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November 2012 – Chris Llewellyn's "Birds Eye Views"

Month: November 2012

Where are our Baja Song Birds?



Does anyone have any Baja birds in their backyards?  We are almost dumbfounded by the lack of birds in our backyard.  Ok, maybe it’s because we haven’t had feeders out in 6 months?  Maybe the fall migration has not ended?  Has anyone seen any Black Grosbeaks yet?  I would be interested to know what birds you see in your Baja backyard.  Let us know by using the “comment” section at the end of this post, ok?

We are starting to see a few birds but not nearly as many as usual this time of year.  We do have several Costa’s and a few Zantus’s hummingbirds but no song sparrows to speak of.

Chris went up the arroyo where we normally see many birds and he came back really rejected as he did not see a thing!

So, we’ve been hunting at all our “usual” spots where there is normally lots of birds.  We kept striking out until we went to one of our favorite spots, the lagoons.  We were not disappointed.

I was a little reluctant to go to the lagoons because I have just gotten out of 4 months of chemotherapy, the toughest round I have been through in the last 8 years and 4 chemo sessions.  But, I feel good now and just have to get my strength back.  However, I tire easily.

So, when Chris asked me if I wanted to go, I almost said no.  Then I said, if I go I don’t want to stay too long.  Well, we ended up staying longer than just a little while.

We are full of anticipation as we turn onto the dirt road that leads to the lagoons.  What are we going to see?  Anything new?  Anything at all?  A smile comes to our faces and our eyes widen.

Double Crested Cormorants

These Double Crested Cormorants were resting after feeding.  It is interesting that you just see them feeding in the Sea of Cortez but you do not see them feeding much if at all in the lagoon itself, even tho it is full of little fish.

We sometimes see locals there fishing.  The last time we were at the lagoons, we met a young man from Guatemala fishing there.  I asked him what he did with the fish and he said he cooks them over a fire and eats them.  I thought he may have been fishing for them to use as bait for bigger fish.

Redhead Ducks and Pied Billed Grebe in right front


These ducks were pretty far away so they were a little hard for us to identify but Chris submitted them to his trusty internet birding gurus on WhatBird.com and they came back with the id’s of Redhead Ducks and Pied Billed Grebe.

There are not usually a lot of ducks on the lagoon.  Maybe 2 to 5 at a time and they are always pretty skittish.


Spotted Sandpiper


This little guy, a Spotted Sandpiper got my attention by sound.  I heard his little peeps before I saw him.

I love the quiet that is only broken by bird song, the tranquil Sea of Cortez waves washing onshore and when the wind picks up a little, the water lapping in the lagoon.



Often we identify our Baja birds by sound and then try to spot them.  Sometimes we just can’t see them but we know they were here!

Great Egret


We normally always see the Great Egret at the lagoon and other areas but I never tire of seeing this elegant bird.


Snowy Egret



The Snowy Egret is the Great Egrets smaller cousin.  The Cattle Egret is the smallest and may be seen here in Baja.  Has anyone seen them here?

Here are some more shots as he was really showing off for me.

Snowy Egret


It’s almost as tho he was dancing for but I’m sure he was trying to catch lunch! He was doing a good job of it but I just couldn’t catch him with a fish in his bill before he flew off in to the wild blue yonder…probably the next lagoon for better luck!

Does anyone know what the white is that extends into the water?  I can’t quite figure that out!  If looks as tho his left leg is covered with feathers!  ??



Snowy Egret in flight


I’m always trying to improve on my “in flight” shots.  It’s a real challenge to me and I love the gracefulness if captured just right.

You can tell the Snowy Egret by his black bill and yellow slippers as opposed to the Great Egret’s yellow bill and black legs and feet.  Interesting play on color, don’t you think?  Who did that?



Blue Winged Teal



I happened to catch these Blue Winged Teal as they flew past over the sand between the Sea of Cortez and the lagoon.  I did not see them in the lagoon.



Great Blue Heron


This is another bird I never tire of seeing and photographing, the Great Blue Heron.  So graceful in flight and so awkward on land.  He did a little jig for me too.



Yellow Footed Gull



Not too many gulls around but did spot this Yellow Footed Gull.  Did you know that most people say “Seagull” instead of “Gull”?  There are no such birds as “Seagulls”.




Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican flies in to take a rest from fishing.


Greater Yellowlegs



Greater Yellowlegs in the foreground.  There were several flocks around.



We were only at the lagoons and hour or hour and a half.  Pretty amazing to see so much wildlife in that amount of time, huh?

