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Date/time: Saturday 2022-02-19, 08:00-09:30
Location: Natural Bridges State Park
Weather: Chilly (8.3C), as sun hadn't yet risen above the roofs of the houses nearby; very light breeze

For Day 2 of the 2022 Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) I went to Natural Bridges, not suspecting that I would be able to ID and count so many species literally just inside the park boundaries. I ended up dividing my observation period into three locations and spent about half an hour at each.

Observation spot #1: Just inside the park boundary on Delaware Avenue (see map below)

  • Ruby-crowned kinglet (Corthylio calendula): 2
  • Anna's hummingbird (Calypte anna): 3
  • Lesser goldfinch: (Spinus psaltria): 4
  • Golden-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla): 14
  • Purple finch (Haemorhous purpureus): 2 (1 female + 1 male)
  • Spotted towhee (Pipilo maculatus): 1
  • Chestnut-backed chickadee (Poecile rufescens): 4
  • California towhee (Melozone crissalis): 1
  • Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus): 1
  • American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos): 4
  • American robin (Turdus migratorius): 12
  • Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus): 4
  • Song sparrow (Melospiza melodia): 1

TOTAL = 13 species

Observation spot #2: Along the boardwalk of the monarch butterfly sanctuary

  • Yellow-rumped warbler (Setophaga coronata): 4
  • California towhee: 1
  • Chestnut-backed chickadee: 2
  • Ruby-crowned kinglet: 3
  • American crow: 13
  • American robin: 10
  • Bewick's wren (Thryomanes bewickii): 3
  • Anna's hummingbird: 4
  • Song sparrow: 2
  • Downy woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens): 1
  • Spotted towhee: 4
  • Lesser goldfinch: 2
  • Dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis): 2
  • Red-shouldered hawk: 2

TOTAL = 4 new species

Observation spot 3#: Sandy beach

  • Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos): 13 (5 female + 8 male)
  • Snowy egret (Egretta thula): 12
  • Brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) on water: 4
  • Western gull (Larus occidentalis): 4 (on the arch)
  • Snowy egret: 2 (on the arch)
  • Brandt's cormorant (Urile penicillatus): 46 (on the arch), starting to build nests
  • American crow: 4

TOTAL = 5 new species

For my nature journal I did more of a formal Grinnell-style entry, which works well for this kind of observation set.

Nature journal entry for 2022-02-19

I was enjoying myself so much that I honestly didn't realize how much time had passed. Super fun morning!

1

This weekend, 18-21 February 2022, are the four days of the Great Background Bird Count. This is a global community science project in which people go out and document bird life. The beauty of a project like this is that is available to anyone who has a window to the outside. Of course, anybody can look at birds any time. To participate in the official project, people need to add their observations to eBird, which is similar to iNaturalist only specific to birds.

Day 1

Date/time: Friday 2022-02-18, 09:00-10:00
Location: Younger Lagoon overlook
Weather: Sunny, with very slight overcast; no breeze at first, but light breeze after about 09:30

  • Canada goose (Branta canadensis): 6
  • Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos): 4 female, 4 male
  • Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola): 4 female
  • American wigeon (Mareca americana): 4 female, 5 male
  • American coot (Fulica americana): 12
  • Northern harrier (Circus hudsonius): 1
  • Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis): 1
  • Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus): hard to say, but at least 20 lekking away in the field across the lagoon
  • Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), carrying a fish!: 1
  • European starling (Sturnus vulgaris): murmuration of ~100
  • Bewick's wren (Thryomanes bewickii): 1
  • Song sparrow (Melospiza melodia): 2
  • Yellow-rumped warbler (Setophaga coronata): 2 male
  • Anna's hummingbird (Calypte anna): 2 male
  • Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus): ~15
  • American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos): 2
  • California quail (Callipepla californica): 1 male
  • California thrasher (Toxostoma redivivum): 1
  • Golden-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla): 1
  • Black phoebe (Sayornis nigricans): 1
  • Spotted towhee (Pipilo maculatus): 1
  • Common yelllowthroat (Geothlypis trichas): 1 male

In addition to this tally of species, which is fine in and of itself but not all that interesting, I did get to see some interactions. The northern harrier is a perennial resident, and I often see it either perched on a fence post across the lagoon or soaring low over the fields. Today the red-tailed hawk was perched on a fence post, and I didn't see the harrier until it flew in several minutes later. The harrier crossed in front of the hawk, flying low, and flushed out a murmuration of starlings. It chased the starlings around for a little while, obviously not hunting them. And as much as I wish starlings hadn't been introduced to North America, the flow of a murmuration is fascinating to watch. Even a small one of about 100 birds is rather impressive. Anyway, the hawk on the fence post watched all this activity for a few minutes and seemed to be rather peeved by all the kerfuffle. It ruffled its feathers and flew off. The harrier flew away later, and the starlings kept up their murmuration until I left.

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