Archive for the ‘Birding-by-Ear’ Category

Two Mockingbirds and a Merlin (female) at Amber Ridge in the Morning

This morning, I was walking around Amber Ridge when I heard raucous bird calls. As I drew closer to the source of the sound, I saw that it was being made by two mockingbirds. They were squawking and flying up in the air and then back into their tall, green tree. I drew close to the tree, to find out what was irritating them, and saw a placid Merlin (female) perched on a high branch whom they were trying to scare off. The Merlin’s banded tail and distinct, brown chest streaking, facial patterning, and size (11-12″ apx) and wingspan (shorter than a larger hawk) made the ID.

June seems late for a nesting pair of mockingbirds, and the Merlin (Merlin columbarius) is supposedly here in SoCal mainly between mid-October and March. Yet here was this drama unfolding at the top of the tree:  plain as day. Although the mockingbirds were not initially successful, my interest in the Merlin, demonstrated by a curious stare as I drew closer, prompted the small raptor to take flight … and the two mockingbirds chased it across the sky!


loud, shrill mockingbirds

defending a tall, green tree

the Merlin takes flight!


Screen Shot 2019-06-15 at 7.24.03 PM

Male and Female Merlin

p.s. The drama was re-enacted again this morning, Sunday, 7/16/2019. This time, when the mockingbirds chased off the Merlin, she let out an almost four-second long series of 10-12 sharp chips as she flew. Her banded tail spread was spread out in flight and clearly visible. A striking combination of sight and sound! So the ID of the Merlin was confirmed again today.


Calliope Hummingbird


Calliope Hummingbirds breed in the willow thickets of coniferous woodlands in the San Gabriel Mountains between May and August, but at least one came down to the foothills near Amber Ridge this morning:  a female with a vividly spotted throat and a distinctive Calliope chitter — compared to Cornell’s Online Birding Lab recordings — sounds like no other SoCal hummer!

(Did you know that Calliope is the muse of eloquence and epic poetry?)

My Day was MADE

I had a weird and wonderful birding day! I stopped by one of the piers in Bonelli today, got off my bike, and focused my binoculars … because I saw a Swainson’s hawk (light morph) on the ground killing and eating a male Mallard. A male Great-Tailed Grackle was in a nearby tree, crying out! On the water below were other Mallards, including a blonde Mallard (rare!), and a White-Crested Duck, which I had never seen before and had no idea showed up in the wild in LA! Four or five Dark-Eyed Juncos, males and females, flew down to the waterside, and my day was made. Did I mention that I saw an immature Snow Goose, too? #wow!!!


p.s. Before those killer minutes, I saw many Snowy Egrets, Great White Egrets, Great Blue Egrets, the Black-Capped Night Heron … a lot of American Coots, Clark’s Grebes … the sweetest California Towhee!

Birding Hansen’s Dam

I was lured to Hansen’s Dam by the possibility of White-Faced Ibises, which I did not see. But I did see (and hear!) many other birds:

  • an American crow in a pine, a busy Nuttall’s woodpecker, white-crowned sparrows and house finches flittering about, singing …
  • American coots, Mallard ducks, and American widgeons intermixed with Eurasian widgeons on the lake …
  • a “dark morph” Swainson’s hawk perched high up and surveying the lay of the land …
  • a hummingbird, a common yellowthroat, an American goldfinch, lesser goldfinches, American pipits, California gnatcatchers, a Bewick’s wren, a wrentit, a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet …
  • a Great White Egret that started to stalk across my path, then took flight once she saw me …
  • a turkey vulture circling with ravens …
  • California towhees …
  • a Great Blue Heron, standing still …
  • a black Phoebe, swooping in a circle to snatch insects from mid-air …
  • and then, sitting down on the bank, I watched two double-crested cormorants on the tree branches of the island in the middle of the lake beside a American White Pelican … a Snowy Egret in flight … a male Mallard Duck in flight …
  • and the Black-Capped Night Heron, hunting along the edge of the water!

My Christmas Book: Noah Strycker’s _Birding Without Borders_


My Christmas Movie: “The Big Year”


Myrtle Warbler

Spotted a myrtle warbler today
when I went walking in the rain!