Sunday, November 3, 2013

Happy November!

Hello everybody! I hope you had lovely Halloweens. :) I made that little resolution to go birding more often, and thus far, it's been coming true! I've gone birding twice in the past few weeks. I'd like to share my sightings with you!

Last weekend, I went home! It was so weird to see my hometown again -- yes, it's only been 2 months, shh, but still, it felt like I had a different perspective. And there was a moment where I was absolutely shocked to see a Yellow-billed Magpie fly across the street. I always took the magpies for granted. It was nice to check up on my local high school, neighborhood... and birding haunt!

This was the first time that I photographed White-crowned Sparrows with this camera! (You can watch the WCSP video I made last year here.) These adorable birdies just showed up in Berkeley a few weeks ago. They spent the summer in Canada and Alaska, raising their babies. In order to escape the crazy winter snows, they flew down to the (relatively) sunny United States. It takes a year for the babies to grow their adult plumage, so you can still pick out which birds are the babies and which are the adults!

The babies are more drab overall and as you can see, they don't have the distinctive black and white head stripes. But look for those two reddish brown crown stripes, and the thin reddish brown stripe behind this bird's eye. Those are important field marks for juvenile White-crowns.

This is a juvenile Golden-crowned Sparrow! These two sparrow species tend to hang out together. The Golden-crowns are a smidge larger and browner. They also have those dark crown stripes and spot of gold. They're very pretty! In their adult breeding plumage, the black and gold head feathers are explosively colorful.

I can never get enough of Cedar Waxwings. These beauts are so cuuuuuute. And their little "seep" trill call (click to hear it) always heralds winter for me. I love it when I hear those first flocks fly over.

The classic winter Yellow-rumped Warbler! You can watch my video on these guys here. These are also wonderful little symbols of winter for me. The most common subspecies I get on the West Coast is the Audubon's ssp. You can tell this is Audubon's because the throat patch is yellow. The Myrtle subspecies has a white throat patch that curls up under the eye like a smile.

And a Northern Flicker! These guys are in California all year, but they seem to be most active in the winter. Gotta love their call, too! This is the Red-shafted subspecies, as you can see in that blazing red patch in the tail. The East Coast gets Yellow-shafted.

Then I went birding again today! I have less pictures from today because I also spent some time sketching. It feels so good to draw again. Many of the birds I saw this morning are possible sightings at home, too, but they would be very unusual. It's cool how much of a difference just an hour of driving can make in terms of ecosystems!

Okay I mean, I can get goldfinches at home. But anyways. I can't actually tell if this is a Lesser Goldfinch or an American Goldfinch. It has the dark legs of a Lesser, but the wing pattern of an American... I'm going to lean towards Lesser, since it's pretty greeny overall. The winter plumage of American goldfinches seems more tan with just a wash of green/yellow on the face.

This is a California Towhee, for sure. There were a number of these towhees scrabbling around in the leaves and dirt this morning. They eat seeds and berries, with the addition of insects during the breeding season. They're quite large members of the sparrow family. Check out those black streaks under the chin. That's a good identification mark, and another one you can't see right now is a red wash under the tail.

This was only the second time I have ever seen a Townsend's Warbler! I managed to whip out my camera in time to get a couple of shots. This is such an ADORABLE warbler! Look at that face, and those colors, and those flank streaks. I can't wait to see even more of these lovelies.

And the last cool bird I saw today was a Steller's Jay! These birds occur all throughout the West Coast, but only where there are forests. Central Valley =/= forests. Bay Area = some forests, so some Steller's Jays. Look at this cute little bugger! These are such gregarious birds, just like all corvids. (Corvids include jays, crows, and ravens - all those species famous for their intelligence and personality!)

These were two lovely birding experiences, and I can't wait to get out even more often. It sounds like there have been some awesome sightings throughout the Bay Area. Maybe I'll twitch after one of them some time. Woohoo. Thanks for joining me today! Until we meet again, have a great day, and happy birding!


  1. Omg I love love LOVE the Townsend's and Steller's! Sooooo adorable and handsome, respectively. ;) You get magpies in your neighborhood?! Dang, so cool. I actually just saw my first ever magpie period (a black-billed) this past weekend. At a zoo. :P (of course, I can't count it as a lifer, but at least i finally saw one in the flesh... or "in the feathers" i suppose ;D )

    1. Thanks, Sarah!! The birds around here are really pretty. Congrats on seeing a magpie for the first time! And heyyy, if you want to see a wild magpie, have I got the solution for you..... ;) Hope you're doing well with all your college and birding and family stuff!

  2. Awesome shots, Ioana! Always wanted to see a Golden-Crowned Sparrow... they look so pretty! And that Townsend's Warbler, AWESOME!! Such a cute little bird!! And question about the Golden-Crowneds, are they very common out west? It's possible that I'll be heading out west this summer and would like to know!
    Jack Rogers

    1. Hi, Jack! :D They really are adorable! Unfortunately, Golden-crowned Sparrows are not here in the summer, they're only winter birds... :( If you can make it out here in the winter, they're definitely all over the Central Valley and the Bay Area! They're mixed into almost every flock of White-crowns, and White-crowns are everywhere in the winter. :) If you make it out to CA, let me know where you're headed! I'd be happy to show you around Davis!

  3. I found your blog through an images search to try to find out the names of some of the birds in my neighborhood...we have two trees in front of our window that are filled with berries this time of year and every day there are SO MANY birds eating and gathering! I am in Windsor, about an hour north of SF. I often take pictures of the birds and I wonder if I could send you some pictures to get some help identifying them....just thought it might be fun to know their names! Thanks...

    1. Hi, Lauren! That sounds awesome, I'm super happy that you're interested in learning more about birds! Unfortunately, I can't think of a safe way for me to give you my email address in this medium without inviting spammers. Do you have any ideas?