Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Parrots of Southern California

We haven't done any serious birding in over a month now. The reason for this was either rainy, or extremely hot, weather conditions. Sometimes both occurring in a single day. It is true that we have gone birding under similar situations before but now age has been creeping up on us and the allure of an airconditioned room had become quite irresistible.

So while it was during one of those lazy days that I dug into my old files to look for some bird photographs that I wanted to post in the internet. I remembered posting in Facebook a few days ago where I stated that some tropical bird species have made Southern California their home. Among these are several varieties of parrots. I have been lucky enough to document most of them and I thought it would be a good idea to present them here while I am enjoying the comforts of a cool room (in contrast to the sweltering heat outside).

While waiting for the hot, humid days to pass, may I present..

The Parrots of San Gabriel Valley, California:

Blue-crowned Parakeet (Thectocercus acuticaudus)
Although a native of South America, the Blue-crowned Parakeets have become established in Southern California. My wife and I saw a pair in Peck Road Park in South El Monte. That was the only time we saw this species and that was in January, 2007.

Orange-fronted Parakeet (Eupsittula canicularis)
A resident western Mexico to Costa Rica, we were surprised to see a single bird near the parking lot of Hansen Dam in Los Angeles back in August, 2005. In all probability this was a very recent escapee since there were no reports of an established feral population anywhere in California.

Mitred Parakeet (Psittacara mitratus)
It was in October, 2008, while on the way to our home in South Pasadena that we spotted this huge, colorful bird perched on a fruiting just beside the parking lot of the local Rite-Aid store. A native of Peru to eastern Bolivia, there is somewhat large population thriving in the Los Angeles area - from the coasts of Malibu to the Orange County and of course, in the San Gabriel Valley.

Red-crowned Amazon (Amazona viridigenalis)
Arguably, this is the most common species of Parrot in Southern California. We've seen it many times in different places. The photo above was taken in El Monte in January of 2007. Eaton Canyon in Pasadena is another place where the Red-crowned Amazon is often seen. This bird is a native of north-east Mexico.

Red-lored Amazon (Amazona autumnalis)
We almost missed this one because it looked so much alike the more common Red-crowned Amazon. However the yellow cheek gave it away. This bird was photographed along the street in San Gabriel City in December, 2009. It is a native of central America and northwestern South America.

Yellow-chevroned Parakeet (Brotogeris chiriri)
This tiny bird occurs mainly south of the Amazon Region. We have seen the Yellow-Chevroned several times also, more often at the Los Angeles Arboretum in Arcadia. This one, however, was at the parking lot of Legg Lake Park in South El Monte back in December of 2008.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Cheap! Cheap!

The summer heat had kept us from going birding for over a month now. The weather is still hot but I need to go out and photograph birds. And in my present state of mind, any bird will do. Which means I don't have to go to any specific place..there are birds even here in our subdivision.

My car's gas tank is now half empty (although I'm quite optimistic so it is still half full). Nevertheless, for me, that is a signal that I need to have it to full capacity again. Now what is the relation of a half-empty (ok, half full) gas tank to a birding destination, you might ask. Gasoline prices!!!

In our neighborhood, regular unleaded sells for P54.05 a gallon. In Antipolo, a mere 7 kilometers away,  it goes for just P51.90. A quick computation showed that I could be saving some P75 if I loaded up in that city. 

Actually, this analysis was done by my wife and household CFO. Therefore it was she who suggested we go birding at….where else?  Antipolo! Again, thanks to the hospitality of the Webbs who reside there, we were able to enjoy our hobby at their very verdant subdivision. Unfortunately, there weren't many birds that particular day. Even though both kingfisher species - the Collared and the White-throated - were there they were as skittish as usual.

The Black-naped Orioles were calling everywhere but only one decided to show up in the open. Other than these, the other avian species seemed to have taken a day-off or just be annoyingly uncooperative.

We gave up after two hours. Now to fill up our gas tank.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Book Review: Phillipp's Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo - Third Edition

The latest edition is arguably the most comprehensive field guide one can find for the birds of the island of Borneo. The third edition published in 2014 not only updated the taxonomy which added nine more species (mostly from splits) to the list, but also replaced 15 illustration plates. In addition, another 16 plates have been upgraded with additional or replacement drawings.

The very first pages are like an an overview - showing illustrations of the common birds of Borneo in their respective habitats, be it seashore, lowland forest, the Mt. Kinabalu area, and many more. The next pages deal with the evolution of Bornean birds, conservation efforts, the anatomy and plumage of a bird (for identification purposes), a key to distribution maps, a list of endemics, vegetation, climate and migration routes.

The 141 plates covering all 673 species of Bornean birds then follows showing the illustrations of male, female and immature and even between subspecies (if there are differences). The size, name (English, Scientific and Malay), habitat, description, calls and distribution are given in great detail.

Finally, the best birding sites in Sabah, Brunei, Sarawak and Kalimantan are listed.

My wife and I have birded in Sabah twice and this book (despite getting it only early this year) had been a tremendous help in confirming (and in some cases correcting) the ID of the birds we have photographed in those two trips that we made.

We plan to return to Borneo and perhaps try the sites recommended in this field guide that we have not visited yet. We know that this book would be invaluable in making such trips even more successful.

Needless to say, this book is highly recommended.

The Field Guide is available at Princeton University Press and at