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Sunday, the last day of Winter Wings Festival, we woke at 4am to heavy snowfall with 4″ built up in the parking lot.

It was cold, dark and early but we headed over to the OIT to catch our ride for the last event my friend & I signed up for, “Call of the Wildfowl” with Jim Szemenyei.

After discussion about weather and road conditions, only 5 of us decided to go on our field trip to Lower Klamath NWR in the heavy snow.

We let our bus driver off the hook and drove slowly down the highway in Karl’s 4WD.

Because we were late, I watched a magnificent sunrise from the backseat, and as we arrived waterfowl were already bustling about their day.  (Lucky me to see my first Eurasion Wigeon pair!)

I must say this was one of the most amazing nature scenes I’ve ever witnessed……

….for hours and hours.

It was cold and windy but the sun peeked out from behind clouds off and on all morning.

Each time an eagle flew overhead a giant flock of birds would take off, fly across the marsh and land at a nearby section.  Swans, geese, ducks, blackbirds, all taking off at once amidst a cacophony of calls.

Jim, our guide let us know Pintails are his favorite duck so I snapped a few shots for him.

I’d not seen a Greater White-fronted Goose before.

Did I mention the noise?  It was incredible.  Like being in our own PBS nature show.

An American Wigeon flew oh so close to us.

Another herd of Pintails….yes, I know they are not herds, hahaha.

As the morning progressed more Tundra Swans flew overhead.

Snow Geese were constantly in motion.

This group of swans were settling farther out than where we would have liked.

I thought this was an interesting view of a Northern Shoveler.

There goes another eagle hunting across the marsh.

Then we saw Sandhill Cranes arriving!

Canada Geese…

More Pintails!

As our morning came to a close, Jim noticed this tree filled with Bald Eagles.

We walked over to investigate as waterfowl continued their routine.

A giant flock of Red-winged Blackbirds tormented us by not sitting still for portraits.

Another take off and landing for Snow Geese.

More Tundra Swans overhead.

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Edit:  I failed to mention I saw my first Tri-colored Blackbird.  Not the best photo, but yay!

My friend secretly grabbed this shot of me sitting back for a minute, joyfully taking it all in.  Another beyond fabulous day and it wasn’t even noon yet!

Note 2 hats (and I eventually pulled my hood up!), 2 gloves with hand-warmers, 2 shirts, a sweater and coat; 3 pants, 2 socks with toe warmers slipped inside insulated boots!  Alas I left that scarf somewhere in Klamath Falls!  It was deliciously warm on all my cold winter outings this season.

Our group headed back to campus to warm up, grab food and head out in different directions.  Nancy and I went back to Lower Klamath that afternoon and found delightful treats that I’ll show you in my next post!

 

 

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On Saturday morning, my third day at Winter Wings Festival, I went on a field trip with Dick Ashford to improve my ability to identify raptors in the field.  Lucky me, I was placed in the lead car with Dick!

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After Friday’s classroom training, I was already far more confident in my ability to age Bald Eagles and identify various Buteos

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Most of the raptors we saw were far away sitting in a field atop a pivot, or like these in flight far above our heads.

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These were a pair of juvenile Bald Eagles, one chasing the other hoping to steal food.  If you look close, you can see a rodent trapped in the front eagle’s talons.

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We don’t know how it ended, they continued the chase until well out of sight.

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I saw something move on the ground and look!  More Coyotes!!  This pair was hunting for rodents or perhaps small squirrels that race across the fields then dive into underground tunnels.

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We saw several Rough-legged Hawks ~ aren’t they gorgeous?!!

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And THEN I saw my first Ferruginous Hawk!!  He didn’t stay long for this portrait.

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Shortly after we arrived he took off in flight and of course I followed as best I could.

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We saw a few more that day, but this was the only one close enough for me to get a good shot at.

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We saw a few American Kestrels and they are always a challenge to capture because they’re so fast.

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I was thrilled to keep this one mostly centered in my viewfinder until he landed….

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….and then he let me take a portrait while he hunted from his wire perch.

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We saw over 100 Bald Eagles.  We tried to keep track of what we saw, but I didn’t hear the final tally.

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We watched him fly closer to us…

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…then he turned and flew away….

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We moved on to find a Red-tailed Hawk perched on a post and Dick indulged me to grab this photo because the bird was right next to the road.