Northern Mockingbird

On our way out I snapped some shots of a few song birds.  The Northern Mockingbird lives up to it’s name.  It’s totally amazing how many different songs come out of this bird!


European Starling



This European Starling was a loaner.  Normally you see more than just one.  We have begun to see more European Starling’s in Baja.




Cassin’s Kingbird




This Cassin’s Kingbird finished off my shoot for the day.  Not a bad day!



I hope to bring you a surprise in my next post as we are taking an adventure tomorrow that we have never done before.  We hope, as all Baja Birders hope, that we will get a new lifer!  Maybe even a new species!  Wouldn’t that be great?  Stay tuned…

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Funny….when we arrived in the Pacific Northwest this year in spring, we were excited to see trees and flowers blooming that we had not seen in many years, both planted and wild.  We were also very excited to see and hear our first cloud burst this fall.  We were not disappointed.   We love hearing the rain pouring down upon our roof while we are safe, clean and warm inside.  That last statement makes me think of all the Easterners without power, cold and not so warm.  Our hearts go out to them and we hope and pray that they will once again be safe, warm and dry.  Very soon.  It also makes me wonder what the Eastern weather has done concerning the fall bird migrations.  We would welcome any comments from you in the East concerning this.

This will most likely be my last post for Pacific Northwest Birds for a while but we will be posting again on Baja Birds soon.  We have now had enough of the rain and colder temps!  I thought it may be interesting for you to see some of our more common birds at this time of year while in the Pacific Northwest.

I must also say, the Pacific Northwest birds we see here in our backyard have been such a source of entertainment for us through several months of chemotherapy, our 4th round in 8 years.  This round has been very tough for us and we both find much comfort in our little feathered friends.  My last CT (for several months) was last Monday and we find out if and how much the tumors have shrunk this Monday.  Please say a little prayer for us.  We are hopeful that this round of chemo has extended my life span with quality of life.  That means we can go birding more!  Thank you everyone….your support has been phenomenal.

And now….I know you have been waiting….  On with the Pacific Northwest birding post and yes….the photos!  And by the way…we have just updated both our Pacific Northwest Collection and our Baja Collection photos.  We hope you will take a look and enjoy them.  Any comments you have can be added at the end of this blog.

Pine Siskin

I would like to begin with the little cuties we are seeing several clouds of right now, the Pine Siskin.

  • Size & Shape

    Pine Siskins are very small songbirds with sharp, pointed bills and short, notched tails. Their uniquely shaped bill is more slender than that of most finches. In flight, look for their forked tails and pointed wingtips.

  • Color Pattern

    Pine siskins are brown and very streaky birds with subtle yellow edgings on wings and tails. Flashes of yellow can erupt as they take flight, flutter at branch tips, or display during mating.

  • Behavior

    Pine Siskins often visit feeders in winter (particularly for thistle or nyjer seed) or cling to branch tips of pines and other conifers, sometimes hanging upside down to pick at seeds below them. They are gregarious, foraging in tight flocks and twittering incessantly to each other, even during their undulating flight.

  • Habitat

    Although Pine Siskins prefer coniferous or mixed coniferous and deciduous forests with open canopies, they are opportunistic and adaptable in their search for seeds. They’ll forage in weedy fields, scrubby thickets, or backyards and gardens. And they’ll flock around feeders, especially thistle feeders, in woodlands and suburbs

Range Map

Pine Siskin Range Map

We are also seeing the tiny Chickadee’s, both the Black-Capped Chickadee and the Chestnut-Backed Chickadee.  We’ve seen them all spring, summer and fall.

Black-capped Chickadee
Chestnut-Backed Chickadee 

Size & Shape

  • This tiny bird has a short neck and large head, giving it a distinctive, rather spherical body shape. It also has a long, narrow tail and a short bill a bit thicker than a warbler’s but thinner than a finch’s.
  • Color Pattern

    The cap and bib are black, the cheeks white, the back soft gray, the wing feathers gray edged with white, and the underparts soft buffy on the sides grading to white beneath. The cap extends down just beyond the black eyes, making the small eyes tricky to see.

  • Behavior

    Black-capped Chickadees seldom remain at feeders except to grab a seed to eat elsewhere. They are acrobatic and associate in flocks—the sudden activity when a flock arrives is distinctive. They often fly across roads and open areas one at a time with a bouncy flight.

  • Habitat

    Chickadees may be found in any habitat that has trees or woody shrubs, from forests and woodlots to residential neighborhoods and parks, and sometimes weedy fields and cattail marshes. They frequently nest in birch or alder trees.

