Thursday, December 6, 2007

A second county record!

I nearly hit the roof last night when I read a report of an immature ROSEATE SPOONBILL along the upper Santa Ana River in Orange, not far from my house. Spoonbills occur occasionally at the Salton Sea in Imperial County, but are extremely rare in the coastal counties. Orange County has only one other record; three birds together at San Joaquin Marsh over the summer of... 1977!

My mom and I chased it in the late morning, encouraged by a couple early-morning reports that the bird was still present and the identification was confirmed. The bird was hanging around in a small section of the Santa Ana River, just south of the Tustin Avenue bridge. As soon as we pulled up I jumped out of the car, grabbed by scope, and ran! A couple birders pointed it out to me on the opposite side of the river. We enjoyed good looks for just a couple minutes before the spoonbill disappeared behind a small dike in the middle of the river. Over the next hour it was elusive, occasionally poking its head up above the dike but out of view most of the time. Finally, it hopped over the dike and gave us fantastic looks while it fed. It was interesting to watch its strange behavior of walking through the water while swishing its bill back and forth. The light was very bad (by this time the sky had become completely overcast with thick, dark rainclouds - there's a b-i-i-i-g storm coming even as I write this), but I still managed to get a couple decent pictures.

Eventually the Roseate Spoonbill stopped foraging and climbed up onto the dike to preen and take a short rest. Here's a shot showing the "spoon bill".

There were lots of other interesting birds along the river - shorebirds, ducks, and raptors. It was amazing to watch a pair of Peregrine Falcons - the big female and the smaller male - chase each other around and engage in incredible aerial acrobatics. The female, at least, was unbanded. They eventually landed on a wire stretching across the river. Here's a shot of the female (I wish I could have gotten a photo showing the difference of size between the two sexes, but they were sitting too far apart).


Parus said...

wow. Cool bird Neil!! nice that you found it.
I don't even remember the last time I found a ROSP. It's been at least 7 or 8 years if not longer.

I'm still fretting over Saylorville in central IA near Des Moines. A trip over there would add about 8 species to my life list! Including a BTGU!!! It's a 6 or 7 hour drive though. Argh!!!!!

Tim H said...

Oooooh booofah!! I like totally could have seen ROSP in FL, but I was an ignorant little botanist then, only caring about coconuts....

Birdfreak said...

Congratulations that you found the Roseate Spoonbill! How exciting.

Great Peregrine Falcon photo too

good birding to you!