Monday, April 20, 2009

The Birds of Calaveras Big Trees SP

March 30th this year was a Monday morning. I had camped overnight Sunday night at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. You can read about Sunday's hike and my camping 'neighbors' here.

First thing in the morning, about an hour after sunrise (waited for sun to be at least visible through trees), I headed off from the campground to walk around the North Grove Trail, mostly in 'hunt' of the Pileated Woodpecker. I had heard it the day before, but didn't get a picture and really wanted one. Sadly, I still do. There were none to be heard and certainly none in sight.

But I did see a few American Robins right away, not far from the Robins were Dark-eyed Juncos, and later a Northern Flicker. According to this list, all common birds in all seasons at Big Trees.

Somewhere near the Mother of the Forest (click link for tragic story), something caught my attention. It was a small critter spiraling a very large tree with patches of missing bark. I got a better look and knew it was a bird, but needed the bins to figure out it was a Brown Creeper. I managed to then get 2 or 3 shots off. This is the only one that was crisp as the lighting was quite tricky.

There wasn't much happening about, perhaps it was too early. I'm not sure. But I decided to then take a break and just listen. It was pleasant, but quiet. But at least foot traffic was light. A couple of carloads of people had arrived, but they seemed respectful of the forest and its inhabitants. Here's the view at my break. There were benches scattered about on the trail so I used one.
Letting the birds come to me didn't work out so well. Maybe it was the season where it wasn't quite still winter and it wasn't yet spring. I got a little bored, so I decided to head on down the path.

I came across a neat little pocket where all kinds of little birds were singing and hopping around. It was difficult to tell who was who and where. I spotted a few Mountain Chickadee and Bushtits. I attempted to take pics of the Chickadees. The Mountains were quite shy, so I must have spent 15-20 minutes trying. Then finally one perched in a spot where the lighting was fine and it only hopped a few inches at a time so I didn't have much trouble focusing.

I was thoroughly disappointed when reviewing the pic to discover it was a Chestnut-backed Chickadee.

But I really did see Mountain Chickadees, I just didn't get their pics. It wasn't until just yesterday I realized that the Chestnut-backed Chickadee wasn't that much of a disappointment. This site says they are uncommonly seen in the park. They nest there, but apparently aren't seen as much as the Mountain Chickadees. LOL, just my luck though when I see them all the time at home and the Mountain Chickadees aren't in our range.

Then I heard a beautiful high-pitched sound. I spotted who it came from, but didn't know what it was at the time. I was able to identify it later: Golden-crowned Kinglet.

Then as I neared the end of the trail, I came across what I thought was a Robin in a tree. Well, it had a reddish breast and dark back. That was about all I could see with the naked eye. Turns out, when I saw it on the computer, I realized it wasn't a robin.

After digging through the guides we both have, my mom suggested it probably was a Varied Thrush. It looked a bit like it, but to be sure, I used Twitter and some experts came to my rescue and answered definitely. I love Twitter :D

Not the best picture in the world, but it was a lifer and a photo-lifer. One day I'm sure I'll get another chance. I hear they are shy, but you never know :)

Here is the robin I thought the thrush was ;) Different tree, but very close by the one the thrush was in. Unfortunately it's not a crisp photo, but I love that it was singing, so it makes it pretty decent.

Near those thrushes, were also quite a few noisy and obnoxious Stellar's Jays. I knew I had plenty of pictures of them in my files, so I didn't really bother to try with these particular ones. They weren't doing anything special and the lighting was again difficult in their positions.

Besides, I was quickly treated to a show of a White-headed Woodpecker couple. It seemed the, uh, wife, was yelling at the husband to get more ants ;) Actually, they were chirping back and forth at eachother. It was amusing.

Here's the female...
and the male.
Then, after they left to go deeper into the woods, I came out to the parking lot and spotted these ravens looking like they were about to boost that car parked.

Seriously, don't they look like trouble? Or maybe I anthropomorphize to much - ha ha!

Anyway, I added 5 lifers to my list that weekend. It's easy to do when you're life list is pretty small. I have to double-check, but I think I'm somewhere around 120 now.

LIFERS added:
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • White-headed Woodpecker
  • Mountain Chickadee
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Varied Thrush


Lynne said...

Heidi- This was a really fun post! It sounds like you had a good time and your pictures are great. I've never even heard of a White-heaed Woodpecker!

Leedra said...

Enjoyed going along with you on this stroll.

Leedra’s Photos For FunLeedra’s Greeting CardsPhotography By Leedra

Natural Moments said...

The white headed woodpeckers love you. How awesome to see them like this. I love watching the varied thrushes and the golden crowned kinglets in the deeper forests. And how the creepers creep up the trees as the nuthatches crawl down the trees. Every pattern is wonderfully orchestrated.

Red said...

@Lynne... I hadn't either before I went up there. It's not surprising though, they only seem to be in the Pacific mountainous regions like the Sierras where I was and up on the coastal mountains into Washington.

@Leedra... thanks for joining me :)

@Bernie... all their individual movements really are beautiful and fit their food needs perfectly. Everything and everyone is unique out there.

Mary C said...

That was a good bird list -- lots of "common" and "fairly common" -- especially the warblers. The other link you provided about the Mother of the Forest was lengthy, but a good read. I'll have to go back to read more of it.

Adam R. Paul said...

Nice - you saw much more than I did when I was there last weekend. Don't hold your breath for a good Varied Thrush sighting - you'll turn blue in the face. They're indeed shy.

I also have a hard time photographing Mountain Chickadees, common though they are up there. I don't think I have a single sharp photo of one.

It was fun reading about your walk through an area that I know very, very well.

Red said...

@Mom... very lengthy, but so much info I didn't know what to glean and post, so I just linked. Check out the other pages there too for other interesting writings.

@Adam... lol, I won't be holding my breath ;) Sorry you didn't get to see as much last weekend. The weather was so perfect and being able to be there on a Monday, early before others showed up, probably was the biggest benefit.

Carrot Jello said...

I can't get over the fact that you camp by yourself.

Carrot Jello said...

You know, it's not winter anymore. ;)
I know you've got a spring template somewhere.

Red said...

LOL Carrot! Hey, you know... I can run into just as many crazies and serial killers just by staying home. What with the Craigslist Killer and Psycho Sunday School teachers in the news lately, I'm thinking the mountains are far safer.

Oh, and I know, I've been wanting to change it, but not sure what to... and I have gotten comments recently that people like my current design. Easy on the eyes. So I'm trying to get a slightly toned down and simpler spring theme, but have yet to do so.

RuthieJ said...

What a great birding weekend you had! I'm amazed how much snow is still piled up in spots!
I loved the varied thrush picture--a beautiful bird that I have yet to see in real life.


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