Monday, May 12, 2008

Birding Pasadena (With Lowered Expectations)

We did not go birding until about 3 pm on Saturday. For one thing, the skies were overcast the whole morning. And of course, I was still trying to get over my grumpiness regarding my (perceived) bad birding experiences lately.
When the sun finally broke through, my wife insisted that we go out "just here in Pasadena" so that I won't have to worry about gasoline expenses. "And, remember, don't expect to find any rare birds, OK?" she warned.

We started off at Hahamongna (a weird name for a park, but it had American Indian origins). The oak groves were quite abuzz with Bewick's Wrens all of which stayed well away from any photographic venues. "What bird is that with a white eyebrow?" Cynthia asked. "Bewick's Wren", I replied. "No, the feathers of this one are black and white." I asked her where she saw this mysterious bird and after a few misses, I finally located a Black-throated Gray Warbler flitting directly above us.

We then explored the lower trails where the "pi-PIT-kan" of a California Quail intrigued us. As we rounded a bend, I was surprised to find the calling quail high up in a eucalyptus tree. Normally these are birds that skulk in the underbrush so finding one in a tree and not flying off as we approached was quite unusual.

Other than House Finches we did not find anything else. On the way back, Cynthia saw a flash of yellow and black landing on a sycamore. We hoped that it would be our FOS (First of Season) Hooded Oriole. Patient waiting revealed it to be a Western Tanager instead which was still a thrill.

To our joy, not far from it a female Black-headed Grosbeak was enjoying a snack.

At around 5pm we proceeded to Eaton Canyon where we saw the usual suspects. An Acorn Woodpecker posed beautifully for us.

As we approached the "drip" another birder/photographer was already there taking pictures of Bushtits taking a bath. "I know this guy", I told my wife. Just then he turned and gave us a big smile. Kevin Kao is a regular visitor at Eaton Canyon. We met him last year when there was a proliferation of migrants here. We spent the next half hour or so discussing birds and birding. He bade goodbye soon after and Cynthia and I then tried to look for the Canyon Wren. We dipped on that. On the return trail, I saw a dark bird with white spots on the underwings flutter nearby. "Phainopepla!" I yelled. It turned out to be our last bird of the day, as dusk was soon upon us.

"How do you feel now?" Cynthia asked as we drove home.
"Much better," I replied.
"We got lucky on the quail, didn't we?"
"Yes, we did."
"The Western Tanager and the Grosbeak were nice, too."
"Yes, they were."
"C'mon, admit it. It's a lot better if you don't have high expectations, right?"
"Right", I said smiling.

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