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...
Posted by Neil Gilbert at 7:47 PM