I enjoy writing these birds and butterflies posts. They get me out into the natural world for observation and exercise. They awaken my dead brain cells. They help with my ego in that I can still identify and get a decent photo of a good bird or butterfly and it shows that you don't have pour tons of carbon into the air to observe nature around us.
On March 26th, I was biking south on the Haul Rd just north of Virgin Creek after having an encounter with a Monarch Butterfly (more on that later) when I noticed something sticking out of a water filled pothole. I noticed that the head of this something followed me as I went by. I stopped and got out my camera. It was a Northern Pygmy-Owl taking a bath.
Apparently my being on a bike didn't bother it but me being on foot taking pictures did. It flew to a tree nearby.
The Northern Pygmy-Owl is a really small and cute bird. It's hard to believe it a scourge of small song birds. A week later I was looking for the pothole and discovered that state park's personnel had filled in the hole not realizing it was a birdbath:-)
On April 2nd, I had a close encounter with 15 Short-billed Dowitchers during a SOS Shorebird Survey at Virgin Creek. At least I think They were Short-billed. The more I read about separating dowitchers the more confused I become. Apparently we never see dowitchers in full breeding plumage. That happens on their breeding grounds. Hearing their calls is one way to sort them out but in my situation the surf was drowning out any other sounds. Short-billed Dowitchers like the coast and salt water while Long-billed are more frequently seen inland and like fresh water but that isn't universal. My final determination in identifying these birds is that it seems Short-billed Dowitchers have a bend at the end of their bills.
Joining the dowitchers were 3 fairly early Long-billed Curlews. I don't have any trouble identifying these birds. They tower over the local Whimbrels. They are listed as rare in Mendocino Country.
While I was getting ready to leave Virgin Creek I noticed a huge raptor flying in from the south. It followed the creek and over the Haul Rd. scattering the Mallards and then flew over me again out to the shoreline heading north. It was a third year Bald Eagle, a first for me at Virgin Creek. Bald Eagles are listed as rare in Mendocino County especially on the coast.
The birding at the Little River Airport has been interesting. Birders in Mendocino Country have been finding migratory birds arriving extremely early. Both Wilson Warblers and Pacific-slopes Flycatchers arrived at the airport over a week earlier then any observed time. Purple Martins were heard 17 days earlier than previously records.
Since I've been watching for butterflies earlier this year then last year I found a few new species to add to my Mendocino List. This Margined White found near Lake Cleone is only the second I've found and forces me to check out all of the white butterflies that I thought were Cabbage Whites.
While I have seen Monarch Butterflies in Mendocino County, I have not gotten a picture. I noticed this male Monarch still flapping while caught in a spider web. I tried to release it but I noticed the legs were not working. The spider got to it before I did. If you would like to help protect the Monarch from extinction you can sigh the petition to the EPA here.
A new Mendocino County butterfly for me is this Red Admiral found while on the boardwalk at Lake Cleone. Actually found two of them but this one posed for me.
Another new butterfly that wasn't on my radar is this Echo Azure. At one time the Echo was considered a part of the Spring Azure complex which is still being studied as far as species classification. The Echo seems to have made it as a separate specie. This butterfly was found at the Woods where I live while walking back from the airport. Pretty butterfly!!