Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Surprise

Early this afternoon, my dad and I made a feeble attempt to get some birding in, but very strong winds and rain soon discouraged us. Now, don't think we're wimps; it was really the wind, not the rain, that killed the birding today. I've found that birding in the rain can actually be excellent, but the wind today was strong enough to blow over my scope and make my eyes water whenever I tried to use my binoculars. It kept the birds hunkered down anyways. However, we managed to find a few interesting birds, including the one pictured above.

One of our stops was Eisenhower Park, located near the intersection of Tustin and Lincoln in Orange. A Brown Creeper had been seen there, and I was keen to add it to my Orange County year list. After arriving, however, it immediately became apparent that finding this bird was impossible. Brown Creepers are tough to find on days even with decent conditions, but winds like these drowned out any of the high lisping notes that it might make. I instead scanned the small, round pond near the parking lot. Lots of Mallards and American Coots, along with some Lesser Scaup, American Wigeons, and singles of Ring-necked Duck and Pied-billed Grebe. A lone gull - a Ring-billed, I figured, floated amongst the ducks. I was suddenly struck at how small and petite it looked. A quick glance showed that it was not a Ring-billed Gull, but a very nice nonbreeding adult-cycle Mew Gull!

The short, narrow bill, round head, dark eye, petite size, and primary pattern are all distinctive Mew Gull characteristics. It was a state/county bird for me - I've kept an eye out for one all winter, but for some reason I haven't seen one. It also qualifies as a "kind-of" lifer - I saw Common Gulls in Germany. Here we have a sticky situation. European birders consider Common Gulls and American Mew Gulls as separate species, while American birders consider them to be subspecies.

Our other stop was the Burris Sandpit, located along the Santa Ana River in Orange. The Burris Sandpit is a rather anonymous-looking body of water, but it is the only reliable wintering location in Orange County for Common Merganser, that large diving duck with a permanent bad hair-day. Sure enough, I spotted a flock - nineteen of them, all females - snoozing on a sandbar. Another state/county bird, and the first ones I have seen since last winter in Michigan, where they are common winter visitors.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Oceanside Pelagic

This morning my dad and I arose early and headed down to Oceanside, San Diego County. Why? Well, Buena Vista Audubon had a pelagic trip scheduled. Several weeks ago, after convincing my reluctant dad, I signed us up for the trip. It did not disappoint.

After we and over ninety more birders had shuffled down the dock and hopped on the boat, we quickly pulled out of the harbor. In just a couple minutes the first pelagic birds showed up: a couple Parasitic Jaegers chasing Forster's Terns around. Once we got out a bit farther still, we started to see the first of many Black-vented Shearwaters. Many of the shearwaters buzzed right along the sides of the boat, giving us excellent looks. The first Rhinoceros Auklets of the day put in an appearance, along with a couple uncooperative Cassin's Auklets. The shout of "Short-tailed Shearwater!" went up, and I quickly found the bird. I had good albeit brief looks at it. A life bird!

One important part of a good pelagic trip is the chumming. For those who are not familiar with chumming, it is simple; the entire trip, some unfortunate soul has to stand in the stern and toss popcorn overboard to attract a flock of gulls. The sight of a swirling flock of gulls and the sounds of gulls squealing often will bring in more interesting pelagic birds. It certainly worked today; two different Northern Fulmars (one light, one dark) flew right up through our wake and hung out with the gulls for awhile. The gulls were cooperative for photos as they followed the boat while waiting for the popcorn. Here's a young Western Gull hanging overhead:

Western Gulls were by far the most common gulls, but there were also good numbers of California Gulls, including this nice adult.

Several Brown Pelicans made half-hearted attempts after the popcorn as well, but they never seemed to be successful. Here's a photo of one flying right alongside the boat.

Other birds of note included several Red Phalaropes, a couple Pomarine Jaegers (including one with full tail spoons), and a few Pacific Loons. We encountered a small pod of Common Dolphins and a magnificent Gray Whale.

