The birds of Yosemite

June 14, 2009

I wondered if I should do a day-by-day account of the trip, but then decided that it won’t be easy…I would probably mix up everything and give wrong information as usual…so here are some of the creatures of Yosemite…

The birds, of course, were far more in number than the mammals; and the only butterfly I could actually look at and photograph was the California Tortoiseshell; there was a perfect wave of them across the road and the banks of the Merced River, across from Karen’s home in Crane Creek. We were not lucky enough to sight a Coyote (we never stopped complaining to Yathin about that) but we did see the Pica, and I think Yathin got some good pics of it, too.

If this was the rate at which one feels like taking photographs ( and in my case, at least 60% of the photographs should be, and are, deleted!), I can only imagine how many photographs Yathin must have taken over his eight trips to Yosemite so far, at various times of year. (I think to myself that Yathin only posts his best photographs and all the DM-quality photographs must be there, somewhere on his hard disk. I don’t want to face the fact that photographers like Yathin won’t HAVE DM-quality photographs.)

One of the very common birds that we saw was the AMERICAN RAVEN; Karen’s email id has the raven in it. Here’s one against the beautiful Yosemite sky:


And another view:

raven in yosemite valley 310509

Right in front of Karen's home was an ACORN WOODPECKER's nest; it was fascinating watching both parents flying in and out: acorn woodpecker in amstutz home merced river 310509 Later, we saw this woodpecker dropping down from the SUGAR PINE tree, which is the largest species of pine: acorn woodpecker in sugar loaf pine At Mono Lake, we were very lucky to see this OSPREY soaring across the sky with its fish lunch: fishing osprey 300509 The bird was far off, but I tried for another shot: osprey with fish It was, however, sad to see this dead AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN on the shores of Mono Lake... dead pelican If you want to see what can be made of that bland picture, do see Yathin's photographs here On Sunday, we saw this PINE SISKIN in the meadows.... pine siskin yosemite 310509 On the pines, this DARK-EYED JUNCO kept flying around and in the brief time we had, it was almost impossible to photograph it: dark-eyed junco yosemite 300509 At Lee Vining Creek and at Tenaya Lake, we were well above the snowline, and it was lovely to watch these GULLS sporting in the snow: gull landing tenaya lake 300509 Once a gull landed in the snow, it was almost impossible to see it! They made a lovely picture, sitting on the rock, reflected in Lee Vining Creek: gulls on rock lee vining creek 300509 On one of the trails near Glacier Point, we spotted this beautiful HERMIT THRUSH : hermit thrush 310509 I hardly started the movie mode when the Thrush sang a little, and flew away! Near Karen's home, I spotted this WESTERN SCRUB JAY: western scrub jay 310509 crane creek On the way back to San Jose, we saw this RED-TAILED HAWK, perched on a rock: red-tailed hawk on rocks On Monday (1st June) morning, we went to the Calaveras Reservoir Area, in Milpitas, to see the BALD EAGLE 's nest that was there; and there was this beautiful (though not little)fledgling in the nest: bald eagle chick calaveras reservoir milpitas san jose 010609 Here's what the local birders have to say about this nestling; this was an email posted on the evening of the same day that we went to see the chick: "headed out to Caleveras to look in on the nest. We arrived Sunday about 4:15 and were there until about 5PM. When we arrived, a person was just leaving, and the nest appeared empty. We watched it on the scope for a few minutes and couldn't see any sign of movement. We distracted ourselves for a while by checking out the other birds in the area (bullocks male, oak titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, there's a magpie nest in a tree nearby (LOUD! LOUD!), acorn woodpeckers, western bluebird male, starlings) we decided to pack up and head out. I took one last look at the nest, and found that the chick had magically appeared. When it's taking his nap, he seems to be low enough in the nest you simply can't see it. It's now about 80% of the size of dad, it's fully feathered in brown and when the wind blew the feathers you could see white under the feathering on the head. The face now looks like an eagle with some yellow around the beak, rather than the newly hatched "sock puppet vulture" look it had before it grew into its beak. It spent the entire time after waking up preening. It looked healthy and active. Mom and Dad were noshows the entire time we were on-site. My original guess based on when he hatched was mid-June for his leaving the nest. I was surprised the nest was empty when we got there, so I'm glad we hung out a while and waited. The chick is getting close to being able to leave, and looks healthy. Made my afternoon to see it!" This waa a really wonderful sight, and thanks to Yathin for making the time, after two hectic days at Yosemite, to take me to see it before he dropped me at the airport. The YELLOW-BILLED MAGPIE is endemic to California, and Yathin made sure I saw several flying about, but I could not get a photograph. As it was getting late for my flight, I strapped my seat belt across my camera...and so, of course, a Magpie promptly came and sat on a branch just in front of the car, and as I struggled to get either MLC2 or the 30D free, it flew off with (I swear) an evil grin. But later, when I got home and looked at my 30D pictures, I realized that I had, after all, got one foozly shot: 010609 yellow-billed magpie sj Yathin did not bring his camera as he has probably taken photographs there umpteen times; but when he spotted the SPOTTED TOWHEE on his side of the car, I quickly passed the 30D to him (whenever possible, let the experts do the work!) and he got this lovely shot of the bird singing its heart out: spotted towhee sj 010609 I also got to see the STELLER'S JAY in the same area: stellar jay And, last but not least, I saw some of the RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES, always difficult to photograph as they scuttle all over the trunks of the trees: red-breasted nuthatch calaveras reservoir 010609

Here’s another juvenile Scrub Jay, turning over its shoulder to say bye to the visitor from far away:

juvenile scrub jay 310509 30D

Next up, other creatures of Yosemite…