Thursday, January 8, 2009


Out at 6:30 am this morning. A moderately heavy fog allowed for visibility of only about a hundred feet as the day began to dawn.

No screaming women this morning...only the distant gobble of Tom Turkeys, calling from their roosts in the canyon below. These, along with a healthy deer herd, undoubtedly provide a little of the cat-nip that would make this place an appealing stop within the mountian lions large home range, said to be 25-140 sq. km. for females and up to 750 km. for males (who do not allow over-lapping of other males within their ranges) per University of Michican Dept. of Zoology.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Based on the information below on the timing we are guessing that the loud wailing we heard this morning indicated a female lion in heat, though we'd be delighted to hear from others more knowledgeable on the subject.

"Although mountain lions may breed throughout the year, mating is believed to be most common from December to March. Young mountain lions are generally born from April to September after a gestation of 82 to 96 days (Young and Goldman, 1946; Eaton and Verlander, 1977). The usual litter consists of two to three kittens, and litters may be spaced as far as two to three years apart. The young are born in the den, but no nest is constructed."


We were thrilled to have a mountain lion wailing 20 yards from our house at app. 6:45 am this morning! Kathleen went outside to let the dog out, heard a heinous noise and called me to come outside quick. I have often hear mountain lion vocalizations referred to as sounding like "a woman being killed" and this could not have been more accurate (unless of course a woman was actually being killed, over and over again on the hillside below our house). We called both of the kids out to listen but they could only handle a few moments of it. As Kathleen and I stood there in the dark listening the lion walked right past us, just below the lip of the canyon - literally yards away. The cat continued up canyon but downhill and we last heard it 100 yards below us.

I plan on rising early tomorrow morning for a listen and perhaps even a look. Going out this afternoon to look for tracks. After a lifetime spent in the outdoors this is still a lifer mammal for me.

Hopefully I'll find a mountain lion and not a dead woman!!!


Friday, June 13, 2008




Council Road and the Safety Sound treated us to many wonderful sightings this day. Large snowflakes and a dark sky were foreboding but still we found a Red-Knot amidst the flurry at Nome River Bridge. We picked our way carefully along Cape Nome and the Safety Sound Lagoon.

We passed right over a female eider at the cape but a second look gave diagnostic field marks of a female King Eider. Black-Legged Kittiwakes and Common Murre entertained us on the Oceanside while Peregrine Falcon grabbed our attention on the bluffs behind us. Along the sound we found another Slaty-Backed Gull, our first Common Goldeneye of the trip, a sea-going beaver and our long sought after Artic Loon.

Proceeding to the Spruce patch at Council we added Blackpoll Warbler, Bohemian Waxwings, Myrtle warbler and a lovely, close-up, first of trip Pine Grosbeak.

An after dinner foray to the Nome River Bridge had an Artic Warbler bug-catching at our feet!

My Last full day in Nome was spent on the Teller Road where, although the birding was slow and despite a flat tire I had a wonderful, happy day with my great Oklahoma guests. All of my familiar friends were there: Rough Legged Hawk on her nest, the common redpoll nest with still unhatched eggs, Northern Shrike and the whole cast of avian characters that have been my life for the last three weeks. Now it is home to my beautiful family.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008





Today was a free day, so I got lots of chores done: researched local land ownership and looked into transport to Kelly Bar and Sledge Island for future trips. Birded the periphery of Nome by foot and came upon a group of passerines (American Tree Sparrow, Yellow Warbler and two Orange-Crowned Sparrows) all chattering and flittering around a hole. I made a couple of squealing noises and got my camera ready and out popped a ‘life mammal’ - a Short-Tailed Weasel!


Fun new group arrived today, all from Oklahoma. Dave and I decided that the best strategy was to get the easy Kougarok Road species out of the way early so at mile 26 we picked up: Artic Warbler, Bluethroat and Gyr Falcon (this time standing on the nest). Golden eagles were present in large numbers as well- about five of them including the one on the nest a mile 17. Hearing a familiar call I was able to locate Varied Thrush – another good bird for this trip.

On the way back to the hotel I made the ‘mistake’ of stopping to show my riders some Red-Necked Phalaropes just on the outskirts of Nome, and what should pop-up but a White Wagtail! The people in my van were thrilled but Dave and the passengers in the other van were not so happy…lesson learned? Never find a rare bird with only half the group!


