The Western Bluebird— Carrying the Sky Above and Reflecting the Earth Below At the wildlife rehabilitation center, I grabbed a dish of fresh mealworms and headed to an outdoor aviary.There, 11 hand-raised fledgling Western Bluebird orphans were honing their flying and foraging skills before release back into the wild. As I stepped into the aviary,…

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American Pipit-a wonderful and rare find… Five years ago, rain loomed in the forecast for our first Oceanside/Carlsbad/Vista Christmas Bird Count.  My rain gear and waterproof binoculars stood at the ready in the car.  I asked others in our group what fun or interesting birds we might see. All agreed on the huge flock of…

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Metallica—The Allen’s Hummingbird

Living in Colorado, we had a pretty easy time identifying the four common hummingbird species. Sounds like a cricket flying by, showing bright red throat feathers?  Broad-tailed. Slender, dark-headed with no rufous or buffiness anywhere?  Black-chinned. So tiny that it has to stretch to reach the feeder port from the perch?  Definitely Calliope. A shock…

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Nature’s Path Back

Wildfire and wildlife—what’s the first image that comes to your mind?  I’m 7 years old, sitting in a darkened movie theater, watching the fire scene in the Disney animated classic Bambi.  Birds, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, our protagonist deer all flee through scorching embers, swirling smoke, and crashing, flaming branches.  That scene seemed to last for…

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Hummingbird Feeders

Feeding hummingbirds can be simple and inexpensive.  Here’s a time- and hummer-tested recipe. Use a 1-to-4 ratio of white table sugar to water (for example, ¼ cup of sugar to 1 cup of water).  Don’t use honey, brown sugar, organic cane sugar, artificial sweeteners—just table sugar. Heat the water in the microwave; in my microwave,…

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It Takes a Village: San Diego’s Acorn Woodpecker

In the 1920s, an American ornithologist called this bird “our native aristocrat—unruffled by the operations of the human plebs…”   In that same decade, an avian researcher proclaimed that these birds practiced communism. More recently, their social behavior has been likened to a noisy avian Keystone Cops routine, featuring loud calling, bobbing, wing displaying, and jockeying…

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In Living Color: Black-headed Grosbeaks are Back in Town

Just before my shift started, I walked into the baby bird room at the wildlife rehabilitation center. A distinctive sound ringing through the room—”WEE-urrr, WEE-urrr”—transported me back more than five years and 1,000 miles. The soundtrack of late summer in the pinyon-juniper habitat of our previous home in the Colorado mountains—baby Black-headed Grosbeaks were in…

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