West Coast Expedition Day 2, Off to California : Part 3

I was very thankful that we were able to have such a kind friend up in Colorado who endorsed my love in birding.  Without her kindness, I would have had six less lifers!

All of the places that I have gone on this trip have been so different from one another.  On a larger scale, you have California compared to Colorado, and then those two compared to Pennsylvania.  Then, on a smaller scale, you have Evergreen Lakehouse compared to Anza – Borrego Desert State Park (to be described in a future blog post!)  So now, finally, I was just about to get a taste of California for the first time!

We arrived in California at about one o’ clock P.M, and then, by the time we got our things in the hotel and got situated (plus eating lunch), we got out birding at about three o’ clock.

Driving in the rental car from John Wayne International Airport to the hotel in Mission Viejo was probably one of the most memorable and exciting times of the trip.  It sounds weird, but I felt the same way in Colorado.  I think that it had a lot to do with feeling so anxious.  I saw Swifts, Hawks and Hummingbirds, and, each time I spotted one, the thought raced through my mind that I may be missing out on a lifer.  At that point, I just didn’t feel like looking at the birds (just kidding!)

Prior to leaving for California, I researched parks right around the hotel.  I didn’t really care about the details (amount of habitat, specifically, because many of the parks in the area seemed more urban), because I figured that at any park, no matter what the circumstances, I would get a good number of lifers.  The park I chose was Pinecrest Park.

Approximately 2 miles from our hotel, Pinecrest Park is located in Pinecrest, California.  Included is a playground, a soccer field, a trail around the soccer field, and a trail through some woods.

Descending a slope to the trail around the field, I noticed quite a commotion in the bushes to my left.  Of course, the birds were Bushtits.  Bushtits have taken the place of Chickadees in California (as CA does not have any), if you can imagine that.  For now, that is all I will say about Bushtits, as there are many other lifers to talk about in this post.

Along with the Bushtits, I noticed a lone California Towhee.  If you are in the area (coast of Southern California), then this bird is not only easy to locate, but very easy to identify.  An overall tannish-brown bird with a noticeably rusty vent (think Gray Catbird), and a subtly rusty face.  Since it is the only bird on the California coast that looks like this, I could easily identify it as Lifer #2!

Then, while still in the same area, I noticed a Hummingbird.  I then discovered that, because of the gorget pattern and color, that this was an Anna’s Hummingbird.  Now, this was the first time that I got to witness the extraordinary display put on by a Hummingbird, for the Ruby-throats back home do not put on nearly as thrilling a show.  What I saw was incredible.  The male and female Anna’s were sitting together on a branch, and then all of a sudden the male burst off of the perch and slowly rose nearly 100 feet in the air, and then came down like a bullet next to the female once more, but now hovering.  Then, this procedure was mimicked by the female.  Incredible.  But more on them later.

So, after three lifers, my luck was still not running out.  Directly below the performing Anna’s Hummingbirds were two stunningly yellow Lesser Goldfinches.  Not at all like our American Goldfinches back home (color pattern wise), the male Lessers have an olive color on their napes extending to their mantle, which is speckled with black.  Their wings are black and white, and their caps are a slate black.  Lastly, there is a prominent yellow extending from their chins down to their undertail coverts.  They would play around in their giddy manner much like the American Goldfinches would, so you could easily guess that this bird was a Goldfinch.

Next (and this post keeps dragging on and on…), we turned our attention to the field.  Flying across was a familiar sight.  A House Sparrow.  I have a hatred for them, but that is for an entirely new post.

Anyway, in the field were three distinctly different birds.  One was black and white, one was tan, and the other was blue-gray.  The blue-gray bird was a female Western Bluebird.  The male of this species was described in an earlier post, and as for the female, if you can picture a female Eastern Bluebird, you’ve got it, it looks so similar (although the blue on the female Easterns is a bit lighter than the Westerns).  The Western was behaving much like the Easterns back home – sitting atop a hawking perch, and then going down and snatching it’s prey.

Now, to give you a rest, I will tell you more about the black and white bird as well as the tan bird in the next post which will come very soon.

The female Western Bluebird (one from Colorado, actually. Didn't get a good picture here in Califonia).

A female Lesser Goldfinch. Slightly resembles the American Goldfinch, but still two distinct species.

The pesky murderous House Sparrow.


2 thoughts on “West Coast Expedition Day 2, Off to California : Part 3

  1. Very nice post. Glad you had the chance to see the display by the hummingbirds; a real treat. I was recently out west and missed the lesser goldfinch to my dismay, glad you caught it.


  2. Thanks for the kind words, Dan! That’s unfortunate that you missed the Lesser. Did you get to see the Lawrence’s Goldfinch? I missed that one, and I was really hoping to see it.

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