Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bonita (California) Birds

As usual, we spent Christmas in Bonita, California with Randy's family. I got to try out my brand new Papilio binoculars. I really wanted them for my bug excursions because with a minimum focal distance of 1.6 feet they are probably the best ones on the market to watch shy insects without getting too close or to identify those famously tiny 'belly' flowers of the desert without actually lying on my belly. The new glasses turned out to be also quite useful among the rather dense eucalyptus and pine trees around Randy's mother's house.


Red-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta canadensis

So after a rainy Christmas Eve we woke up to beautiful sunshine the next morning and found lots of interesting (that is non-Arizona-desert) birds. A pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches was running up and down a big pine tree in the front yard. I recognized their nasal voices while I was feeding our dogs.


Western Scrub-Jay, Aphelocoma californica

 On the way from the house to the golfcourse we always hear the scolding calls of Scrubjays, the caws of scores of crows and Cooper's Hawks that are active around their nesting trees even in December. What I really hoped to see were the beautiful, rarely visiting Green Jays, but no such luck.


American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

Against the blue sky, we see three huge white birds slowly cruising towards the golf course ponds: American White Pelicans! They land, and two of them eventually begin their incredibly synchronized fishing ballet. They must be rare visitors, because while I'm trying to film them I get asked over and over whether they are storks, herons, penguins (that's Randy's input). Unfortunately it got all captured on my audio recording.


Ring-billed Gulls, Laurus delawarensis
There was a flock of Tricolored Blackbirds, a few large Western Gulls, a Blue Heron and a Little Egret, Canada Geese, a pair of noisy Brown Chinese Geese (Anser cygnoides), the usual coots and ducks and a group of Ring-billed Gulls, Laurus delawarensis.


White-tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus

A White-tailed Kite was preening on top of a cypress at a very busy intersection. He waited there for me to go home and come back with my camera.These graceful raptors were among my favorites when I lived in Laguna Niguel, CA where they hovered and soared over the canyon behind our house on every sunny morning.


White-Tailed Kites by Stan Keiser
Yesterday our friends Lynn and Frank gave me Stan Keiser's calendar of California Wildlife. Frank and Stan Keiser are birding companions. I hope Stan doesn't mind that I am showing his incredible photo here - it really is the best one of these beautiful birds that I have seen in a long time. Please see more of Stan Keiser's work on his web site.


California Trasher, Toxostoma redivivum
The parts of Rohr Park north of golf course and horseback riding facility are much less crowded but there are mmainly native shrubs, weeds and also great stands of bull rushes and cattails around some ponds. A Red-tail Hawk was perched overlooking the area, and there were White-crowned and Song sparrows in great numbers, vireos and warblers beyond my identification skills, and also a thrasher with a very bright bib.


California Towhee, Pipilo crissalis

Some Towhees seemed to be a dark maroon color through my new binoculars. But I had been warned that the glasses do not have the best color correction capacity, and sure enough, my trusty little camera detected much less of a reddish cast on those birds. Anyway, both  California Trasher and California Towhee are endemics and 'lifers' for me. I might have seen them before, but this is the first time I paid enough attention to identify them. Actually, I just realized that my old National Geographic bird guide still lumps California and Canyon Towhee together: Brown Towhee. Only my newer Sibley guide introduced me to the California species. Defining characters of the pacific species  seems to be the lack of a black spot on his chest and darker chest plumage.

Canyon Towhee, Pipilo fuscus
Here is our Canyon Towhee from the Tucson Mountains for comparison. Really quite a difference.

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