Archive for April, 2018

My wife, daughter and I were in Berkeley, CA this weekend visiting my mom and some friends. One morning, while we were having breakfast and watching the visitor to the bird feeders hanging not far from the floor-to-ceiling windows, we witnessed a pretty dramatic event.


A female or juvenile Purple Finch.

As we eat our breakfast, a group of three or four Purple Finches were enjoying their’s. Suddenly, a California Scrub-Jay made an ambush attach on the feeder! It flew in through the branches of the Incense Cedar, and startled the finches into a bit of a panic. One of the Purple Finches (either a female of juvenile bird) made a very bad decision, and flew directly away from the incoming jay which meant it crashed into the big windows right in front of us. The jay flew past the feeder, not stopping at all, and landed on a table near the big windows. It seemed from watching the flight of the jay, that landing on the table had been its plan. The finch was on the deck, stunned by the impact with the window. The jay looked down, watched the finch for a moment to assess its condition, and then jumped down, grabbed the adult finch in its beak and flew away toward a large tree that we are pretty sure this bird and its mate have a nest in! That’s right, as if it was pretending to be one of the small hawks or falcons, the jay picked up the stunned Purple Finch and flew off with it!


California Scrub-Jay

This whole event only took a total of about one minute, but it got us all talking and thinking a fair bit about what we had just seen. First off, What a sight to see! All of us around our breakfast table were pretty surprised, impressed, and a few were taken aback at seeing a predator prey interaction at such close range. Secondly, I have never seen a California Scrub Jay prey on an adult songbird, before! I looked it up, and while there are reports of similar behaviors, they are not common. Thirdly, was driving a finch into the window the jay’s plan? The jay seemed like it was aware of the window, as its movements never put it in any danger of colliding itself. The finch was either unaware of the window, or was so frightened by the jay’s sudden attack that it forgot about it. So, did the jay basically hunt the Purple Finch using a window? Jays, members of the corvid family along with ravens, crows, magpies, and others, are highly intelligent and have been observed using tools in a range of settings. So, using a tool such as a known window location to incapacitate prey certainly seems possible.

Regardless of whether or not the window was used as a hunting tool, or if the jay just got lucky, this was a pretty impressive sight to see. And those baby jays had a very big breakfast of their own that morning!

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Nature's_Number_6Six years ago this past Saturday, my first post went up on this blog. Since then I have written a total of 217 posts (including this one) which have attracted 31,961 views from 24,507 visitors (50 of whom have signed up to follow my blog) from 140 different countries!

During this past year, I have shared information on the projects I have been working on at the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy; advocated for free and open scientific discourse; shared a few of the articles that I began writing for Berkeley Hills Living and Montclair Living (a couple of small community magazines); helped spread knowledge about and example of climate change; shared the results of the first few months of my 100 Species Per Month challenge; and more.

I am very grateful for the support and interest shown to my blog from all of you who have read a post or two (or more), and very much look forward to writing more posts in the coming year, and discussing your inputs.

Thanks and good birding,


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This year, 2018, I have set up a little challenge for myself. The challenge is to see 100 or more species in Yolo County each month. Now, that does not mean that the 100 species of February have to all be different species from the 100 species in January. Rather it means that the total number of species seen in each month should get to a total of 100 or more. So, if I see a Red-tailed Hawk some time in January it gets added to the January list. If I see a Red-tailed Hawk some time in February it get added to the February list.

I am hoping this will help me to notice more details as I search to find that next species for a given month, encourage me to visit more habitat types each month, and highlight the seasonal differences as species come and go from my monthly list. I am looking forward to it, and will share what I see with you as the months go by.

Below is my species list from March. It has a total of 101 species, so I made my target! This month started really strong with 71 species on my list in just the first week. But  then things slowed down for the rest of the month. I was delighted to see my first Swainson’s Hawk of the year, but I have not yet found my first Western Kingbird. I had a nice diving duck month that included Canvasback, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, and Ruddy Ducks! Another duck note of interest was that I spotted a few Green-winged Teal, but the Blue-winged Teal look like they have left the area. Additionally, the couple of Varied Thrush that I heard at Wood Duck Lake were a really wonderful treat that I was not expecting!

I am now 1/4th of the way through my challenge, and I am definitely continuing to enjoy it. I am looking forward to seeing what I can find in April!

Here is my March species list.

Species Name – Yolo County – March
1 Snow Goose
2 Ross’s Goose
3 Greater White-fronted Goose
4 Canada Goose
5 Wood Duck
6 Northern Shoveler
7 Gadwall
8 American Wigeon
9 Mallard
10 Northern Pintail
11 Green-winged Teal
12 Canvasback
13 Lesser Scaup
14 Bufflehead
15 Common Goldeneye
16 Common Merganser
17 Ruddy Duck
18 California Quail
19 Ring-necked Pheasant
20 Wild Turkey
21 Pied-billed Grebe
22 Double-crested Cormorant
23 American White Pelican
24 Great Blue Heron
25 Great Egret
26 Snowy Egret
27 Green Heron
28 White-faced Ibis
29 Turkey Vulture
30 White-tailed Kite
31 Northern Harrier
32 Cooper’s Hawk
33 Red-shouldered Hawk
34 Swainson’s Hawk
35 Red-tailed Hawk
36 Ferruginous Hawk
37 Virginia Rail
38 Common Gallinule
39 American Coot
40 Sandhill Crane
41 Black-necked Stilt
42 American Avocet
43 Killdeer
44 Long-billed Curlew
45 Long-billed Dowitcher
46 Greater Yellowlegs
47 Ring-billed Gull
48 California Gull
49 Glaucous-winged Gull
50 Rock Pigeon
51 Eurasian Collared-Dove
52 Mourning Dove
53 White-throated Swift
54 Anna’s Hummingbird
55 Belted Kingfisher
56 Red-breasted Sapsucker
57 Nuttall’s Woodpecker
58 Northern Flicker
59 American Kestrel
60 Merlin
61 Peregrine Falcon
62 Black Phoebe
63 California Scrub-Jay
64 Yellow-billed Magpie
65 American Crow
66 Common Raven
67 Tree Swallow
68 Barn Swallow
69 Oak Titmouse
70 Bushtit
71 House Wren
72 Marsh Wren
73 Bewick’s Wren
74 Golden-crowned Kinglet
75 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
76 Wrentit
77 Western Bluebird
78 American Robin
79 Varied Thrush
80 Northern Mockingbird
81 European Starling
82 Cedar Waxwing
83 Orange-crowned Warbler
84 Yellow-rumped Warbler
85 Fox Sparrow
86 Dark-eyed Junco
87 White-crowned Sparrow
88 Golden-crowned Sparrow
89 Song Sparrow
90 California Towhee
91 Spotted Towhee
92 Western Meadowlark
93 Red-winged Blackbird
94 Brown-headed Cowbird
95 Brewer’s Blackbird
96 Great-tailed Grackle
97 House Finch
98 Purple Finch
99 Lesser Goldfinch
100 American Goldfinch
101 House Sparrow



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