Friday, January 26, 2007

The Birds

Our area’s continued excellent access to the birds of the world grows.

Rare sightings bring out birders
By M.S. Enkoji - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PST Friday, January 26, 2007

David Yee is on the hunt, armed with a high-powered scope, binoculars and an irrepressible enthusiasm that has netted him hundreds of birds.

He's a bird-watcher -- a "birder" -- and on the tree-studded stretches of his horse ranch near Galt, he's spotted a type of blackbird that is causing a stir.

"It doesn't quite have the charisma of a snowy owl," he said, planting the tripod of his scope overlooking a pond swarming with blackbirds and ducks.

It's high season for rare sightings of birds that seldom touch down in the state.

About the same time Yee spotted the common grackle perched on a fence at his ranch -- on the opposite side of the Rockies from its natural habitat -- a duck native to Siberia touched down in a Tuolumne County pond. And a snowy owl perched near Suisun Bay, luring birders by the boatload.

Whether there are more non-native birds visiting California than before is impossible to tell because there are definitely more people on the lookout who are finding them, said Tim Fitzer, vice president of the Sacramento chapter of the Audubon Society.

He believes the number of bird-watchers has grown 30-fold in the past 20 years.