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One of our last stops of the day was for this Great Horned Owl sitting in her nest.  If you didn’t know she was there she’d be easy to miss.

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Wherever Mama sits, Daddy is somewhere nearby and one of our participants spotted him right away.  I went back another day but could not find him again.

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Lucky us, our last sighting of the day was a Golden Eagle.  Like any bird, he was not going to sit for us very long at this close distance, so in order for everyone behind the lead car to get a good look at him, we drove past him pretty fast after I took a few shots.

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Sitting in the back seat, window down, driving fast over a very bumpy road I grabbed as many shots as I could while we drove by.  This is a ‘drive-by-shooting’ in my world.  I mostly got shots of his feet, his perch, and air ~ check out those talons!  Lucky me, I also managed to capture this ONE shot.  All in all it was an inspiring day filled with literally hundreds of raptors mostly in the Butte Valley and near the two refuges south of Klamath Falls, Tulelake and Lower Klamath.

Saturday’s keynote speaker was author and researcher Scott Weidensaul who shared his research on Snowy Owls and Project Snowstorm.  Again my friend and I sat in the back row because there was no way we’d stay awake until the end of his talk after yet another full day that began too early.  You guessed it…mesmerized by his talk, we stayed for his book signing because after hearing about Project Snowstorm we HAD to have his new book, “Peterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean” …with autograph of course!

Tomorrow will be our earliest wake-up call ~ 4:30am to get to our field trip on time….

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My first field trip during Winter Wings was with Paul Bannick in and around the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge.

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I paid close attention to his every word in yesterday’s workshop, so my camera was ready and I was ready!

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About a dozen photographers had plenty of room to spread out in our school bus that took us to the first eagle sighting.

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Still early, a bit dark, we had learned how to let more light into our sensors and clicked away as the pair of eagles came and went from their nest.

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It was difficult to choose which images to share out of the many I took.

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The Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge was amazing in spite of overcast skies and threat of rain.

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We watched swans and geese take off and land, especially after an eagle ‘fly by’.

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There were literally thousands of Tundra Swans and Greater White-fronted Geese.

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Tundra Swans are another of my favorites.

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We saw a few Sandhill Cranes and lucky us, we caught them dancing!

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I didn’t count the Bald Eagles but they were plentiful … and as usual in a group, fighting over food.

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There were also thousands of Snow Geese.

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They were especially sensitive to eagle fly overs and took off at every sighting of a Bald Eagle.

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They usually landed not too distant from where they left.

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Looks like a pair of Tundra Swans having some alone time away from the group.

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I have a series from this incident…a Great Horned Owl flew across a field then landed in the grass where we could barely see him.  A Northern Harrier buzzed overhead & dove near the owl several times.  Can you see the owl?  He’s directly below the Northern Harrier in this shot, hidden by grass.

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There was a plethora of Red-tailed Hawks floating in the sky for us to capture.steider-studios-field-trip-bannick-2-17-17-18

Bald Eagles and other raptors perch on utility poles.  Generally there is only one bird per pole, so this shot with an adult and juvenile Bald Eagle was fun to see.

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To my delight we also found a Rough-legged Hawk!  I am getting to know this raptor quite well.

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Another Red-tail ~ a juvenile that hasn’t fully developed his red tail yet.

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I had to yell “stop the bus!” when I saw this coyote in a field.  I rarely can grab my camera in time at home when I see them and he was so beautiful.

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He stood there posing for a bit then ran off with a glance over his shoulder.

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Our last stop for the day was back in Klamath Falls where Black-capped Night Herons roost in trees along the Link River near the Favell Museum.

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We noticed Barrow’s Goldeneye in the river as we watched the herons…

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…and a few interesting Mallard hybrids!

Later in the afternoon I enjoyed a class learning intermediate and advanced raptor ID that I am most grateful for!  My next post will chronicle a fabulous field trip in search of raptors.

Our keynote speaker that night was Chas Glatzer.  My friend and I sat in the back, expecting to leave early because we were so tired from a full day that began at 5am.  We were literally the last to leave.  We didn’t want to miss an opportunity to talk with and thank Chas for an exceptional presentation.  I love that all three keynote speakers are ethical about capturing their wildlife shots.  Chas’s parting words still ring in my ear as it applies to wildlife photography, “Do the right thing”.

