I had a good day of birding today. In the morning my dad and I chased the Bay-breasted Warbler that had been spotted at Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley a couple days ago. I did not see it despite walking around the nature area fence a couple times. I was very frustrated since the nature area is closed on weekends, but open on weekdays! Nevertheless, I saw some great birds there. I spotted a Plumbeous Vireo in the willows by the small pond in the nature area - not a county bird or anything, but still fun to see because it hadn't been previously reported.
One of my other major targets at Mile Square Park was a Greater White-fronted Goose that had been reported there several days before. It proved to be very easy to locate, grazing out on a lawn with a few Canada Geese. Greater White-fronted Geese show up almost every year in Orange County, and I was happy to see it since it was only the third time I've seen one. It proved to be fairly unwary, so I could get some nice closeups.
As we continued our fruitless Bay-breasted Warbler search, I heard the subtle whit call note of a Gray Flycatcher. I tracked it down, and sure enough, there was a drab gray empid wagging its tail on a fence. I found a second one nearby. They had also been reported recently. A lifer! Sure, it isn't gaudy, but still a very neat bird to observe. I also had a very brief sighting of a Merlin jetting overhead.
Once we gave up on the Bay-breasted Warbler (alas, it was seen half and hour after we left... oh well, I'll just have to try again), we headed to Huntington Central Park. We stopped in on the west side of the park first (I'd never been there before), looking for the Snow, Ross's, and Cackling Geese that had been reported there. Upon arrival, the only geese in sight were three giant white barnyard geese and a lone Canada. It was fun to watch the hordes of tame coots and wigeons, though. We tried our luck on the east side of the park, and came through with a female Summer Tanager in "The Island" area. We didn't see the Clay-colored Sparrow or Winter Wren, which had been my primary targets.
This afternoon I hopped over to Irvine Regional Park for a little birding. The Barn Owl was back in his hollow tree by group area three (he'd been absent the last couple times I've been there). Otherwise, bird activity was low. I wandered over to the dry wash, looking for herps and whatever else I could find. Suddenly I noticed a large, dark bird was flying around over the wash. "That's either the biggest Acorn Woodpecker or the smallest American Crow I've ever seen" I thought as I lifted my binoculars. The bird banked, revealing a bright pink belly. A Lewis's Woodpecker!! I got amazing looks at this drop-dead gorgeous bird as it sallied out from a large sycamore to catch flying insects. Unfortunately, I had no camera with me. I bolted home, and my dad and I rushed back with scope and camera. And... the bird was nowhere to be seen. We were about to give up when it flew up into a dead snag down the wash a ways. Before I could get closer to it, though, it flew and landed closer by in a sycamore. Another life bird!
Here's another angle. What an amazingly awesome bird! The pink belly, red face, gray collar, and iridescent greenish/black upperparts combine to make this one of the most elegant birds I've ever seen.
The bird spent awhile flycatching around the trees of the soccer field, before settling down in the top of an oak tree to catch some rays. I was treated to some fantastic close-up scope views. Needless to say, I took pictures! ;-)