Sunday, March 1, 2009

Good Shots From Far Away

This weekend's birding was both boring and frustrating: Boring, because I hardly saw any birds; and frustrating, because I could hear any number of unfamiliar calls and songs in the distance that I was sure came from interesting early migrants. But I could never get the visuals on any of these birds, and nobody else was around to help me with ID.

My husband Glenn, however, has had better luck as of late. He hasn't had much time to bird, but has managed to get some nice shots during his limited time out. So for a change of pace, I'm sharing some of these.

This Red-throated Loon was hanging out in the big pond on the west side of Huntington Central Park, in Huntington Beach. The fact that it was (1) in a fresh-water pond for several days (Red-throated Loons prefer salt water or brackish water) and (2) sitting on the edge of the pond for hours on end, unconcerned about photographers and birders only about 15 feet away, suggested that it might have been sick. We posted the photo on the Orange County Birding listserv, and the fine folk at the Wetlands and Wildife Care Center agreed with our assessment: the bird's behavior just wasn't right.

But when they sent their team to the park to catch the bird for rehabilitation, it took one look at them and flew off. Sick? Or just lazy? I hope it's the latter.

At Bolsa Chica, one of our favorite Huntington Beach haunts, Glenn got a nice sunset shot of some American Avocets. We like how this looks as though they're racing to cross a finish line:

Waders such as American Avocets and Black-necked Stilts are pretty routine sightings in southern California, but much less so in north-central Florida. (This runs counter to the popular notion that all of Florida is Big Wading Bird Central.) About a week and a half ago, I commented to Glenn that I had never seen a Black-necked Stilt out here. But a few days later, I saw my first one in Florida, in Alachua Sink, off the La Chua Trail. This surprised me, and when I e-mailed the local birding guru to ask about it, I was even more surprised to learn that I had broken the county record for the earliest spring sighting of a Black-necked Stilt! (So they do occur here, but not year-round.)

My lame documentary shot of the Alachua Sink bird is here. Below is Glenn's far-superior shot of one of its California cousins:

One reason why my weekend birding was such a wash was today's weather--I awoke at 6:30 to heavy rain and lightning, and even after the rain passed, the winds stayed heavy and cold and kept most of the birds away. In a way, this was a relief, as it forced me to stay inside and get ahead on my lecture planning. In a week will be spring break at UF, and while my gentle charges are off doing Jello shots in Fort Lauderdale, I'll be busy spending time with my family and (yay!) doing some serious birding. And Glenn will finally be coming out to Florida to see everything here for himself.

I can't wait to show him everything I've seen here.

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