Yesterday afternoon I biked around Irvine Regional Park a little bit. Almost immediately after arriving I located a Red-breasted Sapsucker in the huge pepper tree near the train station. The tree is riddled with sapsucker wells and the bird was there again today, so it seems as if I have another sapsucker location pinned down. A quick scan of the many Dark-eyed Juncos scratching amongst the mulch revealed one nice male of the "Slate-colored" subspecies, found mostly in the east.

The female Red-naped Sapsucker continued in her big pepper tree near the equestrian center. Sapsuckers sure do love those pepper trees! I've started checking every pepper tree I see for sapsuckers...

The Lewis's Woodpecker was still on its favorite snag. It has been around for over two months now, and I've only dipped on it a couple times so far. While checking out the lakes, I was struck by the numbers of Wood Ducks. I decided to count them - I came to the unbelievable number of 138 Wood Ducks. A couple weeks ago, I saw only five. I wonder where they all go when they aren't on the lakes at Irvine Regional Park! At first I assumed that the numbers of Wood Ducks there was relatively stable, but they have proven me wrong.

I discovered a trail that climbs to the top of a ridge at the far edge of the park. I was treated to fine views of the Santa Ana Mountains. It was very cloudy up there, and there was a bit of snow on the ground as well.

Lastly, here's a mediocre shot of a Lincoln's Sparrow that was scratching around under my feeder the other day. Unlike most Lincoln's Sparrows, which always seem to be skulking in dense brush, this one wasn't shy at all.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Owling by Bike

First of all, I must say that I am not proud of this photo. If you use your imagination, you might be able to see that it is a Western Screech-Owl (the large orange blob is its eyeshine). Yesterday evening I braved Mountain Lions, rabid skunks and axe murders to look for owls at Irvine Regional Park on my bike after dark. I spent most of the afternoon wandering around the park, waiting for the sun to sink. The only birds of interest were the continuing Lewis's Woodpecker and Red-naped Sapsucker. As the sun slowly sank behind the hills, I realized my mistake; I had forgotten to stash my sweat shirt in my backpack. When I arrived, it was a sweltering 68 degrees in the sun; now it was more like 55 degrees, and the sun was gone. Chilled, I rode my bike around, whistling for screech-owls as it continued to get darker. I crossed the wash and began to explore the old campground area; almost as soon as I started whistling a Western Screech-Owl swooped across the road right in front of me and landed in a nearby tree. I crashed after it, shining my light up into the tree trying to spot it. Then I saw it - ten feet above my head! I got great looks through binoculars while spotlighting it with my headlamp. The photo, however, is far from great; I'll have to go back to try again. A year bird, and I had gone on my bike to add it to my Bigby list. I cycled out of the park just minutes before it closed.

My dad and I attended the Sea & Sage Audubon's Junior Naturalist field trip to Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, no cameras are allowed on the refuge (it is part of the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station), so I couldn't get any shots of the great birds we saw. The birding was simply fantastic - there were raptors everywhere in the fields and marshes, and ducks, shorebirds, and large waders abounded in the marshes. John Fitch, our leader, quickly spotted a gorgeous Ferruginous Hawk. A lifer for me! John then guided us to a small patch of poison oak out in the middle of the marsh, and we easily found one of the two Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows that are wintering there. I was hoping to see the Mountain Plovers which had been seen there on and off the last couple weeks, but we never saw them despite scanning the extensive plowed fields. A Burrowing Owl standing atop a roadside culvert was an excellent consolation prize, however. Seal Beach NWR is an awesome place - I look forward to going there again.

On Friday I assisted with the MoSi banding at Starr Ranch. The pace was agonizingly slow; we banded only eight birds. My favorites of the day were three Bushtits that were caught together in the same net. Two were females and one was a male - females have pale, staring eyes while males have completely dark eyes.

I was also excited when we captured a familiar face to me, the "Myrtle" subspecies of the Yellow-rumped Warbler that is found mostly in the eastern US. "Myrtle" Warblers winter fairly commonly in southern California, but they are often lost in the crowds of "Audubon's" Yellow-rumped Warblers. In this photo you can see the bird's obvious pale supercilium as well as the pale throat that curves up around the auriculars.

During a slow period between net runs I stalked the herd of deer that occasionally wander through the banding area. These deer are very used to people, but they were very wary of me when I tried to photograph them... hmmmm...

