Another delightfully anomalous junco

Readers who have been with me a while will remember “Buddy,” the white-spotted male junco who lived near my workplace for years. Unusually-colored juncos aren’t as rare as, say, the recently-spotted yellow cardinal, but they aren’t common either. (In my field work in the Sierras we banded ~500 juncos, and only one had a color abnormality.) As a lover of both rare birds and juncos, I get pretty excited about them when I find them.

This particular junco flashed up out of a bush as I was walking past. The size, tail, and movement pattern all said “junco”—but when the bird landed in a tree and I got a good look, my brain’s bird-ID function got confused: “Big chickadee!” it suggested. “Small kestrel! Big-small-chickadee-kestrel-junco!”

Continue reading


Non-birds of the field II: mammals

All photos in this post are by M. LaBarbera.

Belding’s ground squirrel

Stand at one of our high-elevation sites, and at any given moment, you will be under surveillance by at least two Belding’s ground squirrels.

You might not see them, but down in the grass and the flowers, they are watching.

Continue reading