Monday, December 3, 2007

Birding the North Pole


This afternoon I spent several hours birding Irvine Regional Park (aka The North Pole) after school. The area around the the railroad track has been decorated extravagantly with lights - twinkling, flashing, and shining Christmas lights of every color of the rainbow. The birds didn't seem to mind too much though. Indeed, the park was nearly deserted; there were very few people around except for a few workers installing more Christmas lights. It was a nice contrast with the weekends when pishing brings not only mobbing birds but also curious people.

My Lewis's Woodpecker was still faithfully hanging around the cluster of dead sycamores near parking lot number sixteen. During the twenty minutes I spent watching it, it didn't leave the tallest dead sycamore. "Old Reliable" the Barn Owl was still in his hollow sycamore near parking lot number thirteen. Today he was sitting up higher up than usual in the hole, probably enjoying the late afternoon sun.

I saw a total of three Red-breasted Sapsuckers. One was alone near the train ride parking lot area, and the other two were hanging out together near group area number four. The two were chasing each other around and calling a lot. One was much duller than the other - maybe a male and a female hanging out together? Very neat birds to watch. Here's a shot of a sapsucker-hole-riddled eucalyptus tree near parking lot number thirteen.

Compare the sapsucker's neat, small holes in organized rows with the untidy granaries of the Acorn Woodpecker. The Acorn Woodpeckers drill these holes everywhere - in trees, in buildings, and in telephone poles. They then tap acorns into the pre-drilled holes to store them. It seems like a smart idea, but the birds go overboard, filling whole trees and telephone poles with acorns. Why? They surely can't eat all of them, and there are plenty of other food sources available year-round in Orange County's mild climate. Lisa Bender sums up the answer to this question quite well in my opinion in her article about Acorn Woodpeckers in the latest issue of Birding: "They [the woodpeckers] are obsessive-compulsives, senselessly repeated an inane activity."

Otherwise, I saw mostly the usual Yellow-rumped Warblers, Dark-eyed Juncos, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and others. I noticed a single female American Wigeon at the lower lake while I shared my snack bar with the tame domestic ducks.

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