Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Camping’

IMG_20190705_072004[1]

I spent the 4th of July weekend camping with my family at one of my favorite spots. Domingo Spring in Lassen National Forest. I first visited this site during my graduate school work where I was recording the calls of Evening Grosbeaks, and I have returned regularly ever since. The campground, set among jumbled piles of volcanic rocks and large conifer trees, is immediately beside a wet meadow that Domingo Creek runs through. Near the entrance of the campground is the source of Domingo Creek, and the campground’s namesake, Domingo Spring. This spring is one of the few places I know of where one can drink right out of the land. In my mind, that makes this a very special spot, indeed. We also drove to Willow Lake for part of one day which was lovely. Willow Lake has a floating sphagnum bog where a couple of native species of carnivorous plants grow wild.

IMG_20190706_105544[1]

My brother birding Domingo Spring

The days we spent camping were filled with birds, a lake visit, walks throughout the surrounding meadows, lots of cooking over the fire, singing, talking politics, reading the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July, drawing, and so much more! One bird encounter that was really wonderful was our neighbors in the campground. A pair of Cassin’s Vireos had a nest about 25 feet up a ponderosa pine tree at the edge of our campsite where four nestlings eagerly gobbled down each of the insects their parents delivered. Many Western Tanagers, including a lot of newly fledged birds, were also around this year.

The full species list for birds included: Mallard, Common Nighthawk, Anna’s Hummingbird, Turkey Vulture, Great Horned Owl, Black-backed Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, White-headed Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Western Wood-Pewee, Stellar’s Jay, Common Raven, Tree Swallow, Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, House Wren, American Robin, Cassin’s Vireo, Evening Grosbeak, Purple Finch, Cassin’s Finch, Song Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Orange-crowned Warbler, MacGillivray’s Warbler, and Western Tanager.

IMG_20190706_114847[1]

My daughter holding a Pacific Tree Frog

We also had some nice herpetological encounters. I caught a small Mountain Gartersnake, and my wife and daughter caught a Pacific Tree Frog. Oddly, we did not see any gartersnakes are Willow Lake. In the past we have often seen them swimming in the lake as they hunt for minnows in the water, sometimes around our feet. This year, the water was much more turbid that it usually is (a result of the fairly recent snow melt?), and maybe this made the water less appealing as hunting grounds for the snakes that are pretty visual predators.

Mountain Gartersnake - Domingo Spring - 20190705

Mountain Gartersnake

Mammals we saw included Mule Deer, California Groundsquirrel, Golden-mantled Groundsquirrel, Douglas Squirrel, and Allen’s Chipmunk.

I very much look forward to the next time I return to Domingo Spring to enjoy the mountains and drink from the rocks.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

I spent this past weekend camping with family and friends. We camped at a spot that I have not been before called Upper Blue Lake in Alpine County, California. This site is about 45 min south of Lake Tahoe, at around 8,200 ft in elevation, and just off the Pacific Crest Trail. It is a pretty spot set in pine and fir trees, and we had a really nice and relaxing time.

The birds around the campground were pretty entertaining. We had Brown Creepers, Red-tailed Hawks, Williamson’s Sapsuckers, Audubon’s Warblers, Mountain Chickadees, Steller’s Jays, and a Cooper’s Hawk in the trees surrounding out campsite.

But one bird was particularly memorable. As several of our group were watching a Williamson’s Sapsucker, when I heard a warbler chip in the trees above me. I found the warbler and saw an adult male Wilson’s Warblers flitting in the branches. As I and a few others watched, I noticed that the bird seemed significantly more clumsy than most. It was very active hoping from twig to twig looking for, and catching insects. Each time it landed, however, it would wobble around, loose it balance, and need to flap its wings a bit to regain its perch. I was starting to really wonder about this odd behavior when something caught my eye. As this warbler was just landing on a twig, and attempting to hold its position, I saw that one leg was gripping the twig. There was only a stump where the other leg should have been!

Inline image

The one-legged Wilson’s Warbler (photo courtesy of Erin Hess).

From what I could see, it looked like the leg ended cleanly at the distal end of the tibiotarsus, or where the “ankle” joint would have been. Most of the time the tibiotarsus was held up in the feathers, tucked out of sight. It was only visible when the bird lost its balance a bit and instinctively reached out with the incomplete leg. A friend of mine was able to snap a few pictures, and in them you can see the bird standing on a branch and only one foot gripping the bark.

Inline image

Clear view of the one-legged Wilson’s Warbler standing on one leg (photo courtesy of Erin Hess)

I have no idea if this was an injury (seems more likely) or a birth defect (seems much less likely especially for an adult bird). Regardless of how it happened, the bird seemed to be doing ok. It was very active, the feathers looked to be in good condition, and it was vocalizing normally as well.

This was an impressive example of how resilient birds are. I have seen numerous wild birds that have injuries that were severe enough to cripple a mammal, but the birds have healed and are still able to function at a survivable level. For how fragile they seem, birds a tough!

