From Birding

Lifebirds #352-356 – More Californians

A poor view of a Mountain ChickadeeEvery time Joann and I visit my parents in California, Dad finds us a few lifers. This is a greater challenge each time as we check off more and more of the “easy ones.” The timing of this trip made it more difficult still. Birds that stick around the Sacramento Valley during August are pretty quiet and, if they have any sense, are hiding deep in the shade. (They also tend to be year-round residents that we’ve already seen on one of our regular Christmastime visits.)

But Dad delivered again.

Species  Black-chinned Hummingbird / Archilochus alexandri
Where Coleman Fish Hatchery, Near Anderson, CA
When August 16, 2011
Who Joann, Dad
Number 352

The first new lifer was a Black-chinned Hummingbird found at the feeders maintained by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service employees at the Coleman Fish Hatchery near Anderson. We saw two or three of the Black-chinned in the company of larger numbers of Anna’s and Rufous Hummingbirds. The Black-chinned Hummingbird looks to me like a less colorful version of the familiar (in Minnesota) Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Species  White-headed Woodpecker / Picoides albolarvatus
Species  Mountain Chickadee / Poecile gambeli
Species  Ash-throated Flycatcher / Myiarchus cinerascens
Species  American Dipper / Cinclus mexicanus
Where Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA
When August 18, 2011
Who Joann, Dad
Numbers 353-356

We had to range farther afield and get out of the valley to find our next four lifers. Lassen Volcanic National Park is less than an hour’s drive from Anderson. Manzanita Lake, where we spent much of our time in the park, is about a mile higher in elevation than Anderson, and it’s that mile that makes all the difference.

The first lifer we spotted was a White-backed Woodpecker. We saw at least one individual bird high above our heads in trees just off of the trail that circumnavigates the lake. It was a mostly black woodpecker with a bright white face, and it was hammering away as woodpeckers are wont to do. I didn’t notice any red on the head, so it may have been a female.

At the time we saw the woodpecker, we were already hearing the constant happy chatter of chickadees. The chick-a-dee-dee calls were harsher sounding than what Joann and I are used to hearing from Black-capped Chickadees, but very familiar nonetheless. It wasn’t until we were about a third of the way around the lake before we saw our first Mountain Chickadees. I tried to get a decent photograph of one, but these are busy little birds and the lousy shot-from-below photo at the top of this page is the best I could do.

Joann and Steve with Manzanita Lake and Lassen Peak behind us.The Ash-throated Flycatcher was our fourth of the trip and third of the day. We found it on a little wetlands trail near Hat Lake. It called from a snag quite close to us, and reminded me and Joann of a smaller more musical Great-crested Flycatcher.

Across the road from the wetlands where we found the flycatcher, we were lucky to catch one darting flight of an American Dipper as it flew just above the surface of a rocky creek below us. We had looked for this bird at Lake McCumber on our way up to the park, in a spot that Dad was sure we’d see one. We struck out there, but on the side of Highway 89 in the park on a stream fed by a culvert under the road, John Muir’s favorite bird made a brief and welcome appearance.

See lifebird index.