Monday, July 23, 2012

Field Notes 7.20.12

 We went afield today as Earth Team volunteers to explore our Wetland Reserve Property near Lasauses.  This is a conservation project of the NRCS where we and others do regular bird counts on wetlands across the Valley.

When we are in the truck Diane is the look out and tells me to stop when sees something. I guess I’m not fast enough because she says, “Stop! Stop! Stop!”  I would like to stop as fast as she wants but I would put her through the windshield. One bird that I did not stop fast enough to see was a light brown sparrow-like thing that flew into the chico. However, I did stop in sufficient time for us to see white-faced ibises and killdeer in a flooded field and a Swainson’s hawk and a red-tailed hawk on power poles and tree swallows on the lines in between.
At our bird count area we were ready for the wet, wet, wet, pasture.  Diane was in irrigation boots and I was in shorts and sandals—both of us doused in bug spray.  The pasture has a dry high area with trees where we sighted barn swallows, house sparrows, mourning doves, American robins, western wood peewees and starlings. The lower pasture is wet and divided by a cattail fen.  It is a sloppy, slick, shaky bog. It is hard to walk through but we slogged down to the cattails to see a common yellowthroat, red-winged blackbirds and a marsh wren. We heard a sora in the reeds.  I startled a Wilson’s snipe and as it flushed up from its hiding place it startled me, too!  We saw a white-throated swift swooping overhead.

We crossed the wetland to dry chico where Diane found a long sturdy stick which greatly improved her chances of not falling in the muddy marsh as we crossed back again. How I did not fall myself was only luck. We were extremely lucky to see the sora, which we had heard in the marsh, fly up out of the cattails.
As we left the  village we saw a southwest willow flycatcher,
Our birding day was not yet done so we stopped by Pike’s Stockade hoping yet again to see a yellow-billed cuckoo.  I saw one flying across a field but Diane said, “No, that’s a magpie.”  She was right.  Then I was sure, “There, in that tree.”  “No, it’s a magpie!!”  “There, in the willows.” “Magpie.”  We were not going to see a cuckoo today.  We did see a sage thrasher as we left the grounds.

As we headed home we stopped to observe an American pipit on a barb wire fence. As we drove through the area where we had seen the light brown bird on the drive down we saw it again.  The bird stayed ahead of the truck but with careful starting and stopping under Diane’s direction we identified it as a lark sparrow, a beautiful little bird.
I love bird watching and I love that Diane is there to tell me how to drive and not get too extravagant with my sightings.

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