Friday, March 7, 2008

A Birdy Week

I tried to go birding every day this week. I feel that I haven't been birding enough recently (though it is impossible to get enough!). I did manage to see plenty birds!

On Sunday afternoon, my family had a picnic lunch at Tri-City Park in Placentia. Or rather, they had a picnic lunch; I birded. Birding takes priority over eating. I was hoping to see and photograph the Ross's Goose that was there for quite a while earlier in the winter. I had already seen it before in January, but it was very uncooperative for photos. No sign of it, despite the fact I scanned every whitish looking domestic goose on the lake. There were hundreds of American Wigeons and American Coots in the lake, and among them I noticed one drake Eurasian Wigeon. It was cooperative for photos, but none of them turned out as well as I hoped they would. Here's a head-on shot, reminiscent of the infamous "Mad Bluebird", except it's a Mad Wigeon.

From there, we headed up to La Mirada to take a stroll around the campus of Biola University, where my brother will likely go to college next year. Again, I am lying when I saw "we". The rest of my family dropped me off at a vacant lot about a mile from the college while they visited the campus. It was my idea - a Dusky-capped Flycatcher had been spotted here a few days ago. It was early afternoon, just about the worst time to go birding. Still, I wandered around aimlessly, staring up into the tall eucalyptus trees while trying to avoid the stinging nettle in vain. After about ten minutes I hit the birds with my secret weapon: pishing, accompanied by my ear-splitting squeal call. Yellow-rumped Warblers, House Finches, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Anna's Hummingbirds instantly were in my face, scolding up a storm. Another bird flew in - another House Finch? It landed on a dead branch, and through binoculars I could see the yellow belly, brownish upperparts, and largish black bill. The Dusky-cap! I managed to call over some other birders, and we all got fleeting glimpses of it as it flew to different trees constantly. A couple times, we got to hear its distinctive call. After everyone had seen the bird and it had flown off, I finally got to meet the birders. After introducing myself, one of the birders said, "Oh, you're the Neil Gilbert! Pleased to meet you."

My. I didn't know I was famous.

That ended Sunday's birding. On Monday, I biked over the the Hewes Quarries to see if anything interesting had shown up. I didn't seen anything really unusual, and nothing different from last time. However, I was very excited to see the Western Grebes doing their "chariot" courtship displays, in which a pair rears up on the water next to each other and patters across the water a surprising distance. On the way home, I stopped in at Santiago Oaks Regional Park to try to attain better photos of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Nope. I sat motionless on the trail near its favorite tree for over an hour, waiting for it to pose. It flew in a couple times, but always stayed under cover. I did get a decent shot of a lovely Red-shouldered Hawk sitting in a sycamore right above the trail. Very beautiful bird, and the first decent shot I've gotten of one.

I also encountered several Cassin's Kingbirds squabbling on a power line close to my house. One was singing almost constantly. I hear the "chi-beer!" call note all the time, but I have heard them sing only a few times previously.

I spent Tuesday afternoon at Irvine Regional Park. I didn't cover too much ground, since I worked on sketching some birds. I did see some interesting birds, though. It took me approximately three seconds to spot the trusty Lewis's Woodpecker on his favorite snag. It took an even shorter time to find the Red-naped Sapsucker; I biked under its tree, looked up, and there it was. (I did, of course, turn around and watch it for awhile). I also found a lone Red-breasted Sapsucker near parking lot four. The number of Ring-necked Ducks on the lake has dwindled to three. I worked on getting better Wood Duck photos for awhile. I was pleased at how this one of a female came out. Worth lying in the disgusting mud-debris at the edge of the lake, I'd say.

I finally got around to birding Peters Canyon on Wednesday morning. It has grown very green and lush, with many beautiful wildflowers. The lake had lots of Northern Shovelers, Buffleheads, American Coots, but nothing unusual. The riparian was loaded with birds, a welcome change from its usual state. The undergrowth was crawling with Song Sparrows and Common Yellowthroats! I also pished up a couple Fox Sparrows and a Hermit Thrush. Wildflowers were particularly abundant on the big hill near the dam, including this very handsome one. I couldn't come up with an identification after browsing online for awhile - anyone have an idea?

I strained my ears listening for Grasshopper Sparrows, which allegedly inhabit this area. No luck on those guys (it might be a tad early for them to be singing), but there is certainly a lot of nice grasslands for them!

On Thursday, I partially cheated. I had a busy day, but my mom and I stopped by Harriet Wieder Regional Park in Huntington Beach briefly after running some errands in the area. I racked up fifty-five species in half and hour. Highlights included a Sora that sounded off in the marshes, a Northern Harrier floating over the reeds, and a variety of ducks on the water. I struck out on the hoped for Hammond's Flycatcher.

Today? I haven't done anything yet except schoolwork and preparing my bike for another long ride tomorrow. Gotta get out...


Jonathan said...


Found your blog through the OC birding group. My wife and I also keep a blog that occasionally features birding related posts:

I work at Biola and originally found the Dusky-capped Flycatcher on a birding stop one day on my way to work. It's great to hear that you had success hunting it down. Your experience is like mine most days - its always flying from tree to tree, and resists giving good views. It's often pretty vocal, though. I've found a few Pygmy-owl toots will get it calling, but it doesn't seem to call in response to pishing. It actually seems to avoid Dusky-capped playback.

It's also good to hear that your brother's considering attending our little school. Let me know if you guys have any questions I might be able to answer. I graduated in 2005 and work in Residential Facilities.

My e-mail address is jonathan.james AT

Parus said...

You're definitely right! Birding takes priority over anything else!

"Oh, you're the Neil Gilbert!
haha, I have this happen to me all the time! lol
and yes, if you're a birder and you're under 18, you're usually famous. lol :D

"listening for Grasshopper Sparrows, which allegedly inhabit this area"
lol is that anything like MOB's mythical Bobolinks? :D

Think you can come up with a DCFC when I'm out there? that'd be a cool bird to see.

Happy Birding! --Chris

doug said...

Your flower is definitely a member of the Aster (Sunflower) family... but that's like identifying a bird down to Order Passeriformes. :)

Are you sure it's not California Encelia? Maybe Brittlebush? (Depending on the leaves).

Leigh said...

great flower shot Neil, I gotta agree with Doug - it looks like Encelia to me.