Meyer Ranch, July 7, with Chuck Aid

So, I start with a bit of a disclaimer.  On Friday, July 6, my wife and I picked up our new eight-week-old Golden Retriever puppy.  As a consequence, Saturday was possibly not my sharpest day in the field.  Fortunately, we were accompanied by Master Birder, Wendy Wibbens who was able to straighten out my numerous misidentifications.

Twisted Stalk

First of all, we did not see or hear any Red-winged Blackbirds, leading me to believe that the dry weather may be impacting the wetland area at Meyer Ranch, and that the Red-wings that were there a couple of weeks ago have left for wetter pastures.  Certainly, one of the impacts of the dryness that we noted was that the flowers on all the Twisted Stalk plants in what are generally moist drainages had dried up and will not be producing their red fruit this year.

Cliff Swallow (c) Bill Schmoker

So now on to the birds that we did see.  Yes, there were babies – fledgling Mallards with mom in the little creek by the parking area, and fledgling Common Grackles in the same area. Also, along the creek was a family of Song Sparrows.  Hordes of Cliff Swallows were nesting on the US 285 overpass, and actively feeding young at the nests.  Out on the trail through the mixed pine and aspen forest we saw a young male Hairy Woodpecker whose tail feathers were still not fully grown out, moving along with an adult female – presumably his mom.  Perhaps the best baby sighting was of a nest full of Chipping Sparrow nestlings in a little lodgepole pine almost at eye-level.

Song Sparrow (c) Bill Schmoker

One of the main reasons we like to go to Meyer Ranch is that it can be a great place for Savannah Sparrows which prefer to breed in damp meadows, and at Meyer Ranch there usually appears to be a fair amount of sub-irrigating of the soil going on.  Perhaps, not so much this year, for we only managed to see a couple of birds.  So, in identifying Savannah Sparrows it’s handy to be able to start with Song Sparrows first, which are long-tailed, have a coarsely-streaked breast with a central breast spot, have some rufous in the wings, and have broad brown lateral throat stripes. 

Savannah Sparrow (c) Bill Schmoker

The Savannah Sparrow also has a streaked breast with a central breast spot, but it seems cleaner and better defined, and overall lighter underneath.  Perhaps the best thing to notice is that the Savannah Sparrow has a much shorter tail. The yellow supraloral spot seen on the bird in this photo is not always obvious, and can be difficult to make out.

Good birding! Chuck

Meyer Ranch Open Space, July 7, 2018
25 species

Mallard  9
Turkey Vulture  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Broad-tailed Hummingbird  5
Hairy Woodpecker (Rocky Mts.)  2
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)  2
Warbling Vireo  2
Common Raven  1
Violet-green Swallow  2
Cliff Swallow  60
Mountain Chickadee  5
Red-breasted Nuthatch  2
Pygmy Nuthatch  2
House Wren  5
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2
American Robin  4
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)  4
Chipping Sparrow  3
Dark-eyed Junco (Gray-headed)  7
Savannah Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  5
Western Tanager  1
Common Grackle  2
House Finch  1

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