Saturday, November 1, 2008
Crossing the Border
I do a lot of birding in Orange County, and as today approached I wasn't sure where exactly to go. Huntington Central Park? No, too default. Crystal Cove? Nah, I don't think there will be too much there. San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary? No... way too default. So, my dad and I decided to cross a certain border to bird a new and exciting place.
No, not the U.S./Mexico border (I wish!), but the border between Orange County and San Bernardino County. Only a little corner of San Bernardino County touches Orange County, but in that corner is Prado Regional Park. A Vermilion Flycatcher and a Ross's Goose had been seen here, and I was also interested in adding to my paltry San Bernardino County list.
After a short drive (it is less than half an hour away), my dad and I arrived at Prado Regional Park. Before we even parked the car, I had picked up a couple county birds: Yellow-rumped Warbler (yipee!) and Acorn Woodpecker. We stopped to check the lake first. There were plenty of American Coots, Ruddy Ducks, Mallards, and a smattering of other common species. We began wandering around the park, clueless about where to go, since we've never been there before. Without trying very hard, I racked up a few dozen species - passerines flitting in the trees and brush, ducks, herons, and egrets (Great Egret pictured at the top of the post) on the lake, and raptors soaring overhead. It wasn't long before I spotted the Ross's Goose loafing with a small group of domestic geese on the shore of the lake.
Suddenly, there was a flash of red, and a beautiful male Vermilion Flycatcher landed in a tree right in front of us! We watched this gaudy bird for quite awhile, and unsuccessfully attempted to photograph it. However, the bird was very active and difficult to sneak up on. Later, we also saw an immature male and then a female Vermilion Flycatcher, for a total of three Vermilion Flycatchers. A new state bird for me (What number? Man, I have no idea... three hundred something-or-the-other), and as always a spectacular species to see.
While watching the flycatcher, I began hearing a suspicious twitter some distance away. At first I barely noticed it, I was so engrossed in the Vermilion Flycathcer. I stopped to listen, and heard only House Sparrows. However, I decided to start heading over in that direction anyways. Suddenly, I heard it again: a harsh twitter that sounded very much like a Tropical Kingbird! I hustled over there, and sure enough I found a Tropical Kingbird hanging out with a few Cassin's Kingbirds. This species is rare here, though it is one of the more common vagrants to reach southern California (I know the words "common" and "vagrant" do not below together in the same sentence, but... what the heck). It was too skittish to approach closely, but I tried photographing it anyways. Check out that heavy bill - pity the name Thick-billed Kingbird is already taken.
We meandered around the park until late morning, when we headed for home. The park was very birdy, and in just a couple hours I found about thirty new county birds, bringing my San Bernardino county list up to seventy-eight. That is still very low for a county list, but I'll undoubtedly be back in the future to work on it more.