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Stray from Mexico

I was very disappointed to have driven right by an American Oystercatcher on Saturday in Laguna Beach. This morning, my mom and I made a quick trip down there to look for it. American Oystercatcher is very rare in Orange County, and in Southern California in general. It has a wide range - along much of the east and gulf coasts, and the Pacific Coast from Chile to Mexico, falling just short of the United States - several individuals have been seen fairly regularly on the Los Coronados islands, just south of the border. Black and American Oystercatchers also hybridize frequently where their ranges overlap, but this bird is very clean and is apparently a pure American Oystercatcher.

We arrived at Crescent Bay Point Park around 8:30 this morning. I've been there a couple times already, since it is a good spot to scan some nice rocky shoreline for species such as Black Oystercatcher, Surfbird, and Black Turnstone. The tide was mostly out when we arrived - not good. This spreads out the birds - often they congregate on the higher rocks beneath the overlook at high tide. The only shorebirds in sight were a few Willets, Black-bellied Plovers, and Black Turnstones. After awhile, a single Black Oystercatcher showed up. It was followed by several other Black Oystercatchers, but no American Oystercatcher. After almost an hour of fruitless scanning, I decided we should check Heisler Park which is located about a mile south of Crescent Bay. It has similar rocky habitat. There weren't any oystercatchers of any kind here - the only shorebirds were a few Willets and a couple Ruddy Turnstones. I convinced my mom to take one last quick look at Crescent Bay. She gave me two minutes to look. I jumped out of the car, jogged to the overlook, and scanned - nothing. The same Black Oystercatchers were resting on the rocks. After a couple minutes I sighed, gave the rocks one last scan, and - WOAH, WAIT - there's the American Oystercatcher!

These photos aren't very good, but the bird was very distant so I was glad to get something. A very good ending as well - after working hard for a long time, I finally spotted the bird at the very end. Here's another bad shot, but showing the bird next to a Black Oystercatcher:

A very cool bird. Naturally, it was a state and county bird, and a great one at that. My county list continues to crawl its way towards three hundred...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Morning at Dana Point

My dad and I birded for several hours this morning down in Dana Point. We arrived at Doheny State Beach around 7:45. Doheny State Beach is a famous spot for gulls; many rarities have been found here. We weren't the first birders there; Bruce Aird, Steve Sosensky and several other birders were already there scanning through the large flocks of gulls. At first, the only gulls of note were a few Glaucous-winged Gulls and Herring Gulls. Bruce then spotted a first-cycle Thayer's Gull just down the beach. A county and state bird for me! I've only seen a handful in the past, so it was a great bird to see. It was a "classic" first cycle, with a small bill, chocolate wingtips, rounded head, etc. Here's a photo with a yellow arrow pointing to the Thayer's Gull.

Next, we swung through Dana Point Harbor in search of the first-cycle Glaucous Gull that had been found recently. No luck. The harbor was relatively quiet, but it was strange to see a Green Heron walking amongst the gulls and pelicans on the jetty!

My dad and I decided to check out a place that I've never really birded before - the Headlands area near the Ocean Institute at the end of Dana Point Harbor Drive. It is pictured at the top of this post. At first, things seemed relatively quiet, but I started walking down the rocky beach. After about 1/4 of a mile, a small bird popped up on top of a rock - a Rock Wren! This is only the second time I've seen Rock Wren in the county (and the first was just two weeks ago!), and I had no idea this bird was here. I did hear a rumor from Kaaren Perry that for several consecutive winters a Rock Wren had wintered here, but it wasn't found on this year's Christmas Bird Count. It put on a great show by posing atop rocks at close range.

Here's another photo, showing it in profile. Rock Wrens really are very interesting birds to watch. We even heard it calling several times, which was a treat!

We walked farther along the beach, and then I set up my scope and looked offshore. I was surprised to immediately see Black-vented Shearwaters - lots of them! Lines of them flew south constantly. In about an hour I saw several hundred. Most were very distant, but a few came in relatively close. At one point, I spotted a different bird shearwater - bigger with a completely different flight style. Instead of the hyper buzzing wing beats of the tiny Black-vented Shearwater, this bird had heavy, lumbering wing beats with long glides. Its plumage pattern was similar to Black-vented Shearwater. Suddenly, it clicked - Pink-footed Shearwater! A great bird for the winter. I was able to keep it in sight for a short time as it continued south, like all the other birds.

