By Carolyn Vance
Another great walk at the Rancho! We started the day with a pair of Ravens flying over the parking lot, calling to each other. Our next bird was a nice Hermit thrush, followed by a small flock of Cedar waxwings flying over. A pair of California Scrub jays flashed their blue wings at us as did the Western bluebirds. A Northern mockingbird stood silent watch over us, unusual for this bird. Luckily, the Black phoebes and Allen’s hummingbirds weren’t silent as they zipped back and forth across the Rancho.
Our other fly-over birds included three Great Blue herons and 43 California gulls. A Red-shouldered hawk, heard several times, finally landed in the large oak tree for us to see, then took off again, calling. The best part of the day, for me, was the small group (21) of Bushtits in a low, open bush, feeding. It looked as though the bush was alive, swarming with birds in constant motion, going branch to branch. Then leaving it, one-by-one, as Bushtits do, going to their next feeding spot. The last bird of the day was the California towhee that we had been hearing, but couldn’t find, until he popped up on an open branch of the Toyon tree at the top of the drive.
The most asked question of the day was: Why is that rust-and-green colored hummingbird an Allen’s and not a Rufous? Simple – Rufous hummers are only seen in this area in migration – spring and fall, so in winter-time you’re seeing Allen’s. Also, Allen’s have green on their back and Rufous’ don’t. Okay, okay – about 5% of Rufous’ show a little green on their back, but once again, our walk was in the middle of winter, when Rufous’ are in their wintering grounds. Check their range map in your favorite field guide for where they are now.
Many, many thanks to Kim Moore, our bug expert; Merryl Edelstein, Rancho Garden Docent; Jerry Millett, member of El Dorado Audubon’s monthly survey here and Rancho Horticulturist Marie Barnidge-McIntyre for all their help! At the end of the walk, we had seen 19 species of bird. Our next walk will be on Thursday, April 12th, from 8:00 – 9:30 a.m. Come join us!
(Photo credits: Allen’s Hummingbird & California Towhee by Kim Moore. Bushtit, Hermit Thrush & Northern Mockingbird by Jerry Millett)