 

Read Full Post »

This past weekend, my wife and I joined the rest of the graduate group that I am in for our annual retreat.  The retreat was a camping trip to Boca Spring campground.  It is a great campground in the eastern Sierra Nevada between Truckee and the Nevada State boarder at about 5900 ft in elevation, and set amongst Ponderosa Pines and the occasional Lodgepole Pine.  Each morning I got up early and went out to do some birding!  On Saturday morning, I walked along forest service roads through the pines and around the edges of wet mountain meadows amidst the sagebrush.  It was simply lovely.  And there was some great birding to be had!  At one point, I heard a Northern Pygmy Owl tooting away not far from me, though I was never able to actually see it.  On a small ridge line, I found a mixed flick that included Mountain Chickadee, Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Pygmy Nuthatch.  From what I can remember, this is only the second or third time I have had a three nuthatch species day!  I was quite thrilled!  This flock was moving through the forest along the ridge.  What really struck me was how unevenly the birds were scattered across the forest.  I had found this fair sized flock of birds all in one place, but before and after, walked through forest that looked the same to me and had the same topography, but had no such flocks.  What made that particular small ridge-line so much better than the one to the east or west of it?  On my way back to camp, I got an additional thrill when I heard, and then saw, Evening Grosbeaks in the area!  Back in the campground, there were White-headed Woodpeckers and a small flock of Western Bluebirds.  Also back in camp, a group of Evening Grosbeaks flew right into the trees above us.  There were about eight birds and all the flight calls that I heard were Type 2, which is the dominant Sierra type.
In the afternoon, we visited the Sagehen Creek Reserve.  This is one of the nature reserves run by the University of California.  We were joined by my advisor who gave us a introductory presentation on the birds and habitat of the high Sierra, and then we all went for a walk to see what we could see.  I added Red Crossbill, Pine Siskin, Hairy Woodpecker, and MacGillivray’s Warbler.  We also found an adult Caddisfly.  Not sure of what species, but I am sure that is this first adult caddisfly I have ever seen!  We also found a Comma which is a species of butterfly.

This was a great trip with great birds and other wildlife, and I even got some scouting done for my own research!  I will definitely be returning to the Boca Spring Campground in the future to find my Evening Grosbeaks.

Read Full Post »

Two friends, my wife, and I escaped the burgeoning heat of the central valley for the cool of the mountains to spend a beautiful weekend camping in the Sierra.  We drove up CA-4 Friday evening to the Pine Marten Campground on the east side of Lake Alpine which is at just over 7300 ft.  It was late by the time we arrived, and so we set up our camp in the dark and fell asleep listening to the hooting of a Great Horned Owl.  Set in Pines and Firs, this lake was a lovely spot to spend some time.  The first morning, I was walking at the edge of the lake and listening to the dawn chorus.  The American Robins started first.  There must have been several hundred of them in the area because the cacophony of their singing was amazing!  The next to join in was the trilling of the Dark-eyed Juncos.  Then came Mountain Chickadee, Pine Siskin, Brown Creeper, Western Tanager, and Mountain White-crowned Sparrow.  A few minutes later these were joined by Red-breasted Nuthatch, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Stellar’s Jay.  The last to make themselves known were Mourning Dove and Douglas’s Tree Squirrel!  On the lake were several pairs of Canada Goose with young goslings in tow and a flock of maybe 30 Common Merganser, and over the lake I saw an Osprey searching for its breakfast.  I also saw a Bald Eagle who was sitting about 20 feet up in a tree when I came around the side of a large boulder, and was just as surprised to see it as it was to see me!  I also saw a Stellar’s Jay, across a narrow arm of the lake, that was carrying a stick in its beak.  As I watched, it flew to a cluster of small Lodgepole Pines right at the lakes’ edge.  It then dropped deep into the middle of the stand of trees to a mass of stickes that was its nest.  The nest was only about 15 ft off the ground.  Somehow, I expected it to be much higher.

We took a drive up to Highland Lakes which are just below tree line at about 8600 ft.  The road up to these spectacular lakes and the lovely campground between them is very rough, certainly needing a 4WD vehicle.  It passes the Bloomfield Campground, which is another lovely looking spot, and also passes a cluster of cabins high beside a wet mountain meadow.  On the way up, we saw a pair of Pine Grosbeaks, a Willow Flycatcher, a Yellow Warbler, and a flock of Cassin’s Finches.  The female finches were furiously gathering nesting material, and in the short time we stopped along the road, I found two of their nests!  Up at the lake I also found a Mountain Bluebird nest.  We also saw a number of butterflies: Mourning Cloak, Western Tiger Swallowtail, a Question Mark, and some species of Sulfur that was bright yellow with a very distinct, dark trailing edge to it’s hindwings.

Back at Lake Alpine, we settled in for a relaxing evening in camp.  As we made a fire and cooked dinner a pair of Western Tanagers came working their way through the campground.  First the female appeared, foraging for insects in the lower branches of the trees an on the ground.  The male followed close behind her spending most of his time watching her, and only occasionally grabbing an insect for himself.  They both came quite close to us and our camp which allowed us to get a wonderful look at them.

The next morning was largely devoted to packing up camp and heading back down out of the mountains.  A great trip and certainly an area that I will revisit soon.

Read Full Post »