Archive for the ‘Bird Observations’ Category

Birding with Binoculars in Bonelli

In eight years of birding, I’ve only used binoculars three times — once when spotting eagles downstate in Illinois, once when spotting ospreys on Mare Island, and once when visiting Bonelli Regional Park with a friend who had a spare pair. This reflects a personal preference: I’ve wanted to see birds with my naked eyes, and I’ve wanted to get quietly closer to the birds without startling them, and I’ve wanted them to let me. It has worked out for the most part, and I have identified many birds in the wild.

But I recently purchased a pair of binoculars, and today, I went birding with them in Bonelli Regional Park. Let me just say:  I once was blind, but now I see! Today I saw birds from far away as if they were very near.

Some new IDs for me? Lark Sparrow, Pine Siskin, and Northern Shoveler. In addition, some rarer sightings: Gadwell, Bufflehead (male), and a group of Western Meadowlarks. It was delightful to watch the Lark Sparrow rustling, hopping, and scratching in some underbrush. (Earlier on my walk I had seen a California Towhee acting similarly.) Like the sparrow, the Bufflehead was looking for food, but under the water. He looked so happy diving down and coming up again! But he was alone out there. I didn’t see any other buffleheads.

The long beaks of the Northern Shovelers were easy to see. But the Gadwell stood out when viewed through the binoculars. What finely detailed and gorgeous coloring the Gadwall has! The Pine Siskin was in a pine tree — of course. The Eurasian Collared Dove was also in a pine, tho’ a different one. The Western Meadowlarks in a group were a delightful surprise. I am used to seeing only one at a time, not six or seven.

All the usual suspects also were gathered round Puddingstone Reservoir:  American Coots, Belted Kingfishers, Black Phoebes, California Towhees, Canadian geese, Double-Crested Cormorants, Greater White-Fronted Ducks, House Finches, Killdeer, Mallard Ducks, Muskovy Ducks, Great White Egrets, Ring-billed Gulls, Sanderlings, Snowy Egrets, and Western Grebes. What a phenomenal day! Blissful for me, really.

Thank you, Creator-God.

 

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Florence Augusta Merriam Bailey’s _Birds Through an Opera Glass _ of 1889: The First Field Guide

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Florence Bailey – Birds Through an Opera Glass – 1889 (PDF)

Audubon on Alexander Wilson and the Small-Headed Flycatcher

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Yellow-Headed Parrot

YelloHeadedParrotwToday, I saw the yellow-headed parrots very clearly and distinctly flying in the Saturday morning sunlight and settling in the trees near my place in La Verne.

Wild Parrot of Los Angeles

Near the end of September, I began hearing wild bird calls near my home that sounded nothing like any bird I had ever heard in California. They would circle about the sky in flocks, but I would see only their silhouettes, which did not afford me opportunity to identify them by their distinct markings. They seemed to prefer to alight high in the highest trees — and they were very loud.

Finally, I googled “loud birds in La Verne,” and I immediately found that someone else had recorded their cries and identified them:  they’re parrots!

This led me to do a little research on the wild parrot populations of Los Angeles. As it turns out, there are several species living wild here:

  1. Rose-ringed Parakeets (Conures) from tropical Africa and India
  2. Lilac Crowned Parrots (Amazons) from the Pacific Coast of Mexico (vulnerable)
  3. Red Crowned Parrots from NE Mexico (endangered)
  4. Yellow Headed Parrots from southern Mexico down to Honduras (endangered)
  5. Red Lored Parrots from the Caribbean Coast in southern Mexico down to Nicaragua
  6. Red Masked Parakeets from Ecuador and Peru
  7. Mitred Parakeets from Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina
  8. Blue Crowned Parakeets from eastern Colombia all the way south to Argentina
  9. Yellow Chevroned Parakeets from countries south of the Amazon River Basin
  10. Nanday Parakeets from central South America
  11. Blue (Turquoise) Fronted Parrots from central South America

Yellow-Headed Parrots

Here’s a video of several varieties of parrots who are living right here in SoCal. There are at least four explanations for how they established themselves here:

  1. There are verified reports of small bird traders in the 1940s and ’50s who had accidents en route and let their wild-caught, caged parrots free without meaning to.
  2. In 1959, parrots were released from Simpson’s Garden Town Nursery on the east side of Pasadena when it caught fire. Rather than watch 65-70 birds in the pet shop burn up, an injured employee, with the help of firefighters, freed as many as he could.
  3. In the San Fernando Valley, parrots are said to have been released in 1979 by Busch Gardens – an exotic tourist attraction theme park set up by Anheuser Busch to draw the public to their Van Nuys beer manufacturing facility. When the company moved its headquarters to a different location, they attempted to place their collection of birds in zoos and private homes, setting free those they were unable to place.
  4. Most of California’s pet parrots showed up during a time when importing parrots was still legal – approximately 41,550 in the early ’80s, according to Long Beach’s Press Telegram News (08/22/13). However, as some parrot species became endangered in their home countries, their importation became illegal and smugglers are said to have released parrots to avoid being caught.

Source:  Sustainable Sue

I’m glad that many of these parrots, endangered in their home countries, are making their new homes here in safety.

 

Spice Finch

 

Last time I went hiking in Bonelli Regional Park, I saw a bird that looked like a purple-headed finch — but wasn’t. I couldn’t find a comparable species at Cornell’s Online Birding Lab. That’s because the Spice Finch is not yet recognized as a California or U.S. bird. But a population established itself in Los Angeles in the 1980s after being imported from Asia (according to Garrett, Dunn and Morse, Birds of the Los Angeles Region, p. 449). It is a strikingly pretty finch, and it is known by other names, such as Nutmeg Maniken and Spotted Munia. Today, I saw it in the reeds beside Puddingstone Reservoir again, and I just loved it! My beloved little dog Joyful was with me, and she patiently waited while I watched a pair together. Then a third made a short flight, flashing a yellow tail, into a pine tree!

 

“Albatross”

Dore-Albatross-RimeoftheAncientMariner

“At length did cross an albatross,

thorough the fog came;

as if it had been a Christian soul,

we hailed it in God’s name”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Rime of the Ancient Mariner

(drawing by Gustav Doré)