On Sunday afternoon I was feeling pretty good about finding that Golden-crowned Kinglet - but suddenly bird greed set in again as soon as I read a post on the Orange County listserv about a Plumbeous Vireo along the Santa Ana River. Plumbeous Vireo isn't exactly a rare bird in Orange County - several show up in all the counties of southern California every fall/winter. Still, I hadn't seen one in California, let alone Orange County yet, so I was anxious to see it.
Turns out the next morning I was getting my flu shot at a medical center just a few miles from the vireo spot. After I received my shot, we drove to the vireo spot, parked, and started walking down the bike trail to where the vireo had been reported. It didn't take long to find the Plumbeous Vireo as it foraged in a short pine tree right next to the path. Apparently it has wintered here the past two years.
On Tuesday, another good bird showed up - a Long-tailed Duck (Oldsquaw to older folk) at Bolsa Chica. Long-tailed Duck is not recorded every year in Orange County. Today I managed to talk my mom into taking me to see it after getting a couple cavities filled at the dentist.
I'll admit it - this isn't the bird at Bolsa Chica! I photographed this Long-tailed Duck at Sunshine Point, Macomb County, Michigan, last December. Today's bird was backlit, rather distant, and diving constantly, so I didn't even attempt for a photo.
There is always something of interest at Bolsa Chica. The footbridge area was productive, with Eared and Horned Grebes, Lesser Scaup, Brown Pelican, and Surf Scoter all fishing at very close range. The pelicans were particularly bold, diving within a couple feet of the boardwalk. We walked out toward the tide gates, looking for the Long-tailed Duck. We spent quite a bit of time sifting through the assorted diving ducks and grebes searching for the Long-tail before we finally saw it. We then turned around and headed back to the parking lot. I was scoping out some shorebirds near the first overlook when my mom asked "Hey Neil, what's that bird with the yellow feet on top of that bush?" I looked, and there was a Merlin atop the bush!
The Merlin would sit on the bush for several minutes, then fly out and engage in aerial acrobatics, often flying low over the marsh. I think it was trying to flush sparrows or shorebirds out the of the marsh. A couple times it swooped very close to us, giving excellent looks. I was more thrilled to see the Merlin than the Long-tailed Duck, since Merlins are definitely one of my favorite birds. Unfortunately, its perch was rather distant, so I couldn't get a great shot. Here's a front view:
I also saw one of the resident Reddish Egrets, and lots of shorebirds including Red Knots and Ruddy Turnstones. There's never a lack of good birds at Bolsa Chica!