The day started out fraught with mystery. Nine in the morning and we could hear the loud ululations and barking of unseen coyotes that sent shivers up our spines. We were at the Walker Ranch trail at Placerita Canyon last Friday, July 3rd. After a few minutes the howling stopped abruptly followed by an eerie silence that pervaded the whole forest. Eventually everything returned to normal – hikers were passing by conversing loudly as they did so – and the canyon was now filled with the twittering of various birds.
Cynthia and I were taking a breather by the picnic tables watching audacious Oak Titmice probing the leaf litter for food just a few feet away from us when we heard a loud “scheeeck” above us. Steller’s Jay! It seemed a bit strange to find these birds at this low elevation – they normally inhabit the pine forests 5,000 feet and beyond. It must be the season for Steller’s Jays. Speaking of audacity, these jays can be quite bold when they are in the mood for it. This particular one was peering down at us with rapt curiosity perhaps hoping for some tasty handouts. Evoking no response from us other than getting its picture taken, the Steller’s Jay eventually flew off albeit quite disappointed.
We also decided to move on. We witnessed an aggressive male Hooded Oriole chase off an Acorn Woodpecker that made the mistake of landing on the tree where the oriole’s fully fledged brood were being fed by their mom. Then we followed the incessant shrieking of a raptor trying to determine its location and identity. We would catch a glimpse of a hawk-like bird flying in between the tall pine trees but then it would completely vanish from sight yet still vocalizing continuously. Finally we saw the bird long enough to know that it was a young Red-shouldered Hawk. Our curiosity satisfied, my wife and I both agreed that it was time to have lunch
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