Friday, August 31, 2007

Beach Birds

Today I hit the beach for non-birding purposes, but naturally I took my binoculars and camera. Gulls were common, with four species - Heerman's, Western, Ring-billed and California. The only shorebird was a Willet that tolerated being repeatedly flushed by joggers. I also saw some Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, and a Caspian Tern. The few birds I did see cooperated for photos. Here's a shot of a cooperative Heerman's Gull (well, I did have to bribe it with a bit of bread)...

The Willet was acting like a Sanderling, madly dashing about. I like how this action shot came out.

Here's another shot of the same Willet wading through deeper water. It was reasonably tame, and by lying down in the sand a short distance ahead of it I was able to get shots as it wandered by.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Peters Canyon XI

This morning I birded Peters Canyon, my eleventh visit. I walked completely around the lake on the Lakeview Trail and also walked the Cactus Point Loop, a distance of about 2.5 miles. In about two and a half hours, I saw sixty-one species of birds, two of them new for my Peters Canyon list: Green-winged Teal and Rock Pigeon. I was impressed by the variety and numbers of ducks - I had seven species: Wood Duck, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, and Green-winged Teal. Not bad for August! The only migrant warbler I saw was Orange-crowned, thought I did not chase down every warbler chip I heard. There also seemed to be more Common Ravens than usual - here's a shot of two hot ravens hanging out at the edge of the trail:

A flock of Bushtits clued me in to the presence of this gorgeous adult Red-shouldered Hawk. It flew in and landed behind me, but I turned around to see what the Bushtits were fussing about and spotted him.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Irvine Regional Park IV

I spent several hours birding Irvine Regional Park this morning, which is close to my home. Irvine Regional Park has a fair variety habitats: open, grassy parkland with lots of old sycamores and exotic trees, oak riparian, willow riparian, chaparral, and coastal sage scrub. There were lots of birds there this morning. I started out in the park area before it got too crowded. I found a small flock of Lark Sparrows (state bird, finally!), and a few Chipping Sparrows foraging around a children's play area. Lark Sparrow has got to be one of the most beautiful sparrows! Warbler migration has really picked up too - there were Orange-crowned Warblers everywhere, along with a few Yellow Warblers and a single gorgeous Townsend's Warbler. A bout of pishing brought in this very curious Hutton's Vireo, which came within three feet of me! If those branches weren't in front of the face, this would have made a decent photograph...

I biked around the park (it is quite large), birding the whole time. I poked around a dry, rocky wash looking for rattlesnakes, but I couldn't find any. I did find this Mournful Duskywing (Erynnis tristis), however.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Juvenile Shorebirds

Today I was reminded of one reason why I like late summer - juvenile shorebirds. After looking at worn, faded adult shorebirds all July, the first juvenile shorebirds (like the juvenile Western above) of the summer are a joy to behold. Their crisp patterns and bright colors make them truly beautiful. I got to see plenty at Upper Newport Bay this morning. There were thousands of shorebirds there - mostly common ones such as Western Sandpipers and Black-bellied Plovers, but I also picked out three Red Knots and a ghostly-looking leucistic Willet. Other interesting birds there included Pied-billed, Western, and Eared Grebes, Black Skimmers, and a couple California Gnatcatchers. On the way home I stopped at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary quickly to see what was around. There wasn't much, but the few shorebirds there put on a good show at close range. That's where I took the photo of the juvenile Western Sandpiper, and a couple Red-necked Phalaropes were nice to see as well.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Peters Canyon IX

I spent three hours at Peters Canyon (my ninth visit) this morning. The reservoir is drying up rapidly, attracting lots of ducks, herons, egrets, and a few shorebirds - the latter group being represented by singles of Killdeer and Spotted Sandpiper as well as a small flock of five juvenile Least Sandpipers. When I first arrived, I found the half-tame Greater Roadrunner that terrorizes the parking lot (see my post from a few weeks ago) sitting on a block of concrete near the ranger station.

I walked around the reservoir on the Lakeview Trail and then around the Cactus Point Loop, a total of 2.5 miles. California Gnatcatchers and California Thrashers were common and obvious, and a few of the thrashers were even singing! Three Cactus Wrens were also nice to see. On the Cactus Point Loop I found two more Greater Roadrunners, one of them posing nicely on top of a fence post.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The joys of dipping...

This morning I searched for the Buff-breasted Sandpiper that was found yesterday at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve - I dipped, despite my and many other birders' scouring the area. However, I got a nice consolation prize in the form of singles of Solitary and Semipalmated Sandpipers, both state birds for me. There were lots of other shorebirds there, as well as three coyotes out on the flats being dive-bombed by Caspian Terns. The above photo is a Semipalmated Sandpiper, but not the one I saw it today - I took the picture a couple years ago in Muskegon, Michigan.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Peters Canyon... again

I birded Peters Canyon Regional Park for a few hours early this morning - it is fast becoming my favorite local patch. The lake, which is rapidly drying up, is attracting lots of waterbirds, the best being a couple Caspian Terns and singles of American Wigeon, Green Heron, and Spotted Sandpiper (a new Peters Canyon bird for me). Here are a couple photos, one of a California Gnatcatcher (not a great picture, but my first photo of one so I'm happy) and the other of a cooperative Western Scrub-Jay.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

San Jacinto Mountains

This weekend my dad and I made a short camping trip in the San Jacinto Mountains. It was awesome - lots of birds (seven lifers: Red-breasted Sapsucker, White-headed Woodpecker, Gray Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher, Pinyon Jay, Clark's Nutcracker, and Hermit Warbler), great scenery, and good times. Here's a brief report:

On Saturday, we drove up into the mountains (about a one and a half hour drive from home). At Lake Fulmor, we found our first White-headed Woodpeckers and Dusky Flycatchers, along with the common mountain birds - Mountain Chickadees, Steller's Jays, Pygmy Nuthatches, etc. We quickly checked Indian Vista Point, which was birdless but had lots of lizards, including this handsome fellow which I am tentatively calling a Granite Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus orcutti).

