I biked over to Peters Canyon on Monday (I know, I'm posting late - been busy all week!), the first time I've been there in a couple weeks. I birded the Willow, Lakeview, and Cactus Point Trails. It was a rather chilly morning, and it was so heavily overcast that I didn't bother to even try to take photos. I managed to find seventy-two species in a couple hours, including seven new Peters Canyon birds for me: Redhead, American White Pelican, Ring-billed Gull, California Gull, Hermit Thrush, American Pipit, and Lark Sparrow. It was a pleasant morning to be out - the fog, clouds, and chilly temperatures probably drove away most of the bikers and joggers - I had the place almost to myself.
Wednesday was the first day of the winter MoSI banding at Starr Ranch. Starr Ranch is a very neat place, located smack dab in the middle of the thriving Dove Canyon subdivision. Unfortunately, it isn't open to the public. We banded for six hours, starting at six a.m. The banding area is a good blend of different habitats - riparian oak/sycamore, sage scrub, and an open grassy area. It was good to handle birds again after several months without banding! The pace was slow but steady; we caught at least a few birds on every net run. The highlight was a Brown Creeper which we caught and banded; it was the first record for the station. Brown Creepers are pretty rare in Orange County - only a few are reported every fall and winter.
I was actually more excited to catch several Golden-crowned Sparrows, a species I've never handled before. Great birds! I was very surprised to find that Golden-crowned Sparrows are much more common than White-crowned Sparrows at Starr Ranch.
The banding area was relatively birdy. There was a small flock of Purple Finches feeding in some tall sycamores above the nets, and a couple Pine Siskins flew overhead.
Today I again went banding at Starr Ranch. One of the first birds I saw in the morning was a beautiful male Scott's Oriole, which Justin Shew (the bander) had been seeing around the orchard recently. I was excited to see it - a state/county bird for me. Again, we caught birds slowly but steadily all day. We banded four "Audubon's" Yellow-rumped Warblers today, which was really nice.
We caught (and recaptured) quite a few Hermit Thrushes between the two days of banding. Lovely birds.
I was also very excited to catch this Bewick's Wren. A very sharp-looking bird! I love the white supercilium and the "Angry Wren" pose.
However, the most interesting bird of the day was yet to come. On one of our last net runs, another one of the assistants came across a California Gnatcatcher in the net! Unfortunately, we were not allowed to band it since it is an endangered species (this seems kind of backward to me; after all, shouldn't we be researching and finding out about these endangered species? Oh well...). Luckily, I had my camera in my pocket, so I snapped a quick photo before Justin let it go. Apparently, they are only very rarely caught at Starr Ranch; I think just one other has been caught there.
Other birds that we banded on the two days included California Towhee, Fox Sparrow, House Finch, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Hutton's Vireo. In the late morning on one of the net runs I got brief looks at a Red-breasted Sapsucker that blew in and landed in a tree next the one of the nets while I was extracting a bird. Unfortunately, it took off after a few seconds and was never seen again. I would have liked to get better looks at it. Another new county bird! I heard a few Purple Finches throughout the day, and heard another Pine Siskin fly overhead while I was waiting for my parents to pick me up in the afternoon. It was a really great day - we banded a fair number of birds and observed some interesting ones.