For The very last time in 2008 (my fifth time in three weeks) I made the trip to mile 72 of the Kougarok Road to show my clients the Bristle-Thighed Curlew. Despite trying to get there quickly, along the way we had wonderful views of a Northern Goshawk on a nest in the Cottonwoods at about mile 61. At one point she flew off the nest low into another treee and presented us with stunning profile shots showing her darkly striped head. Northern Goshawk is only a ‘maybe’ bird to find in the Nome area and then usually only in the Spruce Forest around Council so this was indeed a treat! Other birds on this quick trip included Rusty Blackbird and Rock Ptarmigan.

The hike up Curlew Hill was very rewarding – the shortest walk to date to find the Curlew perched atop a hummock. Once all the group (and another tour group as well) were assembled I was given the honor of flushing the bird so that all could clearly see the diagnostic upper tail coverts…SUCCESS! A great way to conduct the final search for this elusive species.

On the way home, in addition to seeing most all the typical birds for this route we found another Short-Tailed Weasel, and at mile 40 were treated to close-up looks at a breeding plumaged surfbird. Another Red Phalarope was found by the group at the Nome River mouth.

Sunday, June 8, 2008



A chance encounter with a couple at dinner the previous night led to arrangements for me to guide them today on my day off.

After a 10 am start we headed up the Kougarok Road – the best chance at most of the birds they had on their target list. They were immediately thrilled by local specialties – nearly all of which they needed for their life-lists: Gray-Cheeked Thrush, Northern Waterthrush, Harlequin Duck, all three Scoters and a life-mammal: Musk Oxen.

The Bluethroat and Gyr Falcons of the day before were even closer and cleared than yesterday. Rusty Blackbird had returned to the pond at mile 67 and Short-Eared Owls were in abundance. A hike up ‘Curlew Hill’ was the first miss I had on the birds – in part because of blowing snow and hard winds, but the couple was thrilled by ten foot looks at an American Golden Plover apparently defending a nest. Also on nests on this hill were Whimbrel and Long-Tailed Jaeger.

Returning to town we had a 9 pm dinner then headed for Safety Sound Bridge where I found my first-of-trip Common Murre and we were treated to smashing full-body scope views of Emperor Goose!



Rumors of the return of Arctic Warblers to the Seward Peninsula proved to be true as we located our first of the season this morning on the Kougarok Road at mile 26. The bird sang brashly from the tops of the pussy-willows for all the group to see and a Bluethroat appeared on the scene to display to everyone’s delight, One mile down the road we found a Gyr Falcon tucked back in her nest in a low rock face while her mate appeared profiled on a distant ridgetop.

Returning to the Council Road Black-Legged Kittiwakes floated amongst Mew, Glaucous and three Slaty-Backed Gulls and Aleutian Terns showed nicely at the Safety Sound Bridge.

With the promise of our first opportunity to make it to the village of Council we forged ahead seeing Northern Shrike along the way. The road was finally open and we found the small spruce forest at the end of the road to be productive for new birds. Blackpoll warblers (2) in breeding plumage were our first surprise, followed soon after by Boreal Chickadees and a another great first – a pair of velvety Bohemian Waxwings!

On the return trip I stopped to investigate a Long-Tailed Jaeger sitting on the tundra and had my hat nearly knocked off as the bird rose to defend a nest and was joined by a second…I snapped a couple of quick photos of the eggs and ran for the vehicle!



Returned to Teller Road today and my group was excited to see Rusty Blackbird along the side of the road and a locally hard-to-find Ring-Necked Duck on a roadside pond. The Musk ox showed well on the hillsides and reindeer were abundant the length of the road.

At Penny River the American Dippers appeared to be defending a nest against the human intruders and the regular group of: Gray-Cheeked Thrush, Northern Waterthrush, Yellow and Wilson’s Warblers were singing nicely.

At the Wooley Lagoon turnoff we made a concerted effort to locate Red-Throated Pipits but none were to be ID’d among the numerous American Pipits on the rocky hillside where Northern Wheatears were also present in abundance. The Redpoll nest I had seen last week had a mother Common Redpoll on it and we watched as the mate came to the nest and fed her. The road to the Lagoon was closed just before reaching the village but the ride was punctuated by brightly plumaged Black-Bellied Plovers all along the way.

Just before the village of Teller on a small pond we noted two larger birds among a group of 20 or so Red-Necked Phalaropes which turned out to be very bright male and female Red Phalaropes. A hike for the White Wagtail was unfruitful with the exception of seeing perhaps a dozen Yellow Wagtails.