Our next stop, Idyllwild County Park, was productive. Pygmy Nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees, and Band-tailed Pigeons swarmed the feeders, and on a nearby trail we found Red-breasted Sapsucker, Purple Finch, and Nashville Warbler. I also found several species of butterflies in the meadow area of the park, including this Checkered White (Pontia protodice).

Later, we hit Lake Hemet where we found singles of Caspian Tern and Gray Flycatcher, and then the Garner Valley, a low elevation area of pines well-known for its Pinyon Jays. We found the jays without much trouble and managed to track down several calling individuals. We then headed to Hurkey Creek Campground, where we camped for the night.

Early Sunday morning we were awoken by a chorus of coyotes, followed by a couple Great Horned Owls then the noisy awakening of the Steller's Jays. After packing up, we headed into Idyllwild to take a hike into the San Jacinto Wilderness on the Devils Slide Trail. What an awesome hike. There were birds all over the place, and the scenery was spectacular! We hiked a couple miles on the trail (all uphill), seeing many birds in the process. The highlight had to be the Clark's Nutcracker that flew right overhead and landed in a pine close to us, but a Hermit Warbler I saw was very nice as well. On the way back down, we found many unknown lizards that I am still puzzling over. Any ideas for this lil guy?

Friday, August 10, 2007

'hood birds

It's been pretty slow bird-wise this week... however, I did see a Costa's Hummingbird at my feeder the other day (hummer sp. #4 for the yard), and this afternoon I saw a Western Kingbird while taking the dog on a walk. Both are new for the 'hood list. The young Great Horned Owls in the neighborhood are getting close to independence - the adults are becoming less attentive to them. Here's a photo of a Wood Duck at one of the neighborhood lakes that I took this afternoon. Usually there's just one, but today I saw three - two males and one female.

Yesterday I looked for butterflies around the neighborhood (probably looking like a total geek waving the net around in the process...), finding LOTS of Fiery Skippers (Hylephila phyleus), Marine Blues (Leptotes marina), and a couple Western Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio rutulus). Here's a picture of a Marine Blue I caught:

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Bolsa Chica birding

This morning I birded Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach for a few hours. Bolsa Chica is a coastal estuary, with lots of water and mudflats, and some islands on which thousands of terns nest. There were thousands of shorebirds there - mostly Western Sandpipers, but also good numbers of Willet, Long-billed Dowitcher, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, etc. There were lots of terns as well - mostly Elegants, but also lots of Caspian and Forster's Terns. I also saw a couple Royal Terns as well as the abundant Black Skimmers. The long-staying Brant was still hanging around the tide gates. I saw a couple Heerman's Gulls flying along the beach from the second observation mound, a lifer for me. Just an awesome place with lots of birds. Here a couple photos, one of a Long-billed Curlew and one of a Long-billed Dowitcher.

I also spent about an hour at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary this evening looking for a Ruff that has been reported there. No such luck. The ponds where it was seen are very small, and I scanned very thoroughly, so it would be hard to miss. Apparently it was there this morning. There were lots of cool birds there - Wilson's & Red-necked Phalaropes, White-faced Ibis, Sora, Spotted Sandpiper, and many more. I'll have to get that Ruff next time...

Friday, August 3, 2007

Starr Ranch banding

Today I went banding at Starr Ranch, an Audubon wildlife sanctuary in Trabuco Canyon. The station is a MAPS station, and today was the last day of the season. The banding area is mostly vegetated with oaks, with a few sycamores, and also chaparral and coastal sage scrub. There is also a creek runoff from a nearby neighborhood. It was very slow... we banded only seven birds, the highlights being singles of Wrentit, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Nuttall's Woodpecker, Oak Titmouse, and Bushtit. We also caught a couple Anna's Hummingbirds, but had to release them unbanded because the bander didn't have a hummer permit.

There were lots of other birds in the area, including Acorn Woodpecker, California Thrasher, Northern Flicker, California Gnatcatcher, Spotted Towhee, etc. Another very cool find was a tiiiinny Pacific Treefrog that Barry (?) found by the creek.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Roadrunner antics...

I birded Peters Canyon this morning. As I was locking my bike to a tree in the parking lot, I noticed a Greater Roadrunner lurking around the edge of the parking lot. It was fairly tame, and didn't seem too concerned when I sneaked up for photos.

As I watched, it ran across an open wood chip area near the ranger station. This isn't a great photo, but it captures the pose of a running roadrunner.

It paused to preen and take a quick dust bath among the wood chips...

Then darted behind the ranger station and disappeared. I thought it had slipped into the dense brush nearby, but it turned out it was sitting on the cowbird trap behind the ranger station! (Peters Canyon is home to the Least Bell's Vireo, which is threatened. Cowbirds are trapped to help the vireos.) The roadrunner eyed the nervous cowbirds, and tried to nab them through the wire! It kept at it for a couple minutes then ran off.

There were lots of other birds around Peters Canyon this morning. Some of the more interesting ones included (2) Caspian Terns, (4) Pacific-slope Flycatchers (one adult feeding three cute fledglings), (5) California Gnatcatchers, (1) Cactus Wren, (1) Common Moorhen, and (1) American Wigeon. The wigeon was probably the best bird of the morning. It could be an oversummering bird, but I haven't seen it before today, and it doesn't seem totally unlikely that it could be an early returning bird.