Monday, February 25, 2008

Winter Doldums

Here in southern California, winter seems to just be an extension of summer. Many trees still have their leaves; plants grow and flower; butterflies and lizards are active when it is warm enough; and the birding is generally fantastic. Unfortunately, it's easy for me to take fantastic birding for granted - the same old Lewis's Woodpecker and Red-naped Sapsuckers always on their respective trees, the same mockingbirds, Black Phoebes, and Allen's Hummingbirds flitting through the neighborhood, and the same California Gnatcatchers whining in the brush at Peters Canyon. I haven't been able to do any really serious birding the last week, which makes me feel terribly guilty. It's strange - if I don't get some birding in every day or so, I start feeling queasy. Maybe I'm too obsessed! ;)

This afternoon, I ran (or rather, pedaled) over the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, looking for those Brown Creepers that I haven't seen since December but I still desperately need for my Bigby list. I wandered through the cemetery, dodging cemetery workers and mourners. Birds were scarce. However, a few started to slowly show up; a Mountain Chickadee called from a row of pines at the back of the cemetery, and I came across a mixed flock that included House Finches, Chipping Sparrows, Lark Sparrows, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Ruby-crowned Kinglets were surprisingly commonplace; one or more seemed to be ticking from every pine tree. A Sharp-shinned Hawk swooped through, silencing all the other birds. I noticed a pair of White-tailed Kites persistently dive-bombing an indifferent Red-tailed Hawk in the adjacent Villa Park Flood Control Basin. There was quite a bit of water down there; I should check it out.

The butterfly at the top of the page is a Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui). It was taking advantage of the sun-warmed gravestones. I saw several Painted Ladies, a Monarch, and one Buckeye. It's nice to see butterflies in February!

Red-crowned Parrots have been very widespread the last couple weeks. A flock has come to feed on the flower eucalyptus behind my house every morning for the last few days, and I frequently see them flying around. I saw these ones at Irvine Regional Park on Saturday (not really birding, since we were walking the dog... but I had binoculars and camera!).

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