(photo by Dave Menke, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Digital Library)
California towhees are particularly nondescript birds, and for that reason I had overlooked them for a long time in our backyard. But I've been watching them--yes, through my binoculars from the back window--and I suspect that the three of them who visit regularly are living in the no man's land thicket behind our backyard. (I found out today when I visited my neighbor Fran's house that I'm not the only one that keeps binoculars by the back door to look at birds--she does it, too!) The towhees visit often, usually scratching at the mulch we put down to control weeds. They mingle with the two blue jays that visit, and do not always fly away when we emerge into the yard. They seem pretty unconcerned with the cats that wander through our yard, even though the towhees seem like beguiling targets to me when they are pecking at things on the ground. In contrast, two mourning doves who were sitting on the ground the other day startled with a long string of whistles and coos and flutterings in the way that they do when I stepped into the yard.