Monday, December 17, 2007

No Eagle but got some Birdies

Lately our birding sorties had been more purposeful. Few were the days when we would go birding just for the sake of birding. Luckily, Southern California every so often had something new to offer (at least to us). There was the Bay-breasted Warbler at Legg Lake and the Wilson's Snipes at Irvine. Last week it was the Roseate Spoonbill at the Santa Ana River. Yesterday, Saturday, we went after the Bald Eagle seen at the Bonelli Regional Park in San Dimas.

As we walked towards the lake, we met a bird photographer acquaintance, Dave Furseth ( When asked about the eagle, he informed us that right now it was across the lake. But it occasionally would fly back, he said encouragingly. We chose a good spot by the lakeshore, where it was sunny, the day being quite cold with even a bit of a wind chill factor, and started our stake out.

After a while, just as we were getting bored at looking at the various ducks and grebes taking their mid-morning siesta, a relatively bigger sized bird flew in and splashed among the sleeping water birds. Cormorant, I told, Cynthia, almost nonchalantly. Another one of those regular species you would see in these type of habitat. But then, it wasn't dark colored like a cormorant. So I peeped through my camera's 400mm lens (I forgot to bring my binoculars, a mortal sin amongst avid birders - old age dementia must be sinking in, what can I say?). Lo and behold, it was a Common Merganser! As I have said in my previous blog, despite its name, these duck-like birds are not at all that common in Southern California waters. Revived from our stupor-like vigil, we happily snapped away at the red-headed swimmer.

Having had our fill with the merganser and the Bald Eagle still a no-show, we decided to move on. We headed northward where we met a couple of birders who were participating in the Los Angeles Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count. Yes, they both have seen the Bald Eagle. Yes, it flies back and forth across the lake. Once again, spirits buoyed by this report, we scanned the skies over the lake. We would get excited whenever something bigger than a swift would appear at the horizon, only to discover that it would be anything but an eagle. By this time, close to two hours have already passed. Abandoning all hope of ever seeing the majestic symbol of the United States, we trekked back to where the Jeep was parked.

Once again, we saw the bird counters. One of them showed the list of the birds they had seen that day and it tallied pretty much with what we have seen as well. Except for the Bald Eagle, of course. Just then Cynthia called my attention and excitedly pointed at small piece of bark moving up a tree trunk. Looking closely, my heart leapt at seeing a Brown Creeper investigating every nook and cranny of the tree for bugs. Its constant motion and preference for the shadowed side of the tree makes it quite a challenge at being photographed. When its search for food brought it towards the top of the fir tree where pine needles were aplenty, we gave up taking its picture.

Closer to where our vehicle was parked, I noticed a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos feeding among the grass. The most common subspecies of Juncos are the Oregon type. These were those with dark heads and grayish bellies. However, I noticed that one of the birds in the flock does not have the usual dark head, but a tiny black mask instead. I just saw and photographed the not-too-common Gray-headed variety of Junco!

Before leaving the park, we thought we'd give the lake one more look, this time by the green pier that fishermen frequents. And maybe get some sparrow or wren or yellowthroat by the grove close by. None of those landbirds showed up and the Bald Eagle continued to stay away from our anxious eyes. However, for our consolation, we got a Red-tailed Hawk in flight and not long after, an Osprey grabbed an unlucky trout right in front of our very eyes!

We got our birdies, and we hope we eventually will get our eagle too.

No comments: