01.19.2007 20:43Photography, Wildlife

I just returned from an absolutely amazing trip to the Galapagos Islands and Quito, Ecuador. The wildlife on the Islands is both unique and amazingly tame, making it easy to get great photos of many of the creatures. Check out my Ecuador-Galapagos page to see some of my photos of the incredible wildlife and scenery.

04.19.2006 11:35Lick Observatory, Wildlife

Today the weather is sunny and warmer and the birds are flocking to my feeders. In addition to the
regular birds, I had a pair of Black-headed Grosbeaks finally arrive. As well as the return of the
European Goldfinch. No signs of Pine Siskins today, but I’m sure they will return soon.

Birds today:
Black-headed Grosbeaks
European Goldfinch
Lesser Goldfinchs
House Finchs
Acorn Woodpeckers
Mourning Doves
Band-tailed Pigeon
Scrub Jays
California Towhee
Dark-eyed Junco
Golden-crowned Sparrow

Few days ago I had a Spotted Towhee, that I forgot to note before now.

04.14.2006 13:36Lick Observatory, Wildlife

I’ve been busy (I’ve been promoted to Acting Director of Operations at Lick Observatory since my
colleague Rem Stone retired), so haven’t been putting any bird updates on-line. However, I haven’t
been seeing anything out of the ordinary either in the past few months.

The last sighting of the European Goldfinch was on February 12th, along with the pine siskins.

Today though, the weather warmed up and temporarily cleared and I had a single pine siskin at
my thistle feeder (along with 3 lesser goldfinches). Keith and Lotus reported the first male
black-headed grosbeak at their feeder a few days ago, though I haven’t seen any at my house yet.

02.07.2006 10:03Lick Observatory, Wildlife

Been a while since I’ve put in a bird report for Mt. Hamilton, but I’ve been really busy and spent some time out of town. Luckily, this week the weather has been nice and I’ve been able to spend some time bird watching again.

Mostly, I’ve been seeing the regular visitors to my feeder and yard over
the past week. Daily I’ve been seeing:

4-6 Western Bluebirds
1-3 Steller’s Jays
3-6 Scrub Jays
2 White-breasted Nuthatches
4-8 House Finches
2-5 Lesser Goldfinches
1-3 Band-tailed Pigeon
2-3 Oak Titmice
6-30 Dark-eyed Juncos
0-4 Golden-crowned Sparrows
1-4 Acorn Woodpeckers
1 Pine Siskin (until today, when a second one appeared)
1 Downy Woodpecker (seen a few days ago – they are not regular visitors
to Rattlesnake Ridge, though seen more often elsewhere on Mt. Ham.)

Now I also have an unexpected visitor to my feeder yesterday and the day before: a European Goldfinch. This pretty little bird was first seen on Mt. Hamilton last spring and was last seen during early summer. It is most likely
the same bird that probably escaped from somewhere down in San Jose. I’m impressed that he has survived so long. I’m going to keep an eye out for him because I think it likely he will be a reasonably frequent visitor to my feeder for the time being.

01.06.2006 9:56Lick Observatory, Wildlife

This morning I once again spent a few minutes looking out my window at the bird feeders. I was shocked
to see a pine siskin – I thought they were all elsewhere for the winter. I guess the warm clear weather is
bring out the birds because I also saw the chestnut-backed chickadee using my birdbath.

This morning’s tally:

1 Pine Siskin
1 Chestnut-backed Chickadee
8 Dark-eyed Junco
1 Lesser Goldfinch
4 House Finch
1 Acorn Woodpecker
6 Scrub Jay
3 Steller’s Jay
3 Golden-crowned Sparrow
2 Oak Titmouse
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Anna’s Hummingbird
1 Mourning Dove
1 Band-tailed Pigeon

01.05.2006 11:41Lick Observatory, Wildlife

One of the disappointments of the Christmas Bird Count this year was not getting a chestnut backed chickadee. Luckily, today I saw another one in my yard (along with 1 steller’s jay, 1 oak titmouse, 3 dark-eyed juncos, and a mourning dove – not may birds, but then again I only looked for a minute while I watched the chickadee until it flew away a minute later). I’m going to fill the feeders and see if the chickadee returns (or whatever else I might see in the next half hour or so).

