Much to my chagrin, I haven't been able to get out birding much recently. To remedy this I biked to Santiago Oaks Regional Park today and spent the entire morning wandering around and searching for birds, particularly migrants. I haven't biked anywhere recently for various reasons, so I expected to pick up a few new Bigby birds. Within a minute of dismounting my bike I had found three new Bigby birds: Black-headed Grosbeak, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and Warbling Vireo.
Birds were out and singing everywhere despite the cloudy skies and cool temperatures. Many of the wintering species such as Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, and White-crowned Sparrows are beginning to fade away. They are quickly being replaced by breeders and migrants. A bit farther down the trail I found a Hammond's Flycatcher and an Ash-throated Flycatcher sitting in the same tree. Both were new for my Bigby list.
Normally, I bird Santiago Oaks for only a couple hours before school in the morning. However, I had several hours to burn, so I covered most of the park. I traipsed out to the Villa Park Dam and easily located a singing Rock Wren. He serenaded me from the top of a fence while I stalked closer. It will be interesting to see if Rock Wrens try to breed here. This little patch of jumbled rock is one of the few places to reliably find this species in the county.
Hundreds of swallows were swirling around by the dam. At first they all appeared to be Cliff Swallows, but I noticed there were a lot of Northern Rough-winged Swallows mixed in as well. Even more careful inspection revealed smaller numbers of Violet-green, Tree, and Barn Swallows merrily zipping around feeding on insects. I finally tore myself away from the cooperative Rock Wren and swallows and turned back to the main part of the park. I found my last new Bigby bird of the day, a Nashville Warbler, back near the parking lot. I also came across a very cooperative Sara Orangetip.
I decided to climb the Pacifica Trail, a steep narrow path that winds to the top of Rattlesnake Peak. I don't usually see much along this trail, but it's a neat hike and I figured it might be a good spot to look for Lawrence's Goldfinch. No luck with that, but I did come across a band of Western Scrub-Jays jumping around in the bushes next to the trail.
I finally made it to the top. Numerous White-throated Swifts, which were tiny specks in the sky from below, zoomed around at eye level. In fact, bands of these winged bullets, chattering demonically, nearly hit me a few times. They were so close I could hear the wind rushing through their wings. Photographing them proved to be a challenge!
A Red-tailed Hawk circled lazily below, offering a unique perspective.
I spent a few more minutes watching the swifts before descending the trail so as not to be late for lunch. For a few hours at the local patch, it wasn't bad at all. The six new Bigby birds I found (Hammond's Flycatcher, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Nasvhille Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and Black-headed Grosbeak) pushed my total to one eighty-four. Hopefully I'll be able to get out more soon to add more migrants to my Bigby list.