Since the Covid virus pandemic, I have been sheltering at home like everyone else. Fortunately the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve has re-opened and I go almost every day. I had been going since December, recording the spring changes of birds and plants but the Coronovirus put all of that on hold for a while. It has been a repetitive comfort to me to have a beautiful place to walk each morning with an ever changing cast of beautiful birds. One constant and always welcome bird companion has been the tiny Verdin who are resident at the bird preserve. The Verdin is a very small bird. At 4.5 in (11 cm) in length, it rivals the American bushtit as one of the smallest passerines in North America and it is smaller than many hummingbirds. At the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, Verdin the most common bird, rarely seen but almost always heard. It is most easily detected by its surprisingly loud calls, which sound like “cheep” followed by a pause the another “cheep”. These tiny birds are difficult to photograph, rather like shooting skeet or pinball. The tiny birds are quick and athletic, jumping from branch to branch sideways, up and down. You need a hair-trigger on the shutter, shoot first and check your focus and framing later, you will not get a second chance. Since I have collected quite a number of photographs of my avian friends the Verdin, I decided to make a post of it.
This past spring I traveled to Arcata California for some birdwatching in the Pacific Northwest. In Arcata, they have a bird festival in April called Godwit Days that I could not attend. Nonetheless, I thought it might be an interesting time and place for birding. The local Audubon Society says birding is at its best from winter through early May. You’ll find songbirds in spring through fall, shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl in the cooler months of October through April, and raptors year round. As predicted, April was not a particularly good time for water birds, although there were songbirds and plenty of spring flowers. Nearly 500 species of birds have been found in Humboldt County; many of these species are unique to Humboldt County. Fortunately I was able to secure Rob Fowler as a guide to the birding areas around Arcata. He knew when and where to look and made most of the following pictures possible. I suspect I will return in a different season to see a different set of birds and of course to see the beautiful scenery in a different light.
This past spring I decided to visit Arcata California a week after their annual Godwit Festival in April since I could not make the sanctuary festival.. The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary is home to the City of Arcata’s innovative wastewater treatment facility. The sanctuary is 307 acres, including freshwater marshes, salt marsh, tidal sloughs, grassy uplands, mudflats, brackish marsh, approximately 5 miles of walking and biking paths and an Interpretive Center. Located at the north end of Humboldt Bay, the sanctuary is situated along the Pacific Flyway, a major migratory route for thousands of birds that breed in the far north and winter in California, Mexico and Central and South America. The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary is touted as the highest bird populated coastal site between Bodega Harbor and Washington. While I had visions of masses of migrating birds the reality was somewhat more quiet. I did find a collection of Godwits, and some local ducks, egrets and shorebirds.
In a previous post, I presented examples of the smaller birds I saw on my recent trip to Botswana, in this post I thought I would show the larger birds. I saw the two beautiful birds seen above in Chobe National Park in Botswana, about an hours drive from Victoria Falls. Chobe is well renowned as a superb bird sanctuary featuring many different waterfowl, raptors, woodland species and migrants. In addition the Okavango Delta supports large concentrations of animals on both a permanent and seasonal basis. It has become perhaps one of the best places to see animals and birds in Africa. In between, there are many large and small birds adapted to the semi-arid bush during the winter. I have arbitrarily put Hornbills, Heron and Storks in separate posts to make the post more manageable. There a total 593 species of birds in Botswana, of which 4 have been introduced by humans, and 100 are rare or accidental. Of course, I did not see all of them but these posts cover the ones I did see.
If you visit Botswana, you will undoubtedly encounter the red-billed hornbill seen above. Unlike most of the other birds, this one seems curious about humans and poses for pictures endlessly. The Hornsbill (Bucerotidae) include about 55 living species, though a number of cryptic species may yet be split, as has been suggested for the red-billed hornbill (seen above). Their distribution includes Sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Subcontinent to the Philippines and the Solomon Islands, but no genus is found in both Africa and Asia. The most distinctive feature of the hornbills is the heavy bill, supported by powerful neck muscles as well as by the fused vertebrae. The large bill assists in fighting, preening, constructing the nest, and catching prey. There are two subfamilies: the Bucorvinae contain the two ground hornbills in a single genus, and the Bucerotinae contain all other taxa. Traditionally they are included in the order Coraciiformes (which includes also kingfishers, rollers, hoopoes and bee-eaters). In the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy, however, hornbills are separated from the Coraciiformes into an order of their own, Bucerotiformes, with the subfamilies elevated to family level.