After a half hour of watching I managed a total tally of birds of:

1 Chestnut-backed Chickadee
2 Acorn Woodpeckers
2 Ravens
3 Scrub Jays
1 Steller’s Jay
3 Oak Titmice
2 White-breasted Nuthatches
8 Dark-eyed Juncos
3 Lesser Goldfinches
1 Mourning Dove
1 Golden-crowned Sparrow
3 House Finches

01.03.2006 8:51Lick Observatory, Wildlife

This year’s Mount Hamilton Christmas Bird Count took place on Jan 2, 2006. I participated by hiking the mule trail in the pouring rain (last year snow, this year rain, maybe next year clear?). We didn’t see very many birds because of the weather, but I did manage to add a bird to my life list, a slate fox sparrow. We heard golden crowned kinglets, but didn’t see any, so didn’t include them in the count. Otherwise it was just the normal assortment of white-breasted nuthatches, oak titmice, scrub jays, steller’s jay, acorn woodpeckers, golden-crowned sparrows, a nutall’s woodpecker, dark-eyed juncos, a brown creeper and a red-tailed hawk.

I also included a feeder count for my feeder, but it was not as popular as usual because of the rain. The only new birds were a mourning dove (haven’t had those at my feeder in weeks) and a house finch.

This morning it is foggy and wet, but not raining, so in a few minutes I had logged quite a few birds at my feeder:

2 Steller’s Jays
6 Scrub Jays
3 Acorn Woodpeckers
18 Dark-eyed Juncos
2 Oak Titmice
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Mourning Dove
5 Golden-crowned Sparrows
1 House Finch

12.30.2005 11:01Wildlife

This week I’ve seen the largest flock of wild turkeys I’ve ever seen, right by the entrance to Grant Ranch. Usually flocks of turkeys are around 10 to 20 birds. This week there have been
about 50 (I haven’t stopped to count, but it is an astonishingly large group). Yesterday on
my drive down to San Jose I saw the huge groups of turkeys and some of them were crossing the road. I noticed that one was particularly small compared to the rest and then realized it wasn’t a turkey, but a peahen! Now this is one confused feral bird, to be hanging out with turkeys. I wonder where the peahen escaped from? Or was it dumped at Grant Ranch, like so many unwanted dogs and cats are?

Too bad Grant Park isn’t in the Mt. Hamilton Christmas Bird Count area, because that peahen would have been a nice (albeit odd) bird to add for count week. CBC on Mt. Hamilton will be Jan 2nd, and I’m very much looking forward to hiking the mule trail here in search of any birds I can see.

12.29.2005 9:17Lick Observatory, Wildlife

Well, I wanted to write this message yesterday, but the blog was unavailable (looks like
our sysadmin updated the blog software or some such activity). Anyway, over the past
few days I’ve only had the following unusual bird occurances:

Dec 26: Kestrel perched very nicely in my yard, unfortunately I couldn’t stay and admire it
because I had to meet Ron Bricmont (Lick Observatory volunteer coordinator and historian/archeaologist at Grant Park) so that he could look at some of the old 1920’s wall mount sinks here at the Observatory. He wanted a sink so that he can continue renovating
the cabin at Deer Camp in Grant Park. Luckily, he found two sinks that suit the bill in decent condition. This worked well because the Observatory would have otherwise just thrown the sinks away at some point (or just left them for junk at the quanset hut – home of all wanted, but still usable stuff before it gets taken to the junk yard). While prowling about the second floor of the old dorm, he also located a 1920s tub just sitting in the middle of a room, not attached to anything that he would also like for Deer Camp. With luck the Observatory will donate it as well to the cause.

Dec 27: Saw more scrub jays than usual – 6 in total. Usually I only get 4 at my feeder.
Later in the day I startled what must have been a flock of over 20 dark-eyed juncos. Usually don’t have that many either. Also, saw a red-tailed hawk and 2 ravens.

Dec 28: Again, saw the red-tailed hawk. They are freqently seen here, but this one seems to be hanging out near Rattlesnake Ridge this week.

The past week I have seen only one band-tailed pigeon at my feeder. In fact they have been fairly scarce here for the past couple weeks. I’ve seen flocks down below the peak, where I consider seeing them a more regular occurance. The acorn crop up here was very healthy this year, so they certainly have lots of food and don’t need to come to my feeder, I suppose.

The 2 steller’s jays are still regular visitors at my feeder every morning. Until a few months ago, I very rarely had steller’s jays, as they seemed to prefer the east side of the mountain and the scrub jays the west. I wonder if the steller’s jays are going to be permanent west side residents or will eventually return to the east side.

12.23.2005 14:04Lick Observatory, Wildlife

Today is the first clear day this week and it is also warm, so I spent some time looking at birds.
I had a special treat today and spotted a chestnut-backed chickadee in my yard. This is the first time I’ve ever seen one on top of the mountain. Usually they are seen (and rarely) down
at Trumpler’s Garden. The rest of the birds I saw today are the regulars. Total tally for
the day is:

1 Chestnut-backed Chickadee
8 Western Bluebird
2 Steller’s Jay
4 Scrub Jay
2 Acorn Woodpecker
2 White-breasted Nuthatch
2 Oak Titmouse
8 Dark-eyed Junco
12 Golden-crowned Sparrow

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