Friday, March 21, 2008
I *heart* migration
Even though spring migration technically began in early January with the movement of certain swallows and hummingbirds, the last week has seemed very spring-like. The vegetation has grown even more green and lush, flowers are blooming, and the awesome rush of spring migration has started. Yellow-rumped Warblers (like the one pictured above) are still around, but are on the move. The males (like this one) are looking really spiffy in their spring plumage. I took this photo at Peters Canyon on Wednesday, where I also found my first Wilson's Warblers, Bullock's Orioles, and Violet-green Swallows of the year. I also encountered a Song Sparrow doing a flight display; it flew up about thirty feet, and while sailing to the ground belted out a lusty song. I've never seen that before! I also was temporarily stumped by an odd trilling song, which I tracked down to a Common Yellowthroat. Their song is quite variable, but this sounded almost like a Wilson's Warbler! I saw the bird sing. Later, when I have time, I'll try to post the recording I made. The White-crowned Sparrows are still around in droves. This scruffy-lookin' second-year (notice the brown head stripes mixed with black) bird was very cooperative.
On Tuesday I searched fruitlessly for the Brown Creeper that had been reported from the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery half a mile from my house. I've dipped on this particular bird probably about half a dozen times this winter... the fact that tree crews were busily butchering the trees where it had been seen didn't help my search either. I did find a singing Purple Finch, a new year and Bigby species for me. Last year they apparently bred in the cemetery, so I'll have to keep tabs on it. The adjacent flood-control basin has sprung to life - I could hear lots of birds in the now very green and moist riparian area below. I'll have to check it out!
Yesterday I set out early on my bike, headed for Bolsa Chica in Huntington Beach. I was disappointed by my route, the Santa Ana River Bike Trail; it burrowed through heavy industrial areas, concrete jungles that hosted no birds whatsoever. When I finally got into Costa Mesa, I was excited to spot a majestic Peregrine Falcon bathing in the trickle of water in the vast concrete ditch. I got excellent looks at it, but unfortunately it flew off before I could extract my camera from my backpack.
Fortunately, before I set out, I had noticed that the river trail cuts within half a mile of Estancia Park in Costa Mesa, where a Pine Warbler has been wintering. However, I hadn't seen any reports of it recently. As I rolled up, I heard it chipping in the same pine tree where I had seen it on January first! A bit of pishing quickly brought it out in the open. It was chipping almost the whole time I was there, and it even sang a couple times. That's one bird I won't get again on my Bigby!
I finally reached Bolsa Chica in the late morning. I found it to be rather birdless. The tide was high, and most of the birds were sitting on distant islands directly in the sun. Sigh. I came thirty miles for this? I thought as I walked down the trail. Suddenly, an American Bittern lifted out of the marsh, flew right over my head, and landed off in the distance. Worth thirty miles of hard pedaling. I also spotted three Brants, but they were too distant for photographs. I did a good sixty miles, and added seven new Bigby birds. Verrrrrry long day!!
This morning I birded Santiago Oaks Regional Parks in Orange for a couple hours. The usual suspects were out and about in large numbers, but I didn't see anything unusual. I couldn't find the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, but I didn't spend much time searching for it. I did see a newly-arrived Warbling Vireo, another new year and Bigby species. It was a beautiful morning!