After dinner a brief foray to the Nome River bridge produced one of this trips top birds – a Red-Necked Stint glowing in the 11 p.m. sunshine!


Saturday, June 7, 2008


With great pleasure and anticipation I escorted my group down the Kougarok Road towards a bird sought by all nine for their ‘life-lists’ – Bristle-Thighed Curlew. Brief stops along the way yielded great views of Bluethroat at the Salmon Lake Campground Road and others, as well as Wandering Tattler, Northern Waterthrush and Short-Eared Owls along the way. A familiar call prompted me to announce the presence of Say’s Phoebe at mile 40 – another locally hard to find bird and the 4th I’ve encountered in the past two weeks.

Parking the van at mile 72 we immediately heard the territorial chatter of a flying Bristle-Thighed scolding a raven directly over-head and got tentative binocular views of the bird. We (the co-leader Dave McKay and I) encouraged our group to make the hike to the top of the hill for even better views. A few of us got brief, distant looks at more Curlews along the hike, but it took us perhaps 3 hours to obtain nice 50 foot views as we compared them to the also nesting Whimbrels. A biting squall added to the drama of the adventure.

Returning to our vehicles we found that not only did we have a flat tire on the van but the spare was also flat and we had 72 miles of bad road to return over. We loaded the pickup front and back with all eleven of us for the miserable ride back in the rain and cold. As luck would have it we encountered another stranded motorist just a mile down the road – a young man whose pickup truck had broken down. Serendipitously, the lug pattern on the wheels of his truck fit our van perfectly so a dire situation quickly turned into a win-win as he swapped us his spare for a ride to town.

Along the way we witnessed a pair of blonde Grizzlies stalking a moose calf. The bears were startled by our arrival on the scene and ran away, rising up on their rear legs to look back at us above the willows as they went. In the evening a small group of us returned to the Nome River Bridge and re-found Aleutian Terns.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Nome, Alaska Days 9, 10

I dropped off my first group of guests and spent the day doing laundry, cleaning up, working on the computer and getting some rest. The following morning I picked up my second group. We picked our way along the coast checking out every Alaskan species and watching for vagrants.

At the Safety Sound Bridge we found a 2nd year and a full adult Slaty-Backed Gull. The Willow Ptarmigan we encountered are quickly changing into their summer plumage – the females are completely camouflaged and the males white body is becoming flecked with more and more reddish brown. An intermediate morph Parasitic Jaeger was the first dark bodies Jaeger I’ve seen since my arrival.

After dinner we went back out to the Nome River Bridge and hiked the shore toward the river mouth where we were treated to great looks at a lone breeding plumaged Red-Knot and a Sabine’s Gull among the many other peeps and gulls.

Back to Kougarok tomorrow for a third look at Bristle-Thighed Curlews.

Monday, June 2, 2008



Nome, Alaska Day 8

The final day with this group of fun folks we headed out the Teller Road. For the first time since I arrived the weather was good enough (great actually with sun and 50 degrees!) to bird the riparian along the Penny River. It was very birdy with Spotted Sandpiper and American Dipper on the shore and Gray-Cheeked Thrush, Yellow, Wilson’s and Yellow-Rumped Warbler and Northern Waterthrush in the bush. Moving on we encountered great large mammal action with many Musk Ox, Reindeer(domesticated) and Moose along the road and got to watch a cow moose protecting her new-borns from her yearlings which she repeatedly charged.

Good looks at Rough-Legged Hawk on the nest and the locally rare Say’s Phoebe at the Bluestone river Bridge, then things got really good when we arranged permission to walk behind the cemetery at the Village of Teller with one of the Inupiat elders. We made one full ½ mile pass around the tundra looking for the White Wagtails that the spot is known for and were about to leave when one woman in the group asked “didn’t you see me waving my arms, I SAW it!”. This of course got us pumped and so this time we embarked on a mile loop and at the far end another in the group said “there it is”. None of the rest of us had been able to ID the distant form but we loped towards where it had lighted and were all able to get our binoculars on this beautiful Asian bird for 5-10 seconds. Invigorated we drove out onto the spit guarding Grantley Harbor where we scoped a Black Guillemot.

A two hour drive back for dinner then we hit the road again determined to find either Aleutian Terns or Artic Loon on Safety Sound, but instead were immensely satisfied to get brief looks at a lone Emperor Goose. White slogging through the mud-flats to get a look I had a face-to-face, 4 foot away encounter with a male Red Phalarope who wasn’t particulary interested in moving.

