Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Perfect Day in a Parking Lot

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful: A Yellow Warbler at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary.

We started our Saturday morning at San Joaquin Marsh out of obligation, and ended up spending most of the day there for the sheer joy of it.

I was scheduled to lead a tour of the marsh at 9, so we got there at 8 to catch some of the early morning songbird action before the tour. As soon as we stepped out of the car, we spotted flashes of yellow overhead: at least half a dozen bright Western Tanagers flitting from tree to tree in the parking lot.

And that was just the beginning...

At least two Yellow Warblers were singing loudly in the parking lot, along with graceful little Warbling Vireos and the usual noisy Song Sparrows and Spotted Towhees. Orioles darted back and forth high above the parking lot, and in the distance I could hear the waterfowl and shorebirds squawking away.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), the tour ended up being cancelled due to low attendance (the three people who did show up were charming), so Glenn and I were free to bird on our own. There was so much going on just in the trees by the parking lot that I ended up spending most of the morning there. Among the treats we got in the parking lot was a male Hermit Warbler, who was hanging out in the big eucalyptus by the chicken coop in the back end of the lot:

This rather scraggly tree was filled with warblers: at the same time we saw the Hermit, we also spotted a Black-throated Grey Warbler, a Nashville Warbler, and a Yellow-rumped Warbler.

At noon, we headed home with full memory cards and happy hearts. By 2:30, we were bored, so we headed back to the marsh. I wasn't optimistic: could it possibly be as good as it was that morning?

Things didn't look promising when we arrived. It was still hot and the parking lot was quiet. But soon, the sun started to recede and the Yellow Warblers resumed their chorus, and the Hermit and Black-throated Grey emerged for encore appearances.

At the front ponds, things were also quite active. The American Avocets were fighting for territory, the Marsh Wrens were singing loudly, and a few Spotted Sandpipers had actual spots on them:

In this area I got my other good bird of the day: a Common Ground-Dove, who was flying between the ponds and feeding in the brush and grass along the pond edges:

This certainly wasn't a big day by any respectable standard (we got about 60 birds). But it was jaw-droppingly big fun.

As much fun as anyone could ever expect to have in a parking lot.


cjs said...

I'm so jealous . . great photos!

Sparverius said...

I'm probably a huge simpleton, but 60 birds in a day seems like a great bird day. I'd be thrilled with 15 in a day.

Felicia said...

Thanks to both of you! Out here, we're lucky to have several diverse ecosystems within close proximity to each other (it really is true that in southern California one can ski and surf on the same day, weather and traffic permitting), so getting 60 birds doesn't require that much skill.

Some of the birders out here routinely rack up 100 or more on a single day. I haven't gotten there yet!