Welcome to my Bird Blog: Stories from a Lifelong Birder

Welcome to my Bird Blog: Stories from a Lifelong Birder

My Bird Blog is a series of “then and now” stories that combine my experiences as a juvenile birdwatcher in Britain during the 1950s and 1960s with my knowledge of the same species in California today. Each month I publish the details of a bird 

Buffleheads: Ducks that Nest in Trees

Buffleheads: Ducks that Nest in Trees

  It is the start of winter here in Northern California, and a time when tiny Buffleheads, the smallest ducks in North America, arrive to spend their non-breeding season in the state. They are one of 29 duck species in North America and tend to 

Two Species of Robin; Same Name, Different Bird; The European Original and the American Look-alike

Two Species of Robin; Same Name, Different Bird; The European Original and the American Look-alike

European Robin   American Robin At this time of year, European Robins, a species commonly called robin or robin redbreast in the UK, are a familiar sight on Christmas cards in England. The practice began during Queen Victoria times in the mid-18th century when the 

Sandhill Cranes are back in California for Thanksgiving

Sandhill Cranes are back in California for Thanksgiving

Sandhill Cranes During early October this year, I visited the Cosumnes River Preserve, south of Sacramento, to glimpse flocks of Sandhill Cranes flying high in the sky, having just arrived to winter in their thousands among the fields, marshes, and wetlands of the Central Valley 

Shore Lark or Horned Lark, the Same Bird?

Shore Lark or Horned Lark, the Same Bird?

Many years ago, I was required to persuade my fellow birdwatchers that I had spotted a pair of Shore Larks on a beach just north of the Warren at Spurn Point, Yorkshire, England, to have the sighting recorded in the Bird Observatory’s daily log. What 

Northern Wheatears, Champions of Migration

Northern Wheatears, Champions of Migration

I was first introduced to Northern Wheatears at the end of March 1961 during a school geology fieldtrip to Stainforth in Ribblesdale, Yorkshire, England. A small group of us were studying the area’s Carboniferous Limestone and Millstone Grit and searching for fossils in the older 

 The Global Reach of the California Quail

 The Global Reach of the California Quail

California Quail – male and female Admired by many, the California Quail, about the size of a pigeon, is a hardy and adaptable ground-dwelling game bird that was originally resident in the United States from Southern Oregon south into Baja California, but has extended its 

The Extraordinary Abilities of Birds

The Extraordinary Abilities of Birds

Killdeer faking injury According to research, birds are astonishingly intelligent creatures. Jennifer Ackerman in her book The Genius of Birds dismisses the belief that idioms such as “bird brain”, “eating crow”, “cuckoo”, and “feather brain” have anything to do with a true understanding of the 

The Growing Abundance of Canada Geese

The Growing Abundance of Canada Geese

Canada geese breeding season is underway at my golf course, and my erratic golf shots risk the lives of these birds as they eat, mate, and nest nearby. Their population seems to increase each year. Their eggs have hatched and the baby goslings, dressed in 

The Persecuted Family of Cormorants (Muckle Scarf)

The Persecuted Family of Cormorants (Muckle Scarf)

As my daughter leaves for a vacation on the Shetland Islands, I am featuring the long-time persecuted family of cormorants on my bird blog for this month. The Shetland Islands are a birders paradise, and both the sleek great cormorant (simply called the cormorant in 

The Endangered Western Snowy Plover

The Endangered Western Snowy Plover

I have volunteered to assist with the protection of the Western snowy plover during their California coastal breeding season this year from March to September. The following is published to coincide with my training as a docent. This small shorebird is approximately the size of 

The Appearance of a Siberian Rarity, The Red-Flanked Bluetail

The Appearance of a Siberian Rarity, The Red-Flanked Bluetail

This rare fall and winter visitor to the UK and occasional vagrant in the western states of North America is featured by me to celebrate its first ever appearance in the county of Shropshire in the West Midlands of England. The event took place during 

The Rise and the Fall of the European Starling

The Rise and the Fall of the European Starling

Here is the story of a species of bird that has flourished on continents where it was introduced during the 19th century while at the same time suffering serious decline in its native Europe.  In North America, there were close to 200 million European starlings 

Identifying Shorebirds

Identifying Shorebirds

Across North America, there are about 50 native species of shorebirds, not including occasional rare visitors, and in Europe these birds are called “waders” because that is what they do.  I first saw waders as a teenager at Spurn Point in the north of England 

The American White Pelican

The American White Pelican

It is fall, and the time when many Californians catch sight of flocks of the white pelicans flying in formation between their breeding grounds in the northern interior of North America, to winter along the Pacific Coast as far as Mexico, on the Salton Sea, 

The Eccentric Surf Scoter

The Eccentric Surf Scoter

One of my favorite species of birds is the surf scoter, a sea duck that is abundant during October through April along the North American west coast as far south as central Baja (Mexico), after breeding in the boreal forests and tundra of Alaska. It