Tuesday, September 22, 2009
What the heck?!
I don't like birding in the afternoon at all. I still do it, though, out of a sense of duty. I spent a few hours this afternoon puttering around the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery and Santiago Oaks Regional Park by bike. Migrants, the very objects of my searching, were practically nonexistent. I finally pedaled home, hot and discouraged. I was riding through my neighborhood when a medium-sized, grayish brown bird with white tips at the end of the tail flushed off the side of the road and into some bushes. It reminded me of a Lark Sparrow, so I paused to take a second look.
What the heck?! Woah, that's no Lark Sparrow. The extensive streaking on the underparts immediately caught my eye. I quickly realized that it was a Sage Thrasher, a rare bird in the county! The bird flitted out of the bushes and flew into a nearby patch of bushes before flying out and landing on the arena fence near the end of my street.
Surprisingly, the bird allowed close approach and I got some decent photos as it rested in good light on top of the fence. It flew around the large grassy area at the end of my street for several more minutes before taking off for good. I could still barely believe my luck. This species is a rare migrant in the county; The Birds of Orange County lists only nine records in the county, though I'm sure several more have accumulated since the book's publication. Not unexpectedly, it was a new county bird for me, and also a new Bigby bird.
This just goes to show how important it is to keep your eyes open. Check any unusual-looking birds! I never expected to see a Sage Thrasher in my neighborhood (the habitat is all wrong), but one showed up anyway.