Saturday, November 21, 2009
Paint Me Amazed
I enjoy birding obscure, underbirded spots. Sure, it's fun to find rare stuff at overrated places like Huntington Central Park, but it's even more fun to find some rare bird miles from the nearest parking lot (I, mounted on my bike, can probe much more deeply into large chunks of habitat than the birder stuck with a car.) So, when I called Doug Willick to tell him about the Painted Redstart I found yesterday, I said, "Bet you can't guess where I found it."
"Ummm... Holy Sepulcher Cemetery?" Doug guessed.
"Nope... Upper Silverado Canyon." I replied.
"What are you doing way up there?" Doug demanded.
Fact is, I was innocently going about my business in Upper Silverado Canyon, trying to get Townsend's Solitaire for my county list, when a Painted Redstart popped up right in front of me. It was about the last thing I was expecting to see up there. Painted Redstarts, which barely extend up into the United States into Arizona and New Mexico, show up annually in California. Orange County has a decent number of records--fifteen or so. However, all those (I believe) were from the lowlands, in boring places like Huntington Central Park.
On a late date like Novemeber 20th, I would expect that the bird would be wintering here. That would certainly make sense if the bird were in the lowlands, but temperatures in Upper Silverado Canyon dip below freezing, and some winters snow falls. Painted Redstarts aren't the hardiest birds in the world. Will it stay? We'll see.
I must say, this Painted Redstart was one of the more satisfying rare birds I've found this fall. It combines rarity with stunning looks. Who couldn't love those flashy, contrasting reds, whites, and blacks, combined with the redstart's flamboyant personality? Put this beautiful bird in an absolutely stunning setting that very few people ever bird, and you get an awesome rare bird experience.
I've done more birding than is healthy the last couple days. I'll try to get some photos of the other birds I've seen up soon.