Saturday, July 24, 2010

This Is the West

I have just returned from a three-week visit back to Southern California, where, like here, it was the midst of the summer birding doldrums.

Two years ago, I would have found my last three weeks of birding thoroughly boring. But since moving away from California, I looked forward to trips back to revisit all the birds I used to take for granted. All those drab, common, little brown or gray things that haunt back yards and parking lots in the Los Angeles area--California Towhees, Bushtits, Wrentits, Black Phoebes--simply do not occur in Florida (ever) and I missed them.

My trip back was mostly filled with family events centered around the arrival of a new nephew (welcome aboard Quinten!), so I didn't get to do as much birding as I would have liked. Still, Glenn and I did manage to get out and revisit a few old haunting grounds.

We met some old birding pals at Bolsa Chica one weekend just to see the sights and catch up with the regular populations of nesting Least and Elegant Terns. But we also got to see the one and only rarity known to be hanging out in Orange County that week: a strangely sedentary Sooty Tern:

Shortly after our visit to Bolsa Chica, we visited the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, which houses a large collection of taxidermied birds. One exhibit stated that Sooty Terns hold the record among birds for the longest period of time they can endure in the air without landing. I don't remember the exact duration (weeks? months?) but it was pretty mind-boggling. This made me wonder what the deal was with the mysterious Sooty loafing on that sandbar at Bolsa Chica: Was this normal behavior? Was he sick?

On the way down the coast to visit one of my sisters in San Diego, we stopped by San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, one of other other old favorite spots. Ducks and shorebirds there are plentiful and easy to see, which makes the sanctuary a popular spot for photographers. We saw, among other things, several young American Avocets, still covered with baby fuzz, as well as Black-bellied Plovers and a number of other goodies:

Now I'm back home. There are no Bushtits or Anna's Hummingbirds or Spotted Towhees anywhere near here. But my yard is filled with Northern Cardinals and Tufted Titmice and scolding Carolina Wrens. I rather missed them when I was gone.