Saturday, March 28, 2009


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.


Anonymous said...

Hi there Neil, you have a nice
blog going here. I have enjoyed
your photos and commentary.
That is an interesting duskywing.
Not my strong suit in butterflies,
but have you considered the
Funereal D. (Erynnis funeralis)?
That brown patch at the end of
the cell could be a clue. Keep up
the good work, looking forward to
lots of bird and lepidoptera pics
this summer!
Hap in New Hope (MN)

Corey Husic said...

What about Funereal Duskywing (Erynnis funeralis) for your butterfly?

Tucker L said...

The butterfly appears to be a
Mournful Duskywing, of the California subspecies.

Neil Gilbert said...

Mournful and Funereal Duskywings are both good possibilities, but... I just have a hard time getting excited about Duskywings.