Friday, March 30, 2018

Spring is Here

The first day of March. Spring is in the air. But where are the Robins? It is common knowledge in America that robins are the signs that winter will soon be over. However, despite going to several birding places in the Los Angeles area, we have not seen even one American Robin!

Let's try Placerita Canyon, I told Cynthia and my son, Kurt. We did. Again not a single robin in sight. As a consolation we had better (that is, more open) looks at a Spotted Towhee. We saw this species at Eaton Canyon and at Bonelli Park but each time they were skulking behind some bushes.

Another uncommon bird we saw here was the Golden-crowned Sparrow.

Other than these two, not much were seen at Placerita. Which was a bit strange (and very disappointing) considering this place is one of better birding places as I remembered it.

Our last hope at finding our target bird was at the Veteran's Memorial Park in Sylmar. We would definitely see the robins there I thought to myself. As soon as we arrived we explored the park and only saw a Western Bluebird.

As a last resort and with dwindling hopes, my wife and I went to the area near the playground. And voila! American Robins! About a dozen of them even!

one among the dozen
Are you looking for us?

Spring indeed is here!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Let it Snow

Call us weird. Or perhaps birding fanatics. Why else would we drive for almost 12 hours to Southern Arizona from Los Angeles, go birding the following day, and then drive back on the third day. Big thanks to my son who did all the driving.

There were two places that we visited in Southern Arizona: one was the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area and the other was the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area.

There were a lot of birds just around the office at the San Pedro Riparian. Three species of Towhees were represented:

The Canyon Towhee...

and Abert's Towhee

Can you tell the difference between the two?

The third was the Green-tailed Towhee. This species is usually very skittish. So much so that we never got a good photo of it in our previous visits to Arizona. This time we were lucky to get good enough shots.

The Pyrrhuloxia, although not as brightly colored as its cousin, the Northern Cardinal, was still a beauty to behold.

The highlight, though, was the desert dwelling Gila Woodpecker.

While we were buying some souvenirs at the store, the lady asked us if we've been to the Whitewater Draw. We replied in the negative. There are thousands of Sandhill Cranes there she said as an incentive for us. We asked for directions and soon we were on our way.

About an hour later we arrived at the site. Indeed there were lots of Sandhill Cranes, maybe not in the thousands but still quite a number. Unfortunately, they were far off - way beyond our camera range. The person in charge of the park assured us that the cranes would come nearer around noon. While waiting for that to happen we explored the surroundings. That's when we saw a Wilson's Snipe quite close to the path.

Killdeers were also unafraid of human beings and allowed us to come near.

I saw an Eastern Meadowlark near a bush but it was the opposite of the Killdeers, being very skittish. That was until we chanced upon it while it was it the middle of the road. Hiding behind a tree, my wife and I were able to get some shots. Of course, Cynthia had the better one.

Noonish. We went to the area where the cranes were and as predicted by the Park Manager, the tall, long-legged birds were now closer than before. 

Earlier in the day
Moving closer around noontime
Close enough
The morning after as we prepared for the long drive home, we were greeted by a flurry of snowflakes. It snows in Arizona? we couldn't believe that it was really happening! Anyway, we were already leaving, so "let it snow!"

Monday, March 26, 2018

Hello Like Before

On our annual trip to the U.S. we always make it a point to go birding at the two of our favorite places in Orange County: San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary (SJWS) and Bolsa Chica Wetlands. This time we were fortunate to see (and get photos of) some species that we hadn't encountered the past 8 years or so. It was like meeting an old friend whom we hadn't seen for a while - and saying "Hello like before!"

At SJWS these were the "friends" we met:

Tree Swallow - although a regular resident, we weren't able to get photos the previous times we were here.

Rufous Hummingbird, quite uncommon and therefore a nice surprise.

The Common Yellowthroat, although "common", we never saw them the past 8 years that we've been here. And now we saw at least three of them frolicking by the reeds.

Another surprise was the very active Blue Grey Gnatcatcher

The highlight of the morning was the White-faced Ibis that was feeding at Pond D.

At Bolsa Chica, aside from the usual species seen here, we saw a Greater Yellowlegs.

Black-bellied Plovers, still in non-breeding plumage were quite plentiful.

The Belted Kingfisher was less skittish now.

I'm not 100% sure about the ID of this bird, but my guess is Least Flycatcher.

The highlight of the day was a couple of lucky shots of Ring-billed Gulls. One was flying with the moon in the background.

The other was when an immature bird leapt and then dove for some fish and I caught it at the perfect moment.

It was indeed nice to have seen these birds once again after a really long time.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Chilly Bonelli

The Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park in San Dimas is one of our favourite birding spots in Southern California. For the past several years we came to the U.S. around mid-March and stayed for about a month. This year, my wife and I decided to come a month earlier. Being winter, the weather was naturally chilly.

The air was nippy the day we visited Bonelli Park. Although most of the birds we encountered were those familiar ones we've seen the prior years, this time there were some surprises. One of those was the Least Sandpiper. Somehow they were more in number than the more common Spotted Sandpiper.

Another unexpected sighting was that of the Buff-bellied Pipit. There were about a dozen of them flocked together foraging the rocks by the lakeside. Even though we've this species here before, this was the first time we saw so many individuals hunting for food together.

The California Scrub Jay seem to be growing in population and expanding their territories. We've never seen them in Bonelli before. And now they're here.

Finally as we were about to leave, a huge flock (!) of Band-tailed Pigeons flew in and fed on the ground. Again, this species wasn't as plentiful before when we only saw a few at Eaton Canyon in Pasadena. 

We're glad that many of the local birds are proliferating.

The highlight of the day was when we saw some Turkey Vultures feeding on a carcass of what I believe to be a Raccoon. It was an unexpected, even shall I say, chilly, experience. It was as if we were in an African savanna watching nature in action in a most gory way.