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Adventures in Window Birding

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When less-than-favorable weather conditions and the general routine tasks of daily life prevent me from getting out into the field as often as I would like, the birds that hang around our garden are an absolute delight: a literal God-send, in my opinion!  To be able to glance out the window and see the beautiful abundance of life on display in an array of winged creatures is a wonderful blessing.   In addition to the Oak Titmice that have been hanging around outside the windows lately, here are a few more of my feathered friends, whose presence never fails to cheer and entertain. Anna's Hummingbird Several Anna's Hummingbirds can be counted on to liven up the garden with their feisty presence year-round.  They visit hummingbird feeders, strategically placed outside the windows, as well as swaths of flowering plants offering enticing nectar-rich blooms these little gems can't resist!  Here, this male Anna's Hummingbird perches on a cluster of dogwood buds... his favored

A Visit From a Pair of Oak Titmice

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The gray, stormy days of January have been livened up lately by the continued presence of a pair of Oak Titmice that have been hanging out around our yard and frequenting our birdfeeders.  I wrote about these feisty little mites of the oak woodlands a few years ago , but only recently have they shown up in our neighborhood. While some describe them as plain or drab, I think Oak Titmice are endearing - and full of lively energy!  This pair is routinely seen nabbing sunflower seeds from our feeders before flying off to perch in a tree or shrub where they hold the seed between their feet and hammer it open with their stout bills.  I suspect these two little birds were drawn to our neighborhood by an abundance of mistletoe in a nearby ash tree - and enticed to stay by the steady supply of sunflower seeds in our feeders!  In any case, they are a delight to watch and a welcome addition to the usual sparrows, finches and doves that call our yard home. Hopefully they stick around for a while!!

Toasted Marshmallow: A Birder's Best Christmas Gift

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Sometimes, birds get lost.  And when they are found by local birders, far from their expected range, their presence causes quite the stir of excitement in the birding community!  (Case in point: the incredibly rare Snowy Owl that turned up in Orange County, California, a few days ago.)   While Southern California is a little out of my range for a quick day trip, the coast of Central California is not.  So, with Christmas behind us and a sunny day in the forecast, Eric and I packed up and headed over to Half Moon Bay in hopes of catching a glimpse of another very special rare bird from the north that has been hanging out on a popular beach for the last five or six weeks.  (Yes, I'm a little late to the party; it's been a very busy fall!) Decidedly smaller than Southern California's famed Snowy Owl, this lone male Snow Bunting is no less charismatic!  Unconcerned by nearby birders, beach-goers and photographers, he has made a habit out of hanging out along the bluffs and cre

Where Have All The Songbirds Gone? (A Brief Introduction to Monsoon Molt Migration)

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Though the thermometer outside hits triple digits with alarming frequency in July and August here in California's Great Central Valley, according to the birds, fall migration is already underway! The "fall" migration of shorebirds is well-known for its early start in July, as individuals begin returning from Arctic breeding grounds while summer is still at its peak.  Failed nesters may arrive the earliest, but even those that raise young successfully in the short northern summers begin returning south when the calendar indicates that summer is far from over.   But what about songbirds?  How early do they pack up and head south?   Visit your favorite birding patch in August, even during the cool hours just after dawn, and you will most likely be met with... silence.  Why is it so quiet out there in late summer?  The birds seem to have just... vanished.  But are they really gone?  If so, where have they gone?  Have they migrated south already? Like migration itself, the ans

Birding in Maine: North Woods and Warblers

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After exploring the salt marshes and rocky coasts of Maine's southern and mid-coast regions, we headed north.  Way north.   Boreal forests beckoned at Baxter State Park, so after several days of exploring gorgeous Mount Desert Island and visiting famed Acadia National Park, we followed highway 95 north from Bangor - north into the woods.   Black-throated Green Warbler One of my birding goals for our June trip to New England was to see as many species of warblers as I could.  Small, agile and active, the New World warblers (also called parulids) are a diverse group of largely insectivorous songbirds in the family Parulidae.  Falling under the broad category of neotropical migrants (along with other colorful songbirds, like orioles, grosbeaks, buntings and tanagers), most North American warblers spend the brief summer months breeding in temperate and boreal forests, before migrating south to Central and South America for the winter.   Of the 47 species of warblers that breed in No

Birding in Maine: Seabirds & Puffin Islands!

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Everyone knows and loves the songbirds: bluebirds, robins, finches, sparrows, warblers.  Jewel-like hummingbirds have a strong following among flower gardeners, and powerful raptors are favorites of many birders and non-birders alike.  Hunters toting shotguns as well as those with binoculars know and love waterfowl of all sorts (albeit for strikingly different reasons).  Shorebirds, with their often minute differences, have their own particular subset of devotees as well.  But it takes a special kind of dedication to become intimately familiar with one of the most mysterious groups of birds: the seabirds.   Living their lives entirely at sea and coming ashore only to breed, typically on rocky, remote islands, seabirds are largely inaccessible to the average birder (let alone non-birder!)  Many of us have our first introduction to seabirds with feet planted firmly on dry land, while peering across the blue expanse through spotting scopes.  There, distant birds - shearwaters, jeagers, al