Friday, March 18, 2011


In the five years we've lived here, I've only seen Western Bluebirds sporadically in the late winter/early spring months, usually perched on the fence around the neighbor's corral. This year is different though, as there seems to be an uptick in the Bluebird population here on our property. I've been keeping a bird list for the property and have sighted 60 species to date. Many are common (both year-round residents and returning migrants), while a few are one-timers, or rarely seen. In the Spring of 2007, there was a really bizarre but fantastic occurrence when dozens of Lazuli Buntings were descending on and around our bird feeders every single day for about a month. Since then? Not so much...

4/17/07 Lazuli Buntings (Passerina amoena) under one of the bird feeders (not a good shot as lighting was bad, but you get the picture). At times, there would be a couple dozen of these guys in a feeding frenzy with White-crowned sparrows, California Thrashers, House Finches, Black-headed Grosbeaks, etc. While Gil was having "Alfred Hitchcockesque" nightmares, I was in birder's heaven!

And now, I think this year will be the year of the Bluebird! 

3/17/11 A male Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana), checking out a bird house along our fenceline. I installed this bird house almost 2 years ago but none of our avian visitors (even the ubiquitous house wrens) were remotely interested. That is, until now. 

3/17/11 Thought this was kind of a funny-looking shot. Looks more like levitating than flying.

3/17/11 Here's the little lady checking out the potential digs. 

3/18/11 This morning, the pair came back to visit the amenities around the bird house. Here's Mr. Bluebird inspecting the jacuzzi. 

And here's the Mrs., with her 2 cents.

3/18/11 Perched on rebar.

What a cutie. I also put out some dried meal worms (from Armstrong Nursery) in a makeshift feeder nearby, hoping that it keep the bluebirds coming. They are still coming, but not for the worms. Maybe the dried stuff isn't as appealing as the live wiggly stuff.

3/18/11 A non-sequiter. I found this tiny, weathered old nest on the ground amongst some dried brush while weeding the trail off of the chaparral stand near the entry to the property. So delicate and only about 5" in diameter. I placed it in the inner branches of our now 8-ft. tall 'San Gabriel' Fremontodendron, just in case it can be reused by another birdie. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chocolate Lilies, Shooting Stars & a Few Other Early Bloomers at the Santa Rosa Plateau

It was quite breezy this morning and much cooler than yesterday, but at least the sun was out, so we headed out to the Plateau this morning to see if there were any early blooms along the Vernal Pool trail. We stopped at the visitor center for trail info, and found out that the boardwalk over the main vernal pool was closed due to flooding from our most recent rain storm and the Vista Grande trail was also closed at the bridge. Kinda like groundhog day, as this is a repeat scenario from last year when the boardwalk was inundated and many of the footbridges on the Plateau badly damaged from heavy rains & flooding.

As for blooms, the most abundant were the Western Buttercups (Ranunculus occidentalis).  Along the Vernal Pool Trail, we saw some nice stands of Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum), Padres Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. clevelandii), Bush Lupines (Lupinus excubitus ssp. hallii), a few California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica), and one Common Lomatium (Lomatium utriculatum). Along the Trans Preserve Trail, the Chocolate Lilies (Fritillaria biflora) are just starting to bloom, as well as Checker Bloom (Sidalcea malviflora ssp. sparsiflora), Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bellum), Johnny Jump-Up (Viola pedunculata), and Purple Sanicle (Sanicula bipinnatifida). In the oak understory along the Trans Preserve, Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata), Wild Cucumber (Marah macrocarpus var. macrocarpus), Narrowleaf Milkweed (Asclepias fasciculatus), Common Bedstraw (Galium aparine), Poison Oak (Toxicodendron diversilobium), Soap Plant (Chlorogalum pomeridianum var. pomeridianum), and Sticky Cinquefoil (Potentilla glandulosa ssp. glandulosa) are all greening up.

 3/6/11 Vernal pool at the trailhead near the parking lot off Via Volcano. Lots of waterfowl, but will need to bring the spotting scope next time to see them better.

3/6/11 Main vernal pool.

3/6/11 Western Buttercup (Ranunculus occidentalis), Vernal Pool Trail. 

3/6/11 Main vernal pool, with Western Buttercups in the foreground.

3/6/11 The boardwalk over the main vernal pool looks quite askew.

Lots of debris along the sides of the boardwalk.

But the duckies aren't complaining. Main vernal pool.

3/6/11 Vernal Pool Trail.

3/6/11 Bush Lupine (Lupinus excubitus var. hallii). Vernal Pool Trail.

3/6/11 Padre's Shooting Star (Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. clevelandii). A nice patch of these are blooming along the Vernal Pool Trail past the main vernal pool (heading towards the Adobes).

3/6/11 Padre's Shooting Star (Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. clevelandii). Vernal Pool Trail.

3/6/11 An unusual white-flowered form of Padre's Shooting Star (Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. clevelandii). Vernal Pool Trail.

3/6/11 Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum). Vernal Pool Trail.

3/6/11 Common Lomatium (Lomatium utriculatum). Vernal Pool Trail.

3/6/11 California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica). Vernal Pool Trail.

3/6/11 A Tiger Moth caterpillar. Every spring, these guys are EVERYWHERE along the trails - hard to avoid stepping on them! Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Chocolate Lily (Fritillaria biflora). Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Wild Cucumber (Marah macrocarpus var. macrocarpus) twining through some lovely (ahem) Poison Oak. Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 View from Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Soap Plant (Chlorogalum pomeridianum var. pomeridianum). Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Some lush-looking Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata). Pass the vinaigrette, please. Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 A gnarly, but grand old oak tree (Coast Live Oak - Quercus agrifolia?). Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Narrowleaf Milkweed (Asclepias fasciculatus). Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Purple Sanicle (Sanicula bipinnatifida). Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bellum). Only a few of these in bloom along the Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum). Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Checker Bloom (Sidalcea malviflora ssp. sparsiflora). Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis). Trans Preserve Trail.

3/6/11 Second to juvenile gulls, those drabbish, hyperactive microbirds high up in a tree are my favorite birds to ID (NOT!). 

Heck, I think I'm going to call this guy a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula). Minus the tell-tale flash of a ruby crown, it's a toss-up between that and a Hutton's Vireo (Vireo huttoni). But it looks like there's a black bar behind the second white wing bar, and the bill is on the thin side, so I say Ruby-Crowned Kinglet.