Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bolsa Chica

Green Heron

While watching skimmers working off the far bank, I almost missed this Green Heron feeding at my feet. A close relative of our Striated Heron, they have an unbelievably long neck that they keep tucked up most of the time, and extend when fishing.

Bolsa Chica

While spring and fall are the busiest times at Bolsa Chica a guy I got talking to at Vista Park said there were Black Skimmers there - so I took the short drive up the PCH to the Huntington Beach wetlands. The skimmers were there, lots of fun to watch and try to capture. A member of the same family as gulls and terns, they are unique in having an uneven bill, the lower part of which has been adapted for trailing through the water to catch fish.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Victoria Park, Costa Mesa

Western Bluebird

Victoria Park is a pocket sized park above the Santa Anna River, it has facilities, benches annd shade trees as well as a broad view of the nature reserves along the river, so is a popular starting point for bike rides or runs along the riverside tracks. It also has car parking alongside and a short circular path around the perimeter - perfect for Winston who is ready to nap after one circuit.

There were two nest boxes hanging from the trees in the park, with young in one almost ready to leave the nest. Western Bluebirds have been found to enjoy more success with nest boxes than in natural cavities. They started egg laying earlier, had higher nesting success, lower predation rates, and fledged more young in boxes than in cavities.

A number of large flowering trees attracted hummingbirds and a hooded oriole, but they were too high in the canopy for successful photos. A black phoebe flittered around the picnic tables - reminiscent of the willie wagtails back home.

Fairview Park, Costa Mesa

Last weekend Peter and I bicycled along the Santa Anna River, and we came across an area of lush grass and big shady trees. It seemed to be a perfect spot to read a book and let Winston amble around in the way that passes for exercise for him - but his British Bulldog physique ruled out biking, so yesterday I went looking for car access. Unfortunately car access took us to the top of the bluff, with the shady park at the base. Winston may have made it down, but never up again.

Lots of hummingbirds and house finches, california towhees, black phoebes and say's phoebes, and four Cooper's Hawks - a family group.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

San Joaquin is close to Mason Park so I stopped in on my way back and had a look at the first pond near the carpark. There were shovellers on the far side, house finches in the shrubs, quite a few starlings, hummers in the sage garden and several avocet babies. American Avocet chicks leave the nest within 24 hours after hatching. Day-old avocets can walk, swim, and even dive to escape predators. These little guys were foraging quite independently of any adult birds.

Mason Park, Irvine


Very cute birds, they are highly social, and are found in flocks of around forty birds. Adding to the cuteness factor, when they fly from shrub to shrub they do so in a line. They commonly use suburban areas and city parks for foraging and nesting. Tiny, and hanging out in dense shrubs, they are not easy photo subjects.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mason Regional Park

Western Bluebird

I've been wanting to see a Bluebird, and came across my first at William R. Mason Regional Park, or as it is more commonly referred to, Mason Park, just up the road in Irvine. Mason Park has two distinct parts. The east side is a wilderness area with a small creek and climbs the northern edge of the San Joaquin Hills. The west side of Mason Park is lawns, paved paths and cultivated trees and shrubs.  An artificial lake occupies the center of the park.

A brief wander around the landscaped area was rewarded by photos of a number of birds, from an Egyptian Goose to a family of Bushtits and a Snowy Egret. Look forward to a return visit and a scramble through the wilderness area.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

Before about the mid-1800s westward expansion, wetlands were common in California, with apparently a very large lake extending from Bakersfield to Sacramento. Over the years these wetlands were drained to provide farming land, and the Californian bird population was reduced by around 95%.

The San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary has gone full circle. Once a wetland whose water was diverted and drained for farming, farming declined in the early 1970’s, and the owner, the Irvine Company, leased portions of the property to some duck clubs who built ponds and levees. The Duck Clubs imported water to fill the ponds to attract ducks, but the duck numbers eventually declined (quelle surprise). The Clubs' lease over the area was not renewed, but this shut down the source of water, leaving lots of birds at risk of losing their habitat or migration stopover.

Peer Swan, then President of the Irvine Ranch Water District, facilitated an arrangement between the Water District, the City of Irvine, and the Audubon Society to restore and preserve the wetlands and the pond system, to create a haven for birds and a source of information and recreation for residents and visitors.

Bird list

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Upper Newport Bay, California

"A skulking masked warbler of wet thickets, the Common Yellowthroat is far more frequently heard than seen." - so I was rather pleased that my skulking was rewarded by some ok images.

Interesting fact: Males are apparently monogamous within a breeding season,  however females show no fidelity to their mates and often attract other males with their calls.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Upper Newport Bay

Anna's Hummingbird

Upper Newport Bay is an estuary that is an important staging area for migrating birds in winter. In summer the walking trails brought me close to bush birds and raptors. Turkey Vultures, Red Tailed Hawks and Osprey circled overhead, but the marine layer made distant photos a dull grey. I still haven't identified many of the little brown birds, but the Anna's Humingbirds were numerous.  Anna's are the most common hummingbird in Southern California. The way the light fell made a spectacular difference to the colours they displayed, a small turn of the head and the colour was gone.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Newport Bay, California

After a stimulating and informative New Media Consortium conference at Disneyland I'm on the Balboa Penninsula in Orange County. I took an evening stroll along the harbour wall to check out the difference in birdlife in my first summer visit. Two great blue herons flew into a huge palm tree for the night, severel black crowned night herons were on their way somewhere, and a green heron headed towards the back bay. Barn swallows flittered over the water and perched on boat rigging. Snowy egret foraged along the tide line and displayed on the bait barge, and a great egret flew overhead. Brown pelican formed a giant V in the sky, before finding a row boat to  roost on, and double-breasted cormorants perched on mooring buoys. Western gulls and forster's and caspian terns circled the harbour, fishing in the last of the light.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Off to Orange County for a month – 50% work with conferences and networking, but should be time for birding. My goals are:

Bolsa Chica Wetlands  Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, CA.

Huntington Central Park 18000 Goldenwest St., Huntington Beach, CA

Irvine Regional Park 1 Irvine Park Road Orange, CA

Mason Regional Park 18712 University Drive Irvine, CA

Peters Canyon Regional Park 8548 E. Canyon View Ave. Orange, CA 

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary 5 Riparian View, Irvine CA

Santiago Oaks Regional Park 2145 N. Windes Drive Orange, CA 

Santiago Park Nature Preserve 2535 N. Main St., Santa Ana, CA 

Talbert Nature Preserve 1298 Victoria Avenue Costa Mesa

Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park 30952 Oso Parkway Coto De Caza

Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary 29322 Modjeska Canyon Road Modjeska Canyon, CA