What you see when you don’t have your camera

3 Jun

Spotted Towhee

This is a not-so-great picture of a Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus). They are very shy birds. Which is amusing to me since they are so colorful and flashy. Our much more common Towhee is the California Towhee is very drab and plain (with an orange butt!) but not particularly shy. I took the above picture of the Spotted Towhee out my bedroom window in January. He was visiting the feeder to gather up fallen seeds. They are really beautiful creatures but I almost never see one. The last time I saw one was around the end of April. I was walking at school between buildings, heard a bird singing nearby and looked around to see a handsome Spotted Towhee singing his heart out. Of course, I was without camera and have never seen him since.

And then today. I’m standing at my kitchen window, bleary-eyed with my head cold when I saw a bird fly over my back fence to come under my feeders. It looked like a Towhee but had a black head. I associate Spotted Towhees with winter although Sibley lists them as year-round residents. I think the lack of food in the winter drives them to my feeders more regularly. So, he checked around under the feeders but with all the yard work, there is almost nothing there. Then he flew across the yard to where we have some native huckleberries growing. He was hopping around there, digging up the soil as they do and I saw a California Towhee fly in and go under the same bush from the other side. I’ve never seen issues with my feeder birds in the winter but this isn’t winter and I was curious as to what would happen. Well, a fight happened. It looked a little bit like that ball of dust and limbs sticking out that you see in cartoons. The funny thing is that they’d take breaks and then get back into it — looking for all the world like kids calling “Time!” and then continuing their fight. They finally flew back across the creek into the woods.

The really cool thing is that I’m fairly sure I’ve seen this bird before.  Long time {ahem} readers may remember a certain terrible picture I took of a “mystery bird” I saw last October in my yard.  The picture is truly awful (see below).  I tried and tried to id the bird but couldn’t come up with anything with splotches on its shoulder that way.  I finally realized it must be a leucistic juvenile Spotted Towhee.  The spotted Towhee I saw today had splotches on his shoulders.  Of course, I have no proof of that since my camera is safely locked up in another teacher’s classroom where I can’t get to it.  Sigh.  But, I feel fairly sure that this bird is the same individual I saw last October.

Spotted Towhee (juvenile)


7 Responses to “What you see when you don’t have your camera”

  1. BEG 3 June, 2007 at 8:59 am #

    Oh, very cool! I have to laugh at the contrast between the two pictures though 😉

    I know *exactly* what you mean about birds coming out of the woodwork when you have no camera. Bah! Happens all the time!

  2. Lynne from Hasty Brook 3 June, 2007 at 11:59 am #

    Isn’t that just always the way it goes?? 🙂

  3. mon@rch 3 June, 2007 at 4:29 pm #

    These are such cool birds! Never seen one!

  4. vicki 3 June, 2007 at 4:32 pm #

    Look at you! You might have a head cold and blurry pix but it’s so spiffy over here with the black template and flower header and all. I love it! And I love your little spotted Towhee- I haven’t seen one in person so this first photo is quite nice.

    End of the school year is like that- a wild and restless time across the board. You’ll survive, barely, and then a nice break? Hopefully so.

  5. Mary 3 June, 2007 at 5:50 pm #

    Whenever you least expect it… no camera. The Eastern Towhee is strange, also. Now you see them and POOF they’re gone for a while.

  6. jayne 4 June, 2007 at 2:57 am #

    Yea Liza! What a great photo! I got a photo of a female the other day and posted it this morning. They are just such beautiful birds, aren’t they? Hope your cold is feeling some better. Passing the Puffs your way. (then cleaning my hands with sanitizer!) :c)

  7. robin andrea 4 June, 2007 at 6:52 am #

    Love the Spotted Towhees. We have them in our yard all the time. Just over the weekend, I saw my first newly-fledged Spotted Towhee baby. They are so cute, rather dusky in color. I tried to get a pic of the parent feeding it, which it was doing from time to time, but never actually captured it. I’d be glad to send you a pic of the baby, so you can see if it looks like what you saw.

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