Swallows

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor);
American River Parkway, Folsom, CA; MAR 2019

Swallows are those little birds we see with their distinctive back swept, pointed wings and their forked “swallow tail”. They maneuver through the sky at high speed, in a seemingly erratic pattern, catching and eating insects in flight. They will also eat mollusks, spiders and sometimes fruit.

In the spring, along the American River, in the Sacramento area, I commonly see two types of swallows: Tree Swallows and Cliff Swallows. When I am lucky, I’ll see a Bank Swallow. I have been told we also have Violet-green Swallows but I haven’t seen any.

The most common swallow that I see is the Tree Swallow. They are called Tree Swallows because the nest in cavities in trees. It is a beautiful iridescent blue on its head and back, white on its breast and underside and blackish color on wings and tail. These birds live along the gulf coast, southern Mexico and Central America in the winter and move north throughout the US in summer.

The Cliff Swallow is a multi-colored bird with off-white underside, gray-brown wings, blue-gray back and head cap and a brown-red neck. They are quire beautiful. They make nests of mud that appear precariously perched on a cliff face. They also build nest in man-made structures like bridges and buildings. They are very social; many birds build nests near one another and hunt together. They also live along the gulf coast, southern Mexico and Central America in the winter and move north throughout the US in summer.

The bank swallow is a bird with different names in different parts of the world. In Europe, it is the Sand Martin while on the Indian subcontinent it is called the collard sand martin. They make a nest, lined with straw or feathers, in a hole they burrow into sand or gravel. They have mostly white underparts but have a gray back, wings and head. They will sometimes have a prominent grey collar at the base of their neck. They winter across they southern 1/3 of the US in winter then migrate north in the summer.

Here are some images of these beautiful swallows.

Please click on caption to see these images in higher resolution.

Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) , American River Parkway,
Orangevale, CA; APR 2019
Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia). (AKA Sand Martin);
Lake Natomas, Orangevale, CA; APR 2019;
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor);
American River Parkway, Folsom, CA; MAR 2019

Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota);
American River Parkway, Orangevale, CA; APR 2019

Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota);
American River Parkway, Orangevale, CA; APR 2019


These and other images are available for purchase on my website: www.earthwatcher.us or by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

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The Rookery

Great Blue Heron (Ardea Herodias) in the Rookery
American River Parkway, Folsom, CA; APR 2019

In our area, we have a few rookeries; communal nesting areas for herons, egrets and cormorants. There are other birds that nest in rookeries but I am not aware of any I our area.

Rookeries are interesting. The two I see most often are in a small cluster of tall trees along side of a river. The birds nest high above the ground. Each bird tends to their own nest. But the colonies can contain two dozen or more nests. The herons, egrets and cormorants will even nest in the same tree. Many believe protection drives their desire to nest communally.  More roommates make it easier to spot and chase away predators.

I visited both rookeries last week and it appears to me that the birds are sitting on eggs. If I am right, we should have babies soon.  So, I’ll keep checking back and when I can, post pictures. I can’t get close to the nets; I am about 75 yards away. So, I won’t be able to photograph the chicks until they are big enough to pop their heads above the sides of the nest.

Here are a few rookery images. Take note of the male Double-crested Cormorant. He is displaying his orange patch and the crest of feathers on his head. For me, its rare to see the crests displayed.

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) on the Nest
American River Parkway, Folsom, CA; APR 2019
Great Egrets (Ardea alba) on the Nest
American River Parkway, Folsom, CA; APR 2019

Ravens

Pair of Common Ravens (Corvus corax); Yosemite National Park; MAR 2019

On our trip to Yosemite last week, a pair of ravens were foraging among the trees outside our hotel room.  They were totally unfazed by me as I followed them around.

It was an interesting day to shoot ravens. Everyone knows ravens are black. But black just means that its feathers absorb all frequencies of color and reflect none back. Like some other birds, the raven’s feathers can refract or bend light, allowing their feathers to appear other colors. When the birds were in bright light, they were their bright, familiar, black. But, when they were in lower light, depending upon how they positioned themselves, their wing and tail feathers appeared blue. In one other instance, the light hit the raven’s ruff under his chin and made it look brown.

Is it a raven or is it a crow. If its big and bulky and it makes a croaking sound, its probably a raven. If its smaller and makes the familiar caw, its probably a crow. But, sometimes its not so simple. I am collecting images to put together a simple but more complete illustrated guide.

Please click on caption to image at a larger size.

Common Raven (Corvus corax); Yosemite National Park; MAR 2019
Common Raven (Corvus corax); Yosemite National Park; MAR 2019

These and other images are available for purchase at my website, www.earthwatcher.us or by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Some Small and Pretty Birds

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Audobon Group (Dendroica Coronata)
Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Sacramento, CA; NOV 2018;

Here are a few pretty, small birds we see around the Sacramento area.

Note: Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.

American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis),
Sailor Bar, Fair Oaks, CA; JAN 2019
Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus);
Sailor Bar, Fair Oaks, CA; JAN 2019
Female Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)
Sailor Bar, Fair Oaks, CA; JAN 2019

These and other images are available for purchase on my website, www.earthwatcher.us or by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Ring-necked Pheasant

Common or Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus).
Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, CA; JAN 2018

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.

Please click on caption to see these images at higher resolution

Common or Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus),
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge; DEC 2018

Common or Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus),
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge; DEC 2018

Note: These and other images are available for purchase at my website: www.earthwatcher.us or by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us

Nuttal’s Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker
Effie Yeaw Nature Center, Sacramento, CA; DEC 2018

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.

Please click on caption to see image in higher resolution

Female Nutttal’s Woodpecker
Sailor Bar, Fair Oaks, CA; JAN 2019

These and other image are available for purchase on my website, www.earthwatcher.us or by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us

Some More Interesting Raptors

Juvenile Bald Eagle, Turkey Vultures and Herring Gull on a Kill
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge; DEC 2018

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.

Ferruginous Hawk
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge; DEC 2018
Pair of Ferruginous Hawks
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge; DEC 2018
Northern Harriers
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge; DEC 2018

Note: These and other images are available for purchase at my website: www.earthwatcher.us or by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.