Sunday, June 8, 2008
A baby American Avocet at San Joaquin Marsh
Cheapness and sloth have kept my birding outings close to home as of late. For various reasons, I haven't felt much like driving, or taking the $5 gamble of going to one of the OC regional parks only to find it birdless and crammed with partygoers.
And this doesn't seem like the season for finding rarities. Instead, I've been quite content to visit and re-visit my usual haunts, all mere minutes from home, and watching the local landscape shift and change from week to week. After all, if Emily Dickenson could see the universe in a flower (and turn out an admirable body of poetry without ever leaving her house), a reasonably competent birder could certainly stay entertained within a 10-mile radius of Costa Mesa.
So today, it was back to San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. I arrived just after 8, and immediately spotted a female Western Tanager on the path in front of me. Further on, two loud Yellow-breasted Chats were engaged in what sounded like a singing duel.
One of the birds I've been trying to get all season is the Least Bell's Vireo: they've been singing like mad at San Joaquin for the past month of so, but I've never managed to actually see one. (They're not much to look at, but it's the principle of the thing...) Today, I got lucky: I heard them, as usual, singing by the boardwalk. After I crossed the boardwalk, the singing got progressively louder: I followed the singing and finally got one of them in my sights.
And even better, I saw it fly into a nearby tree and snuggle up to another bird. I then realized that it was feeding a fledgling!
Baby Bell: A fledgling Least Bell's Vireo
The adult flew off as soon as it passed a fat little grub on to the baby. But the fledgling stayed on for a few minutes before hopping out of sight. I love watching baby birds, and seeing a baby of a threatened species is always cause for hope.
In the front ponds were a pair of Egyptian Geese, looking weirdly sinister as usual. The baby Avocets look more and more grown up, and feed with the same sideward bill-sweeping motion as their parents.
I went home at noon, just as it started getting seriously hot. It's great knowing that one can find such great little surprises so close to home.