Thursday, June 20, was the bimonthly bird survey at Shollenberger Park for the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance (PWA). Cloud coverage and distant fog greeted us, making for a beautifully moody setting.

Serene morning at Shollenberger Park

Setting off at 7 AM

Right away, we encountered this male Ruddy Duck in breeding plumage performing a courtship display for a nearby female. With his tail cocked straight up, the male Ruddy Duck bobs his head and rapidly hits his bright, blue bill against his breast.

Ruddy Duck male

Ruddy Duck male

Just beyond the Ruddies sat a Black-necked Stilt on its nest.

Black-necked Stilt on nest

Count leader Andy LaCasse pointed out this beautiful, blooming Cardoon.

Cardoon aka Artichoke Thistle

We heard the familiar song of a Common Yellowthroat and looked around for the singing male.

Though we never located the songster, we tracked a tiny bird moving around in the willows until we finally got a look – a juvenile Common Yellowthroat! Since Common Yellowthroats are known to learn their songs from nearby singing males, perhaps this young bird was listening closely and taking notes.

Common Yellowthroat juvenile

We came across another Black-necked Stilt calling repeatedly – this time sitting directly on the ground instead of a nest.

Much to the group’s surprise, the stilt stood up and out popped three chicks!

Black-necked Stilt and chick

The intrepid chicks explored the muck until their parent eventually called them back. Look how well-camouflaged the chicks are!

Black-necked Stilt chicks

[L-R] Craig, Len, Andy, Sharon, JJ, Miles, Mary, John, Peter, Malcolm (not pictured – Teresa)

Further down the trail, we encountered a common cohabitant of the Black-necked Stilt – an American Avocet and its adorable, long-legged chick.

American Avocet and chick

More and more young birds are popping up as we head into summer – like these Ruddy Duck mini-me ducklings with their mother.

Ruddy Duck female and ducklings

Several in the group strained their eyes toward the distant mudflats to ensure no bird went uncounted. They tallied a couple Willets, some Marbled Godwits, and a surprising off-season Greater Yellowlegs.

If birds conducted human surveys, perhaps this is how they’d observe us!

A couple Killdeer blended into their marshy habitat.

Killdeer

Listen to the noisy Killdeer here.

During April’s Shollenberger survey, we observed a couple tiny, neon-colored American Coot chicks. Two months later, the chicks are now juveniles with light gray plumage, but otherwise very similar in shape to an adult.

American Coot juvenile

Because of their tendency to perch conspicuously while singing, Song Sparrows are one of the most readily visible songbirds in the park.

Song Sparrow

A flock of busy Bushtits blew through the bramble in front of us. A male Bushtit – like this one – has a dark eye, versus the light eye of a female.

Bushtit male

Listen here to the flock – which at one point included at least 15 birds!

Andy, Malcolm, and Peter scanning

A Red-winged Blackbird female landed on the trail to grab some plant fluff.

Red-winged Blackbird female

We tracked her as she flew off, and delighted in watching her feed a hungry fledgling in the shrubs.

Tasty!

Female Red-winged Blackbird feeding fledgling

Listen in to the feeding interaction between the mother and its young below. Just after 5 seconds, you can hear the excited fledgling start squealing as mom approaches with food.

As the group rounded the last corner, we ran into PWA Board Director John Shribbs who was fixing up the entrance kiosk.

Thanks, John!

What an amazing last-day-of-spring we enjoyed for this June survey! By the end of the morning, the team had tallied 63 species for PWA’s June 2019 survey.

If you’re interested in seeing the male Ruddy Duck’s courtship display in action, you can check out TerraNaturalist’s YouTube video here: Mysterious behaviors of Ruddy Ducks.

This has been your in-the-field recap of the PWA’s June bird survey. These monthly bird surveys are just one of the many ways the PWA fulfills its mission statement:

Dedicated to the stewardship, restoration, and expansion of wetlands and associated wildlife habitats.

We’re Miles and Teresa Tuffli of I’m Birding Right Now. We are PWA members and bird survey volunteers. Check back for future reports!

If you have any questions about this particular count or if you’re interested in participating in future counts, please contact the coordinator/compiler for these surveys, Len Nelson, at [email protected]

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