Readers’ wildlife photos

On this dreary Monday, please enjoy some nice photos of California birds by reader Joe Dickinson, whose notes and IDs are indented:

Here is a miscellaneous set, mostly birds, from recent weeks.

Camping at Bodega Bay, we saw a remarkable concentration of medium waders, mostly marbled godwits (Limosa fedoa) and willets (Catotrophorus semipalmatus), pushed together, I think, by high tide.  I will not attempt to identify the gulls in the background.

In a closer view, godwits are brown with upturned bill, willets more gray and straight.  I believe the smaller bird front right is an American golden plover (Pluvialis dominica).

Also at Bodega Bay, a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) caught early morning light while perched on a channel marker.

Further north at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, a new species for me:  a red-breasted sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber).  According to my Sibley Guide, they bore neat rows of holes in bark (e.g., upper right), then return to drink the sap and eat the insects that accumulate therein.

Back down the coast at Pacheco Pond by Novato, there was a family of mute swans (Cygnus olor, a European import) with three almost grown cygnets.

Also at Pacheco Pond, a male redwing blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) seemed a bit confused, putting on territorial displays as if it were spring.

Back home in Aprtos, I spotted this small butterfly (about 2 cm long) that I can’t identify.

Finally, on my routine morning walk by Aptos creek, I saw a wonderful flight of about 50 great egrets (Ardea alba) flying high and coming straight at me out of a foggy sunrise.  “Pelicans”, I thought at first, but the profile and wingbeat was not right.  Then, maybe gulls, until I noticed the legs extending behind tail.  Great egrets, rather than snowy, resolved at home once I had them up on screen and could confirm that legs and feet were black.  I’ve seen large groups of snowy egrets in the past, but never flying “in formation” overhead, and I can’t recall ever seeing that many great egrets at once.  Very special!



  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Great photos. Does not get better than this.

  2. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Nice! The butterfly is a skipper. A huge group that can be hard to ID to species. It does resemble the fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus), but that is quite tentative. See:

    • Posted October 30, 2017 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      Thanks. Yes, skipper occurred to me (dredged from 60+ year old memories from dabbling with collecting butterflies) but the diversity you mention immediately defeated my efforts at on line ID.

  3. Debbie Coplan
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    wonderful photos! I especially liked the redwing blackbird.

  4. Posted October 30, 2017 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Great pics 🙂

  5. J Cook
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Those egrets are amazing. Never heard of them flocking like that. Cattle Egrets?

    • Posted October 30, 2017 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      Cattle egrets are smaller and have a shorter, thicker neck. These guys, particularly in the third egret photo, can seen to be holding their long necks in a markedly bowed position.

  6. John Conoboy
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Nice photos Joe. Bodega Bay is notable, I should add, as the prime location where Hitchcock filmed The Birds.

    • Posted October 30, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      Yes, and the schoolhouse is in the town of Bodega about five miles up the road and inland.

  7. Posted October 30, 2017 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Lovely photos! Hope you are enjoying one of my favorite spots on the Northern California coast.

  8. rickflick
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Nice collection of images. I noticed the red wings here are a simple red patch identifying them as the Californian variant. In the East we see the red patch with a bit of yellow.

  9. Neil Faulkner
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I think the Golden Plover is actually a Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola). Though given the location I guess it would be a Gray Plover.

    • Posted October 30, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      I’m sticking with golden. I agree that it is close call, but the grey (or gray, known as black-bellied in North America) has less marked patterning on the back. On the pictured specimen, this approaches almost a checkerboard toward tail, and the black wing tips extend beyond the tail. Those features agree better with the illustration of the golden plover in my Sibley guide.

      • Posted October 30, 2017 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

        All the Pluvialis plovers have a strongly checkered back as juveniles. Black-bellied is abundant on the California coast and the heavier longer bill and streaked breast point to that species as opposed to the very rare American Golden-Plover.

  10. Liz
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    The gulls in the back of the first picture look like kittiwakes but they have white legs instead of black or red.

  11. busterggi
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I’ll trade you a hundred and fifty of my house sparrows (don’t worry, I have more) for that red-breasted sapsucker.

  12. Mark R.
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the California bird photos. Aptos is a beautiful locale- lucky you!

  13. Robert Bate
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Given the location and General Impression Size and Shape “GIZZ” I’d say the gulls were California Gulls, a mix of adult and subadult birds – the adults show yellow legs, the subs are grayer. Cal Gulls will loaf on a sandbar just like these do. Awesome show of Godwits and other birds.

    • Liz
      Posted October 30, 2017 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      I’ve been classifying kittiwakes and guillemots again today. I would say that the gulls aren’t kittiwakes not just because of the leg color, but also because the brown gulls don’t look like kittiwake chicks. I’ve only seen the kittiwakes on cliffs in pictures. I’m going to google “GIZZ” right now. I also saw a small brown bird with red on the top walking at lunch. I had no idea. I think it was a red bellied woodpecker.

  14. Posted October 30, 2017 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    The Redwing looks pretty. The butterfly looks like a moth though, from this angle. Not that I’m a zoologist.

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