I don’t think I’ve addressed ethics in my posts, but if you haven’t thought about it I would never bait my subject or interfere with its life in any way.  I don’t whistle, rustle the brush or do anything that would turn its attention away from eating, feeding it’s young, sleeping, hunting or even just to direct it’s attention to me.  I’m truly grateful and appreciate any opportunity I have to see birds and wildlife; and love sharing what I capture with you.

Winter Wings in Klamath Falls

February 28, 2017

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I finally made it to the Winter Wings Festival in Klamath Falls.  There is so much to tell you I will have to break it up day by day.

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My friend and I were only 50 miles from home when we had a wonderful portend of what was to come ~ a Rough-legged Hawk!  It was early in the morning, dark, snowy and cold so we were lucky to have seen him.

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The six-hour drive was easy with clear roads and mostly snow-free.  As we arrived at Upper Klamath Lake we could see hundreds of swans basking in the sun.

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We were ahead of schedule so decided to explore the swans a little more before registration.

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They were magnificent!  Sleeping, preening, swimming, eating and even chasing each other.

steider-studios-swan-group-2-16-17 It was a sunny day and the cacophony of swans made us feel that we were in our own nature show.

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An eagle drew our attention when he landed on a post nearby.

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Our first workshop was with Paul Bannick and we didn’t want to be late so headed over to the OIT to register….

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…after we watched a Red-tailed Hawk fly over.

Paul’s class was fabulous.  He asked each of us to state one thing we wanted to learn from him, then proceeded to discuss every single question raised and more.  I couldn’t wait for our field trip the following day to put into practice everything I’d just learned……

Paul was also a captivating Keynote speaker that evening sharing experiences from his new book,  “Owl: A Year in the Lives of North American Owls“.

 

Birds on the Hook

January 16, 2017

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It is STILL snowing in the frozen Columbia River Gorge, a good month after it started.  As I post pictures that look black & white you can see snow falling in many of them.  I finally have a system to stay warm when I leave the house in 7º temperatures, without investing in ski-wear:  heavy leggings under my thick hiking pants with rain-pants over; 3 tops plus wool sweater and coat; wool socks over regular socks plus toe warmers slipped into fur-lined boots; a heavy scarf covering my head, neck and ears with 2 hats over that; and finally glove liners inside my gloves with hand warmers between and mittens over.

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Yesterday at ‘The Hook’ a group of friends met for coffee then a bit of bird-watching…or finding….or simply enjoying.

steider-studios-bird-walk-1-15-17-16It was frozen, quiet and snowing and most of the birds we saw looked like they were doing their best to stay warm.

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The first bird we saw after a couple of Bald Eagles was a Great Blue Heron.  Doesn’t he look cold?

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Shortly after seeing us he took off upriver to the next frozen rock outcrop.

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We saw Greater and Lesser Scaup resting offshore.

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A Bufflehead flew close to the river…

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…and unknown (to me) ducks flew high overhead.

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Lesser Scaup drake…

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…and another Lesser Scaup drake.

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Greater Scaup female.

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Snowfall diffused sound but we heard a train heading toward us.  Looking west between shoreline and Wells Island we used scopes to see waterfowl including Gadwall, Canvasback, Coot, Grebes, and Canada Goose.

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Mallards swam near the shoreline on the west side of The Hook.

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A Bald Eagle perched near the nest on the north side of Wells Island with a snowy Underwood Mountain in the background.

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A Common Merganser female appeared from around the corner…

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…and took off as soon as she realized I was there!

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Looking across to Wells Island we saw a swarm of blackbirds and robins foraging on the shoreline.

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This is the south side of Wells Island, looking west down the gorge.

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A Killdeer hopped along the shore as I stood looking at Wells Island.  Did I mention it was snowing?

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A Horned Grebe fished in the distance.  Notice the ice chunks?  By now it was about 14º.

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We headed back to our cars but watched the river as we walked and spotted a female Redhead!

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Thankfully my friends are expert birders and discussed details that identified her species for me.

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We continued watching ducks arrive as we slowly headed back to where we parked.

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Last shot of the day ….a female Greater Scaup taking off down the river.

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On Friday I took a little trip up to Trout Lake, at the base of Mt Adams to photograph a bird.

