Sunday, August 26, 2012


It was a beautiful summer morning - clear and 63 degrees at 7:10 a.m. The park was noticeably more quiet than last weekend.

I was only there a few minutes, when Haynes arrived. Unfortunately, I saw another house sparrow (a female this time). Luckily, it's not breeding season or I would be very unhappy.

The sunflowers were spectacular. All I could think about was Van Gogh and his sunflower paintings from the south of France. The scale of them is hard to believe. It almost felt like Jack in the Beanstalk!

Great White Egret
We saw several song sparrows, catbirds, goldfinches, robins and blue jays. A mockingbird was perched on one of the garden fences. Lower garden excitement included a great crested flycatcher perched on a Tree of Heaven and two beautiful common yellowthroat females. A hummingbird whizzed by.

The upper gardens were very quiet too. We did manage to see some cardinals, lots of robins, titmice, a hummingbird and a rather scruffy looking juvenile house wren. We could hear the red eyed vireo and the peewee singing.

The soccer field area yielded an oriole nest high up in an aspen, a large group of titmice, an eastern phoebe, a downy woodpecker and a warbling vireo. Hoping for some excitement down by the pond, we quietly made our way in through some brush. A green heron was preening on a log to the side and a solitary sandpiper was looking for yummy things to eat in the mud. The water in the pond has been gradually disappearing. A few mallards were in the distance and as we stood there, a great white egret flew in! It was quite a sight. It preened for a bit. I snapped a few pictures. I didn't realize until I got home and looked at the pictures on the computer, how much they can twist their necks to get at those hard to reach places under the wing!

The river was fairly quiet although a warbling vireo was having a grand time singing and a group of titmice flew back and forth. The canoe place was quite busy. What a great day to float down the river! A large frog was hanging out near the edge and unlike most of his friends who jump in the water when you're 10 feet away, this one was not shy at all about letting me take his picture.

P.S. Our yellow warbler friends seem to have moved on. Not one sweet, sweet, very sweet was heard. And where are our bluebirds?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Catch this...

Willow Flycatcher
What a gorgeous day! It was 58 degrees and clear this morning at 7:00 a.m. A perfect birding day.

As I walked from the car to the gardens, I was greeted with several high pitched sounds. High up in the trees in the little triangle separating the meadow from the gardens were several cedar waxwings which flew off to another location as I approached.

I headed to a sunny patch and immediately saw this little guy. I was debating about whether it was a willow or alder flycatcher, when Haynes appeared. Other possibilities included a least flycatcher and the peewee. After much discussion about eye rings, beak color, head size etc., we have finally decided that it was most likely a Willow flycatcher.  It was very active. Guess there were lots of flies to catch!

Red Sunflower
A few minutes Mary Lou turned up as well. We saw the American redstart, yellow warblers, catbirds, house wrens, chickadees, an oriole, song sparrows and robins. We were quite amused to see a tiny little hummer chasing a large mourning dove all around the gardens.

I was away for a week, and suddenly the gardens have matured in a way that you know fall is coming. The sunflowers have shot up to at least 8 feet and seem to come in quite a variety of colors. The cheerful, lemon yellow sundrops also known as Evening Primrose (oenethera) are also blooming. Corn on the cob is full and ready for picking and tomatoes are ripening to their deep orangey red color.

In the upper gardens, we saw at least one blue gray gnatcatcher, an eastern wood peewee, the eastern phoebe. Lots of insect catchers! There was a downy woodpecker, a flicker, blue jays and titmice.

The soccer field was rather quiet, but down by the pond we were not disappointed. Mary Lou had seen some black crowned night herons down there yesterday and we were hoping for a repeat performance. We didn't see any adults, but we did see the juvenile black crowned heron and then Haynes spotted a green heron very camouflaged in the greenish mucky pond. A kingfisher hung out on an arc of an old, dead tree branch, waiting for his opportunity for a tasty morsel and just as we turned to leave, a blue heron flew overhead!

Older Fawn
The river was quiet and the barn swallows have fledged, so we headed to Woodcock meadow where Ian suddenly appeared and joined us. There was a flurry of activity in a juniper tree. We saw a black and white warbler, another blue gray gnatcatcher and another redstart!

We walked through the woods near the JCC where it was very quiet and finally heard the peewee in the same location that we seem to hear it every year - as we start to near the woods near the parking lot!

As we all got ready to depart, this beautiful fawn appeared in the upper gardens. What could be a better way to end a birdwatching morning?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Migration Begins...

Morning Glory!
Now this is a sight to make you happy in the morning!

It was 73 degrees and hazy - the humidity building in already. I had to get over there ASAP as I got an email from Mary Lou with some great sightings including a blue winged warbler in the upper gardens.

I started in the lower and saw two yellow throats right away. Saw our regulars i.e., robins, house wrens, catbirds, song sparrows and later titmice and Cedar waxwings. That devilish house sparrow is still there, unfortunately. As I rounded a bend, there was a hubbub of activity in the oak trees. First, I saw several chickadees flying back and forth across the path, very interested in some kind of food in the trees. Then I saw a flash of yellow, a white wingbar and there before me were a couple of blue winged warblers! I was so excited. This must be a sign that migration has begun. Later, I ran into Haynes. He had seen a blue-gray gnatcatcher and a black and white warbler.

In the upper gardens there must have been a raptor of some kind. The crows and blue jays were going crazy - probably for over an hour. I waited for ages and thought I saw some large tan wings flying for an instant in the woods, but could never confirm what it might have been. Their alarm calls were so upsetting that I almost had to leave. It was making me very anxious because it sounded like they were screaming for their lives.

Hungry Barn Swallows
Otherwise, there were yellow warblers, goldfinches, a couple of hummingbirds, a young cardinal, house wrens and song sparrows. But, I was treated to a nice viewing of a Great Crested flycatcher perched at the top of a tree with his feathers looking a little bedraggled. When I went back up there with Haynes, we saw high up in an oak tree, at least three red-eyed vireos flitting about, which was quite nice.

We headed down to the soccer field and pond as we were hoping to see the green heron and/or sandpiper that have been there recently. There were at least one, possibly two young orioles down there - maybe they are the ones I had been seeing in the upper gardens, now old enough to explore further.  A peewee called from the woods and a mockingbird flew from shrub to shrub as we walked down the field. A downy, another yellowthroat and then a beautiful female grosbeak appeared. Later we saw a phoebe too.

Sadly, there was no sign of any of the birds we hoped for at the pond so we headed to the river. There were some Cedar waxwings in a tree across the river, but the best part was the baby barn swallows have hatched! I tried to take a picture of them nestled in their nest and every time my flash went off, they thought mom was arriving with food and they would stand up straight and open their beaks. It was so comical. They looked like a little chorus line - the Swallowettes!

Saw a little toad on our way back. Having shown Pete G. a picture in the past, my guess it was a baby American toad, but will try and confirm.