Yesterday my dad and I attended Sea & Sage Audubon's field trip to the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, which is part of the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station. Because of security reasons, the refuge is not open to the public. I jumped at the chance to go birding at this amazing place. After our leader Tim Anderson gave a short introduction to the refuge, we loaded up into as few cars as possible and drove out onto the dikes of the refuge. The refuge is mostly coastal salt estuary. Shorebirds, raptors, and waterfowl abounded. Unfortunately, cameras are not allowed on the base, so I wasn't able to take any photographs. The best birds were a pair of Loggerhead Shrikes, a new state/county bird for me. They have become increasingly hard to find in Orange County due to habitat destruction, so I was happy to see them. Unfortunately, we dipped on both Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow and Ferruginous Hawk, which Tim had seen the previous day. A great place with lots of potential for rarities - I can't wait until my next visit!
Around noon, when the field trip was over, my dad and I headed down to Harriet Wieder Regional Park, adjacent to the south end of Bolsa Chica Reserve. Singles of Red-throated Pipit, Palm Warbler, and Eastern Phoebe had been reported from there the previous day, and I was anxious to chase them, particularly the pipit. Red-throated Pipits show up in southern California every fall, but not very often in Orange County. Doug Willick and Jim Pike, a couple of the county's top birders were there, but they hadn't seen the pipit for half an hour. Finding it was a daunting challenge - there was a large flock of very skittish American Pipits roaming the bluffs. Nevertheless, we finally managed to pick it out. It had bold streaking on the underparts and upperparts, and was more richly colored overall. The light was bad and the bird was relatively distant, but I managed to get one good image.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find the Palm Warbler or Eastern Phoebe, but they aren't as rare as the Red-throated Pipit and hopefully I'll soon see them in the county. There were lots of Western Meadowlarks there, and several American Kestrels. One female American Kestrel was very tame and allowed me to approach closely as she perched on stick.
She was very cooperative, with this lovely over-the shoulder pose. Kestrels really are very cool and under-appreciated birds!
I love this shot which clearly shows those black "tear streaks".