Birding and Butterfly News

I guess the title for this post should be something like, How to Get Yourself Shot by a Duck Hunter. The first couple of weeks in January were interesting for me as far as the birding went. I also found my first butterfly of the year.

On the 9th, I went to one of my favorite places to bird, Navarro Beach Road. It has many different habitats and you can expect to see lot's of birds.

When I got to the beginning of Navarro Beach Road I went out on the bridge over Navarro River to look for ducks. While out on the bridge a loud explosion occurred. The area is down in a valley with high cliffs around it. The explosion was startling and seem to echo from under the bridge. A short time later there was a guy rowing towards me from the west in a camouflaged kayak, in camouflage gear, and a camouflaged shotgun.

The section of the river west of the bridge is Navarro River Estuary State Marine Conservation Area.

  • In a state marine conservation area, it is unlawful to injure, damage, take, or possess any living, geological, or cultural marine resource for commercial or recreational purposes, or a combination of commercial and recreational purposes, that the designating entity or managing agency determines would compromise protection of the species of interest, natural community, habitat, or geological features. The designating entity or managing agency may permit research, education, and recreational activities, and certain commercial and recreational harvest of marine resources. (PRC Section 36710(c))

As you can see, if you go to the link, duck hunting is allowed. I don't see how a duck hunter can safely hunt there. There's a state highway(128) to the north of the river, a state park to the south, and the bridge I was standing on to the east. In which direction can you shoot? After talking to various agencies (and getting some bad information) it would appear that as long as the hunter is shooting safety, it's allowed. In all the years I've been birding there, it has never happened. It certainly changed my mood for the day.

At least he wasn't butterfly hunting! While walking next to the river I noticed a very colorful butterfly flying near me. I was able to get two poor picture of it before it went on it's way.

My first thought was, what was a butterfly doing out in the middle of winter? Since flowering plants and trees have been blooming I thought that butterflies were being confused. When I got home I got out my butterfly book to identify it. I'm reasonably sure it's a Green Comma. A new species for me. Commas used to be called anglewings, a name I prefer. Kaufman's Field Guide to Butterflies of North America' states,

Most are woodland butterflies, preferring to feed at tree sap, rotting fruit, mud, dung, or carrion instead of flowers. Commas hibernate as adults, usually in tree crevices, logs, or cracks in buildings. Hibernating adults occasionally fly on warm winter days.

So much for my climate change theory!

Birding at the Little River Airport has been slow lately. I failed to reach my goal of 30 bird species two times this month. On the 14th during a slow day I heard what sounded like an Osprey calling. I was so sure that I ticked it on my list. Then I heard some strange calls associated with the Osprey call. When I investigated I found a single Gray Jay. This was only the second time I've found them at the airport. The jay did not cooperate in getting it's picture taken. Gray Jays can be hard to find in Mendocino County especially If you're trying to find one.

The next day was a SOS Shorebird Survey at Virgin Creek Beach. In the gull flock was a first year Glaucous Gull. These are the best pictures of a Glaucous Gull that I've ever taken and no it didn't fly because of me.

We only get one or two Glaucous Gulls every winter. Most are first year birds. They are rare here but are an easy gull to identify because it's one of our largest gulls and are very pale with a sharply bicolored bill.
Further up the beach I was looking for Harlequin Ducks in the water or on the rocks. I found five of them which I think is a new record for me at Virgin Creek. While watching them a female Long-tailed Duck popped up.
It was the closest I've been to one. Most of the time they are further off shore. Long-tailed Ducks are rare in Mendocino County with generally only one per winter if they show up at all. It has been refound several times.
The most exciting event of the day was the Battle of the Phoebes. After the Long-tailed Duck sighting I heard a commotion just below the bluffs. Two phoebes were having a territorial fight. I realized one was a Black Phoebe.


The other was a Say's Phoebe that appears to be overwintering on the Mendocino Coast.

I have always admired the pugnacious nature of the Black Phoebe. I've seen them go after American Pipits and Yellow-rumped Warblers when they get in the way. I've also seen one nonchalantly ignore a Sharp-shinned Hawk at the Little River Airport. But the Black Phoebe was no match for the Say's. The Say's Phoebe chased the Black for a few minutes, caught it and took it to the ground and beat the crap out of it. The Black Phoebe left the area and appeared unharmed the next bluff over. Lesson learned- don't mess with a Say's Phoebe.



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