Sunday, June 8, 2008

Little Pleasures

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.


Anonymous said...

Superb photos!

Felicia said...

LOL! Thank you for your kind words--the ironic thing is, the photos I usually use here are Glenn's, and he is blessed with years of experience as a professional artist, a 500-mm lens, and expert technical skills. But he couldn't join me this weekend, so these are *my* photos, taken brainlessly and fixed up as best I can on iPhoto. I guess I was lucky to have such cooperative--and cute--subjects!

cjs said...

You're too kind to call what the Chat does "singing". Your pics really are cute, who needs the fancy camera and seasoned vet?!

Alan said...

Great Site with some superb images.
very enjoyable.


Sparverius said...

It's great to see fun things close to home. I cringe thinking about driving my bank account dry on gas.

Felicia said...

Belated thanks to all of you!
CJS--Hey, I *like* listening to Chats! But then, I also like Stevie Nicks, Janis Joplin, and various other critters who yelp and screech instead of singing...
Alan--Thanks for visiting, and welcome (virtually) to The OC! You've got some great birds in your part of the world!
Wendy--It's indeed a blessing to be able to find interesting stuff close to home; it makes one feel as though one truly belongs there!