Saturday, January 30, 2010
My neglect of this blog continues. The culprits are, as usual, inordinate amounts of time spent on school and birding. Ah well. I figured I'd post up a few recent photos.
First of all, can you find the bird in the photo above? Probably not, because the picture is of a Brown Creeper, the master of camouflage. Though common fare back in my old home state of Michigan, they are scarce enough in Orange County to merit mention. I saw this one at Mile Square Park last Saturday. It wasn't the only decent bird I saw that day. I rode my bike a total of fifty-three miles that day, cleaning up on rarities around the lower Santa Ana River found on the Christmas Bird Count.
The first rare bird I chased that day (well, not exactly the first, since I stopped by Twin Lakes Park to tick the resident Ross's Goose) was a Palm Warbler wintering in a small nursery in Huntington Beach. It's not the kind of place you'd expect to find a rare bird (or any bird for that matter) wintering, but apparently the gravel and spindly potted plants are attractive to this particular Palm Warbler.
Even more interesting was an adult male Orchard Oriole which I managed to track down on sort-of-private property in Costa Mesa. It's one of those birds that combines rarity with good looks. Surprisingly, Orchard Orioles show up fairly frequently in southern California (Orange County gets one almost every year, and San Diego County has had almost a dozen this winter!), even though their normal wintering range is thousands of miles away. This photo is barely worth posting...
The Brown Creeper was not the only unusual bird I saw at Mile Square Park last Saturday. A suite of rare birds--Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Greater White-fronted Goose, American Redstart, and Black-and-white Warbler--had been found there on the Christmas Bird Count. I enjoyed excellent success, finding all except the sapsucker. None were terribly cooperative for photography--the Black-and-white was foraging very low in some pines, but it never emerged from the dark gloom of the interior of the trees.
To balance the terrible photos I've already posted, here's a half-way decent shot of a Black Phoebe from Mile Square Park. Though omnipresent in Orange County, it's one of my favorite birds.
Birding while sweating over calculus is always a joy. While wrestling with an integrating-by-guessing problem last week, I heard the distinctive clear call of a Northern Flicker resounding from the backyard. Flickers aren't very common in my neighborhood, so I took a peek out the window. The bird dropped out a tree and onto the backyard fence, but something was wrong--its wings flashed golden yellow, not red. Oooh, a Yellow-shafted Flicker? The bird turned its head, showing the red nape--a characteristic of Yellow-shafts. However, its face was mostly gray, and its malar was dark red. Hmmmmm. Looks like we've got an intergrade on our hands.
Saturday was devoted to bird banding. Or, more accurately, sitting around the kitchen at Starr Ranch wondering where all the birds were. It was an incredibly slow day. The only birds we caught were two Anna's Hummingbirds (which had to be released unbanded), singles of California and Spotted Towhees, and...a Turkey Vulture! The vulture provided the excitement of the day. It had swooped down into the meadow, around which our nets are situated, to feast on a putrid gopher. For some reason it decided to take the gopher somewhere else to eat, so it took off with the gopher in its bill and promptly slammed into one of our mist nets. The nets are designed to catch birds no larger than about a robin, so it quickly managed to tear its way out, leaving behind a juicy dead gopher and copious amounts of nauseating vulture vomit. The stench was so revolting that I nearly vomited myself; it ranks up there among the worst smells I've ever experienced.
With so few birds around to band, I puttered around the kitchen (our makeshift banding lab) with my camera. Acorn Woodpeckers are permanent fixtures on the telephone poles around the kitchen...
This plethora of woodpeckers is bad news for the poor telephone poles. Some of them have been nearly pecked to pieces!
Banding is always fun, even when there aren't any birds around to band! Starr Ranch is a beautiful place.
Well, those are the highlights of my last couple weeks. I'll try to do a better job keeping up in the near future, but I'm not guaranteeing anything.