Pacific Wren

Pacific Wren
Pacific Wren

Saturday, February 25, 2017

California Specialties

The main target bird, the Island Scrub-Jay, was covered in my previous post, but I had a couple more to look for as well, but these birds are non-natives, and have established breeding populations in the United States and are ABA countable.  So I figured that I might as well put some time and effort in trying to locate these other 2 species.  

The first one is the Red-whiskered Bulbul, which is native to tropical Asia and was introduced to the United States.  With a little research, I discovered that the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens might be the best place to find this bird.  It did not take long to find one either.  As soon as I got out of my vehicle in the parking lot, the first thing I heard was Indian Peafowl, which everyone is familiar with, and the 2nd one was an unusual song that I had not heard before and it did not take long to pinpoint the source; a Red-whiskered Bulbul near the top of a tree in the parking lot.  Once I got inside, I found out that they were quite numerous and they are very vocal, so it was not hard to locate many more.

Red-whiskered Bulbul

As mentioned in my previous post, I was captivated by all the Allen's Hummingbirds and the chance to get some respectable photos of them.  

Allen's Hummingbird

Indian Peafowl were introduced to this site in the late 1800's and they are thriving, breeding, and well established at this location.  Have always loved the colors of these large birds.

Indian Peafowl - Male


From this spot, I then traveled to the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife area and Balboa Lake, which are fairly close together and just separated by a golf course.  And I got a nice assortment of birds there as well.  

A leucistic American Coot - rather attractive for a coot!

Bushtit - Sure looks different from those in Arizona

California Gull

California Towhee

Egyptian Goose

A hybrid goose of some sort

Song Sparrow (ssp heermanni) - Much different than what we have in Arizona

Found a couple of lizards as well and not being real familiar with the species found in California, I had to rely on some of the experts on to supply an ID for them.  

Great Basin Fence Lizard

Western Fence Lizard

The Santa Cruz Island trip was wedged in between my arrival date and my departure date.  (See previous post.)  On my last day I had enough time to chase another countable non-native bird that is established in California; the Spotted Dove.  I had spent a lot of time researching in the weeks before my visit, to find out where it was being reported this year.  Incredibly, it was not being reported at any eBird Hotspots, so I had to make my way to the intersection of a couple of cross streets to begin my trek.  Who says you can't do any good birding at Home Depot or Target?  I had to walk up and down a street behind those two businesses that was lined with residences on one side.  Birding in and around a residence has to be done a bit judiciously.  Most people are not fond of people with binoculars and a camera probing their yards.  I walked this street from one end to the other and finally decided I was going to have to give up.  About a block from the car on my return, I saw a Mourning Dove fly up to an electrical line and shortly after, another dove-like bird fly to a line nearby.  Got my binoculars up and sure enough, there was a Spotted Dove.  Quickly took a couple of distant photos and then tried to get to an area with a closer view and by that time it was gone.  Talk about a last minute find!

Spotted Dove

I had time for one more stop before heading back to the airport in Burbank, so I headed to the San Gabriel River Parkway Nature Trail.  Nothing new, but got to view and photograph a couple of cool birds.

 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

 Cassin's Kingbird

California Scrub-Jay

Yes, the time flew by very quickly, but being able to notch a few more life birds made the trip all worthwhile.  New adventures await me in the next few months of 2017.  Hope they are successful.  


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Target Birding

What is 'Target Birding'?  It probably means many things to different birders, but to me, it means making a trek to focus on one particular species of bird.  The one species might mean a rarity that has shown up in the most unlikely place such as the Lesser Sand Plover that showed up in northern Arizona last fall.  Or it might mean chasing a bird that has a limited range and is endemic to a particular area or region.  Such was the case this past week for me and I made a trip to southern California to 'target' an endemic species.

This species for me was the Island Scrub-Jay that is found only on Santa Cruz Island which is part of the Channel Island National Park off the coast of California near Ventura.  The only access to Santa Cruz Island is by sea via a boat and taking the ferry was my only option.  I opted to take the ferry to Prisoner's Harbor where most reports were coming in for the ISSJ (banding code for Island Scrub-Jay), and where most people recommend for seeing this bird.  The ferry does stop at Scorpion Bay before venturing on to Prisoner's Harbor and that is the point that most people got off.  My primary focus was to find the Island Scrub-Jay, so that is what I did before focusing on other birds and interesting flora and fauna.  I could hear the jays calling from the hillsides, but those hillsides were on the Nature Conservancy property where we were not allowed access.  Eventually, 2 of them ventured down to the stream and I finally got my first views of them and managed to capture a few photos.  

Island Scrub-Jay

Allen'a and Anna's Hummingbirds were fairly common on the island, and since Anna's is a species I get in my back yard, I focused on the Allen's Hummingbirds.  I have seen this species once before in southern California, but this was a long time ago and I had never gotten any photos.  It was a treat to see these and observe their behavior and listen to them for a change.

Allen's Hummingbird - Male

During my stay on the island, I was constantly hearing a call that I was unfamiliar with and eventually I was able to track it down and found out it was an Orange-crowned Warbler and they were plentiful.  This is a sub-species (sordida) that is endemic to the Channel Islands and they look different and sound different than the other sub-species of Orange-crowned Warblers. 

 Orange-crowned Warbler (sordida)

There were also many sea birds that we observed on the ocean from the ferry and also from land.  Birds on the ferry were almost impossible to identify and photograph as this boat was fast moving and they were not focusing on the pelagic birds.  Only when it slowed down or stopped for whales or dolphins, I was able to snap off a few photos.   

 Brandt's Cormorant

 Black-vented Shearwater

 Caspian Tern

Common Murre

The ferry did not focus on sea birds, but it would stop when ever they spotted mammals in the ocean such as whales, dolphins, and seals.  Of course everyone on the boat got excited in seeing whales, as did yours truly!  I had the privilege to see 2 groups of these whales from the boat; a group of 2 and then later a group of 6.  Pacific Gray Whales migrate down the coast of California this time of year to areas off the coast of Baja California where females give birth to calves.  
 Pacific Gray Whale

Also VERY numerous out on the water were large groups of Common Dolphins.  One group we encountered was estimated at over 2000 by the crew and they would swim up to ans around the boat as if playing games.  They are very fast and nimble and hard to photograph, but what a wonderous sight to see.

 Common Dolphin

Elephant seals were also seen, specially on the ride out to the island in the early morning.  They will raise their flippers out of the water to expose them to the sun for warmth.

Elephant Seal

On the island I found this butterfly that I had never seen before and after a little research, I came up with an identification of Gray Hairstreak.  A very striking butterfly in my opinion.

 Gray Hairstreak

I was also impressed by the Giant Coreopsis that grows on the Channels Islands.  This variety is almost like a small tree as it grows up to 3½ feet tall with a trunk that is almost 4 inches in diameter.  

 Giant Coreopsis

More adventures of my birding trip will be covered in another post in the very new future.  The rest of the trip involved birding on the mainland and chasing a couple of introduced species that have established some breeding regularity in the United States.