We quit birding at 12:06 am..with the sun still in the sky!

Saturday, May 31, 2008



NOME, ALASKA May 31, 2008
Up at 4 am to chase Bristle-Thighed Curlews…again!

The weather was nice, the warmest day so far, perhaps as high as 50 with a light cloud cover. We stopped to glass a couple of Golden Eagles nests (one head barely showing) then proceeded to look for Bluethroat and ended up finding it at the same place that Tim and I had it 4 days ago. What looked like an eagle atop a distant hill turned out in the scope to be a medium dark Gyr Falcon, so my guests were delighted to get a great two-in one!

Further along the road we picked up more Rock Ptarmigan and about 5 cow and one bull Moose. Rusty Blackbird was seen again at the same pond where we also got brief looks at a Brown Bear as he ran from the van. At least 4 more Bluethroats were seen doing their beautiful ‘falling leaf’ display, most near The Cottonwoods at Pilgrim River Bridge. All of the other expected species like Fox Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, both Redpolls, Orange-Crowned Warblers, Northern Waterthrushes, Willow Ptarmigan and Long-Tailed Jaegers were present in abundance.

The hike to the Curlews was aided by two other birders who had arrived before us and shared great 10 minute views of the bird at about 100 feet! A number of very pale Short-Eared Owls and light morph Rough Legged Hawks kept the day interesting and a small family of Musk Ox and about 10 Snowshoe Hares rounded out our mammal list.

Back to the Teller Road tomorrow…still need White Wagtail!

Friday, May 30, 2008



We retraced our steps to the Safety Sound this morning and found a pair (adult and immature?) Peregrine Falcons at Cape Nome. Much time was spent searching for Aleutian Tern (Elusive-tern) at the Safety Sound Bridge but instead one of my guests yelled ‘black-headed gull’ and once in the scope I ID’d it as Sabine’s Gull by the yellow tip to it’s black bill – beautiful bird!

The weather was gorgeous – not a cloud in the sky and in the 40’s. Headed towards Council but found the road blocked by snow at mile 50. Flying Golden Eagle and Rough-Legged hawk, wading Wandering Tattler and all three pluvialis plovers were a delight for all of of us.

Tomorrow it’s back to Kougarok road to (hopefully) show off Bristle-Thighed Curlew.



Nome, Alaska May 29

Tim’s last morning with me was extended by a canceled flight that allowed us to bird for a couple of hours at the Nome River Bridge where we added Long-Billed Dowitcher to our trip list.

The first four of my six guests arrived at 1:30 and we were able to have a relaxing ocean-front lunch at the Polar CafĂ©. A brief trip south of town provided a number of them with their first Long-Tailed Jaegers, Artic Terns and Red-Throated Loons. We picked our remaining participants up at 4:30 from their Gambell flight and proceeded towards Safety Lagoon. On my third stop of the day at Nome River Bridge I located for the group what was arguable the best bird of the last 5 days – LESSER SAND PLOVER. This particular individual had all of the beautiful markings of the species but in subdued tones, suggesting either a bird just coming into breeding plumage or a lone female. I spotted this little gem on a mud flat about 75 yards upstream of the far bridge approach and as soon as everyone got their bins on it she flew past us and landed 100 yards downstream where we were able to watch her for about 15 minutes, albeit pretty heavily backlit so photos weren’t as good as hoped for.

Invigorated by out find we proceeded toward Safety Sound. Along the way finding Willow Ptarmigan and Black Scoter at Cape Nome. Around the first ponds about a mile past the cape one of the guests found a SECOND Lesser Sand Plover, this one a bright male, so everyone was well pleased. Proceeding to the Safety Sound Bridge we were able to connect with Parasitic Jaeger, a low elevation Northern Wheatear, Common Eiders, Pacific Loons, Ruddy Turnstone and of course the ubiquitous Lapland Longspurs, Glaucous and Mew Gulls, Semi-Palmated Sandpipers and Brants among others.

Due to the lateness of their arrivals we did not get back to Nome for Dinner until after 10 pm so dinner at Milano’s was quick but happy.

