Thursday, May 22, 2008
Most Orange County residents associate the phrase "June Gloom" with the heavy marine layer that blankets the sky many days early in the summer. The marine layer usually burns off by the late morning, but occasionally lasts all day. Recently, however, we've had more heavy-duty clouds roll in. Genuine rain clouds! Even as I type this, I can hear the soothing patter of rain on the roof above my head and the occasional distant rumble of thunder.
The birder's summer does not last long. For a few weeks between the departure of the last spring migrating warbler and the first fall migrant dowitcher, birding can be rather dull - hence the term "June Gloom". Sure, locally breeding birds are fun to watch, but the excitement of migration just isn't there. Many birders are not aware that migrants are almost always around. In southern California, migrating swallows and hummingbirds begin to show up in early January. Spring migration tapers off in late May, but the first migrant shorebirds of the "fall" often show up before summer even officially starts!
On Wednesday, I pedaled over to Peters Canyon Regional Park and birded for a couple hours before school. Maybe I'll find a some late migrants. A Willow Flycatcher would be nice! I thought as I pulled into the park. No luck. I saw exactly two migrants the whole morning - singles of Warbling Vireo and Swainson's Thrush. The willows were shedding their fuzz in such excessive quantities that safety glasses and a mask were almost required to survive. That's serious fluff.
Birding is never boring. I was right with this thought. The summer residents were out in great numbers. Several flavors of swallows were swirling about gleefully snapping up the plentiful insects. I managed to spot one Greater Roadrunner perched up on a fence post, but it was too distant for a photo. California Towhees (aka Plain-brown Shufflers) were plentiful, as always.
Discordant squawking alerted me to the presence of several Red-crowned Parrots in some trees in a backyard backing up against the park. Even though they are gaudily splashed with bright green and red, these birds are difficult to spot against the foliage. Oftentimes, I only spot them when they noisy burst out of the treetops.
I'm looking forward to fall migration! In the meantime, I need to work on my Bigby list a bit more; my total is perched at one ninety-nine. My latest addition was an Olive-sided Flycatcher last week. I think a long ride is in order...