The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #54386   Message #841553
Posted By: Joe Offer
05-Dec-02 - 01:01 PM
Thread Name: BS: Birdwatching
Subject: RE: BS: Birdwatching
Over the last 20 years, I lived close to the lower American River in the Sacramento area. We had a family of four wild turkeys who would walk around the neighborhood several times a week, and I occasionally counted over twenty at a time. We also have our own variety of magpie, a yellow-billed bird with more distinctive black/white markings than you find on other magpies - very intelligent birds that were fascinating to watch, but they bullied most of the smaller birds away. Along the river, I'd see lots of egrets and herons. At one time of the year, I'd see dozens of small owls perch in trees along the river just before sunset, and then take off all at the same time when it got dark. I couldn't identify the owls, or tie down exactly what time of year they'd appear - but it was fascinating to watch.

The Central Valley of California is an ancient sea, four hundred miles long and maybe forty miles wide. There's a lot of flooding in the valley during the winter, and the water fowl love it. I suppose the most interesting are the snow geese and the sandhill cranes, but I love them all. It was a thrill to visit Cape May (New Jersey) on the day of the raptor count a couple of years ago, but it's just as much a thrill to see the sandhill cranes fly in at sunset outside Lodi, California. They don't seem to mind being "stuck in Lodi."

Now I'm at 2,300 feet, on a ridge in the Sierra Foothills, and the birds are quite different. Now I'm asbout half a mile from the North fork of the American River - here it's a mountain stream in a canyon that's 1,200 feet deep. We still see California Valley Quail here - they were killed off by feral cats in the Sacramento area. Lots of turkey vultures here, and an occasional red-tail hawk. There's a pair of bald eagles in a lake nearby, but I haven't seen them. We have bird feeders that draw hummingbirds and lots of goldfinches and other songbirds. Dozens of varieties visit here - more than I can begin to learn the names of.

In the woods on the next property over, we found a huge construction high up in a pine tree. It's about twice the size of a large doghouse, and all we can guess is that it's the nest of some raptor. It has been there for years, and seems to be made of material that is still growing. It's a mystery to us - we haven't been able to figure out who lives there.

This place is as much a birder's paradise as the Central Valley, but it's a much more beautiful setting. I think I like it here.

-Joe Offer, Colfax, California-