Saturday, November 10, 2007

So Near, and Yet So Far

I hate to drive. I have a huge list of birding spots, Oaxacan restaurants, and interesting historical monuments all over Southern California that I plan to visit—eventually. But I never do because I don't feel like driving that far. I like to think it's because I'm environmentally responsible, but it's really just sloth. That, and my regular 100-mile round-trip commute to work from Costa Mesa to West L.A., through some of the most hellish traffic imaginable, makes the very idea of weekend freeway time unthinkably repulsive.

As a result, I've been doing most of my recent birding in my own zip code, or within a 15-minute radius of it—and I'm one of those lucky souls who can get a lot of good birds this way. But today, Glenn and I broke from our routine and headed all the way out to—ooh!—Orange! (And Glenn, who has an easy 15-minute commute to work, got to drive! Ha, ha.)

We spent several hours at Yorba Regional Park, a terrific place we'd only visited once before. It was actually Glenn's idea: he wanted some photos of the Wood Ducks that regularly frequent the park. And just as we had hoped, they were there, in the long pond that runs the length of the park (along with a Mandarin Duck, a Ring-necked Duck, a couple of Redheads, and the usual large flocks of Mallards, American Coots, and Ruddy Ducks).

(The true wonder of this photo is that it looks as though it were taken at twilight, as the setting sun cast its dying amber rays upon the water. In reality, it was taken at 10:00 a.m., and the evocative golden glow is the reflection of bright yellow plastic playground equipment on the shore.)

The trip also yielded birds we'd never seen at our usual coastal birding spots: several Mountain Chickadees and a White-breasted Nuthatch. We also got a another lifer: a Red-breasted Sapsucker, who we spotted twice in the grove of trees between the pond and the bike path along the river. (Unfortunately, it wasn't as cooperative as the Wood Ducks: we saw its unmistakable red head and black wings, but it didn't stay still long enough for photos.)

This assortment of birds seemed quite exotic to me, yet we were only a half-hour drive from home. It made me realize that birds are homebodies too.

But unlike birds, I can—and should—expand my range.

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