Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Exclusionary Principles, Bird Edition

10 mammal species were documented during the 3 days at the cattle-excluded spring, but birds accounted for the vast majority of the 724 card-filling cam triggers.

And while the camera trap was wide angle, and set back to get the whole pond, the photo resolution is good enough to be pretty sure on 17 bird species.

Some of the birds came solo, some in pairs, some mixed groups, and others, as you'll see below, showed up all party-bus like, which attracted friends.

Here are some examples...

Oak Titmouses were common and expected:

oak titmouses

Western Bluebirds and Acorn Woodpeckers as well:

bluebird and woodpecker

Sage Sparrows are also often seen in the Tehachapi Mountains:

sage sparrow

And I think this is a Chipping Sparrow, again not uncommon in the Tehachapis:

chipping sparrow?

A couple of California Towhees, and probably a female Bullock's Oriole (center left):

bullock's oriole?

Bathing Scrub Jays and a California Towhee:

scrub jays

A Mourning Dove and probably a Sage Sparrow:

mourning dove

That's 9 species so far.

In Australia, on cold nights, the indigenous Australians (Aborigines) would dig a small pit in the ground and sleep in it while cuddling a dingo for warmth. On colder nights, they'd cuddle with two dingos. And if freezing, they'd say it was a "three dog night."

Which is where the American rock band got its name.

So what does a three owl night mean?

Because, on night #3 of the 3 nights, 3 different owl species visited the pond.

The 1st a Saw-whet Owl at 11pm:

saw-whet owl

The 2nd a Western Screech Owl, at 1:30am:

western screech owl

western screech owl

western screech owl

Then, at 2am, the Saw-whet returned, and gave the cam a good stare down.

Along with thirst quenching, the owls may also be hunting the pond. In the photo below, look in the water on the far left side, in the spot near where both the Saw-whet and the Screech are in the water in photos above. That's a western toad floating in the water. You can see the shine of its right eye, and the stripe on its back. And in other photos I can see chorus frogs, as well.

saw-whet owl

The 3rd owl for the night was a Barn Owl at 4:40am:

barn owl

The owls are crazy cool, of course, but I also enjoyed seeing the masses of California Quail that visited the spring. Permanent ground-level watering holes such as this are critical for them to be able to maintain strong coveys.

And, not only were there 15 quail visits in the 3 days, there seems to be at least one large covey in the area. They showed on day 3, and it took them over 10 minutes to drive through and tank up. In multiple photos I can count near 40 birds, so the covey could easily include hundreds.

Here's a sampling of that visit. Note all the quail in the upper left corner as well. And the other birds that joined the quail party at the watering hole, including: Spotted Towhee, Cal Towhee, Oak Titmouse, Scrub Jays, Acorn Woodpeckers and a Sage Sparrow. And ground squirrels.

quail covey

quail covey

quail covey

quail covey

quail covey

Really gives the pond that communal watering hole feel.

And gets us to 14 bird species. The other 3 were House Finch, Black Phoebe and maybe a Gray Flycatcher. But the photos are too sorry to show.

For a grand total of 30 species: 17 birds, 10 mammals and 3 herps (toad, tree frogs, fence lizard).

Not bad for 3 days "work."



  1. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs. Well done.

    1. Thanks Nate. No uncommon birds of course, but a nice variety of usual suspects.

  2. Great survey, and you used legal bait! (inside joke, friends). Love the owls, too.

    1. Well, you did teach us to look for "windfalls," Codge. :) And with these droughts, could there be anything more valuable?


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