Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Anna's Hummingbird male
Finally a good photo of a Hummingbird. Although common year round in Shoshone,  Anna's Hummingbirds are extremely challenging to photograph.Their iridescence is elusive. The aerial battles between hummingbirds
are intense. The males occasionally put the loser in combat to death. I have observed  male Anna's Hummingbirds
 Caught a bug!

attacking formidable foes like Cooper's Hawk, Red Tailed Hawk, and Loggerhead Shrikes.

Anna's Hummingbirds breed around Shoshone, and the fledglings come to the feeder and the garden hose pond in May and June. Only the female builds a nest. The males do not know where the nest even is. They defend good territories with flowers, nectar or feeders. During breeding season the females are charged admission to enter the territory!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Varied Thrush appeared yesterday afternoon, in the Garden Hose Pond as if consolation for the missing Wood Thrush. Cousin's, both Thrush species  seem to find food and comfort in the shady  back yard  garden and the water drippers around the pond. I have sighted Varied Thrush around Shoshone Village 2 other times during October, and it's possible that this is the same individual. Varied Thrush have lovely pluage and they are rare in the desert even in the winter. They Breed from extreme Northern California to Northern Alaska, and normally winter in Western California.

Dusky-capped Flycatcher in Shoshone, CA 92384 - Birding near Death Valley

On Nov 5th while birding for Crissal Thrashers on the Blue-Trail in Shoshone, we spotted a small flycatcher with a light yellow belly and breast. My first impression was that of a miniature Ash-throated Flycatcher, that was vocalizing with a single not wheezy whistle slightly descending. The Myiarchus Flycatchers all look quite alike, so that when one sees an Ash-throated, Brown-crested, Great-crested(in the east) or Dusky-capped, one knows that it is a Myiarchus by it's orange brown coloring in the flight feathers and tail feathers, and yellow underparts and otherwise brown coloring with a crest that looks thick and brown, sometimes reminding me of an old fashioned shaving cream brush.

   In North America, the Dusky-capped Flycatcher normally breeds only in se Arizona and extreme sw New Mexico. Truly a tropical bird, it's natural range continues into Brazil, and Peru. There are 13 subspecies of Dusky-capped Flycatcher, and if anyone can tell by these photos or the video clip on my home blog page, I would be very grateful. The bird has not been spotted since Nov 6th.

What an Amazing Birding Month! in Shoshone, CA 92384 near Death Valley

Wood Thrush at the Garden Hose Pond
October in Shoshone, CA area has long been known for it's excellent birdwatching. October of 2011 was filled with regular sightings of uncommon and rare birds. It seemed like each day brought new surprises to the doorstep.The now world famous Garden Hose Pond, hosted a variety of birds that made it seem more like an Easter egg hunt than Halloween. The highlight of October was definitely the Wood Thrush. This eastern bird has only 26 previous California records. I first spotted it on the lawn across the street, and was congratulating myself for having a camera around my neck, when a juvenile Coopers Hawk appeared in the viewfinder and  almost ended the 27th California Wood Thrush record's life! The Wood Thrush sounded it's pit-pit-pit alarm call, a familiar sound to me, a birder from Maine.Although I'm a huge fan of avian  aerial combat, and birds of prey in general, I was thrilled to see the Wood Thrush escape to deep cover in my own yard. I resighted it later that evening and after a few phone calls to the top of the birding food chain, realized that this bird was kind of a big deal. It was first spotted on Oct 25 and was last seen Nov8. Many birdwatchers who came to Shoshone Village from all over California and Nevada  were able to get great looks an photos of this extremely rare (in the west) bird.  It stayed around the pond and readily ate meal worms and oranges, probably regaining critically needed body fat  necessary for traveling. Nocturnal migrants, they  usually spend the winter in Mexico and Central America..A Wood Thrush in California should really be called a rare occurrence than a rare bird. The correct word is Vagrant. A bird that isn't supposed to be here in the first place. In most of  eastern North America, their beautiful EE-O-LAY song can lift even the heaviest of hearts during a quiet dawn or dusk  walk in the Maine Woods.
It is pure speculation to guess where this lost songbird may have come from. It seemed so comfortable here in the little pond, I'd hoped it would winter here. I will miss this sweet little bird more than most.