Sunday, April 22, 2012

Birding at lower elevations

Today was Sraddha's birthday.  We had planned a reprise of last year's hike through the oak savanna to Fairy Falls near Spenceville, but my sprained ankle prevented us from hiking very far so we strolled up the road about a mile and back then drove down to Graylodge to see if we could spot the Owl's nest.  Success in this matter.  

Click on any of the photos to enlarge and see them better.

About half mile up the trail/road we spotted a pair of Western Bluebirds building a nest in an oak tree.
Western Blue Bird poking out of its nest
A few minutes later, when both bluebirds were out scavenging nest material, a woodpecker arrived with his lunch. 
Acorn Woodpecker with snack
"Hmm.  Nest huh?  This is one which I or my ancestors built.  So I am taking over!" he says.
Bluebird and woodpecker
"Now what do I do?" says the bluebird with nest material in its mouth.  "tough beans" says the woodie.  We didn't stay long enough to see the resolution.

I had hoped to see Lewis's woodpecker up where the road turns into a cow path.  That is where I saw them last year.  Nope.  not there and ankle hurting (remember I sprained it in Zion park a while back).

So we walked back down to the car.  Did I mention it was 90+ degrees out?  I was dragging when we arrived at trailhead.  Hauled the big lens, tripod and camera (30 lbs) on shoulder. (Memo to Kent: find a better way of carrying this gear next time).

We cooled off the car, re-hydrated and drove back down the road.  Finally spotted a Lewis's woodpecker in a tree.  Not the best light but he was still cute.
Lewis's Woodpecker
We headed down into the valley to Graylodge, a wonderful wildlife refuge north of Sierra Buttes to see if we could spot the Owl's nest.  Sraddha had been there last week and knew where it was.  Sure enough we saw it had at least one "Owlet" in it.  This is a little Great Horned Owl which hasn't yet learned to fly and was patiently waiting its parents for feeding.  It was huge but when we trained the scope and camera on it we could see its baby downy-like feathers.
Owlet with downy feathers in its nest high in an oak tree.

After viewing the "Owlet", we walked back to the car, pulled out our folding chairs and picnic dinner in the shade and ate.  We kept our scope and camera out and I got photos of Bullock's Orioles feeding on the grasses across the road.  Most of the photos were not very good due to interference with the reeds, weeds and grasses but I did get this photo.
Bullock's Oriole
Also saw a Kildeer sitting in the shade on the road and couldn't pass up the photo.

All in all, a lot of fun seeing all these interesting birds and celebrating her birthday.

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