December 2005

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

12.14.2005 10:03Lick Observatory, Wildlife

Well, I’ve been very busy with work and have procrastinated on writing up the birds I have seen. Though the birds haven’t been too exciting in my yard the past two weeks. Mostly the regular assortment of
2-3 nuthatches
2-3 titmice
2-4 scrub jays
1-3 steller’s jays
2-3 acorn woodpeckers
4-12 juncos
2-6 golden crowned sparrows
0-3 western bluebirds
1-2 lesser goldfinches
2-4 house finches (though a couple days ago I had 8, I don’t know where they all came from)

Other birds I’ve seen in the past week that I don’t see everyday:
1 ruby crowned kinglet
1 northern (red-shafted) flicker
~10 california quail
2 red-tailed hawks
2 ravens

And to top it all off this morning:
1 kestrel (male)

I rarely see kestrels on top of Mt. Hamilton, usually I see them down at lower altitudes.