Other interesting birds that I saw while sea watching at the Headlands included a single Parasitic Jaeger, about a dozen Pacific Loons, and a single Red-throated Loon. We made a quick spin back through Doheny State Beach, but human activity had scared away most of the gulls. Unfortunately, just after getting home, I read on Orange County Birding that Bruce and Steve had seen an American Oystercatcher in Laguna Beach (we drove right by the place, but the fog and traffic was so bad we kept going). AAARRGGHH!!

Also, I saw my first "spring" migrants of the year yesterday, believe it or not. I was at Peters Canyon again, scoping out the lake for Hooded Mergansers which I still need for my Bigby list. No luck with those (indeed, duck variety and numbers have plummeted alarmingly there the last couple weeks), but I noticed a flock of about thirty swallows swirling around. I was surprised to see it composed of mainly Barn and Northern Rough-winged Swallows, with only a few Tree Swallows mixed in. A quick look in the San Diego County Bird Atlas revealed some interesting information regarded swallows. First of all, those Rough-winged Swallows were undoubtedly spring migrants. They are one of the first migrants to return, often by January. The Barn Swallows, on the other hand, were probably wintering. They winter annually, albeit in small numbers. I found in ironic that Tree Swallows were the least numerous of the three species, even though it is supposed to be by far the most common swallow during the winter.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Adding to the Year List

I spent most of the day yesterday birding with Ian Davies, a young birder from Massachusetts. We hit a lot of good spots - Fairview Regional Park, in Costa Mesa; Huntington Beach Pier, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Harriet Wieder Regional Park, and Huntington Central Park, all in Huntington Beach; and lastly Irvine Regional Park in Orange. We had an excellent day, finding 132 species without trying to hard - and we missed a lot of easy birds! I had 48 year birds (my first visit to the coast this year), three county birds, and two state birds.

We started at Talbert/Fairview Regional Parks, looking for a Burrowing Owl I had heard a rumor of. The only directions I had was "In a fallow field in the north end of Talbert Regional Park". We found several fallow fields, and walked up all the way into Fairview Regional Park, scanning all the mounds of dirt for Burrowing Owls. No luck. The only birds of interest were flocks of Western Meadowlarks and American Pipits.

The next stop I had planned was the Huntington Beach Pier. Our luck started to turn here; we found several good birds. Best of all was a beautiful dark Pomarine Jaeger attacking a Heerman's Gull at fairly close range. Ian spotted a Red-throated Loon just off the end of the pier, which was a county and state bird for me! There were amazing numbers of Aechmophorus grebes everywhere. There were thousands - large flocks were spread out as far as the eye could see. We were also treated to good looks at a few Clark's Grebes and a single Pelagic Cormorant at relatively close range.

We hit Harriet Wieder Regional Park next, in hopes of seeing the Pacific Golden-Plover that is wintering there. It was a good thing Ian had seen it earlier this week, because we couldn't spot it despite much scanning. We did see a lot of interesting birds though, including a Peregrine Falcon, White-tailed Kite, Ruddy Turnstones, Virginia Rail, Fox Sparrow, Wilson's Warbler, and Yellow Warbler. The latter three were in the willow-choked Fisher's Gulch. I can't wait to bird until next fall to bird this gulch - the habitat is really great looking for some interesting eastern vagrant.

No birding trip to coastal Orange County would be complete without a trip to Bolsa Chica proper. Lots of birds put on a good show right off the boardwalk - grebes, ducks and waders. I was looking at some Northern Pintail tucked in on the edge of the vegetation when I spotted an American Bittern sitting right out in the open! We were able to get EXCELLENT looks at this bird - the best looks I've ever had of this species. It posed in decent light, and we were even able to observe its "agonizingly slow gate" (inside joke... see Sibley).

