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Steve Howell continues his 2020 Bigfoot Year—June and July

August 13: Steve Howell continues his 2020 Bigfoot Year—June and July

Steve Howell continues the saga of his COVID-enforced Bigfoot Year in town with a summary of the “summer” months, June and July. 

June 1st (or perhaps March 93rd?) saw the start of two predictably predictable yet paradoxically unpredictable months. It’s a period of predictable baby birds and the occasional unpredictable eastern vagrant, including this singing male Chestnut-sided Warbler on June 3rd, on the adjacent block and carefully avoiding my yard list! 


Breeding birds include Western Flycatcher (no, I don’t believe in the split into Pacific-slope and Cordilleran Flycatchers), which can pack a fair amount of food into their broad bills. 


And baby mammals as well, including this Mule Deer outside my window, showcasing well the downside of a telephoto lens, as well as the small size of my yard! 


June 21st is very much NOT the first day of summer here on the California coast, and instead marks the first day of winter (of which fall is the opening act, the days getting shorter and with “summer” well out the door). Grasses are dying off and “fall colors” are appearing in the poison oak. 


Flowers are also dying off and Allen’s Hummingbirds depart steadily for Mexico. Almost as if there’s some order to the Universe, the last adult male in 2020 (this bird, a lot less showy than when displaying) was on July 4th, the very same last date as 2018 and 2019.


Among a trickle of fall migrants, including Black-headed Grosbeaks, Lesser Goldfinch, and MacGillivray’s Warbler in my yard, were the local bluebird family, perching outside the window to feast on blackberries. Awww.. And of course you’ll have noticed the largely plain cheeks, vs. spotted on juvenile Eastern Bluebird. 


A minute later, and this juvenile Purple Finch (much plainer-faced than the adults, and in nice fresh plumage) dropped in to fill the bluebird void. 


A juvenile male Violet-green Swallow stretching his wings—supposedly male and female look alike in this plumage (dusky-faced, like adult females), so has it started molt (very soon—it was still being fed by the adult female) or are some males bright-faced from the get-go? It never pays to look too closely and ask questions... 


And just when I thought it was Fall, Summer showed its face! Another unpredictable vagrant here, only my third Summer Tanager in town in 30 years—that’s the thing about birding, you just never know. 


But back to earth, and earth tones, a brood of ten California Quail huddled on my deck in the cold fog that characterizes the “summer” here, and soon it will be Fogust... 


Fall ‘returned’ at the end of the month, with juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs and Red-necked Phalarope headed perhaps to South America, a bit of a lifestyle contrast to the young quail, that will likely never travel more than a few miles from where they hatched! 


My Bigfoot Year reached 173 species on July 31st, with a Barn Owl screeching outside the window at 11 pm. Although that’s 10 more species by this date than in the past two years it has been with a LOT more time spent locally in the field. And as I’ve learned from the past two years, it’s all about the fall. If only there were a sign of what is to come... 

Posted: August 13, 2020