Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

Riding on the good fortune we had last Saturday, I thought I'd do another quickie birding at Eaton Canyon this morning. Besides, there was a report that Nutmeg Mannikins are nesting near the parking lot.

Nutmeg Mannikins aka Spice Finches aka Scaly-breasted Munias are natives of Southeast Asia. Several populations, descendants of escaped caged birds, have become established around the Los Angeles and Houston areas. I tried looking for them at the Mile Square Park in Anaheim and also at nearby Hahamongna Watershed, all to no avail. I was hoping that my luck with this specie would change this morning.

Not far from the southmost parking lot, there is a small storage structure maintained by the park. I decided to explore the vegetation behind it which looked promising (and also to have some shade from the already blistering sun). I was standing still when a Bewick's Wren came to within an arm's length and gave me a curious look. Satisfied with what it saw (perhaps I look harmless enough), it moved on and flitted beneath a forest of twigs. I was too stunned to get its picture. Then I heard some fluttering and I turned just in time to see a California Thrasher land on top of the bush where the Wren was. It gave me a look and then flew off chattering. This happened so fast that I didn't have time once again to raise my camera to my eyes.

Going back to the parking lot, I looked up to the pine tree where the Mannikins are supposed to be nesting. There was some movement, but I can't determine what bird it was. Using my binoculars, I finally saw what I came here for. I'm not sure if I could claim this as a lifer because most likely I have seen these birds in the Philippines. Still it was a thrill to finally see one perched incongruously on a pine tree branch.

Satisfied, I moved on and proceeded northward toward the nature center. A House Wren with a lot of chutzpah, sang a few feet from where I stood (too close for my 300mm lens). A California Towhee with something in its beak sat on a telephone wire trying to figure out what to do with its catch.

A very young Black Phoebe was already making a living on its own,

while a young Anna's Hummingbird rested in the shade.

At 10:30, I went back behind the storage structure. This time a Wrentit flew in and looked at me from almost the same spot where the Bewick's Wren did the same thing earlier. This time I was ready.

The pine tree next to the parking lot was already pretty quiet that time of day. The Mannikins were probably in their nest, taking refuge from the rising temperature.
I took the hint and headed to the comforts of home.

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