Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bullock's Oriole and other Highlights from the Bay Area

[Baylands, Palo Alto, CA. March, 2013]

Bullock's Oriole is a Western icterid that was earlier considered to be conspecific with the Baltimore Oriole. The two can be distinguished by the all-black head and two wingbars of the Baltimore compared to the black crown, black eye-line and a single broad wingbar of the Bullock's. They are known to hybridize where their ranges overlap in the Great Plains.

Baylands Nature Preserve is an excellent location for shorebirds, marsh species, waterfowl and also a few songbirds like the Bullock's.
Elsewhere along the trails another stunner: perhaps our most numerous Western hummer, an Anna's hummingbird was found sunning itself:
As this tiny hummer turns toward the sun, its throat changes in appearance from a dull black ..
.. to a metallic magenta; to ...
... a brilliant iridescent and deep pink.

A much more elusive subject was the Marsh Wren -- numerous but well hidden, these tiny wrens seen at Baylands belong to the Western subspecies and have a distinctive song.
It was also interesting to observe the song sparrows in the same reed bed -- they dive bombed the marsh wren if they sang too conspicuously.
Moving on to shorebirds: the avocets which only a couple of months ago had been in pale white and black now sported a rich rufous:
At this time of year, these American Avocets were found busy pairing and inspecting potential nesting sites:
Readying to raise the next generation:
Black-necked Stilts were also in the vicinity:
As were Western Willet and Greater Yellowlegs: both these tringas were decked in their breeding best:
[Western Willet]
[Greater Yellowlegs]

The last shorebird presented here is the Hudsonian Whimbrel -- seen here at Pacifica Beach.
And, finally our concluding waterfowl: American Wigeon, Clark's Grebe, Canvasback, and Ruddy Duck.
Amidst the high-tech riches of Silicon Valley, a different kind of wealth abounds in the few natural places that yet remain unspoilt in an otherwise highly developed part of the Bay Area.

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