Common Nighthawks
Category: Birding at the Chico

Common Nighthawks roost on fenceposts and on any horizontal limb without too many branhes.  For the past 10 years, birders who run breeding bird survey routes have been saying that this species is declining.  I didn't think it to be true on the Chico, but this year numbers around Holmes are way down with only a couple birds easily seen. 

This male is easy to I.D. because of its white chin and broad white subterminal tail band.  If this bird was a female it would show a buff throat patch and no white subterminal tail band.  Nighthawks are crepuscular, feeding at dawn and dusk and also on cloudy days.  A few can be seen flying over the larger ponds on the Chico.  Thier mouth can expand to an incredible size and surrounding their mouths are specialized feathers called rictal bristles that help funnel flying insects into their mouths as nighthawks circle through clouds of insects.

Posted by Bill M. on 06/27/2010

Flight of Fancy
Category: Birding at the Chico

As the song says, "summertime and the livin' is easy..." Many of Chico's resident and summer-only birds are now feeding young.  I saw a single juvenile Scaled Quail with a female today. Hopefully other species are doing much better.  A Burrowing Owl flew over me, neverous because I was near their nesting burrow, a giveaway because of the amount of whitewash on the rim.  In another few weeks babies should be poking their heads out for their first real look at their new world.  Finding Burrowing Owl pellets is always fun becuase it is another reminder to me of the food  these owls consume.  Much of the pellets are full of the hard beetle carpaces but there are often some small rodent bones in them too.

Posted by Bill M. on 06/27/2010

Breeding Birds
Category: Birding at the Chico
The excitement of spring migration is over and breeding activities are well underway.  For Canada Geese, young birds have been fledged for over a month and they can be seen following adults on Headquarters Pond.

Burrowing Owls are still underground but whitewash often reveals which burrow they selected for nesting.  Mountain Plovers seemed to have disappeared. 

In the marsh, Virginia Rails have stopped calling, an indication that they too are with young.  Common Yellowthroats (photograph) have seemingly taken over the marshes, their ticking noises and occassional witchity witchity songs everywhere.

A few Orchard Oriole males are still singing loudly at both the banding station and at the small HQ Pond areas.  Of most interest are two singing mountain birds, Black-headed Grosbeak and Cordilleran Flycatcher, both species common breeders in the mountains but not yet known to breed on the Chico.

A lone Greater Yellowlegs was at HQ Pond, possibly an early fall migrant or maybe a bird that did not continue north with the others in April and May.  Cassin's Sparrows are skylarking in many grassland areas with cholla and only a few Common Nighthawks were seen, the numbers seemingly down from the previous few years.
Posted by Bill M. on 06/15/2010

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