Range Map

Black-capped Chickadee Range Map

And then we have the wee dynamic Red-Breasted Nuthatch.  We have also seen this backyard bird all spring, summer and fall.  They are oh so fun to watch.  They remind me of the chipmunks in how they store their food in the pine and fir trees around.

Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Size & Shape

    A small, compact bird with a sharp expression accentuated by its long, pointed bill. Red-breasted Nuthatches have very short tails and almost no neck; the body is plump or barrel-chested, and the short wings are very broad.

  • Color Pattern

    Red-breasted Nuthatches are blue-gray birds with strongly patterned heads: a black cap and stripe through the eye broken up by a white stripe over the eye. The underparts are rich rusty-cinnamon, paler in females.

  • Behavior

    Red-breasted Nuthatches move quickly over trunks and branches probing for food in crevices and under flakes of bark. They creep up, down, and sideways without regard for which way is up, and they don’t lean against their tail the way woodpeckers do. Flight is short and bouncy.

  • Habitat

    Red-breasted Nuthatches are mainly birds of coniferous woods and mountains. Look for them among spruce, fir, pine, hemlock, larch, and western red cedar as well as around aspens and poplars. In northeastern North America you can also find them in forests of oak, hickory, maple, birch, and other deciduous trees.

Range Map

Red-breasted Nuthatch Range Map

You won’t see any of the above mixed in with our Baja Birds…well…VERY doubtful!  But…you may see some of the predators below!

It’s very exciting for us to see the raptors here with the Pacific Northwest Song Birds.  However, it always makes me sad when one of the little guys gets eaten by one of the bigger guys but…well…you know….  It’s gotta happen!

We’ll begin the raptor list with the smallest hawk we are seeing now, which is the Sharp-Shinned Hawk.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

A tiny hawk that appears in a blur of motion—and often disappears in a flurry of feathers. That’s the Sharp-shinned Hawk, the smallest hawk in North America and a daring, acrobatic flier. These raptors have distinctive proportions: long legs, short wings, and very long tails, which they use for navigating their deep-woods homes at top speed in pursuit of songbirds and mice. They’re easiest to spot in fall on their southward migration, or occasionally at winter feeders.


Next size-wise in what we are seeing now is the Cooper’s Hawk.

Cooper’s Hawk


Among the bird world’s most skillful fliers, Cooper’s Hawks are common woodland hawks that tear through cluttered tree canopies in high speed pursuit of other birds. You’re most likely to see one prowling above a forest edge or field using just a few stiff wingbeats followed by a glide. With their smaller lookalike, the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawks make for famously tricky identifications. Both species are sometimes unwanted guests at bird feeders, looking for an easy meal (but not one of sunflower seeds).


And then we have the Red-Shouldered Hawk.

Red-Shouldered Hawk


Whether wheeling over a swamp forest or whistling plaintively from a riverine park, a Red-shouldered Hawk is typically a sign of tall woods and water. It’s one of our most distinctively marked common hawks, with barred reddish-peachy underparts and a strongly banded tail. In flight, translucent crescents near the wingtips help to identify the species at a distance. These forest hawks hunt prey ranging from mice to frogs and snakes.



We would be interested to know if you see any of these raptors in Baja.  Until our next posts which will most likely be on Baja Birding…..Happy Birding!

How about some Oregon ducks today.

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American Widgeon



No, not the Oregon football team, but a few photos of ducks we see in Oregon.  This is an American Widgeon we saw at the pond at Malheur Headquarters.  In my last blog, I talked about being at the headquarters and how we got distracted from visiting the pond because of all the beautiful birds everywhere.  So now Debbie and I start off together headed for the pond again.  I turn around to see what she is doing and, once again, she has vanished.  Bad girl. I knew she’d catch up so I huddled down in a blind provided for observing water-birds.  There were wild ducks and other birds scattered all over the couple acres of water.  There were Mallards.



And Green-winged Teal


Green-winged Teal

The sounds and sights were amazing.  Debbie sneaks into the blind with me.  Seems like some Yellow-rumped Warblers (butterbutts) had distracted her.

These wood warblers get that nick-name from the yellow patch on their rump.  Cute…

Then we see Mr. and Mrs. Redhead.  Such a handsome couple.


This is a new duck, (actually a diving duck), for us to see, as were some others in the pond.  Fascinating to watch them from just a few feet away.




Most of these ducks are resting and feeding here at Malheur Wildlife Refuge during their annual migration.



We look down just a little and here comes this little grebe, one of the cutest birds you’ll ever see.  I love this shot.


And now our minds wander off as we watch a flock of Northern Pintails fly by.

Northern Pintails

And I’ll finish up today with a photo of a duck from our own pond, till next time, Happy Birding.

Wood Duck