Saturday, April 5, 2008
Owls are certainly among the most fascinating birds on this planet. They're nocturnal, they fly silently, and are usually quite mysterious. My dad and I had a wonderful night of owling at Irvine Regional Park this evening.
It all started at dinner when I suggested that we ride over to Irvine Regional Park to look for Common Poorwills to add to my Bigby list. We arrived at the extreme eastern end of the park just as the sun was setting. Several Lesser Nighthawks swooped through the crisp air, undoubtedly enjoying a feast of insects. We loitered around, listening to The Beatles, Van Morrison, and Led Zeppelin on my dad's iPod while we waited for the poorwills to start calling. A large mammal crossing the road up ahead of us turned out to be a coyote, and not a Mountain Lion as we feared. My dad spotted a Great Horned Owl sitting atop a dead snag in the middle of the wash, the very snag that the Lewis's Woodpecker frequents. Finally, around eight p.m., I heard a Common Poorwill w-a-a-a-y out there, over the ridge. This and the Lesser Nighthawk were new Bigby birds for me, jacking my list up to 185.
As we were cycling out of the park, my dad heard the distinctive bouncing-ball call of a Western Screech-Owl coming from near the road. We turned around and started searching, and tracked it down to a sycamore tree growing right alongside the road. However, we couldn't spot it despite the fact it was calling almost constantly. Huge sycamore leaves blocked our view of most of the tree. Finally, my dad found it wedged in a crevice on the far side of the trunk. It sat there, a mere fifteen feet away. I was able to get some decent photos, and we had amazing looks at it. Finally, we left, and as we turned our back on the owl it started calling again. Just as we were leaving, a large moth-like bird fluttered around above the trees. I nailed it in the spot beam; it was a Barn Owl, our third owl species for the night. Sweet!
This morning, I birded at Peters Canyon Regional Park before school. I had an excellent couple hours, racking up seventy-three species and adding one new Bigby species, a Sora that sounded off from the marshy vegetation around the lake. Warblers, ducks, and sparrows were all plentiful. Some of the more interesting species that I saw included Canvasback, Nashville Warbler, Bell's Vireo, Golden-crowned Sparrow, and Lincoln's Sparrow. This nice male Anna's Hummingbird posed nicely for photos.
The thistle feeder that I placed a couple feet outside my bedroom window has been attracting lots of finches lately - American Goldfinches, Lesser Goldfinches, Pine Siskins, and House Finches. By standing very still with the camera poked out the window, I can photograph the birds from only a few feet away! Here are shots of male Lesser and American Goldfinches - nice comparison!