Sunday, July 29, 2007

SJWS birds

Before attending the Sea and Sage Audubon's annual Summer BBQ yesterday evening, my dad and I birded San Joaquin (pronounced Wah-keen) Wildlife Sanctuary for a little while. A good spot. A couple of the ponds had low water levels, attracting some shorebirds. Some of the more interesting birds I saw included Whimbrel, Long-billed Curlew, Wilson's Phalaropes (madly spinning!), Long-billed Dowitchers, Cinnamon Teal, Least Tern, Common Moorhen, White-faced Ibis, etc. At the BBQ, I was able to meet a ton of very friendly people, and seabird expert Todd McGrath gave an excellent presentation on pelagic birding. Here's a shot of a cooperative Cinnamon Teal at SJWS:

Also, on Friday, there was a brush fire a couple miles from my house. There was a big cloud of smoke, and a couple roads were shut down temporarily. It was quickly put out, only after burning about 80 acres. It came uncomfortably close (right across the street) to burning one of my local patches, Peters Canyon!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Common Kingsnake

I forgot to post a couple photos of this Common Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula) that I found on my neighbor's sidewalk a couple weeks ago. It was one of the most striking snakes I've ever seen! When I approached, it vibrated its tail and coiled up, trying to hide its face. I moved it off the concrete and put it in a garden nearby so it wouldn't get stepped on.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bluebird boxes and more...

I've been working on making some bluebird boxes to put up around the neighborhood, since I've seen quite a few Western Bluebirds hanging around. I'm building "two-holed mansions", designed by Linda Violett of Yorba Linda. Apparently, House Sparrows aren't fond of the large two holed mansions, and the larger floorsize allows young bluebirds to spread out a bit more in the nest. Check out Linda's website:

Unfortunately, I've found butterflies to be scarce around here... here's a photo of a Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus) I found yesterday.

Also, I added California Gnatcatcher to my neighborhood list the other day (because my yard is so small, I've decided to keep a neighborhood list instead). There's a hill immediately adjacent to the neighborhood, and I saw one male gnatcatcher there. There's also a lot of cactus, so there should be Cactus Wrens as well.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sat AM birding

My dad and I got out for a couple hours this morning, hitting Mojeska Canyon, situated in the Santa Ana Mountains, and parts of the Santa Ana River. Mojeska Canyon is mostly chaparral and oak riparian. Best bird there for me was a single Rufous-crowned Sparrow, along with the common residents of the named habitats - Band-tailed Pigeon, White-breasted Nuthatch, Acorn Woodpecker, Oak Titmouse, Western Scrub-Jay, etc. We also birded the Santa Ana River, looking for shorebirds, but found few despite a good amount of mudflats - I had (25) Western Sandpiper, (5) Least Sandpiper, (3) Greater Yellowlegs and (1) Short-billed Dowitcher. Pretty depressing! Other birds of note were (2) Orange Bishops and lots of egrets and herons... here's a mediocre shot of an adult Black-crowned Night-Heron... nice plumes, eh?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Peters Canyon AM

I peddled over to Peters Canyon Regional Park (~1 mi from my house) for a few hrs this a.m. to see what was around. It was birdy, per usual. Peters Canyon has a fair-sized riparian area and a good amount of coastal sage scrub, in addition to a good-sized reservoir. Most birds have stopped singing (I don't blame em), but the common residents such as Blue & Black-headed Grosbeaks, Bell's Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat, Red-shouldered Hawk, etc, are still obvious. I was glad to note lots of California Gnatcatchers - I saw at least eight. South of the dam I had two Cactus Wrens and singles of Greater Roadrunner and California Thrasher. I'd really like to get some good shots of Cactus Wrens sometime - they're sweet birds. The award for the best bird of the morning probably goes to the lone Acorn Woodpecker I saw - I was really surprised to see it, considering there are very few, if no oaks in the park. It was hard to get any good photos thanks to a very thick marine layer, but here's a shot of a rabbit I saw... I'm thinking Desert Cottontail. Input welcomed. :-)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Salton Sea!

Yesterday Dave Pavlik (another young birder working in Weldon, CA for the summer) and I made a killer trip to the Salton Sea. Dave came on Fri, and we managed to find both California Gnatcatchers and Red-crowned Parrots (both lifers for Dave). On Sat, we got up at 2:30 so as to get an early start. The reason? The Salton Sea is an amazing birding spot, and it regularly has Yellow-footed Gulls, a species found nowhere else in the US. Of course, we found them (lifers for us both) - at least 50 total.

The sea also had THOUSANDS of other birds - terns (Black, Gull-billed, Caspian, Common and Forster's, along with Black Skimmers), shorebirds (esp. Long-billed Curlews, Black-necked Stilts, Avocets, Wilson's and Red-necked Phalaropes), both species of Pelicans, etc. We were also lucky enough to see a Wood Stork, a rare species for CA and a lifer for me.

Several Avocets "attacked" the car while we drove next to a couple ponds - they must have had nests nearby. They'd run at the car, calling loudly, and spread their wings. We had to be careful not to hit any with the car. :-)

Another highlight for me was the Burrowing Owls - these adorable lil guys are very tame, allowing close approach and good photos.

So, a sweet day - 2 lifers, 22 state birds, and a lot of other interesting birds!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

of grackles and Coots

This afternoon I headed to the neighborhood lake (~1 acre in size) to try to digiscope some photos of whatever came up. I was pleasantly surprised to find two American Coots hanging out at the lake - before I'd seen only one, and irregularly. Unfortunately, they were highly uncooperative, no matter how carefully I stalked em.

The Great-tailed Grackle colony in the patch of reeds at one end was highly active - adults foraging on nearby lawns and bringing in food to demanding youngsters. I finally managed to get a photo of a young one chillin in the reeds, waiting for his meal.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Meet the owl family

In my new neighborhood in Orange, CA, I have discovered a family of Great Horned Owls. There are two adults, and two babies. One of the adults we have named "Buster", due to its large and rather ragged appearance, and the other adult I dubbed "Smoothie" because of its contrasingly smoother plumage compared to Buster. Both the babies are fuzzy and adorable! Every evening, around 8:00 p.m., I go out to see what the owls are up to. As it gets dark, the owls get active. Buster usually hoots softly (a very soft, short "Who-who"), and the babies screech for food. A couple times we've seen the babies feeding on prey that one of the adults caught, and once I watched as Buster ripped apart a small songbird (maybe a California Towhee), eating most of it and feeding the remainder to the babies. They almost always hang out in the same few trees near the neighborhood lake.

Hi all, welcome to my new blog. This is a test.