Friday, October 3, 2008

Surprise, Surprise!

I'll admit it - before Tuesday, I was a bit down on birding in Orange County. I was stuck in a sort of birder's hell; some nifty birds were being reported from other areas that I couldn't visit, and my local patches were practically dead. However, I managed to turn that around and find a couple nifty birds of my own this week.

On Tuesday afternoon, I finished up my schoolwork fairly early, so I decided to ride over to Peters Canyon Regional Park to search the lake for something out of the ordinary. I've utterly lost hope of ever finding a Baird's Sandpiper in Orange County, much less Peters Canyon, but I was holding out for a Pectoral Sandpiper. To make the Baird's situation even worse is the fact that a certain friend of mine seems to take delight in recounting all his Baird's Sandpiper sightings he had over the summer in certain parts of Los Angeles County. Ugh.

I was training my scope along the edge of the mudflats at the lake's edge when a gigantic black and white bird flashed through the field of view. Huh, that Osprey looked weird, I almost said aloud. This goes to prove how horrible I am at birding; adult Bald Eagles are considered to be unmistakable by just about everyone. Wait, Bald Eagle?! It swooped across the lake and landed in some trees for several minutes before dropping down to the edge of the dam to take a drink. Way cool! A truly majestic bird... I know everyone says that, but there's a reason why. Back in the Midwest, Bald Eagles weren't that exciting, since they were all over the place. Here in Orange County, however, they are quite rare. It was a new Bigby bird for me.

This unexpected sighting inspired me to bike over the Irvine Regional Park on Wednesday to see what was around. I coasted down the hill into the park at an alarming speed, locked my bike to a tree, and promptly spotted a Chestnut-sided Warbler hopping around on the grass nearby (see photo at top of post). Stunned, I watched as it grabbed an unlucky Fiery Skipper and barely managed to swallow it.

I followed it around for several minutes as it associated with a swirling mass of Yellow-rumped Warblers before loosing it high in the trees. A very nice surprise! Additionally, it was another new Bigby bird for me. Chestnut-sided Warblers are rare, albeit annual vagrants to Orange County. Interestingly, I saw one last October in my neighborhood... I guess I'm just talented at locating Chestnut-sided Warblers.

These two interesting birds were a nice break from the monotony of the general lack of migrants that I've experienced this fall. I haven't even seen a Black-throated Gray Warbler this fall... last fall by this time, I had seen dozens. Still, I won't complain. I guess the moral of the story is to get out and look for birds, even if the birding is slow!


Birdnerdguy said...

Awesome finds Neil.

Allen Chartier said...

Walking through the tall, foggy redwood forests with the haunting songs of Varied Thrushes all around is one of my most memorable moments from our trip to northern California (May 1985). It is also a great place for salamanders, by the way :-)

corey said...

Well, you've seen as many Chestnut-sides as I have this fall...and I live in NY!

Nice finds!