Readers’ wildlife photos

August 4, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today’s photos are from ecologist Susan Harrison at UC Davis. Her captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Rare Blue Bunting Meets Feisty Green Towhee

In mid-July, a male Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) – quite a rarity west of the Rockies – took up residence on a broken-topped Shasta Red Fir (Abies magnifica var. shastensis) in a flowery 6,500’ meadow at Mt. Ashland.  He stayed for two weeks, singing intermittently, even though only the closely related Lazuli Buntings (Passerina amoena), and a stream of Southern Oregonian birdwatchers, were available to admire him.

My first visit yielded a distant view of the Indigo Bunting in his fir tree:

Returning two days later, my hopes of a better photo were dashed despite hours of hiding quietly near his tree.  So here’s an Indigo Bunting from Texas in 2022:

The problem was that an aggressive Green-Tailed Towhee (Pipilio chlorurus) chased the Indigo Bunting away – which I saw happen – and usurped the fir tree for his own singing purposes:

The Green-Tailed Towhee did not seem to mind sharing the tree with foraging birds.  These included a dragonfly-catching Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)…:

…a Nashville Warbler (Leiothlypis ruficapilla):

…an Orange-Crowned Warbler (Leiothlypis celata):

…and a plaintive young Lincoln’s Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii):

In the surrounding meadow, a Lazuli Bunting perched on a Tower Larkspur (Delphinium glaucum):

A large Nevada Bumblebee (Bombus nevadensis) packed her pollen sacs on another Tower Larkspur:

A White-Lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata) visited a Coyote Mint (Monardella odoratissima):

A Pale Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon) visited a Leopard Lily (Lilium pardalinum):

And Rufous Hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) alternated between visiting Scarlet Gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata) flowers and perching atop shrubs or trees:

Postscript:  After four days of no sightings, the Indigo Bunting was observed singing on a tree about a half-mile away across the meadow.    Let’s hope the Towhees leave him alone!

8 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Wonderful photos and commentary. Indigo buntings are strikingly beautiful birds, but they are so common here in western Pa. that I tend to take them for granted. Thank you for sharing these.

  2. Stunning pictures. Like the above commenter, I see indigo buntings regularly. But the green towhee was a real treat! Thanks!

  3. There’s nothing like little blue-feathered birds to gladden my heart! Thanks for sharing your wonderful sightings, Susan!

    Thanks to all the wonderful contributors here at RWP. I faithfully view and enjoy, if not comment.

  4. Interesting story and great pictures!

    Is the coloration of the Indigo Bunting structural or is it blue pigment?

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