Friday, January 25, 2008

More Birds From Brother Phil

I got a phone call yesterday afternoon from my Brother Phil in California. He wanted to share a birding story with me. He said he looked out the window of his house and the field across the way was completely white with birds. After some searching through his field guide, he determined that they were probably Snow Geese, with some dark-colored juveniles and also Blue Morph adults mixed in.

He also noticed some of the white ones were smaller and we decided there were probably also some Ross's Geese in these huge flocks.

Brother Phil and his family live in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley (between Sacramento and Yuba City) in a rural, mostly agricultural area. The fields near his house are mostly flooded rice fields and that is very appealing for all of the waterfowl that spend their winters in north central California. While Phil and I were talking and he was watching these birds, he also noticed some Northern Pintails swimming around too (they're year-round residents in California).

We talked a little bit about cameras and Phil said he did have a movie feature on his digital camera but he wasn't real certain of how it worked. I encouraged him to give it a try and send me any pictures and video he was able to get after we finished talking. Here's the 10-second video he shot. There is a lot of wind noise, but if you listen real close you can hear the geese calling. The ending is great where you see quite of the geese starting to fly away.

A couple of years ago when I went out to visit them in California, I bought myself the Birds of California Field Guide by Stan Tekiela and the Sibley Guide to Birds of Western North America. When Brother Phil calls me with bird sightings, I pull out my field guides and we try to figure out what he's seen. We determined yesterday that he's also seen the Oak Titmouse which he described to me as a "little gray bird that looked a lot like a junco, but with a crest on its head." He also told me he's feeding peanuts to Western Scrub Jays and Yellow-Billed Magpies in his yard! (I was having a major case of western bird envy right about then....)

Towards the end of the phone call, he shared with me the words that this birding sister has always dreamed of hearing: "you know, Ruthie, I can see myself getting into this birding thing." (sigh) Hopefully I'll be able to get out there for a visit next January or February and we can go birding together.


Windyridge said...

Great photo of the field of white!

Anonymous said...

It was so nice that Philip called and sent you pictures and video so you could post them on your blog. I've got to get a digital camera that's all there is to that. Maybe you can help me to get a nice camera and ---help me to use it with all the features anyone could think of. I know there are a lot of birds we don't have here, it is so cool. A lot of CA birds have long legs, so they can go wading.

Susie said...

Lots of geese here. I've never seen this many at once. Your brother is probably about 2 hours or more away from us. We have more of the marine climate here.

Mary said...

Ruthie, wouldn't that be just grand? To have your brother to share birding adventures? Wow. A trip to the west coast would increase your life list quite a bit.

I dream of the day Gina willingly takes a field trip with me. She's getting ready to set up a feeder in her yard :o)

He did good with his video. I would love to see so many birds...

RuthieJ said...

Hi Windyridge,
It would be nice to look out and see a field of white that *wasn't* snow in January, wouldn't it? I'm glad he shared those pics with me.

Hi Mom,
Philip did mention he saw some white-faced Ibis this day too. So many neat birds attracted to water and he's lucky to live in the area he does.

Hi Susie,
You see a lot of nice birds in your area too. It's nice that California has such diverse habitat and climate.

Hi Mare,
Gina's getting a feeder? That's so cool! Obviously you've been a good influence! And it's so much fun when you have another common interest to share.
I was sure glad Phil figured out the movie function and was able to get a good shot of them flying too.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Wouldn't it be a blast to have your brother start birding. He could keep you up to date with all the happenings inthe birding world in CA. You could get lots of lifers out there while visiting him.

Seeing all those Geese at one time is a real treat. We occasionally get great flocks of these birds during migration.

Jayne said...

What a sight! I'd be about to pee my pants if I saw that many snow geese just lollying in a field! Lucky brother you have. ;c) Glad he is learning to love the birds with you.

Robin (Bumblebee) said...

Yes, you really can get hooked on the birds! Perhaps it begins with just being able to identify a few. Then you want to put the names to a few more. Then you're actively watching!

At least, that's how it started with me.

Very cool photos! And aren't brothers fun?

-Robin (Bumblebee)

Deb said...

I lived for a brief time in California (Mendocino County, not too far from the coast). I didn't have a lot of time for birding, but I did see white tailed kites and thought they were the most graceful birds, ever.

nina said...

You must've been thrilled to hear those words....another convert for the cause!

loribird said...

Hahaha! So why wasn't he converted earlier?

I've given you one of my "You Make My Day" awards (awww!) over on my blog if you want to pick it up :)

mon@rch said...

That would be soo much fun to see! Thanks for sharing!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Lisa,
He's not too far from Yosemite either and I know they have a spring birding festival there too.

We see lots of the giant Canada geese near us, but I'd have to head either a little east or west to see more of the snow geese.

Hi Jayne,
I would be pretty excited to see and hear all those geese too. Now I just have to keep bugging him to get his birdfeeders out again--especially the hummingbird feeders.

Hi Robin,
I'm glad you're enjoying the birds too. It IS very addicting and I have found there are very few things I'd rather do.

You're right - brothers ARE fun--especially when we can share common interests.

Hi Deb,
I checked my Sibley's and white-tailed kite is a year-round bird in California's Central Valley. I'll have to ask Brother Phil to keep his eyes open for that bird also.

Hi Nina,
Even though birding is such a popular hobby, I think some birders are reluctant to share their interest with other people (who may still perceive birders as freaky nerds). So until Phil can find some like-minded people closer to home, I'm glad he still calls me!

Hi Loribird,
Phil is the youngest of us 4 kids and while I was turning into a birdfreak, Phil spent 20+ years in the Air Force touring the world. Now that he's retired and "perched" in one place, his conversion has begun!
P.S. Thank you for the award. I just saw it this morning.

Hi Mon@rch,
Yeah, I think it would be fun to see too. I'll have to calculate how many trees I need to plant in my backyard to erase the carbon footprint on a round-trip California flight. (unless one of my blog readers already knows that right off the top of their head??)

Larry said...

A long distance birding relationship with your brother.-Pretty cool-looks like he's got some good birding out yonder!