Thursday, March 4, 2010

Driving in California ...

... is not for the faint-hearted. But more about this later.

Day 1 - Anza-Borrega Desert State Park

Click on any image to enlarge

Black-throated Sparrow
I drove two hours northeast because I had been told that I might be able to find all three thrashers - LeConte's, Crissal and California - here. I'll cut to the chase; I did not find the thrashers. But I did find a number of other very enjoyable birds. The Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata) was the first bird I saw at the state park. Look how completely charming this little sparrow is.

White-crowned Sparrow
This perched White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophyrys) was one of many that were moving around in a sizable mixed sparrow feeding flock. Amongst these were Golden-crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia atricapilla) that were completely uncooperative for photos.

California Quail
California Quail (Callipepla californica) were everywhere. They are very funny as they scramble around together. I heard the male birds' put way doo call all morning. They do not like to be separated from their flock. They run from bush to bush very quickly and I gave up thinking that I would get a photo. Then, walking along, I split a small flock. Three went one way and this solo bird went the other. It didn't know what to do separated from his friends. I'm sure this is how I got such good luck for this photo.

Flash back to my Arizona-California trip in April, 2008. Gambel's Quail (Callipepla gambelil) were everywhere on that trip. One could not get away from them. In the three days we spent in California, however, when I thought I would see many California Quail, I say only one - briefly, when it hopped up on a log and just as quickly hopped down. This was a treat to see so many California Quails.

Loggerhead Shrike
I was hearing a new call that pulled me off my track to photograph a singing Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus - how's this for a name?). It didn't sound like the call of one of my sought after thrashers, but I had to chase it down just in case. It turned out to be the Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) above. I've seen Loggerhead Shrikes in a variety of locations but I'm not really sure I've every heard one before.

Femaile Lesser Goldfinch
The female Lesser Goldfinch (Carduelis psaltria) was flitting about in a tree near the state park visitor's center with her male counterpart. They look, sound and fly very much like our American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis).

Male Lesser Goldfinch

Rock Wren
Another very nice encourter thrilled me. Earlier in the morning I had heard a singing Rock Wren (Salpinctes obsoletus) and was able to sneak up on it for many photos, at least one or two of which I thought would turn out well.

I went to the Culp Valley area of the state park. I heard a rather mournful call repeatedly and it sounded close. I followed the call and found this little Rock Wren clinging to the edge of a hugh rock surface. It was very wrapped up in its calling because I was able to get very close for some excellent photos. When I downloaded my photos this bird was especially rewarding because the photos from the first Rock Wren were all out of focus.

Also, at Culp Valley, this completely charming Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens) would not be ignored. His wurp call was very clear and made it hard to walk away from him. Finally, he perched as above and presented me with my photo op. What I have found to be a successful strategy is to use the desert bushes as a blind to sneak up on perched birds. I still need to be quick as I'm sure the bird(s) are not fooled, but in many instances it has given me an opportunity to get closer.

Anna's Hummingbird
It's not a good photo but needs to be included because these little guys are everywhere. Anna's Hummingbirds (Calypte anna) are year round residents in California and, frankly, it's hard to be somewhere where they are not. I'm not very good at hummingbirds. I'm one of those who goes to a feeder station (like those in southeast Arizona) and waits for the experts to call out the species. But, I've had to become acquainted with Anna's because they are ubiquitous - and they're singing, too.

Brewer's Sparrow
Saving the worst photo until last, I include it because I ran into a whole flock of these singing birds at the Palm Springs (not be be confused with the Palm Springs) area in the state park. I think Brewer's Sparrow (Spizella breweri) are probably the plainest and drabbest of all our sparrows. But, they are inspired singers and they can really get going with their buzzy, trilling and long vocalization. Unfortunately, none would cooperate for a good photo.

Finally, back to the beginning.

I rented my car from Alamo and the guy doing my paperwork suggested that I rent a GPS system. He even offered it to me for two days at $12 each day instead of the three that I'll have the car. When I return the car, I feel like asking this guy to marry me. Two days into my trip it has been a blessing and absolutely essential.

Birding in southern California is not easy. If a bird can be found elsewhere, I would recommend going to some other location to see it. But, it can be tolerable with the GPS. Having said this, the GPS works best with a full address - city, number, street. Birding locations, however, are not frequently given addresses. Still, I learned to trust the GPS - it got me to the Anzo-Borrego Desert State Park which is all the way across the county - without a hitch. If I had not had the GPS, it would have been a nightmare.

No life birds on day one. It was long with lots of driving and I was exhausted when I returned to San Diege, but overall a very successful and completely enjoyable day.

Anzo-Borrego habitat


Andy J said...

Awesome shot of the black-throated sparrow!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Cathy, Thanks for letting me know that you are home and had a nice trip. I don't think I've seen 88 birds in my life time! What does it mean when you say life bird?
Heard you are going to England this summer. Keep us posted on that trip. Love & Hugs