Other chips, chirps, and song were heard penetrating the thick fog. There were several sounds through the fog that did not sound of birds or amphibians. Having noticed a lot of  fresh scat and tracks of both bobcat and coyote along the trail, I wondered. . . . ? The trail did lead to the trail junction that led me back to the parking lot. 

I drove down from the plateau with the marine layer chasing my behind. I am looking forward to exploring this new trail once again when the visibility is better. I continue to be impressed by the many faces of the wonderful Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Preserve.

The Adventure Continues  . . . . . .

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO

Yesterday on the Santa Rosa Plateau

Yesterday, Wednesday, May 12, 2010 I was on the plateau a 8:30 am. I tried some new trails on the plateau that appeared to be underused. I hiked more than 3 miles before getting back on one of the main trails where I encountered the first person of the day. Even then, I met only six individuals on the trails during my nearly 4 hour stay on the plateau. The Santa Rosa Plateau (SRP) is truly a very special place and I will continue to be one of the plateau’s pupils for quite some time.

I was ready and hoping to capture photographs of some of the SRP wildlife with an emphasis on mammals. But, alas, the only mammals I encountered yesterday were the six homo sapiens  (4  joggers, 2 hikers) that I met along the trails.  It is apparent to me that I need to get to the SRP at sunrise or visit the SRP at dusk in order to have a chance of photographing the SRP mammals. I am fully aware that they are on the plateau and know that as I wander through their territory they are fully aware of my presence, and are probably watching me as well. The other strategy is to just find a location with a good view, be inconspicuous, and wait for the wildlife to come in to view. Surely this is what I will do as soon as I complete my continuing exploration of the SRP. I am still checking out the trails on the SRP. To date, I have hiked only about 15 miles of the 40 miles of trails on the SRP.  

I am finding it interesting that each trail on the 8300 acre reserve of bunchgrass prairie and oak woodlands habitat provides a different view, vista and presentation of this wonderful habitat. For more information regarding this wonderful place please check out: or contact the SRP foundation: 

I was able to photograph a few encounters with wildlife yesterday (click on photo for a larger image).

Photos in order: Ash-throated Flycatcher, Callippe Fritillary butterfly, Western Red-tailed Hawks can be confusing, Beavertail cactus in bloom.
In addition to the birds above the following were also seen: Mallard, White-tailed Kite, California Quail, Mourning Dove, Acorn Woodpecker, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Western Kingbird, Western Scrub Jay, Common Raven, American Crow, Violet-green Swallow, Oak Titmouse, House Wren, California Thrasher, European Starling, California Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Western Meadowlark. The Mallard was a female with two ducklings in one of the small riparian pools. I thought to myself that there was little protection from predators and wondered about how large her original clutch might have been.
There are still a few wildflowers in bloom on the plateau including the California Poppy but most have waned and the bunchgrass is now browning up. The cacti are just now coming into bloom. The vernal pools have dried up leaving only the common horsetail (Equisetum arvense)  to define where the vernal pools were.
We feel blessed to have found such a wonderful place to live and enjoy. Each day brings a new adventure and most days close with a beautiful sunset. Yesterday was no exception.
Jim, Judy, and VELCRO in California    

Early Mom’s Day Visit

Mom and Judy admiring mom’s backyard garden

Judy and I visited my mom (93-years young)  yesterday and took her out for an early Mother’s Day luncheon. We wanted to avoid the Sunday Mother’s Day restaurant reservation madness and we wanted to spend some quality one-on-one time with mom.

Mom is a very independent lady and she is surely the influence and source of my own independent nature. My mom is now suffering from dementia but currently still insists on living alone in her home with her cat(s). Mom has wonderful gardens, but her gardening passion has waned over the past several years as her dementia increases. Our next visit to mom’s will probably be a work visit to weed her gardens and bring them up to the standards she kept them.

My sister Joanne is a true saint and  has been the principle caregiver for mom for a number of years now. With our relocation to California we are only a 90 minute drive from mom. We are now finally at a point of our settling in process that we should be able to spend some more time visiting mom and helping out Joanne.

We took mom to Buster’s Beach House ( which has a great view of the Alamitos Bay inlet in Long Beach, CA. It’s a great place to relax and watch sailboats and yachts enter and exit the inlet to the Pacific Ocean. We had a great meal and a very nice time with mom.

Getting to and  from mom’s house is an adventure. Sixty to ninety minutes of high concentration white-knuckle driving on four different high-speed freeways with speeds ranging from 80 mph to 10 mph. Seldom can you make the trip at a steady speed. Having to be constantly alert with what is going on around you doesn’t allow for any sightseeing along the way. Driving the freeways in CA is not for the timid.

MOM’S GARDEN – Christmas in May – poinsettias, Nasturtium Alley, Pink Geranium, White Flower – – Click on photo for larger image


I spent the morning rearranging and filling the bird feeders. I was also looking for new visitors to the backyard since I added a nice backyard bird yesterday while waiting for Judy to get ready for our trip to see mom.

I was scanning the valley below and noticed a white bird flying over the fields along Murrieta Creek. Gulls and Great Egrets fly along the creek frequently and I first thought it was probably a gull. Its flight behavior however quickly ruled that out and I thought,  “it couldn’t be, could it?” I quickly located my binoculars got on the bird and exclaimed, “Yes, it is!” I continued to observe the White-tailed Kite as it worked back and forth through the area occasionally hovering as it searched for prey. I began to wonder whether there might be a pair of kites nesting in the area but then realized that the plateau was covered with a blanket of fog. I suspect that the kite probably came off the plateau to the valley below where the visability was better for hunting. I looked frequently this morning but saw no kite activity in the valley this morning. The plateau was clear this morning as well.

Today, while enjoying my coffee and catching up on the news, I noticed a pair of birds quickly land on the backyard railing checking out the feeders, and then quickly flying off. I thought damn, that was Judy’s bird and the sunflower feeder was empty. Judy had seen an interesting bird a week or so ago in the backyard and described it to me by showing me three different birds in the field guide and explained to me that the bird looked like, “part of the this one, and part of the bird looked like this one, and  the other part of the bird looked like this one – WHAT IS IT?” I just threw up my arms and said, “I don’t know, a complex-hybrid perhaps?”

Well, Judy was right, it was one of the 3 birds she had shown me, and it was the best of the three I thought. When the Black-headed Grosbeak flew in this morning for a brief stay, I said, “there’s Judy’s bird!” I told Judy that I saw the bird she had described and she has since been proudly stutting around all day.

I just went to the kitchen and look what I found was sitting in the refilled platform feeder.

Quick shots of the Black-headed Grosbeak – More Later. Click on photo for larger image

Our backyard bird list continues to grow but we still have had only the Anna’s Hummingbird at the feeders. Yesterday we saw an Allen’s Hummingbird in mom’s garden. The California Towhee that tried to erase his image from the small chrome watering can is still around now trying to eliminate his image from the stainless steel BBQ. Compulsive frustration for sure, or more likely, he is just never found a mate this season and is taking it out on himself.


Though I haven’t yet conducted a serious “birding only” Santa Rosa Plateau (SRP) trip, I may have located a Spotted Dove roosting/breeding site on the plateau  in my recent ramblings. I have had several fly-overs of a dove darker and larger than a Mourning Dove and having no wing-whistle. The heavy oak/riparian woodlands site I located has a good number of doves moving around in the heavy woodlands. The calls coming from the area fit that of the Spotted Dove.  Though the Spotted Dove was an introduced species to Southern California in 1910 it has currently been extirpated in most of its introduced and expanded areas. I plan to investigate the area further.

Jim, Judy, and VELCRO

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness – Mark Twain