Friday, February 1, 2008
Peters Canyon Scenery
This morning I spent a couple hours birding at Peters Canyon Regional Park before school. It was my first visit in a few weeks - the trails were closed for awhile because of the rain, and the ever-tightening choke hold of homework is keeping me indoors more than I would like. The rains have done a lot of good at Peters Canyon - everything is green and alive, as you can see in the photo above. A welcome change from the burnt brown landscape!
It was a nippy forty-three degrees when I arrived shivering on my bike. I wasn't the only one who was cold - the birds weren't active until the sun peeked over the ridge and warmed things up. The lake had lots of Northern Shovelers, but low numbers of just about everything else. The massive flocks of Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaups, and Redheads are things of the past - not a single Ring-necked Duck was in sight today. A lone Great Blue Heron stood hunched on the lakeshore, and a few Least Sandpipers consorted with the resident Killdeer. I've given up hope of finding a Hooded Merganser for my Bigby list, at least until next fall.
I walked through the dead silence of the Willow Trail. I can't wait for the Bell's Vireos and Yellow-breasted Chats to come back and liven things back up around there. I did eventually manage to dig out a couple Hermit Thrushes and a Fox Sparrow. I continued around the lake, finding only one California Thrasher, until I arrived south of the dam. I climbed to the top, scanned the lake, and came up with a pair of Canvasbacks. A cute little male (he was starting to get a black cap) California Gnatcatcher whined the whole time I was there, flitting around in the bushes. This interesting image is the result of my breathing on the lens to get rid of a water droplet that had found its way onto the lens. Pretty cool, huh?
I found a bunch of Say's Phoebes along the Cactus Point Trail, but little else. The highlight of the morning was a White-tailed Kite atop a snag right next to the trail. While certainly not rare, they are always a thrill to see. My only new Bigby bird of the morning. This is the kind of situation that I wish I had a DSLR with a nice long lens...
On Wednesday afternoon I pedaled over to Irvine Regional Park for a little while. The Lewis's Woodpecker continued to put on a good show on his favorite snag. A very cool bird! Definitly worth the trip out there to see it, even though I've seen this same individual bird countless times over the months. Other birds of note included two species of sapsuckers, and the Nashville Warbler that I originally found last week near the pony rides.
I also was lucky enough to witness a Red-tailed Hawk courtship display at the far end of the wash. I watched as one Red-tail circled higher, occasionally doing stalls and draw-ups. Finally, after it was so high as to only be a speck in the sky, it turned on its back and did a very steep, fast stoop straight down towards earth. It then drew out of the stoop and completed a loop while I watched amazed. Then it started flying in formation with another Red-tailed Hawk, presumably a female. I once saw a Northern Harrier "sky-dancing", but never a Red-tailed Hawk. Neat!!
Posted by Neil Gilbert at 9:20 PM