There are about 12 members of the family Ardeidae; birds we know as Herons, Egrets, and
Bitterns, that are found in North America. For the most part, if it is white,
it is an Egret. But, there are exceptions. There is a Reddish Egret that has a
rusty brown head and neck with a gray body; they live mostly along the Gulf
Coast as well as Florida’s Atlantic Coast. There is a white morph of the Great
Blue Heron and is difficult to distinguish from an Egret. What I see mostly are
the Great Egret and the Snowy Egret. Occasionally I see Cattle Egrets. In this
post, I also included a Little Egret. Its range is mostly, Europe, Africa and Asia
but sometimes visits the east coast of the North America.
The Great Egret is a big guy. He has black legs and a yellow bill.
The Snowy Egret is substantially smaller; it has a black bill with black legs
and yellow-green colored feet. The
Little Egret looks a lot like the snowy but the eye mask is a bit different
color. The breeding male Cattle Egret has a brown head with a brown patch at the base of its neck and breast,
and has some red on its legs. Otherwise, they are all white.
Most egrets forage along water like lakes and rivers and even
irrigation ditches, looking for insects, small invertebrates, and small fish. The
Cattle Egret forages in meadows and pasturelands.
By the way, I often try to give a simple explanation to help you recognize a bird. Mostly it has to do with coloration. But, coloration can vary between males and females and male coloration is often different during breeding season than at other times of the year. Juveniles are often colored differently. Color can also vary by region. My tips will get you in the ballpark but don’t get frustrated if things don’t look quite right. I get confused all the time and must search the books to be sure.
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Growing up in western Pennsylvania, I would see the Ring-necked Pheasant occasionally. I always considered it a special treat because they are so beautiful. But, for several decades I never saw any; though I thought about them from time to time. I’ve been fortunate, however, to have had 3 sightings in the past 2 years. I am very happy to be able to share them with you.
These birds like to live and forage in tall vegetation, so they aren’t easy to see. But, sometimes, you can see them as they cross over open spaces. They are omnivorous.
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Correction: I mistakenly identified the male woodpecker as a Nuttal’s. It is actually a Downy. Sorry for the confusion.
The Nuttal’s Woodpecker is a small woodpecker who lives only in California’s Oak Woodlands. Interestingly, though they live in oak woodlands, they don’t eat acorns. Instead they eat insects from the oak and other trees.
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Returning from a recent trip to the Seattle area, we stopped
at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. The visitor center and restrooms
were closed but the government shutdown didn’t affect the birds. This stop
turned out to be very productive. It was a great day for raptors. The star was
a juvenile Bald Eagle on a kill. But we saw Ferruginous Hawks, Northern
Harriers, Rough Legged Hawks, a Cooper’s Hawk and a Red-shouldered hawk also.
This is feast time for the raptors at Sacramento NWR because of the large
numbers of waterfowl that spend the winter months there.
I didn’t share images of the Rough-legged haws because I only got a rear quarter shot and it didn’t show enough to make the shot interesting. I’ve shared other Cooper’s Hawks and Red-shouldered Hawks in the recent past, so I didn’t include them. But, I hope you enjoy what I shared.
Note: Please click on caption to see image in higher resolution.
The American Kestrel is a small raptor; about the size of a robin. As you travel through rural, agricultural areas or open meadows, you might notice a small bird on a wire or pole. As you notice it, you may think: just another gray bird. But, if you slow down, you may be surprised by a beautiful little multi-colored bird. This small falcon eats lizards, insects and small birds. One of its hunting behaviors is fascinating to watch. It, will hover, flapping its wings, then dive down to capture its prey.
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The drive between Redding, CA and Roseburg, OR. on Interstate
5, takes you through some beautiful mountain scenery. Between Redding and the
Oregon border, Mt Lassen and Mt Shasta, 2 Cascade volcanoes can be seen. The
mountains of California and Oregon’s coastal range line both sides of the
highway. Because the area is so close to the Pacific ocean, the area is often
blanketed in a layer of stratus clouds and fog. But, don’t think of it as
dismal. In the morning and evening, the sun often pushes through the clouds casting
spotlights, replete with crepuscular rays, that play on the ridge tops and valleys
creating magical landscapes.
Returning from Seattle, we saw many such vignettes. One spot made me break the rules and pull off to photograph it. Fortunately, this spot gave us room to get off safely. I hope you’ll agree this image was worth it.
Note: To see image at higher resolution, please click on caption.
Over the past couple of months, I have been doing some birding in the area around home. Late fall and winter bring some birds migrating to warmer climates to join those that stay year around. Here are a few that live in the area most or all of the year.
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The American Robin stays around all year, but I never see them in large numbers like I have seen them in other areas. They are a beautiful bird with a pretty song. They are very easy to spot; they hunt for worms and other insects on the ground in open areas.
The black phoebe is a flycatcher. They like to live near the water, You can see them perched on trees, hunting for insects or arthropods. When they spot something take it while in the air or diving upon their prey while it is on the ground.
The spotted towhee likes to hide in the underbrush and eat insects. Look for fluttering in the brush pile and watch carefully you just might catch a glimpse of one.
The white breasted nuthatch can be seen scampering up, down and around tree branches and trunks in search of food. They are fun to watch as they move quickly while searching and descend headfirst when going downward. They primarily eat insects but do also eat nuts.
The bushtit is a tiny bird mostly found in small flocks. They fly from tree to tree staying only a very short time. They primarily dine on small insects and spiders.