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California Quail Story with Video

Last night I was sitting at the table when I heard an unusual bird call just outside my window. It was something so distinct that I was alert right away. I called my husband over and we cracked the window and listened…he heard it too.

We were peeking out the window but couldn’t see anything out there. It called again. This time I recognized the call from the other day. Chi-CA-Go, Chi-CA-Go. It is sounds so clear once you recognize it.

California Quail.

This morning I heard it again and was determined to go outside and find the bird to confirm my identification. I quietly stepped out onto the deck. Quiet. Then I decided to head down the stairs to look around the yard. Quiet. Next thing I know, a bird flies right over my head and lands on the deck railing. It was a quail! Big, beautiful, gorgeous California quail. He sat there for maybe 30 seconds and then he flew up into our tree. I decided to go inside and get my video camera to try to capture him on film.

Of course he wouldn’t come out of hiding again for me but he did sing me his song. Here is a very short edited video of his call. Listen for the Chi-ca-go call and that is him among the chorus of other morning birds in my yard. You might need to turn your speakers up. 

California Quail Video


So that is my very exciting new bird to our yard story. We have lived here for over 21 years and this is the first time I have seen a quail in our yard. Wahoo!

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Evening Grosbeak in My Feeder and How We Identify a Bird

Very little compares to identifying a new bird in your feeder. This one was so unusual that we just couldn’t stop looking at it.

The photo does not do it justice. It is bright yellow, with distinct markings of black and white. It was fairly good size so we got a pretty good look at it.

Although the photo didn’t turn out well, the memory will be forever with us.

We identified this bird as an Evening Grosbeak.

Yesterday we saw a bunch of blue birds that we had never seen before. We were out driving in the car when we saw nesting boxes all along a fence. We saw flashes of blue and realized that they were birds fighting, not only in the air but on the ground. The birds were very aggressive. When we got home we pulled out our field guide and identified the birds as Western bluebirds.

I shared the following information with a friend about how I identify a bird by explaining how I identified the Evening grosbeak. I personally like using the Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Birds.

Steps I Use To Identify a Bird
1. When I am trying to identify a bird, I rely heavily on color. The bird we saw in our feeder was a bright yellow so that narrowed it down as far as identifying it. The Audubon guide that I suggested for birds is organized by type of bird (clinging, perching, duck-like, etc) and then by predominant color. This makes it fast to skim through a lot of birds visually.
2. After I look at color and general type, I look at size. (sparrow-size, robin-sized, goose-size, etc) The Aububon guide does group from smallest to largest.
3. After color, type, and size, I look at beaks. This is really easy in the Aububon guide because on the photo pages there are three bird photos on a page so there are less pages to look through.
4. If I hit on the right bird by doing that method, I usually do a Google image search on the internet to confirm my findings. If I missed and didn’t get the right bird but I am in the right ball park, I go to whatbird.com and do a search there.

That pretty much sums it up. I know that others have different methods for identifying birds with a field guide but this works for our family.

It was a big bird weekend around here. I love it.

https://naturestudyhomeschool.com/2009/04/outdoor-hour-challenge-birds.html

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Counting Birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count

 

http://gbbc.birdcount.org/

 

We have been counting birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count. It started on Friday and will continue through today. We have had all the usual customers at the feeders and a few surprises too!

The white-crowned sparrow usually feeds in our front yard in the forsythia bush which has a blackberry vine tangled in it with some of last summers berries all dried up and ready for eating.


The dark-eyed juncos are a frequent visitor to our feeders and they enjoy both the platform feeder and eating from the ground beneath it.

The hanging feeders were filled with sparrows, finches, and the occasional nuthatch.

Here is our official bird count for Friday:

  • 5 Western scrub jays
  • 2 titmouses
  • 1 red-breasted nuthatch
  • 1 spotted towhee
  • 2 California towhees
  • 6 white-crowned sparrows
  • 12 dark-eyed juncos
  • 1 house finch….probably more we just didn’t catch them when we were counting
  • 7 house sparrows


Those were in the feeders but we also saw in our yard:
1 American crow
2 American robins

In our travels yesterday, we saw:
3 turkey vultures
40+ Canadian geese
6 wild turkeys

This is a great family project that we have participated in for the past three years. If you miss it this year, mark your calendars for next February so you won’t forget!

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Bird’s Nests in Winter: We Found One!


(click to make the photos larger)


Here is the whole nest that we found under a tree in our front yard. It is amazingly made with small little twigs and hair. Here is a close-up.

I have no idea what kind of bird made this nest. We do know we have a scrub jay that nests in this tree but this is so small it can’t possibly be the jay’s.

On page 46 of the Handbook of Nature Study under the sub-heading:The Study of Birds’ Nests in Winter:
“But after the birds have gone to sunnier climes and the empty nests are the only mementos we have of them, then we may study these habitations carefully and learn how to appreciate properly the small architects which made them. I think that every one of us who carefully examines the way that a nest is made must have a feeling of respect for its clever little builder.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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Eagle Watching at Taylor Creek


Yesterday we took another shot at finding some eagles to watch. We have an eagle habitat about 45 minutes from our house, near a salmon spawning creek. We went up there a few weeks ago to watch the salmon and we thought we saw an eagle circling overhead, up over the pines. Of course we hadn’t brought our binoculars along on that trip so we weren’t sure if it was eagle.


The dead tree in the distance along with the green trees has a nest in the top. Click the photo to make it larger and then you will see in the tree that looks dead a sort of platform nest on the top of it. Eagles nests are huge when they are being used.

This time we went back with binoculars in hand to see if we could spot him again. We didn’t. We did see a nest in the distance. We did see an snowy egret or egretta thula, some Canadian Geese, and several varieties of ducks.


This is really a hard photo to see the snowy egret but he is the white dot in the brown tree in the middle of the photo…..click the photo to make it larger. They are normally down by the water but this one kept flying up into the trees.


Spawning salmon-click the photo to make it larger and you will see the beautiful color of the spawning Kokanee salmon

Thousands of salmon all trying to get upstream to spawn…so colorful.

The highlight of the day was watching the Kokanee salmon spawning in Taylor Creek. There were hundreds and hundreds of these brightly colored salmon, all making there way up the creek to spawn and die at the end of their life cycle.

There was nothing in the Handbook of Nature Study about eagles…not a common bird for most. I will look further into the bird section of the book in the spring when we are focusing on birds.