We walked out a little ways out past the first look. Ian wanted to see the Reddish Egret that has been hanging around, but we couldn't find it. We did see a Glaucous-winged Gull, a Common Loon, and some Red-breasted Mergansers. As we rounded the bend just past the first overlook, guess who was sitting there out in the open right next to the dike - the Reddish Egret! I've seen this bird multiple times here before, but never so close. It posed well, and the sun even peaked out from behind the clouds a little bit.

After a quick lunch at Subway we accidentally found a Cackling Goose. We had to do a U-turn on Pacific Coast Highway to turn onto Warner Avenue, and while waiting for a hole in traffic, I noticed a large flock of Canada Geese resting on the water in Bolsa Chica. Ian spotted a lone Cackling Goose in amongst the flock! A county bird for me.

Our next destination was Huntington Central Park, undoubtedly one of the most-birded sites in the county. An insane number of good birds has shown up here - for a good reason. There are a lot of wet scrubby areas, along with tall exotic plantings, that attract regular migrants and vagrants alike like a magnet. Some interesting birds had been found here on the Coastal Christmas Bird Count, namely Winter Wren, Tropical Kingbird, Eastern Phoebe, and White-throated Sparrow. We headed straight towards "The Island" area, which was where the Winter Wren had been found. No luck. After about three circuits around "The Island" and making several forays into the wet interior, we began to get bored with the whole Winter Wren search. We wandered over towards the fenced in garden near the library, but couldn't find the White-throated Sparrow. A Merlin flew overhead, which was a nice bird to get. After awhile we cut back across dry Lake Huntington, and birded our ways back to the Slater parking lot. Just as we were approaching the car, I noticed a black-and-orange blur flit up into a nearby tree. I ran, and was rewarded with a gorgeous after second-year male American Redstart! It is probably the same one that was first found in mid-September.

We drove over to the western side of the park to look for the Eastern Phoebe that had been found near the frisbee golf course. Ian and I walked around the perimeter of the course, seeing hardly anything. We got really lucky and spotted the bird just as we were approaching the parking lot - sounds familiar! A great bird to get, and a state/county bird for me. Another of those birds that I've seen thousands of back east, but out here it is new and exciting. Here's an awful record shot of it - it was skittish and wouldn't sit still.

Our last spot for the day was Irvine Regional Park. We instantly found the Red-naped Sapsucker on her usual branch in her usual tree. A lifer for Ian. We road around the park by bike, and at first our luck was bad. The Barn Owl was a no-show, the Lewis's Woodpecker was nowhere to be seen, and there wasn't a single Red-crowned Parrot within earshot. Our luck changed at the end, though. While searching for Red-breasted Sapsuckers, I heard some parrots screeching. We jumped on the bikes and sped over there, stopping for a millisecond to see a Phainopepla up on top of a tree. We rapidly tracked down the parrots, and found a flock of at least thirty feasting on berries. Most were Red-crowned Parrots, of course, but there were also quite a few (5+) Lilac-crowned Parrots, and a single apparent Blue-fronted Parrot. Here's a shot of a Lilac-crowned Parrot.

Encouraged, we cycled back to the Lewis's Woodpecker spot and quickly spotted it on its favorite snag. Then a Lark Sparrow showed up, and I saw a Red-breasted Sapsucker, but Ian missed it.

Overall, it was a great day of birding. Can't wait to get out again and keep working on the year list...

Saturday, January 5, 2008

More 2008 Birding

On Wednesday (the 2nd), I did more birding by bike. Before I set out on my bike I took a quick walk around the neighborhood, and found a few new year birds, including Red-crowned Parrot, Yellow Warbler, and House Sparrow (yippee!). Then I headed to the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, birding for about two hours from 8:00-10:00 a.m. It was very birdy! I easily found several Mountain Chickadees and one Red-breasted Nuthatch, along with a Red-naped Sapsucker, some Western Meadowlarks, Lark Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, Cassin's Kingbirds, and more. Next I headed to Irvine Regional Park, where I spent the next hour or so. The Lewis's Woodpecker cooperated nicely, sitting atop his favorite snag. I was glad to see him after missing him the last couple times I've been there. As I was watching him, I noticed some small birds zipping around in the sky behind the woodpecker - White-throated Swifts! Late in the afternoon (3:15-4:15 p.m.) I biked over to Peters Canyon Regional Park with my scope on my back, in hopes of finding some new waterbirds for my Bigby list. I spotted some Cinnamon Teal, which were new, but frustratingly I could not find any Redheads or Hooded Mergansers. Other interesting birds that I saw that were new for my Bigby list included Common Moorhen, Spotted Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, and Wilson's Snipe (a new Peters Canyon bird for me).

The next day (the 3rd), I finally found a Barn Owl - dead. I was biking around some neighborhoods in Orange Park Acres when I found it lying on the side of the road. It was in very fresh condition - I think it must have been hit the night before. Very sad! Hopefully I'll be able to find a live one...

On a happier note, I saw some more interesting birds that day. I started at Santiago Oaks Regional Park, and found a flock of American Robins (year bird), as well as a gorgeous male Red-naped Sapsucker. I didn't venture too far back on the trails, since the area right along the entrance road and the nature center was very birdy. I found the Barn Owl while I was biking home - see above. I also found another Red-naped Sapsucker in a pepper tree by where I found the Barn Owl. I decided to check Santiago Hills Park, a small park located on White Oak Ridge near Peters Canyon. I haven't been there in awhile, and I was surprised to find it hopping with birds. I found yet another Red-naped Sapsucker working the couple pine trees near the parking lot, and lots of Savannah Sparrows, Pine Siskins, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Chipping Sparrows, and more. I checked all the Chipping Sparrows, hoping for something rarer, but no such luck.

After lunch at home, I set out again to Irvine Regional Park, hoping to see the (live) Barn Owl. I didn't, but I did find singles of Phainopepla and the ever-elusive Hutton's Vireo. I also saw the continuing female Red-naped Sapsucker, making a total of four (!) for the day. On the way home I found this nice young Red-shouldered Hawk sitting atop a lamp post along the road.

Later in the afternoon I again biked to Peters Canyon with my scope. The Wilson's Snipe was in the exact same place as yesterday. By biking around to the south end of the lake with my scope, I was able to find three female Redheads amongst the large flock of Ring-necked Ducks. Still no Hooded Mergansers, however.

I didn't do any birding yesterday, since it was threatening rain all day. I'm not planning on going anywhere today on my bike, either, since we got a ton of rain last night and everything is flooded and muddy. I hate rainy Saturdays - maybe I should don rain gear and go for a walk.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A New Year

I always enjoy birding on January 1st every year. Every bird is special - even the most common birds like Yellow-rumped Warblers and White-crowned Sparrows are new additions to the year list. This year I'm keeping a few year lists; a "Bigby" year list (a list of birds I see this year while birding under my own power; see, an Orange County year list, and an overall year list. I spent the morning starting off the year at Peters Canyon and Irvine Regional Parks on my bike, so I was able to start my Bigby list as well.

Most birds were hunkered down out of the strong, steady winds at Peters Canyon, but I still managed to dig out some interesting birds. Most of the ducks on the lake were tucked in protected coves, which made them harder to see. The variety and numbers of ducks weren't as good as they have been recently, but I did see a modest variety of ducks. There were three Osprey hanging around the lake. One circled above the lake briefly and took off towards the south, but the other two hung around for awhile. One of them caught an enormous goldfish and chased the second Osprey around while carrying the fish! At times they flew right above my head, so I was able to get a few photos. Here's a shot of the fish-carrying Osprey right overhead:

Here's another shot showing both birds:

Passerines were elusive, but I saw some interesting ones including California Gnatcatchers, Fox Sparrows, Golden-crowned Sparrows, and Hermit Thrushes. I left for Irvine Regional Park around 9:30, and saw a flock of Lark Sparrows as I rode along. I easily found singles of Red-naped and Red-breasted Sapsuckers near the horse arena, along with Pine Siskins, Dark-eyed Juncos, Acorn Woodpeckers, and more. There were at least sixty Ring-necked Ducks on the lakes, as well as two Green-winged Teal, the first ones I have ever seen at the park. I did not see the Lewis's Woodpecker or the Barn Owl. I suspect the woodpecker was hunkered down somewhere, since the wind was really whipping through the wash where it normally is! I ended up with sixty-nine species for the morning, which I guess isn't bad considering I was out for less than four hours and the constant wind.

In the afternoon my dad and I chased a couple rarities that had shown up on the Coastal Christmas Bird Count. We first looked for the Rock Wren that had been seen at Sepuldeva Vista Point in Irvine, just south of the UCI campus. Within minutes of arriving, I spotted a pair of them bouncing around in the jumbled boulders by the point. Rock Wren has gotten very tough to find in Orange County, so I was happy to see them. It was also only the second time I'd ever seen one, and I got much better looks. What cool birds! They often poked around under and in between rocks, and therefore were hard to photograph. I managed to get one decent shot.

Next on the agenda was a Pine Warbler which had also been found on the Coastal CBC. It was at Estancia Park in Costa Mesa. Fortunately, the park is small and there aren't too many pines in it, so it took only about ten minutes to find the Pine Warbler. It readily responded to a little bit of pishing and put on a great show at close range for a couple minutes. A very beautiful bird! Another great bird to see in the county.

On the way home we quickly stopped by Carl Thorton Park in Santa Ana, and saw a few White-faced Ibis, and a few different species of ducks. We also briefly stopped by the San Diego Creek behind the Irvine Civic Center and I spotted about ten Wilson's Snipes in the creek bed. A very good day of birding overall!

Wrapping up 2007

Yesterday I participated in the Coastal Christmas Bird Count (CBC) in Orange County. I helped out with the Mile Square Park area, led by Irene Horiuchi. We gathered at Irene's house for breakfast and to plan our attack, and started counting shortly after eight. We began in the fenced-in nature area. Birds were plentiful. We managed to find a few interesting birds around there, including singles of Costa's Hummingbird, Gray Flycatcher, and Bullock's Oriole. All of these birds have been hanging around since November. Other interesting birds we saw in the nature center included Fox Sparrows, Lincoln's Sparrows, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and more. Here's an overexposed shot of the Gray Flycatcher - at least you can tell what it is!

After finishing up in the nature center, Irene and I started birding some other areas of the park. Jim (another birder on our team) showed us a beautiful Red-naped Sapsucker nearby. Otherwise, birding was relatively slow. After a quick lunch at Carl's Jr., we headed out again. Irene and I birded some other nearby urban parks, all of which were mostly birdless. Irene was delighted to find a flock of chickens wandering around in the street in a neighborhood we drove through - this shot is for you, Irene. :D

We spent the rest of the afternoon finishing up at Mile Square Regional Park, including counting birds on the upper lake. Late in the afternoon we gathered at Irene's house to tally the species and numbers for our area (we had 1,149 American Coots in our area alone...), and then later went the tally for the entire circle at a nearby pizza place. It was a fun day!

This afternoon I decided to end 2007 by doing what else... birding. It was quite windy all afternoon, so bird activity was low. The female-type Red-naped Sapsucker continued near the "Peacock Hill Equestrian Center" sign near the entrance to the park. Neither the Barn Owl nor the Lewis's Woodpecker put in an appearance; I suspect the woodpecker at least was hunkered down out of the wind. I spent most of my time around the lakes, doing some sketching. I also decided to try to count all the waterbirds on the lakes - I was particularly interested in the numbers of Wood Ducks there, since the population seems stable. Here is what I counted:

Wood Duck 97
Mallard 185
Canvasback 1
Ring-necked Duck 22
Lesser Scaup 1
Pied-billed Grebe 2
Double-crested Cormorant 2
American Coot 36
Belted Kingfisher 1

I sincerely doubt that the Wood Ducks are naturally ocurring - I think they might be part of an introduction program, but I'll have to check that out. The Lesser Scaup (a female) was fairly tame and was diving just fifteen feet away from me. The light was pretty bad, but I tried to get pictures anyways.

2007 was a year full of changes. I managed a decent yearlist, considering I spent half the year in Michigan, did the World Series of Birding in New Jersey, and spent the rest of the year out here in California. My total was 411. I managed to find 235 in Orange County in less than half a year. Maybe I'll be able to push my Orange County list over 300 in 2008... I can always dream.