Thursday, May 29, 2008



Nome, Alaska Day 4 (May 28)

The Kougarok Road is the last to open after winter and no one could tell us if we could get all the way to mile 72…the starting point for the hike to see the much sought after Bristle-Thighed Curlew. Tim tried to talk me out of it with stories of Brown Bear attacks but when I asked a Nome policeman if I could borrow a gun for the day he just laughed so what could I do?...a lifer is well worth risking bear attack right?

Of course it was all just a mind game that Tim was playing to try to keep me from getting one up on him. There were no bears and the vegetation was only a foot tall so you could have seen one coming from miles away. The good news is that although this quest is said to sometimes require a 5-6 hour hike I found them on the ridge after a half hour walk, snapped some pix and was back to the car within 1 hour! Because they look so much like Whimbrels, learning the “chew-itta, chew-itta” call is a great tool for telling one from the other, as is the buffy (I’d call it almost yellow) tail of BRTCUR.

Some other highlights of this very scenic and desolate (one other car in 9 hours) road that follows the Nome River were: Northern Waterthrush – calling assertively at the Grand Central Bridge and the Pilgrim River, Varied Thrush, Orange-Crowned and Wilson’s Warblers above Salmon lake. Peregrine Falcon, nesting on a shear cliff face. Bluethroat – displaying it’s amazing colors passionately, Merlin and a pair of Rusty Blackbirds at mile 67. Scanning the many cliffs along the road we were able to pick out two eagles nests (miles 17 and 27) with sitting adults as well as two flying Goldens for a total of four.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008



Nome, Alaska Day 3 (May 27)

Despite waking up to 2 inches of new snow at sea-level, the locals assured us that the Teller Road was doable all the way to the small fishing village for which the road is named. On the edge of town we spent 20 minutes breaking down a shore-bird only to conclude that it was one already well known to us: Pectoral Sandpiper (it looks different in the snow!). We were soon thrilling to small flocks of Snow Buntings skittering away from the road. Near Washington Creek we had 20 foot perched views of a bird we were later told shouldn’t have been here: American Kestrel!

By far our most productive stop for the day was the Sinuk River Bridge. Cliff Swallows greeted us as we scoped a pair of bright Bar-Tailed Godwits on a gravel bar. While watching a Yellow Wagtail we had great looks at the hard-to-find Pacific Golden Plover. On our return we had another locally rare bird – a pair of Red Knots…here only during migration.

We traveled over high passes completely white with snow, but still found Horned Lark, lots of Willow Ptarmigan and comedic Rock Ptarmigan challenging our Ford Escape! At Bluestone Creek a shrike perched in the willows, which out of habit I called Loggerhead but Tim correctly called it as Northern.

The spit at the native village of Teller held Pigeon Guillemot and Pelagic Cormorant. Our ride back was quicker but we added Short-Eared owl to our trip list. Bed felt good at midnight, even though the sky was as light as 7 pm!



Nome, Alaska Day 2 (May 26)

Is it a surprise that it’s snowing IN ALASKA? Well it is! But Tim and I hit the road (Teller Road) early and began picking up great birds amidst the blowing flakes: Green-Winged Teal and American Tree Sparrow and then…MUSK-OX? Yes…a big furry brown form ran into the willows ahead of us – Tim called it a grizzly but I thought I had seen horns…it shook the willows where it passed then finally emerged as a grizzled old Musk Ox Bull.

Back to birding we found some old friends like: Golden-Crowned Sparrow, White-Crowned Sparrow and Semi-Palmated Plover as well as some new ones like: YellowWagtail and the striking American Golden Plover. The snow got the better of us though and we turned around after 15 miles of the 75 mile road.

Not to be stopped we headed back to the lower elevation Council Road where we spent the previous afternoon. Along Safety Lagoon we added Black Turnstone and Lesser Scaup. Exploring farther out than on our previous trip we followed the Solomon River into the foothills and mountains where we came upon many Northern Wheatears and Wandering Tattlers along the cobbled shores. Say’s phoebe, rare for Nome made an appearance as did a boldly patterned Rough-Legged Hawk.

On the way back to town we were able to pick out a Slaty-Back Gull among the hundreds of Glaucous Gulls and Glaucous-Winged Gulls at the Safety Sound Bridge. A Whimbrel strolled along the roadside on the outskirts of Nome.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Monday, May 26, 2008


Nome, Alaska: Day 2

Well, actually, Anchorage day 2 and Nome day 1….our 6:00 am flight to Nome was cancelled so we made arrangements for the 11 am flight then birded the mouth of Fish Creek about 10 minutes from the airport, the highlight being a red fox stealing away a duckling (or some other small downy snack). With the tide in Cook Inlet way out the birds were all a quarter mile away and the Godwits we saw at that distance were not counted as the Hudsonians that were supposed to be there.

