When I read Neil's Gilbert's Blog regarding a beautiful yellow bird with a red face found at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, I thought it was a dream. But when I saw Toan Thang's pictures of the same bird from the same place, then I knew it had to be real.
Now I always have a weak spot for exotic birds and I was determined to see and possibly photograph this bird. After dropping Cynthia off at her work I drove to the Sanctuary. Thankfully, traffic was light Wednesday morning and I arrived at around 8:30 am. To my dismay, no yellow bird showed up.
It was still early and the weather was nice so I thought I'd give the place a walking tour and photograph any bird that I chance upon and would be cooperative enough. So I got me an Allen's Hummingbird stretching out. Common Yellowhthroats were busy working the vegetation next to (and on) the ponds. Two Spotted Towhees were playing follow-the-leader as they flew from bush to bush. Song Sparrows were everywhere I could almost step on them. Egrets would hunt for food 5 feet away from me. White Pelicans and Turkey Vultures were trying to outdo each other in who could soar longest without flapping their wings. Northern Harriers did some fly-overs while Red-tailed Hawks just perched and watched.
Around 10:30, I got hungry. I returned to the Jeep and nibbled on a rice krispy bar. As I was washing it off with bottled water, I glimpsed some yellow movement by the fence. Quickly grabbing my camera, I leaned against a tree that gave me a full view of the fence (with camouflage clothes on I'm practically invisible to the wild creatures in the area. Yeah, right!). Anyway, it wasn't long before my target bird warily emerged from the deep bushes. For an escaped cage bird, this is one shy weaver. When it finally concluded that the coast was clear, it began feeding on the seeds on the ground. With bated breath, I started shooting, all the while praying that there would be enough light to produce a quality picture. Suddenly a great egret noisily flew over the fence. And just like that my lovely golden weaver vanished into thin air.
I don't know but the new year probably instilled more patience in me than what I usually have. I remained at my post like a military sentinel. Soon, Peter, a birder from Orange County joined me. I described to him in great detail my encounter with the mystic bird. For about half-an-hour Peter and I talked about birds and birding, all the while keeping an eye out for a furtive yellow ball of feathers. In a most unexpected move, we both saw the weaver fly to a tree in front of us. It was quite high up and was obviously casing the joint. Noticing two elderly gentlemen pointing binoculars at it, it once again dove into the safety of the underbrush. Peter was satisfied that he had at last seen the golden weaver and bade me goodbye. I, patient and determined that I am, remained at my post.
Another half hour passed and this time the bird repeated its earlier routine: first hopping on a low branch looking this way and that and when assured that there wasn't any potential danger, flew to the ground to feed. Again I was ready. But then, after a few pecks it once more disappeared, spooked by some imaginary predator.
Thirty minutes after twelve and bird activity ceased almost completely. Even the ubiquituous Song Sparrows were gone. It must be siesta time, I thought. Time to have one of my own.
At home, after researching the true identity of my dream weaver, I discovered that it was a Taveta Golden Weaver, a native of east Africa.
My birding new year started off like a dream.
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