Sunday, February 3, 2008

Feeling Peckish

This sucks.

I love the sensation of seeing a new bird. I love going home with the image of the bird seared in my mind, and the satisfaction of entering my sighting on eBird, and seeing the number by my online life list increase in tiny increments. There's no feeling like it...

Except the thrill of trying a new food—I love eating as much as birding (and luckily, as much as long-distance swimming and running and my healthy and reasonably slim parents—so fortunately, I don't look like Jabba the Hutt). Every new dish feels like a tick on my culinary life list: Pupusas! Bibimbap! Chapulines! Yum or yuck, it's part of my life education, and it's all good.

And just as I sometimes get a craving for certain foods, I get cravings for certain birds: for no particular reason, I've just got to see one. For the past few weeks, Glenn and I have had a hankering for Sapsuckers, and yesterday we set out to find one.

We went to Irving Regional Park, where both Red-breasted and Red-naped Sapsuckers have been recently reported. In the little parking lot between the pond and the horse stables, we found a veritable thrush-fest: Western Bluebirds and Hermit Thrushes flitting about in large numbers, along with a bright American Robin. Noisy Red-crowned Parrots were everywhere, and among them was this guy, whom I was told was a hybrid between a Red-crowned and Yellow-headed Parrot.

Adding to the cacaphony was a Belted Kingfisher hanging out by the pond, occasionally diving for fish.

We were admiring the handful of Wood Ducks swimming among the Mallards in the pond when we ran into a couple of birder buddies, who had also come to find Sapsuckers. Since they are much more knowledgeable birders than us (who isn't?), we gladly tagged along after them—and were delighted to find that they were after the exact same birds we were.

First, we looked for Ring-necked Ducks in the pond. They were there, but not being very cooperative for photos. Next we looked for, and dipped on, the Lewis' Woodpecker and Barn Owl known to hang out in the top part of the park. No matter; we kept ourselves amused with White-breasted Nuthatches, and Acorn and Nuttall's Woodpeckers. We heard, but couldn't see, a Northern Flicker off in the distance.

We headed back towards our starting point, and paused by a noisy, birdy grove of trees by the zoo: it was filled with parrots and woodpeckers. I watched a pissed-off Acorn Woodpecker dive-bombing a pair of parrots and wondered if we would ever find those sapsuckers...

Almost as soon as this thought passed my mind, I heard someone yell "Sapsucker!" and saw a blur of red and black fly by. We sprinted after it and waited. Our friends told us that sapsuckers, unlike other woodpeckers, tend to hide in the foliage of trees so it would be best to wait, look around carefully, and be there when he decided to come out into the open again. Which he eventually did—which gave us our first really close look at a Red-breasted Sapsucker!

Of course, this taste only made us hungry for more, so we continued to scour the area—without success—for more Sapsuckers. After a while, we decided to head back to San Joaquin to pick up some books at the Audubon House before it closed. But we'll be back for more.


Neil Gilbert said...

Hi Felicia,

Nice report! Let me know next time you go, and I can show you around and hopefully get you some of the other target birds. The parrot you have pictured is actually a Blue-fronted Parrot, which is much less common in southern CA than Red-crowned or Lilac-crowned. See:

I didn't see the Lewis's yesterday either, but hopefully he's still around.


Felicia said...

Hi Neil,

Thanks! We'll definitely be in touch the next time we go up to IRP. And congrats on getting those other sapsuckers yesterday, too!