Bathing Kestrel…

26 12 2012
American Kestrel - Luke Tiller

American Kestrel – Luke Tiller

Today I was treated to a fantastic photo opportunity whilst going out trying to snap some pictures of the various White-crowned Sparrow subspecies that hang around down in Eaton Canyon: pugetensis and gambelii. Not much luck as usual (why do they love shady spots so?), but I did manage to spot a rather stunning American Kestrel hanging out on a nearby Lamppost.

It has rained here fairly significantly the last few days so the paddock that he was hunting in down at Eaton Canyon Equestrian Center was pretty wet and full of little mini puddles. After hunting for a few minutes he decided it was time to cool off and dropped down into the puddles for a nice refreshing bath (I hope that you can make out the droplets of water in the next shot!)

American Kestrel - Luke Tiller

American Kestrel – Luke Tiller

I slowly worked myself into the right angle for the sun and crept a little closer to the bird. He was so intent on bathing he barely noticed me and by the end of the shoot I found myself lying on the somewhat soggy ground using the bars of the paddock as an impromptu camera rest (top tip I have been given by a few great bird photographer friends – get down to their level). I hope that no-one was watching me at this point, as they probably would have thought I was crazy. Still, I think it was worth while looking a bit ridiculous after looking at the results.

American Kestrel - Luke Tiller

American Kestrel – Luke Tiller

After taking a little time to dry out in the warming sun (allowing me time for a couple more pictures), the kestrel flew up to the phone wires to carry on his days routine. He seems to have been hanging out for a few weeks in the local vicinity so hopefully more opportunities come along to shoot him, I’m not sure I am going to get so lucky with the setting though. I guess it raining isn’t such a pain after all.

Atypical Junco – Cassiar?

23 12 2012
Cassiar Junco? - Luke Tiller

Cassiar Junco? – Luke Tiller

So apart from finding a slew of White-throated Sparrows (OK exactly two), I also stumbled upon what I had initially identified as a possible Slate-colored Dark-eyed Junco. The thing that initially bothered me was that the bird looked to have a pretty well defined brown back which would be pretty atypical for Slate-colored. Also at certain angles the bird looks pretty hooded. When seen from side on it’s not always particularly easy to view (see above) but at certain times it seems fairly noticeable.

Below is a snap of the bird from behind taken in terrible light yesterday which seems to show the extent of brown back and clear demarcation from the dark gray/black hood). It seems like this bird would be a fairy decent candidate for Cassiar Junco – whatever that is? Having done some cursory research on Cassiar it seems like it is little more than a hodge podge of birds that fit neither the classic Slate-colored or Oregon mold. Any thoughts appreciated.

Cassiar Junco? - Luke Tiller

Cassiar Junco? – Luke Tiller

Of course just before leaving the east coast I stumbled on this Oregon type Junco in Connecticut. At first a few people had floated the idea that it may be a Cassiar type Junco but I think the general feeling was that it was too distinctly hooded to be anything other than a fairly typical Oregon type bird (see post here). At the moment I am doing some research on the world of Juncos: interesting if not somewhat confusing and frustrating stuff.

As well as the junco this morning I also picked up a couple of Red Crossbills passing overhead. Looks like they might be wandering on both coasts this year.

More White-throated Sparrows…

10 12 2012
Golden-crowned Sparrow - Luke Tiller

Golden-crowned Sparrow – Luke Tiller

Once again whilst heading to Eaton Canyon to look to take a couple of sparrow pictures I managed to run into the White-throated Sparrow that I am assuming is the same bird that I saw on  December 4th. I hadn’t seen the bird since initially discovering him, even though I pop down to Eaton Canyon most days. The snap below shows what appears to be the same adult bird.

White-throated Sparrow - Luke Tiller

White-throated Sparrow – Luke Tiller

Compared to the photo in the post below it certainly looks like the same individual. Anyway as I was shooting this bird a second White-throated Sparrow suddenly popped up in a nearby bush, which appeared to be a distinctly ‘tan-striped’ form. I didn’t have time to get great looks (or a good picture) of the bird, but I think you can make enough out on this record shot of the bird to see that it was a different individual.

White-thoated Sparrow - Luke Tiller

White-thoated Sparrow – Luke Tiller

I did my best to try get more shots of the second bird but it was only in view a couple of times and always buried at the shady base of some shrub. Still there are obviously two White-throats there. Even if they are a pig to find when they get buried down in the brush, maybe there being two of them at least increases chances of picking them up for the Christmas Bird Count if they stick in.

The birds have moved down canyon a bit it seems, and were both were snapped just along the entrance path 50 yards downhill from the entrance on Midwick Drive.

I came to CA and all I got was this lousy….

4 12 2012

White-throated Sparrow – Luke tiller

Today I popped out to Eaton Canyon to try and get pictures of some western sparrows, especially some of the Golden-crowneds and juncos. Unfortunately the only decent shot I managed to get was of an eastern sparrow. This White-throated Sparrow was loosely associating with some juncos (none cooperative for pictures!!!) along the stream bed on the west side of the canyon. More specifically,  heading north from the Midwick Drive entrance walk along the bank until you hit a group of four or so Sycamores. It was hanging out there just as the stream bed got wet.  Yesterday I also got some horrific shots of a Slate-colored type Junco that is hanging around Catherine’s house here. It seems like weird sparrows have a habit of following me around 😉