Sunday, November 4, 2007

Embrace the Dark

A Merlin at Bolsa Chica

When I was a kid, Sunday evenings were my least-favorite time of the week: they signaled the end of the weekend and the impending onslaught of another week of homework and tests. And the worst Sunday night of all was the one right after Halloween, when we turned the clocks back: it was always darker, and sadder, with more homework and more torturous piano lessons and spelling tests looming ahead than any other weekend of the year.

Now that I'm grown up, I don't mind Sundays quite so much. Mondays suck less when you actually like your job. But now the dark Sunday night at the end of daylight savings time creeps me out for another reason: it reminds me of yet another year gone by—I'm just old enough to start worrying about stuff like that. And now I have yet another rubric for measuring the passing the the seasons: the comings and goings of birds.

But at least the arrival of a new crop of migrating birds is always something to look forward to, rather than something to dread.

This weekend, Glenn and I got two lifers, which everyone else in the 714/949 area code probably saw as well: the female Long-tailed Duck at Bolsa Chica, and the Red-throated Pipit at Harriet Wieder Park on the south end of Bolsa Chica. The duck was by the tidegates on Saturday morning, hanging out with a group of Lesser Scaups and Western Grebes. She stayed relatively close to the tidegate for about 15 minutes before taking off.

The aptly named Long-tailed Duck

We also saw the Merlin that had been reported there this week, along with a couple of American Kestrels and an Osprey eating a fish in one of the dead trees on the mesa.

Even better, nearly the whole complement of winter ducks was present—the Lesser Scaup, a Redhead, Northern Shovelers, Cinnamon and Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintails, Surf Scoters, and Buffleheads. We had fun showing these off to a novice birder hanging out by the tidegates, still amazed by the idea of all these birds. "Wow," she exclaimed, waving an arm at the passing traffic on Pacific Coast Highway, "all those people are just driving right past this place. And they have no idea..."

On Sunday morning, we went to find the Red-throated Pipit at Harriet Wieder Park. This also proved to be fairly straightforward: we just followed all the people with spotting scopes. Luckily, they were a friendly and generous bunch; without them, I'm sure we wouldn't have been able to pick it out of the huge flock of very active and skittish American Pipits it was hanging with. Claiming this as a lifer only after a group of people practically grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and shoved my face into it felt a bit like cheating—but I'll take it.


Neil Gilbert said...

Congratulations on the lifers and awesome Long-tailed Duck photo!!

-neil g.

tenderstorm said...

Thanks to you and Glenn for pointing the Long-tailed Duck to us! It was a pleasure finally meeting you both.

Bob & Cynthia Kaufman

Felicia said...

Thanks to all of you! We were lucky; that duck was wonderfully well-behaved, at least for a while.

Keep on birding!