Field Notes 11-21-21

It was a brisk 37 degrees on the way out the door at 7:18am. A female hairy woodpecker flew out of the old evergreen as a white-breasted nuthatch pecked at the feeder. The hairy woodpeckers seem to have moved in long-term, and I couldn’t be more exited! That brings the total to four woodpecker species that regularly visit the patch. Armed with a light sweater and thick scarf, I was hopeful that the chilly air would warm up as the sun rose higher.

There was still ice on the grass at the Sheehy Creek trail. I’d barely gone 10 feet before a soft “pik” caught my attention. Speaking of woodpeckers… a little downy bobbed atop a leafless tree across the creek. I heard a rustle in the oak tree behind me, and then another. A kinglet? Bushtits? Sounded heavier. One bird came into view, then two. White-crowned sparrows! Along the whole trail, there were at least 25 white-crowns. Most jumped around in the trees, while a handful poked about on the ground with a smattering of golden-crowns. The occasional song sparrow joined them, and about half-way through the trail, a Lincoln’s sparrow appeared! I wasn’t sure at first, but as it turned to face the sun, its tell-tale buffy-colored chest popped against its white belly I could see where the fine-lined dark streaks ended in a neat line at the edge of the buff.

Then, I heard a high, chirpy call, almost like a drop of water in a small bucket, and looked up to follow the sound. A white-tailed kite was perched atop a tall, thin tree. Both cute and menacing, it fluttered its wings and a second kite alighted next to it. They seemed playful with each other, picking at each other and chasing each other before landing together again. Most often in the field, I see kites in pairs, although the occasional singleton will visit my home patch.

Only a few other interesting sightings to note –

  • Four adult male Anna’s hummingbirds shining in all their ruby red glory
  • A red-shouldered hawk and a red-tail hawk sharing hunting territory, and sharing the misery of being harassed by the local scold of scrub jays
  • Three marsh wrens, although only one was visibly identifiable. The other two could be heard in the reeds along the bank of the creek

After Sheehy Creek, I stopped at the duck pond in Kennedy Park, not expecting anything exciting. Among the colony of ring-billed and California gulls was an outsider. Pale grey back, bright pink legs, and a huge yellow bill with a conspicuous red spot on the lower mandible and tan feathers along its head and neck. Not dark enough to be a western, and too chunky to be a California. I tiptoed around to get a look at the wingtips…pale gray! I had found my first glaucous-winged gull! Was not expecting a lifer today! Unfortunately, my SD card was acting up, and while I thought I was getting some prime shots of the bird, when I went to review the photos, they were gone! Oh, well. Just because I didn’t get a picture doesn’t mean it wasn’t there!

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