Yellow Warblers Return

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Yellow warblers (Setophaga petechia) inhabit second growth and shrubby areas, often associated with streamsides. They favor willows and aspens. Our ranch definitely does not provide that type of environment. As a consequence yellow warblers do not frequent our yard. The … Continue reading

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Immature Northern Harrier

Immature Female

Recently while walking in Ash Creek Wildlife Area (Lassen County CA) a “hawk” was perched on a directional sign. I moved toward the bird and it did not fly away, so I continued to approach. Surprisingly I got within about ten feet before the bird flew off. Usually raptors do not let me get that close.

When the bird flew, Leonard and I saw its distinctive white rump patch and knew the “hawk” was a northern harrier (Circus hudsonius). Male northern harriers are grey and black in color while females (and immatures) are brown. This was a female and/or immature. When I looked at the photographs, the dark brown eye further identified the harrier as an immature female since adults have yellow eyes, immature male eyes are greenish yellow and immature females have brown eyes.

Northern harriers are unlike many other raptors in that they rely on both vision AND hearing to locate prey. The face of a northern harrier resembles the disk-shaped face of an owl and functions in similar manner to an owl, although harriers are not related to owls. Stiff feathers in a parabola arrangement direct sound to the ears and aid in hearing. This adaptation is probably helpful to the northern harrier as it flies over tall, thick grass searching for its main prey, small rodents. In the photograph the stiff facial hairs are visible, although they have not yet matured into a  smooth disk.

Marsh hawk was formerly the common name of C hudsonius. I tend to still call this bird a marsh hawk since that was the name I first learned. Circus cyaneus is a synonym.

More information about marsh hawks can be found in my earlier post: Northern Harrier on 04-05-12.

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Marsh Wren Nest

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Male marsh wrens (Cistothorus palustris), those denizens of marshes and shallow water, build globes of woven rushes, marsh grasses, cattails and other vegetation sometimes intermixed with mud and attached to cattails, rushes or flags safely above the water level. Each … Continue reading

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Successful Hunt

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Long-tailed weasels (Mustela frenata) are very quick. Although they are most active at night, it is not uncommon to see one during the day. With their long, slender bodies, long-tailed weasels can climb trees, squirm through rock piles, brush or … Continue reading

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Unusual Behavior

Sandhill Crane

Already this year I did several sandhill crane (Antigone canadensis) posts. Although I do not like to repeat a species too often, a sandhill crane recently exhibited unusual behavior that has us wondering.

Leonard and I were hiking in Ash Creek Wildlife Area (Lassen County CA) when a lone sandhill crane calmly crossed our path. The crane moved about 30 feet away and began to walk beside the trail parallel to us. It kept moving at our pace and stayed with us for at least a quarter mile, calmly walking and never making any sound. When we came to a juncture in the trail, the crane called several times then stood still as we moved on.

The crane was alone and did not appear to be trying to divert us from a nearby nest. It simply seemed to be going for a walk with us.

We have no explanation for the actions of this magnificent bird. But Leonard and I were delighted to have a hiking companion for a short while. Any ideas?

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Clover Fern

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Clover fern (Marsilea vestita) is another aquatic fern that does not resemble our visual idea of a fern. This member of the Marsilea Family (Marsileaceae) inhabits seasonally wet habitats such as vernal pools, pond margins, creek beds and muddy places … Continue reading

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Jekyll/Hyde Fern

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In my last post (on 05-13-20) an aquatic fern, red water fern (Azolla filiculoides) was presented. In addition to being physically different from our usual idea of a fern, red water fern, depending on one’s point of view, can be … Continue reading

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