Monday, April 19, 2010


I had such a pleasant day up here last weekend that I decided to go up again. Went to my same sit spot and set up a little day camp. It wasn't quite as 'birdy' as last weekend, but there was plenty to make it interesting. The above view is looking towards the south--a really stunning view.

Here is a shot looking towards the canopy; there a quite a few dead and dying trees up here, most likely the victims of so many years of drought and the subsequent insect damage. But we've had over a normal year's rainfall this season, so the trees are getting a nice break.

The area in this photo shows where a lot of birds have been foraging on the ground. Not sure what they are finding, as I did not want to go down and disturb the area. But the nuthatches, chickadees, and woodpeckers all go down and pick through the duff.

There were three White-headed Woodpeckers this time--two males and a female. This is one of the males, although you cannot see his red cap in this view.

I finally got a halfway decent shot of one of the Pygmy Nuthatches--those little guys really move fast and are so small it's hard to keep them spotted. When they get up amongst the branches, the camera has a hard time resolving the image from all the foliage around the subject.

And then there were chipmunks! They were everywhere this time. Don't know if most of them were still hibernating last week or what, but there were at least ten of them in my general area. And I think my sit spot, which backs up against a boulder outcrop, is home to at least one; I nearly jumped out of my skin when one squeaked loudly right behind where I was sitting!

This photos is titled 'spot the chipmunk.'

Yes--I wasn't kidding. They were EVERYWHERE!

There is still quite a bit of snow up there. We are supposed to have more rain and snow this week, so not sure how much that will add to the remaining accumulation, but the snow levels are supposed to drop to 3500' by this Wednesday. That should translate to plenty at the higher elevations (at least .33 to .75 inches).
On the way down the hill I stopped by McGill Campground, which is still closed. I was aghast at the amount of trash people have left after using some of the sites for the day. Granted there are no trashbins yet, but jeez--can't they haul out their crap? The laziness of people and their lack of respect for the environment never ceases to amaze (and anger) me.
Down near the freeway onramp I decided to stop for a quick lunch, so went to a Jack in the Box. I was delighted to be joined by about a half dozen Common Ravens, who apparently have found out that the parking lot is a good place to look for scraps. I got good close looks at them--wow--they are HUGE birds!
Oh--and I forgot to mention the wildflowers! The rolling hills all along the Grapevine are covered with wildflowers: lupine, Califorina Poppy, and some sort of small yellow daisy. From a distance it looks like Nature has smudged colored chalk on the hills! Quite a lovely sight.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010




So here it was, the 10th of April, and there was still snow in the high country! This time last year it was already warm everywhere, so this was a real treat. I went up to Mt. Pinos to look for nuthatches and woodpeckers--and I was not disappointed. This is one of the best areas ever to see large numbers of these species.

As is evident from this photo, snow is indeed still abundant from around 3,000' up to the summit. (We had some more rain and snow the day after these photos were taken, so it is likely there is even deeper snow now!) The air was clean and fresh, and it was quite warm in the sun. This in turn warmed the wet needles on the forest floor and sent a delicious pine perfume wafting in the air. The breeze was strong at times, makeing music in the pines.

The sun also make lacey carpets of shadows on the snow.

I found a little pullout off the road at about 7,000' and hiked into the forest. I found a 'sit-spot' and set up an observation post for my target birds. And it didn't take long to spot them! This photo shows a White-breasted Nuthatch. Nuthatches are among my favorite species of bird. I have numerous photos and have done several watercolor paintings of them.

A different one, playing peek-a-boo with me around a tree trunk...

The little bird kept going behind the tree, then coming back out as if trying to see if I was still there.

Look closely among the branches near the trunk of the tree and you will see a White-headed Woodpecker. This one is a male, marked by a red cap at the rear of his head. They are busy birds, flying back and forth from one tree to the next, gleaning insects from between the crevices of the bark.

There were also numerous Western Bluebirds, that, like this little fellow, flew down to the snow to pick through the debris for fallen insects and small seeds.

I spent about three hours observing birds. Here is a complete list from the immediate area of my observation spot:
Western Bluebird (6)
White-breasted Nuthatch (4)
Pygmy Nuthatch (6)
White-headed Woodpecker (4)
Hairy Woodpecker (1)
Brown Creeper (1)
Dark-eyed Junco (1)
Mountain Chickadee (6)
Evening Grosbeak (1)
Stellar's Jay (1)
Common Raven (1)
I also saw a Merriam's Chipmunk--they are soo cute! Poor little think was being chased by the Pygmy Nuthatches, who were claiming a certain area on the ground for foraging. In fact, the White-headed Woodpecker, all three species of nuthatch, bluebirds, and the chickadees were foraging a lot on the ground quite a bit.
It was a wonderully relaxing and enjoyable way to spend part of the day. I plan go up there more often now, as my 'home forest' was almost completely destroyed last year by fire (Angeles National Forest). The abundant woodpeckers and nuthatches are a real draw as well!

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Here's some cool facts about birds I gathered while reading a manual of Ornithology:

  • A bird's body temperature ranges from 104-degrees to 111.2 -degrees

  • Birds range in size from only 2 grams (hummingbird) to 100,000 grams (ostrich).

  • Birds' brains and primate brains exhibit functional lateralization, with left hemispheric dominance associated with learning and innovation in vocal repertoires.

  • The highly developed color vision of birds reaches into the near-ultraviolet range of the spectrum.

  • The broad hearing range of birds encompasses infrasounds--sounds below the range of humans.