Sunday, August 9, 2015

West Coast Neighbors (Or, We Have Phoebes Here, Too!)

After almost a year sharing a yard and house wall with friendly Eastern Phoebes back in Ohio, I've come to really love these little flycatchers. So I was super happy to discover that we have phoebe neighbors here in California, too! A Black Phoebe keeps showing up in our back yard to hunt for flying insects, and it doesn't seem to mind at all when I hang out with it (just a few yards away):

Goodness, what a handsome bird. It almost looks like it's borrowed a junco's outfit:

This phoebe looks downright fearsome from some angles; I wouldn't want to be a bug flying through our yard with this creature on the prowl:

But really, I can't think of phoebes as anything but friendly, and I'm so glad to find that this Black Phoebe is just as endearingly bold as the Eastern Phoebes I'm more familiar with:

There was also a lot of tail-wagging in between bursts of flight from the fence. Thank you for letting me hang out while you hunted, lovely phoebe:

Here are a couple other representative neighbors from our new yard (although I took these pictures about a month ago). Eurasian Collared-Doves are big and loud, and they're constantly calling from the tops of electrical posts and trees around our house:

Apparently these big doves have displaced most of the native Mourning Doves around here; indeed, I've only come across one Mourning Dove since we've moved in. These creatures are certainly a prominent feature of the neighborhood!

A few Ten-lined June Beetles have shown up in our yard so far:

What a monster! But it's a pretty cute one:

I love that we get amazing animal visitors even in our tiny yard. :)

Sunday, August 2, 2015


I know that the Arcata Marsh is famous around here for its birds, and I did see lots of cool feathered creatures when I visited there on Wednesday morning. But I was extraordinarily happy when I came across two of these mammals hunting in a lake:

River Otters! The first ones I've ever seen in the wild I think! Ahhh, so cool. They kept diving underwater, showing their thick pointed tails:

Then they'd come back up chewing on what I'm guessing were little fish:

Oh my goodness. Now I can add otters to the list of crazy and amazing things I can see just minutes from my house. Northern California just gets more and more magical.

Here's a video of the two otters doing their thing. I love their little chomping jaws whenever they come up with food:


OK, yes, there were lots of other things to see at the marsh while I was there. When I arrived, the tide was out, and Arcata Bay was one giant mudflat:

A couple of hours later, the same spot looked like a different place:

The shorebirds are starting to show up in big numbers here on their southward migration (yes, it's that time already). Here's part of a mixed group of bigger shorebirds, mostly Marbled Godwits in this picture:

Hundreds of little sandpipers were in attendance at this marsh as well, although only a few came anywhere near my camera. Here's my first Western Sandpiper, with its pale gray-brown back and dark legs:

Of course this Least Sandpiper a few yards away looks completely different:

... Right. My best bet for distinguishing between these two birds is going to be leg color (dark vs. yellow) for a while yet.

A bunch of Willets were hanging around:

And a fancy Long-billed Curlew was pulling some sort of food from the marsh mud:

I continue to be thrilled to have Song Sparrows around (after these birds were such a friendly fixture in our old Connecticut yard they became my favorite sparrows for sure), and I met tons of these guys in the fields near the marsh. Hello handsome bird:

This Song Sparrow was foraging and preening as normal despite not having any tail feathers:

A family of Mallards was making funny shapes in a pond:

I saw quite a few of these pretty Anise Swallowtails (Papilio zelicaon), looking a bit like half-sized Tiger Swallowtails:

The Arcata Marsh is one of the public nature places closest to my house, and I'm more than happy to take advantage of its nearness. It really is a lovely place: