03-27-12





Made a point of visiting two distinct habitats during lunch today. My goal was to see if I could locate two subspecies of Song Sparrow in an hour. First I visited the Palo Alto Baylands and walked out to the mudflats. As I passed over the tidal marsh on the boardwalk I saw a number of small, very grayish Song Sparrows, presumably Melospiza melodia pusilula, or the threatened "Alameda Song Sparrow". This race s a year round resident of the south bay wetlands, relying on the dwindling waterfront for survival. Confirmation came when I observed two birds carrying nest material and building at the base of some pickleweed. A few minutes later, I was walking along the San Francisquito Creek between Geng Road and Hwy 101 where the habitat is quite different. Freshwater flows down to the bay, providing habitat for willows and other riparian plants. Here I found a much darker, more richly colored bird with considerably less gray. It too was carrying nest material and taking it to the dry thicket well above the high water mark of the creek. I assume this was M.m.gouldii, the more widespread race found on the Peninsula. Looking at the map you can see that it favors riparian habitat, and in the South Bay, the two races come very close to each other along the San Francisquito Creek (roughly where the letter H appears on the map). The map is taken from Joe T. Marshall, Jr's "Ecological Races of Song Sparrows in the San Francisco Bay Region, Part 1: Habitat and Abundance" The full paper can be downloaded from SORA here:

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That was the sound of my mind blowing... Seems Joseph Grinnell was EXACTLY where I was today about 110 years ago. He was thinking about the same thing I was today. He noticed both M.m.gouldii and M.m.pusillula a "stones-throw away from each other" while I had to use my car to be certain I was far enough away from the saltmarsh. Maybe this is all common knowledge, I don't know... But I love the fact I can take a one-hour break from my desk job and find something wonderful like two populations of Song Sparrows, one able to drink salt water, and other more comfortable with tap... living side by side, like cousins that don't vote the same way in an election.




03-22-12

The male Merlin we like to think of as our own, was perched in his new favorite redwood outside my office this afternoon. Since the Yellow-rumped Warblers are now in full song, I expect they, and our Merlin will be leaving us soon.



03-15-12

Melospiza melodia maxillaris is in the bag. Cricket and I found it in Suisun Bay recently. More information here about this endangered, very local subspecies of Song Sparrow.

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03-15-12

Our neighborhood Merlin has reappeared after several weeks of being absent. We suspect he spends his time away along the Stevens Creek Trail where we've seen a similar (perhaps the same) male Merlin. He's sitting on top of a large redwood outside my office window right now. We live between Moffett and Whisman in Mountain View.