I had a few hours to spare this morning, so after dropping my dad off at the airport (he's flying to Germany for a week for business), I hopped over to San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine, taking advantage of my shiny new driver's license. I decided to waste another good chunk of time fruitlessly searching for the elusive Northern Waterthrush that has supposedly been wintering there. That's exactly how it happened. I pished at and peered into the flooded thicket where it's supposed to hang out, but for about the sixth time this winter I struck out.
However, there were plenty of other birds to keep me satisfied. I found a Long-billed Curlew in one of the shallow ponds near the front. I can't recall ever seeing one here before, though they are common just a couple miles away at Upper Newport Bay.
The extensive back area (the alleged haunts of the waterthrush) was hopping with activity. Newly-arrived Bell's Vireos, my first for the spring, were chattering away in the riparian areas. As I was strolling along, I heard what I could have sworn was a Northern Parula singing out in the middle of a big riparian area, but the bird remained devilishly hidden in the thick vegetation and I never got a look at to figure out precisely what it was. Ah well.
I also kept a sharp eye open for dragonflies, but I didn't see any apart from a few Green Darners. Butterflies were out in force enjoying the plethora of wildflowers. I managed to photograph this duskywing sp., but I can't figure out what it is. There are only three or four possibilities for Southern California, and none of them look exactly like this.
A Gadwall in a small backwater provided good photo opportunities. He was looking rather scruffy, but the reddish on the wings is difficult to see while the bird is at rest.
I headed back to the parking lot and continued on to check some other areas. I briefly stopped by Orange Coast College to look for and hopefully photograph the Palm Warbler in the community garden, but the garden was filled with people and I did not see the warbler anywhere. I drove a few more miles to Estancia Park in Costa Mesa to visit the Pine Warbler that has been wintering there for the third winter in a row. I saw it last winter a couple times, but I figured I could try to get some better photos. I heard the bird singing as soon as I stepped out of the car and quickly tracked it down. The bird was feeding at eye level in pine trees, aggressively chasing away any Yellow-rumped Warbler that got too close. I was able to get a decent shot or two, better than what I managed last winter.
With that, I decided I'd better get home, since I was supposed to be home by noon. I swung by El Modena Park just a couple miles down the road from my house to look for a Little Blue Heron that had been reported from there yesterday. There's a scummy little pond here, and last week while out and about I found two Hooded Mergansers there. I was very surprised to see those mergansers in this unlikely spot, and I was even more shocked to see the report of the Little Blue considering how tiny the pond is (actually, I was more surprised to find out that somebody else birded the place!)
Unfortunately, the heron was nowhere to be found. The park was very birdy, though. I found Chipping and Lark Sparrows, American Pipits, and Barn Swallows in the area around the pond. The pond itself was rather birdless, with just Mallards, a Spotted Sandpiper, a Snowy Egret, and a family of Killdeer with a couple tiny little fuzzball baby Killdeers.
It was a fun few hours of birding. Even though I didn't see anything groundbreaking (though Pine Warbler is a pretty good bird for California; I know of certain people who would love to see it!), getting out on a beautiful spring morning is always delightful.