Monday, April 14, 2008

Lazuli at Last


I had an awesome hike at Santiago Oaks Regional Park this morning before school. I managed to conquer one of my most major nemeses, Lazuli Bunting. When I first started flipping through field guides at age five, I wished I could see one of those brilliant sky-blue and orange birds. Today, ten years later, I did.

Last summer, I searched high and low for Lazuli Buntings with no luck. They are a slightly unpredictable species, and are famous for being "fire followers"; that is, they inhabit recently burned areas. Now, Santiago Oaks Regional Park burned last spring, so I thought it would be a good spot to start looking. Apart from some charred trees, it is difficult to believe that it burned just a year ago!

As I was walking down one of the trails, I heard an unfamiliar buzzy yet sweet song that sounded vaguely like "Sweet sweet sweet little milkshake". I couldn't place it. Just then, I spotted a small bird on top of a nearby oak just as it flitted away. I caught white wing bars and a flash of blue just as it flew away. In that instant, I knew what it was - a Lazuli Bunting! I ran after it, and was rewarded with stunning views of the gorgeous songster. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a photograph of it. I heard several others singing elsewhere in the park afterwards, since I now know their song.

The park was very birdy this morning. The resident breeders were out in force, either building nests, carrying food to nestlings, or feeding fledglings. A high-pitched twittering had me bewildered until I spotted a cute, stubby-tailed fledgling Orange-crowned Warbler being fed by one of its parents. Lots of California Towhees were carrying food to nestlings, but I did see one family group that included four fledglings.

I also found a female Mallard shepherding a unruly group of eleven tiny ducklings around the small pond near the historic dam. The babies were so small - they must have been only a couple days old!

Migrants were also out in numbers. I encountered many little pockets of warblers, and found Nasvhille, Orange-crowned, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Gray, and Wilson's Warblers, along with Common Yellowthroats. Black-headed Grosbeaks were singing lustily everywhere. I was delighted to find Ash-throated Flycatchers, a new Bigby species for me. I also found a single Western Tanager, another new Bigby bird for me.

Butterflies were also frolicking in the warm temperatures. I wasn't concentrating on them, but I found Painted Ladies, West Coast Ladies, Red Admirals, Cabbage Whites, Checkered Whites, Western Tiger-Swallowtails, and several other kinds that slipped away unidentified. This swallowtail was so kind as to alight on a leaf right next to the trail. Looking at the photo, you'd finding it hard to believe that I was balancing precipitously on a log above a large patch of poison oak to snag this shot...

1 comment:

Parus said...

What, no picture? That's ok, I didn't get one either.
I got my lifer LZBU out in the Tetons last summer.
The little bird had the nerve to fly right over the hood of our car and the proceed to disappear, never to be seen again. I also got LARBU that trip. At about 75MPH down the freeway! lol

Nice Swallowtail. We appreciate the "dangers" you go through to attain these pictures. lol :D