We arrived at Nome at 1:30 pm, our adrenalin flowing with the possibility of some great birds and we were not disappointed. A brief stop at the visitor center gave us an opportunity to scan the Bering Sea between the large clumps of migrating ice and immediately we spotted five inky BLACK SCOTERS. Before we could turn around to enter the center a small flock of BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES flew over and two elongated silhouettes turned out to be graceful RED-THROATED LOONS.

We stopped at Subway to grab sandwiches for the road then started south along the coastal road towards the village of Council. A kiting LONG-TAILED JAEGER (the first of fifteen) caused us to slam on the brakes (and dump our sandwiches on the floor!). Frosty white flitterings next to the road were a pair of HOARY REDPOLLS playing tag. Other ocean-front birds included: GLAUCOUS and MEW GULLS (hundreds), ARTIC TERN (dozens), GREATER SCAUP, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW and COMMON RAVEN.

The Nome River Bridge was thrilling with immediate close looks at a male/female pair of LONG-TAILED DUCKS, nesting WESTERN SANDPIPERS, and the first of scores of breeding plumaged LAPLAND LONGSPURS. No matter how many of these striking ‘buntings’ appeared we never tired of gazing at them! Also here were NORTHERN PINTAILS and RED-NECKED PHALAROPES.

Rocky Cape Nome held a couple of small groups of RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS and HARLEQUIN DUCKS. South of this promontory the ocean turned to ice and all of the open water was on the opposite side of the road in the expansive Safety Sound. This bird rich estuary gave us many looks at: BRANT, NORTHERN SHOVELR, MALLARD, DUNLIN, SANDHILL CRANES, PACIFIC LOON and TUNDRA SWAN. Some of our target birds here were found including WILLOW PTARMIGAN, COMMON EIDERS, ALEUTIAN TERN, PARASITIC JAEGER and BAR-TAILED GODWIT.

Thanks to the long near-arctic days we birded until 10, had a quick, light meal and hit the sack by midnight!

Tomorrow: Teller Road

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Off to Alaska...FINALLY! I got in to Anchorage and met up with Tim Ruckle. We got a few hours of birding in before my evening meeting with Forrest Davis of High Lonesome BirdTours.
It was a drizzly gray afternoon but we still had lots of warblers at Kincaid Park: Orange-Crowned, Wilson's and Yellow-Rumped, as well as Downy Woodpecker, Swainsonson's and Gray-Cheeked Thrush. Finished the session at Westchester Lagoon where there were dozens of Mew Gulls, a pair of Cackling Geese and app. 30 Red-Necked Grebes displaying all kinds of courtship behavior. Looked briefly for Hudsonian Godwit but the tide was out and all we could see were distant Godwit views without a positive species ID.
Tomorrow: Nome!

Monday, December 17, 2007

immature rufous-morph, dark-morph red-tailed hawk

American kestrel


black-crowned night herons


On Saturday, December 17, Liam and I completed our first Raptor Survey for Butte County (south). This route begins inside Graylodge NWR and terminates at the Oroville forebay, it took 6 hours to complete. The number and variety of red-tailed hawks was overwhelming. Along Pennington Road we encountered as may as twelve at a time, making driving and tallying a fun challenge (we just left our flashers on the entire day)! Light morph red-tails well out-numbered all other plumages, making the rufous and dark morphs that much more spectacular (photos above ). Red-Tailed hawks accounted for 171 of the 307 raptors surveyed. The ubiquitous turkey vulture seemed to be with us constantly; above the skyline or tilting overhead throughout the whole day, 45 of these were tallied. Northern harriers were likewise a fixture on the horizon, 38 were observed along the route with females making up the greater number. American kestrels ornamented the roadside wires (25) and one of the highlights of the day was watching a pair of males grapple in mid-air, fall to the ground with talons locked and wrestle on the black-top for seconds before a victor was determined – both flew off seemingly unharmed. White-tailed kites were relatively easy to spot at a distance and 14 of them were seen either perched at the tops of small trees, or ‘kiting’ above wheat or rice-fields. A few of the 7 red-shouldered hawks observed sported stunning pink/orange breasts, while the mottled juveniles normally took us a few moments longer to classify. Our ‘highlights’ for the day were: an immature bald eagle on a snag over a pond on Afton Road, 2 rough-legged hawks – one in a conifer behind a residence on Pennington Road (second time seen there) and another on a small tree on Afton Road, A lone ferruginous hawk standing out bright white against a burned field on Wilbur Road near the Thermalito Afterbay, and 3 ‘accipiter species’ believed to be 2 Cooper’s and a sharp-shinned (photo above ). Our most unusual sighting for the day were 35 black-crowned night herons in a single tree over a small pond on Afton Road. Bird well. Scott Huber Chico