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A RARE bird in Washington State.  I’m told this is only the second documented sighting in my state. EVER!

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It’s a Gray-headed Junco hanging out at Jim & Kathy White’s feeders!  Kathy first noticed it on Jan 2 at their feeders with a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos.  It has come back each day, all week.

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You know I had to invite myself to go up and see it!  Even if it didn’t show up for me, I HAD to take the chance, drive our snowy roads and maintain hope that it would grace me with its presence.

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Local birding expert, Stuart Johnston went with me and to our delight the unusual bird showed up for us!!

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As I well knew, my first shot through the window was not crispy clear.  I was going to have to photograph it outside if I wanted a decent shot.  I quietly exited the back door and peered around the corner, waiting and hoping this special bird would allow me to photograph him.

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He did not disappoint.  Even with triple layers of clothing, double gloves, plus coat, hat, scarf, hand and toe warmers I could only stay outside for 10 to 15 minute intervals in the 10º temperature.

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Confirmed via email and photographic documentation ahead of my visit, from several top-level birding experts in Washington and Oregon the sighting still goes through a process within Washington Ornithological Society for it to be a valid sighting..

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Jim and Kathy have turned in a ‘Rare Bird Report’ to the Washington Ornithological Society and I’m proud to say they’re using my photos in addition to their own for documentation.

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This is a Dark-eyed ‘Oregon’ Junco, the typical Junco we have in our area.  You can see how different they are from the Gray-headed.

~My first sighting of a Catbird last summer, Bohemian Waxwings in December, and now my first sighting of the Gray-headed Junco, Trout Lake is turning into BIRD Central!!~

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I celebrated the last day of 2016 by participating in the Columbia Hills Christmas Bird Count.  There were four of us in Jane’s car, all focused on finding birds in and around Goldendale Washington on a brilliant-blue-sky but frigid day.

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After counting all the birds surrounding the wastewater treatment plant ~ thousands (!!!),

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…including a Northern Shrike who was very far away, we headed into residential Goldendale.

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We traversed block after city block with a stop at Ekone Park.  A pair of Red-tailed Hawks perched as sentries on tree tops at both sides of the entrance.

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We hiked along the stream from the parking lot to the bridge and although there wasn’t a lot of activity, we found a Ruby-crowned Kinglet!

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A Golden-crowned Sparrow was foraging on a lawn above the bridge.

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A Scrub Jay flew overhead, taking his treasure to possibly eat in a warmer spot.

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We found plenty of trees and shrubs full of the regular suspects, in this case House Sparrows with some finches tucked in between.

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We found a group of mixed Cedar and Bohemian Waxwings (yay!).

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Bohemians have a buffy body, white tips on their wing feathers and little or no white on their forehead.

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We met up with a second carload of counters who had finished  their section and wanted to see more Goldendale birds.

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We spotted a few Red-tailed Hawks as we continued our drive through town and along the outskirts.

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In one neighborhood we found three Wilson’s Snipes foraging in a tiny stream!  How do I know they were Wilson’s, not Common?  Because lucky me I had experts on my team!

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In this one tiny area we also saw a dozen Robins, and a couple of Scrub Jays, Chickadees, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-crowned Sparrows…..

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……Spotted Towhees, House Finches and about a dozen Golden-crowned Sparrows.

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Over two dozen California Quail ran or flew to the other side of the street while we watched all the action in, over and surrounding the stream.

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Finished with our assigned section, we decided to head out Bickleton Hwy in search of anything interesting outside of town.  Yes!  A Rough-legged Hawk awaited us.

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Isn’t he beautiful?!  I believe this is my first sighting of a Rough-legged and I’ve fallen in love.

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We followed him in flight over barns and farmhouses as we continued our drive.

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Another raptor delighted us with his presence, a Northern Harrier.

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A big surprise was a group of seven Gray Partridges.  It’s uncommon to find them on agricultural land.

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Our last sighting for the day was a group of Bald Eagles circling overhead on our way back to town.

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I saw two adults and 2 or 3 juveniles (I knew I should have written this immediately as my recollection fades).

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One juvenile soared closer…

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…and landed in the top of a nearby Pine tree.

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He then took off as another eagle flew close to his landing spot.

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All in all a very good day spent with great company!

 

 

 

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