The California high desert. The haunting whistling of the sciroccos permeated the morning air as we drove to California City. The bleak desertland along the way made our trip seemed longer than it actually was. After what felt like an eternity, we were entered a lush oasis in the midst of this barrenness.
Actually this place is owned by the Silver Saddle Resort Group. They have a small hotel and restaurant and activity areas that cater to those seeking refuge from the bustling city-life, such as archery, skeet shooting and even a petting zoo for the guest's children. But to southern California birders, this is Galileo Hills. How it came to be popularly know as such, I don't know. And frankly, I don't care. All I care is that this is a birder's paradise. It's verdancy in the middle of the desert wilderness made it a veritable migrant trap. Every spring and autumn this place practically oozes with quite a diversity of birds, sometimes including such rarities as an Arctic Warbler a couple of years ago.
That's why we were surprised at the apparent lack of bird activity when we got out of our Jeep. Except for a number of Swainson's Thrushes and scads of Brewer's Blackbirds, the place was disappointingly quiet. While Cynthia and I were pondering this glaring vagary of nature, Ken and Brenda Kyle, a kind and lovely birding couple from Bakersfield, came by. Ken agreed that this spring was not producing the expected number of migrants. However, they saw a Rose-breasted Grosbeak near the Pavillion this morning. Ken then showed us a picture of the grosbeak to give us the encouragement that we so badly needed.
Off to the pavillion we went and it wasn't long before my wife's uber sharp hearing led us to our quarry. Then came one of those propitious moments when the Rose-breasted Grosbeak flew down and started feeding on the ground not more than 20 feet away from us.
And it was one of those Bob-eats-crow moments when Cynthia's photographs trumped my best shots. When a 40D+300mm blew to pieces the 5D2+500mm+1.4x combo. To save face, at least I got some high definition video of the grosbeak.
Here is Cynthia's photograph of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I'm sure you too will say: Oh by gosh!
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