From Birding

Lifebirds #346-348 – Christmas Presents

Species  Greater Roadrunner / Geococcyx californianus
Where Dersh Road near Anderson, California
When December 27, 2010
Who Joann, Dad
Number 346

RoadrunnerThis was the fourth consecutive year that, around Christmastime, Joann and I birded the Dersch Road area with Dad and stopped by the “roadrunner spot” to see if we could spot one of the Greater Roadrunner pair that are known to frequent it. In previous years, we enjoyed a lot of good luck in the area (finding four lifers), but didn’t see the roadrunner.

This year would be different. Dad pulled his truck off the road near the hillside where the birds are sometimes seen. Joann and I were well familiar it. As Dad and I clambered out of his truck prepared to scan the area, Joann raised her binocs from inside the vehicle, focused on a spot a couple of hundred yards away and said, “I’ve got it!” She certainly had (and has).

We watched the bird for a couple of minutes as it moved slowly up the hill and to the left. As it passed behind small shrubs, it would briefly disappear and reappear. Dad setup his scope to get us a closer look, and of course as soon as he did the bird disappeared for good. But we had all enjoyed good looks, and Dad was pleased to rack up another “tick” on the long list of lifers he’s led us to see.

I did not get a photo of the bird and, no, the Greater Roadrunner doesn’t look much like the plucky little Warner Brothers cartoon character. It doesn’t say “beep beep” (or “knee deep” as it always sounded to me).

Species  Wrentit / Chamaea fasciata
Where Sacramento River trail in Keswick, California
When December 28, 2010
Who Joann, Dad
Number 347

Ten days after we slogged through snow on the St Paul Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count, Joann and I accompanied Dad on the Wintu Audubon’s Redding CBC. This is the fourth year in a row that I’ve double-dipped (Joann was sick and missed the Redding count in 2007), and as always what a difference a week and 1500 miles makes. The difference this time was snow versus rain. I liked it better last year when it was snow versus sun.

Two years ago, when Joann and I participated in this same count with Dad, we heard a Wrentit on a trail near Keswick dam. This species sings a very recognizable song that is sometimes described as sounding like a bouncing ball. The bird is a skulker, with a reputation of being very difficult to see, and so its song is important to birders. There was no question about what we heard, and as per the Audubon CBC rules, we were able to include the bird in our total. But we don’t count heard-only birds as “lifers,” despite the fact that the American Birding Association rules permit this. So, lifebird-wise, at least, I remained Wrentit-less.

Wrentit locationUntil this year. We stepped out of our truck at the Sacramento River trail trailhead in the town of Keswick and immediately heard two Wrentits. One calling some distance away, and one quite close to us. Still we didn’t really have much hope of seeing one of the birds; a light rain was falling and our business was counting as completely as possible birds of all species, so we didn’t plan to “beat the bushes” (so to speak) in an effort to see what was probably a well-hidden bird. We just added two Wrentits to our tally sheet, and set off to walk down the trail. But much to our surprise and delight, the little bird hopped right to the front and top of a bush right beside the trail and sang for us. We couldn’t have missed seeing it if we were blind in one eye and couldn’t see out of the other. Amazing.

Sadly, I had left my camera in the truck. I’ve marked the location of the siting on a Google map photo above. Maybe the bird is still there and you can go see it for yourself.

Species  Ross’s Goose / Chen rossii
Where Sacramento NWR near Colusa, California
When December 30, 2010
Who Joann
Number 348

Snow Geese at Sacramento NWR We identified at least one Ross’s Goose among the thousands of Snow Geese at the Sacramento National Wildlife Reserve. The bird we picked out was swimming into a group of six or so Snow Geese and one probable fellow Ross’s Goose about 50 yards or so from us on the road through the reserve. We did not have a scope, but we got a good enough look. We were able to compare the size of the goose with the twice-as-large Snow Geese it was swimming with, and we had a fair look at its small bill. We could see no indication of the dark “grin” swath that was readily apparent on the larger geese.

The photo here is of a similar gathering of geese at the reserve taken just a few minutes later. Almost all here are Snow Geese, though there were also some Greater White-fronted Geese mixed in and, chances are, a few Ross’s Geese as well.

See lifebird index.