Sunday, June 16, 2013

June: A Good Month For Robin-Stroking

Whimbrels are often present late into spring, but by the middle of June most shorebirds on the California coast are done migrating. June is, in fact, the only month that is bad for shorebirding in California...we have a few breeding species and some oversummering individuals, but shorebird numbers are very low compared to May (when many migrants are still moving north) and July (when many migrants are already coming south). Of course, the White-rumped Sandpiper trio (***MEGAS***)  in Del Norte County was unexpected and infuriating, as Del Norte County is far from just about everywhere in the state.

It's June. The first 10 days or so can be fantastic for vagrant eastern songbirds, but other than that, there is not much going on in the bird world aside from getting down to the business of making more birds. A few late migrants are still moving through, but many species are fledging chicks already. Those that whine about "summer doldrums" are probably not looking for vagrants, or can't wait the few weeks for shorebirds to begin arriving on their southbound flights.

I've only done a paltry amount of birding so far this month that wasn't on the clock, so to speak. Hopefully I'll get to the mountains during my next island break and rack up some nice elevation birds for the year list...can you believe I haven't seen a White-headed Woodpecker in years? How embarrassing.

Black Turnstones are one of the species you can expect to see coming south in July. Many will still be sporting their fancy white marks of the breeding season. Fellow rockpipers Wandering Tattlers, Surfbirds and Ruddy Turnstones will be right behind them. Rincon Beach, Carpenteria, CA.

Heermann's Gulls are already coming back into the state after breeding in Mexico. It's always refreshing to see them after having nothing to look at but Western Gulls and haggard California Gulls for the last couple of months...they are truly gulls cut from a different cloth. Sausalito, CA.

Least Terns had a disastrous breeding season in 2012 at many different colonies in California, likely due to a shortage food brought on my warmer than normal water temperatures. Hopefully they bounce back this year, or else I will slip into a state of catatonic depression. Photographed at Oceanside, CA.

Scripps's Murrelets started nesting way before everybody else and are pretty much done sitting on nests. Those who successfully hatched a chick (like Ancient Murrelets, chicks leave the nest very soon after hatching) will be at sea escorting their progeny around. Photographed off San Diego, CA.

This was one of the last Sharp-shinned Hawks I saw this year, back in mid-April. In southern California, they won't be back until September. Note the shrunken-looking head in this photo, a field mark that is at least as helpful (if not more) than tail shape. Sisar Canyon, Ojai, CA.

In late spring one of the commonest species still moving through California deserts is Wilson's Warbler.  It's funny, if you only birded the coast you would never really grasp how abundant these birds are. Galileo Hill, outside California City, CA.

Swainson's Thrush is another migrant that still can be found in some numbers at the very beginning of June in the desert migrant traps. In fact, people shouldn't even bother looking for these birds on their breeding grounds, they are too damn hard to see. Just go to the desert during the spring and watch them hop around on lawns like robins. Galileo Hill.

Warbling Vireos are one of our humblest birds. There is probably no one in the entire world who considers Warbling Vireo their favorite bird. Sure they have a pretty song and they are a welcome migrant, but who doesn't have stronger feelings for their slightly-cuter and more colorful relative, Philadelphia Vireo? California City Central Park, California City, CA (obvi).

Ash-throated Flycatcher. Doesn't the bird look unusually brown-headed in this photo? Everyone knows Empidonax cause migraines, but Myiarchus can cause aneurysms. Sisar Canyon, Ojai, CA.

This Rufous-crowned Sparrow on Santa Cruz Island picked the ugliest possible perch to conduct its dawn chorus. A resident species, it's quite possible that this sparrow will be within view of this lovely solar panel for its whole life. The breeding species on the island are still singing a lot, but not quite as much as in April and May.

Ah, sweet sweet Song Sparrow breeding success. Is it just me or does the fledgling have a distinct Savannah Sparrow look to its face? Santa Cruz Island.


  1. Great photos! The Heermann's Gull is striking! Lots to look forward to!

    1. Heermann's are the best! Especially since we don't really have Laughing or Franklin's here.

  2. Hmm, that saddens me about the Warbling Vireo. Makes me want to adopt it as my own favorite, but, well, who am I kidding... I only like flycatchers.

    Fall pelagic... so intriguing and yet so anxiety-inducing... are you planning on any in particular? Tell me more.

    1. I hate replying in the wrong reply box. Life is pain.

  3. Yeah. I'm trying to get on boats stretching from the end of August to the middle of October, leaving from Monterey, Half Moon Bay and Bodega Bay. I haven't signed up for any particular trips yet but I hope to do it very soon. I could potentially help out with transportation and a place to crash as well, depending on where the boat leaves from.

  4. We got white-headed woodpeckers on camera trap this weekend. I did not realize that they used cavities so close to the ground until then.

    1. They will forage very low to the ground (sometimes on the ground). Was there a nest cavity in the photos?

    2. Yeah, I phrased that poorly, sorry.

      There was a cavity about 6 feet up a ~10 foot snag that we set on for a couple of hours. We got them coming in and out of it during the day with a silent, no flash trail camera. I had expected that their nest cavities would be much higher up than human eye level. I really expected it to be a chickadee cavity. But after consulting the new Birds of the Sierra Nevada, I see that they are known for nesting in broken off pines with an average height of only 8 feet off the ground.

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