April 9, 2005 [LINK]

Spring at Augusta Wetlands

With sparkling blue skies this morning, I couldn't resist the temptation to do a little birding, so I drove out to Augusta Wetlands, in the foothills west of town. Here are the highlights of what I saw:

That sets a record for the earliest in the season I had ever seen a Blue-gray gnatcatcher; before today, the earliest date was April 11. Likewise for the Broad-winged hawk, but their migration schedule seems more erratic. The Chipping sparrow was unusually late in the season, however. I don't think I had ever seen more than a few Wood ducks together before, so seeing a full dozen of them in one place was quite remarkable. I also saw something strange in a small stream: Some kind of lizard or salamander with red spots along its spine was grasping a small frog as if to strangle and eat it. Can anyone explain that behavior to me?

Irregular irruptions

I was checking the Cornell/Audubon eBird news site, and these two items caught my eye: "Common Redpolls Stage an Unusual Off-Year Irruption!" and "Tracking the Great Gray Owl Invasion." (Does the INS know about this?) The unusual southward movements of those far-northern species this past winter may have something to do with the fact that my brother John was able to such excellent photos of them while travelling in Minnesota earlier this year. Click on the birds' names to see a popup photo.

April 9, 2005 [LINK]

Update: Bell's Lane

The weather being almost too good to be true, late this afternoon I went on a second outing, to the Bell's Lane area. I saw: