Friday, August 31, 2012

Santiago Oaks Regional Park

The second stop on my while-the-family-is-at-Disneyland birding day was Santiago Oaks Regional Park. It is similar in many ways to Oak Canyon but much more expansive and wilder.
One neat aspect, a grove of orange trees, a symbolic gesture more than a real horticultural one. Orange County used to be orange country, but development is edging the orange groves out.

Acorn Woodpecker, Santiago Oaks Regional Park, Orange, CA
It was already noon by the time I arrived and the sun was out so I restricted my exploration to the short interpretive Windes Nature Trail and the adjacent hillside Pacifica Trail. Among the birds, mostly familiar (by now) friends, the California towhee
the lesser goldfinch
 and the oak titmouse.
Plus lots of fence lizards, the main cause of rustling sounds at the trail edge.
Narrow Santiago Creek, which gives the park its name, runs through the property.
 Here I encountered a green heron (!) and my first ever Western tanager.
Quite a beautiful bird, that one.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Oak Canyon Nature Center

Natural caves, Oak Canyon Nature Center, Anaheim, CA
Oak Canyon Nature Center is a lovely little sanctuary in the hills of Anaheim east of Disney.  Its relatively small scale makes it child-friendly and indeed a large group of campers noisily tramped through while I was there. I got there about 9 am on an overcast morning.

I was greeted by a family of acorn woodpeckers. These are common and very obtrusive birds in Southern California generally but this was my first encounter and I was astounded.
Acorn woodpecker, Oak Canyon Nature Center, Anaheim, CA
Social woodpeckers. Loudly vocalizing, flying about chasing each other, white wing spots flashing.

This was a good start.

Then I heard some loud sustained birdsong. Not particularly beautiful but very complex and coming from two spots at once. Up went the binoculars and...
California thrasher, Oak Canyon Nature Center, Anaheim, CA
a pair of California thrashers up in the oak trees, counter-singing, relentlessly.

I walked the Roadrunner Ridge trail on the dry (coastal sage scrub) hillside first.

Lots of bushtits, house finches, lesser goldfinches, California towhees, hummingbirds (I assume Anna's though I saw some tiny ones that may have been Costa's), some wrens (Bewick's and house), and the ever present "bouncing ball" song of the wrentit.

And many of what may be my favorite area bird, the black phoebe.

Just like the eastern phoebe (perching in the open, tail a-flipping)
but with higher contrast, especially while hovering over prey.

Near the end of the Roadrunner Ridge trail I explored a trail spur and was stunned to come upon a substantial reservoir (ringed by a housing development). And there in the middle of the water was an elegant western grebe.
How about that?

I walked a combination of trails through the oak woodland on my way back, getting good looks at oak titmice and the speckled breast of the Nuttall's woodpecker
Nuttall's woopecker, Oak Canyon Nature Center, Anaheim, CA
The oak woodland is maintained as a riparian environment, with a picturesque brook (fed by the reservoir, I guess) running through it.
And I was shocked, while crossing a bridge to see
a wood duck drake. He didn't even fly away.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Southern Californian Birding

Western Scrub Jay (and two acorns, at least), Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA
An end-of-summer family adventure to Los Angeles and environs. The kids were excited to see Hollywood and Disneyland. I shared their excitement but had (obvious) additional interests.  I had one day of real birding (while the rest of the family were at Disney) and a couple of stops along the coast. I didn't end up seeing anything particularly unusual (except for a "Code 2" California gnatcatcher pair in an area cultivated to attract California gnatcatchers) but it was nice to get to know the common locals.

Which include:
California Towhee, Oak Canyon Nature Center, Anaheim, CA
the ubiquitous peeping California Towhee

Bushtit, Oak Canyon Nature Center, Anaheim, CA
the multitudinous bushtit (if you see one, you will see dozens)

Anna's humingbird, Oak Canyon Nature Center, Anaheim, CA
and the original angry bird, Anna's hummingbird.

I used Brad Schram's A Birder's Guide to Southern California as my guide and found it extraordinarily useful, even if didn't get to visit 99.9% of the sites listed in it. In coming days I'll do individual posts about the places I visited, which included

Oak Canyon Nature Center
Santiago Oaks Regional Park
Peters Canyon Regional Park
Laguna Beach
Dockweiler Beach State Park

Friday, August 3, 2012

August Bluebirds

Eastern Bluebird, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
The last bluebird brood of the year at the Charles River Peninsula will probably fledge sometime next week. Meanwhile the parents are keeping busy feeding hungry noisy chicks.

They've found an ideal set up. The huge oak that Irene knocked down last year provides a couple of perfect snags for fly catching.
The parents can hunt from the snags.
And then make a quick delivery to the nest box nearby.