July: Grosbeaks and Goldfinches

Though Black-Headed Grosbeaks love to scour wooded areas for berries, nuts and insects, these energetic foragers will happily come to your feeders all summer for sunflower seeds. They look a bit like Spotted Towhees, having mixed black and red bodies with white spots on their wings. But only Black-Headed Grosbeaks have a red collar and rump. They will be here in SoCal through September.

Left: Black-Headed Grosbeak enjoys our Supreme mix at a feeder

While other birds were busy breeding this spring, Goldfinches were busy eating, sometimes emptying whole feeders in a day. Now it's their turn to breed, so many are pairing off and heading to coastal mountains, like the Santa Monica Mountains, to build nests. They won't be gone for long, however, and likely will return to your feeders with juveniles in a few weeks.

                                                            Right: Male Lesser Goldfinch at mesh feeder 

Tiny plump Bushtits are starting to form large flocks again, now that their breeding season is ending. They descend on bushes to devour bugs, sometimes hanging upside down on little branches to snatch their quarry.

Several Phainopepla have been spotted here on the Westside, most notably at Will Rogers State Historical Park. Their name means beautiful cloak in Greek, and they live up to it with shimmering dark black feathers. The female is a little duller black, but both have striking black crests above their deep red eyes. These beautiful birds are here only until mid-September, when they head to the deserts in search of mistletoe berries.

 Left: Male Phainopepla on grass stem

Brown Pelican in Flight


Right: Brown Pelican (breeding colors) by Larry Naylor

Brown Pelicans, Southern California's iconic shorebirds, return to the mainland after the breeding season on the Channel Islands. They dive from 10 to 30 feet above the water to scoop up fish in their big pouches. Also returning from the islands are the sleek black Brandt's and Pelagic Cormorants.

The North American Butterfly Association (NABA) National Butterfly counts are gearing up. There is a local count in Palos Verdes and another centered in Cerritos. For more information, visit the organization's count web page (https://www.naba.org/butter_counts.html)

The big August show of the Perseid meteor shower is preceded by the less showy but lengthy Delta Aquarids. Starting about July 12 faint meteors can be seen, especially in the southern parts of the USA, appearing to emanate from the constellation Aquarius. The peak is around July 29, but the show goes on into August, mingling with the Perseids. As the moon wanes early in August, the skies will light up with these shooting stars.