Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Out of the Pit

Peck Pit is an unfortunate name given to one of the better birding spots in Southern California. Its real name is Peck Road Park Lake and yes, it has a lake that is good for fishing. It was termed "the pit" by local birders because there was a time when quite a few homeless people made the park their "home". Consequently, there were some trash strewn on the grounds. Lately though, frequent visits by the El Monte Police and daily maintenance by the Park Administrators made the park safer and more birdable.

The name stuck, though.

Tuesday, I visited "the pit" with hopes that maybe there would be some early migrants checking in. Well, there weren't. As a matter of fact, there weren't too many birds at all. The usual coots and mallards were at the lake together with a sprinkling of Ruddy Ducks and a few Lesser Scaups. Cormorants were on the other side, most of them molting into breeding plumage. I saw a total of one Great Egret, one Great Blue Heron and one Black Phoebe. Which was interesting because normally there are lots of these species. Even the ubiquituous Yellow-rumps had dwindled in numbers quite significantly.

However, "the pit" did not disappoint. First, I saw the Red-whiskered Bulbul reported two days ago. Red-whiskereds, a non-native exotic species, normally stay within the confines of the Arboretum which is about 3 1/2 miles away as the Corvus brachyrhynchos flies. This particular bird probably got blown by the winds last week and never found the way back home.

Then there were the Killdeers. I have not seen these shorebirds here before and now there were two of them. One, I'm assuming was the male, was showing off the bright rust color of its rump.

Perhaps that was the Killdeer's way of attracting the opposite sex, one of which was standing across the field looking totally unimpressed.

Finally, as I was about to leave, I came across a Western Kingbird perched on the top of a leafless tree. I was stalking it slowly and trying to get a better camera angle when all of a sudden, it flew with a speed like it was fleeing for dear life. When I took my eyes of the viewfinder to look at what was going on, I was surprised to see a Merlin fly in, made a quick u-turn and landed on a nearby tree. I was able to squeeze in a few hurried shots before it flew off presumably in search of an unwary kingbird.

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