Thursday, December 13, 2007



I did a little reconnaissance around the proposed M and T gravel operation this morning in preparation for Altacals January 5 trip, and found it to be rich in native bird species.

My first stop was along Chico River Road where the road crosses Little Chico Creek (no surface water at this point) where I found black phoebe, house finch, red-winged blackbird, Nuttall’s woodpecker, American Goldfinch, Bewick’s wren, scrub jay, golden-crowned sparrow, lesser goldfinch, American crow, northern flicker, white-breasted nuthatch, turkey vulture, spotted towhee, song sparrow, fox sparrow, California quail and Ruby-crowned kinglet. This location is just ‘up-stream’ from where the gravel mining would take place.

Another stop a quarter mile further south yielded many white-crowned sparrow and fly-overs by a flock of sandhill crane which subsequently landed on the subject property.

After turning east on Ord Ferry road; house sparrow, western meadowlark and mourning dove graced the roadside. Where this road re-crossed Little Chico Creek (down-stream from the proposed mining) I found: oak titmouse, European starling, a lone Lincoln’s sparrow, yellow-rumped warbler, a small flock of wood-ducks on the irrigation canal, a solo long-billed curlew flying over and hundreds of sandhill cranes on the newly planted fields of Llano Seco on the south side of the road.

The existing level of vehicle and large truck traffic on this country road make it uncomfortable for birding, if not for the birds. A road-killed deer and gray squirrel suggest the possibility of greater traffic related wildlife mortality if road usage increases.

Scott Huber
December 13, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

passerella iliaca (sooty)

FOX SPARROW (sooty) December 12, 2007

Again today the phainopeplas called from the miseltoe clusters in which they fed. On the ground, this fox sparrow scratched a hole in the damp ground beneath the leaves, seemingly oblivious to my presence just 10 feet away

Monday, December 10, 2007


This afternoon December 10, on Hooper Lane in Butte Creek Canyon I became aware of a ringing, single note whistle from the top of a tree and a similar "fooeet" reply from another tree. Directly over my head a male phainopepla chased an insect in a circle, showing off it's striking white wing patches, then perched on a bare branch, providing me extended looks at it's intense red-eye and trade-mark 'hair-doo'!

Friday, December 7, 2007


After a week the Glenn County snow bunting continues to call the little private airstrip on Road 39 it's home. Again the bird was found in the company of horned larks. A couple of drenching rains over the course of the week didn't dampen the little birds fidelity to this sterile patch of ground...perhaps it looks like the glacial moraines and barren fields of it's breeding grounds. Vehicles pass by every few minutes and about half the time the bird crouchs as they pass and the rest of the time it rises about 40 feet in the air, flies in a big 100 yard circle and then drops like a rock right back to it's gravelly home-away-from home! Both Liam and Alita were able to get views of the bird and take some pictures (Alita's pictures above). One other vehicle of birders was there as we were leaving at about 4:40 p.m.


It was a beautiful morning after a rain at Teichert Pond in residential Chico.

Many vocalizing birds were seen including: Oak titmouse, yellow-rumped warbler, european starling, ruby-crowned kinglet, spotted towhee, Nuttall's woodpecker, Acorn woodpecker, American robin, belted kingfisher, red-shouldered hawk (see photo), Bewick's wren, Song sparrow, hermit thrush, dark-eyed junco, house finch, Canada goose, Anna's hummingbird, American goldfinch, bushtit, cedar waxwing, black phoebe, California quail and white-breasted nuthatch.

Seen but not heard were: northern flicker, American crow, turkey vulture and mallard.

Nice surprises were a singing female purple finch and my first orange-crowned warbler in months!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


RUFOUS BACKED ROBIN: Proctor Trail Loop, Madera Canyon, Arizona, November 30, 2007

ELEGANT TROGON: Patagonia Lake, December 2, 2007