This morning my dad and I arose early and headed down to Oceanside, San Diego County. Why? Well, Buena Vista Audubon had a pelagic trip scheduled. Several weeks ago, after convincing my reluctant dad, I signed us up for the trip. It did not disappoint.
After we and over ninety more birders had shuffled down the dock and hopped on the boat, we quickly pulled out of the harbor. In just a couple minutes the first pelagic birds showed up: a couple Parasitic Jaegers chasing Forster's Terns around. Once we got out a bit farther still, we started to see the first of many Black-vented Shearwaters. Many of the shearwaters buzzed right along the sides of the boat, giving us excellent looks. The first Rhinoceros Auklets of the day put in an appearance, along with a couple uncooperative Cassin's Auklets. The shout of "Short-tailed Shearwater!" went up, and I quickly found the bird. I had good albeit brief looks at it. A life bird!
One important part of a good pelagic trip is the chumming. For those who are not familiar with chumming, it is simple; the entire trip, some unfortunate soul has to stand in the stern and toss popcorn overboard to attract a flock of gulls. The sight of a swirling flock of gulls and the sounds of gulls squealing often will bring in more interesting pelagic birds. It certainly worked today; two different Northern Fulmars (one light, one dark) flew right up through our wake and hung out with the gulls for awhile. The gulls were cooperative for photos as they followed the boat while waiting for the popcorn. Here's a young Western Gull hanging overhead:
Western Gulls were by far the most common gulls, but there were also good numbers of California Gulls, including this nice adult.
Several Brown Pelicans made half-hearted attempts after the popcorn as well, but they never seemed to be successful. Here's a photo of one flying right alongside the boat.
Other birds of note included several Red Phalaropes, a couple Pomarine Jaegers (including one with full tail spoons), and a few Pacific Loons. We encountered a small pod of Common Dolphins and a magnificent Gray Whale.
Yesterday afternoon I biked around Irvine Regional Park a little bit. Almost immediately after arriving I located a Red-breasted Sapsucker in the huge pepper tree near the train station. The tree is riddled with sapsucker wells and the bird was there again today, so it seems as if I have another sapsucker location pinned down. A quick scan of the many Dark-eyed Juncos scratching amongst the mulch revealed one nice male of the "Slate-colored" subspecies, found mostly in the east.
The female Red-naped Sapsucker continued in her big pepper tree near the equestrian center. Sapsuckers sure do love those pepper trees! I've started checking every pepper tree I see for sapsuckers...
The Lewis's Woodpecker was still on its favorite snag. It has been around for over two months now, and I've only dipped on it a couple times so far. While checking out the lakes, I was struck by the numbers of Wood Ducks. I decided to count them - I came to the unbelievable number of 138 Wood Ducks. A couple weeks ago, I saw only five. I wonder where they all go when they aren't on the lakes at Irvine Regional Park! At first I assumed that the numbers of Wood Ducks there was relatively stable, but they have proven me wrong.
I discovered a trail that climbs to the top of a ridge at the far edge of the park. I was treated to fine views of the Santa Ana Mountains. It was very cloudy up there, and there was a bit of snow on the ground as well.
Lastly, here's a mediocre shot of a Lincoln's Sparrow that was scratching around under my feeder the other day. Unlike most Lincoln's Sparrows, which always seem to be skulking in dense brush, this one wasn't shy at all.