Sunday, July 20, 2008
A Least Bittern at Laguna Niguel Regional Park.
One of the best treats a birder can have is the company of better birders. Glenn and I are still young in terms of our birding experience, but have had the good fortune to run in the same circles with some amazingly skilled people. One couple in particular jumps to mind: about two years ago, we started running into them on almost a weekly basis, in sites as diverse as Huntington Central Park and the Antelope Valley. Then they'd disappear, like migrating warblers, and like said warblers, reappear on a regular basis a few months later.
It had been a while since we'd run into them, and couple of weeks ago, we started noticing this. "Wow, I wonder what happened to John and Joan?," we asked each other. And then, last week, they resurfaced at the Huntington Beach Least Tern Reserve. We chatted for a while, then split up. They promised to let us know if they found anything interesting.
And they kept their promise: about an hour later, Joan came running back to us, announcing that they had found a Gull-billed Tern in nearby Talbert Marsh. We followed her back. and the bird was still there.
In our earlier chat, they mentioned in passing another local finding: a Least Bittern in Laguna Niguel Regional Park. We hadn't been there in a while, and it's a great place to see Orioles when they're here (they've been abundant everywhere else I've looked as of late), so we decided to check it out.
And we got lucky: the Bittern was exactly where they said it was, by the bridge over the creek at the top of the hill. The bird was surprisingly cooperative (at times): it moved at a slow, gracefully deliberate pace, grasping the reeds with its impossibly long toes:
We heard, but didn't see, any of the local Orioles. Lots of juvenile Black Phoebes and Common Yellowthroats were jumping about in the low bushes and reeds. We also got some good looks at a Blue Grosbeak, who was flying about and occasionally feeding a squeaking fledgling:
We lingered by the creek for a few hours, watching both birds and keeping an eye out for other possible birds of interest. By now, it was almost 1:30, and the smell of grilling carne asada from one of the picnic areas was making me hungry to the point of distraction. I'm sure the loud xenophobic rant about illegal aliens from a neighboring picnic area was just jealousy about having nothing but cold peanut butter sandwiches and juice boxes for lunch.
We packed up and found a nearby In-N-Out, where I accidentally ordered just cheeseburgers instead of Double-Doubles (I wondered why it was so cheap...). As we ate, I gave mental thanks to the opportunities we've had to see interesting birds, and the kind people who've taught us about them.