Sunday, December 16, 2007

Just Another Day in Paradise

Ho hum. Whatever.

Last week, Orange County birders got an early Christmas/Hannukah/Festivus gift: a young Roseate Spoonbill who kept everyone staring obsessively up and down the banks of the Santa Ana River for a week before it decamped for the 909. (Or not—intriguingly, I got an e-mail from another birder who had Spoonbill sightings both in Orange and upstream in Riverside County, and feels they are different individuals.)

In any case, I haven't heard of any more Spoonbill sightings down here in the last few days. And even more conspicuously, no sightings of anything else have been reported to our local boards either. I'm sure this is not for the lack of great birds in the area: It's just that after last week's Spoonbill Fest, almost anything else would seem anticlimactic. (Yet another Light-footed Clapper Rail! Yawn.)

So this weekend felt a bit like the days right after Christmas: kind of a bittersweet return to normalcy.

Still, normal is good. Today, we decided to go back to Peters Canyon Regional Park, which we haven't visited since summer. Almost immediately, we spotted the Hooded Merganser reported by Neil Gilbert a few weeks ago—it was too far away for us to photograph, but its poofy black-and-white crest and brown flanks were conspicuous.

We also spotted several very noisy California Gnatcatchers, and our fun bird of the day: a rather bold Greater Roadrunner on the hill by the dam. We watched as it casually strolled across the path in front of us and ducked into the roped-off area overlooking the reservoir.

No bragging rights go with any of these birds. But the more I bird, the more I realize how lucky I am to live in an area where sightings of birds like these are almost routine. Flashy rarities sometimes make me lose touch with the richness and complexity of our local birding environment, and sometimes it takes a really boring weekend to bring things back into focus.

Normal is good.

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