03 February, 2014

Canyon Wren

Scientific Name: Catherpes mexicanus

Range / Habitat: Year-round in arid canyonlands of western North America and Mexico.

Field Notes: Medium-sized wren with rufous back, tail and belly but white throat. Long decurved bill and no eyestripe. Song a series of cascading notes.

Personal Notes: We had been searching for this bird a long time before finding him in Joshua Tree National Park.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Scientific Name: Picoides scalaris

Range / Habitat: Year-round in arid, desert areas of southwestern US and northern Mexico where it forages and nests in cacti.

Field Notes: Small black and white woodpecker with barring complete across its back and spotting on chest. Males with red crown. Downy Woodpecker with smaller bill length relative to head, white stripe down back and clear underparts.

Personal Notes: Seen in Joshua Tree National Park.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Scientific Name: Vermivora celata

Population Estimate: Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Found in shrubs and low vegetation. Breeds in Canada, Alaska and the western US. Winters in the southern US and Mexico.

Field Notes: Dusky olive-yellow warbler with yellow under tail. Breeding male has orange crown, but this is by no means a commonly seen field-marking. Faint eyestripe and tendency to stay put can give the impression of a vireo, but easily distinguished by song

Personal Notes: Richard took this amazing photo at the Salton Sea during a January 2014 trip, and we have also seen and heard them in Migration in Minnesota (May).

Least Sandpiper

Scientific Name: Calidris minutilla

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Breed in wet tundra and interrupted boreal forest across much of northern Canada and Alaska. In winter found along muddy shores and estuaries of the southern US, Mexico, and northern South America. They are not common on ocean beaches.

Field Notes: Smallest of the "peeps," not much bigger than a sparrow. They have a brown back and head with white eyestripe. White underneath with subtle neck striping. Black bill droops slightly. Distinctive yellow-green legs and a high-pitched "creep" call. Semipalmated Sandpipers and Western Sandpipers are slightly larger with stouter bills and black legs instead of the Least Sandpiper’s yellowish legs.

Personal Notes: A common sight, but hard to photograph, on the Salton Sea in California. Shown above with a Dunlin in the middle of the photo.

Black Phoebe

Scientific Name: Sayornis nigricans

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year-round near water sources in coastal California, Mexico, Central America and into South America.

Field Notes: Sooty black flycatchers with white belly. Eastern Phoebe only overlaps in range in winter in Mexico, but has pale neck and chest.

Personal Notes: Richard first spotted this bird from the car near Palm Springs. We were later rewarded with photos at Salton Sea.

01 February, 2014

California Thrasher

Scientific Name: Toxostoma redivivum

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year- round in chaparral of California and Baja California.

Field Notes: Large, long-tailed songbird. Overall brown with faint white eyebrow and "whiskers". Long, decurved bill. Crissal Thrasher has little overlap, darker and grayer all over, has a black mustache stripe, light eyes, and reddish under the tail. Le Conte's Thrasher is paler sandy gray, with the pale belly contrasting with the wash of rusty under the tail. Curve-billed Thrasher also with little overlapping range, but has spotting on the chest and orange eyes.

Personal Notes: Our last spot at dusk in Big Morongo Preserve outside Joshua Tree National Park.

Scott's Oriole

Scientific Name: Icterus parisorum

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Found in arid and semi-arid foothills and canyons with open woodland. Summers up to southwestern US, year-round in central Mexico and Baja.

Field Notes: Medium-sized songbird, male brilliant yellow and black, unmistakable in range. Female with light grey head and back, overall duller.

Personal Notes: Chance finding on our first drive-through of Joshua Tree National Park.

Lesser Goldfinch

Scientific Name: Carduelis psaltria

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status.

Range / Habitat: Year-round in scrubby oak, cottonwood, and willow habitats of the western US and Mexico.

Field Notes: Males bright yellow underneath with a glossy black cap and back Wings black with white patches. Tail black with large white corners. Females and immature males overall olive-yellow, wings darker with two whitish wing bars. American Goldfinch breeding male brighter yellow both above and below, black cap not complete. Non-breeding adult American Goldfinch more grey, more boldly patterned black and white wings, and pink bills.

Personal Notes: Seen at Barker Dam in Joshua Tree National Park.

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

Scientific Name: Polioptila melanura

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year-round in a variety of desert habitats in the desert southwest of the US and into northern Mexico.

Field Notes: Long-tailed small songbird with grey-brown upper parts, lighter underparts, black tail and white eye ring. Similar to the Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, but breast colored greyish not white, less distinct eye ring, black bill, and more black to underside of tail.

Personal Notes: Charming little pair of birds seen at 49 Palms Oasis in Joshua Tree National Park.


Scientific Name: Psaltriparus minimus

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year-round in shrubs and thickets of western North America into northern Mexico.

Field Notes: Plain brown-and-gray songbirds with a long tail. Often in flocks, moving continuously and making soft chips and twitters

Personal Notes: First seen at Petrified Forest NP, later photographed at Joshua Tree NP.