Archive for the ‘Birdwatching’ Category

Birding Bonelli in February

It was a beautiful day to get up and go birding in Bonelli Regional Park. I was there by about 7:30 AM with my beloved miniature dachshund, Joyful. Walking in from the airport, I could see white-crowned sparrows and distinctly hear the red-winged blackbirds:  the females are nesting (so unseen), the males are guarding (and so very visible!), and together, they’re singing their highly identifiable song. I noticed the “point man” redwing on a fence. I love the communal nature of redwing blackbirds.

A sweet black phoebe greeted me as I came to the wooded area at the end of the road. Once at Puddingstone reservoir, it was very rewarding to see a flotilla of white pelicans, who were sailing, big-bodied, past slender great white egrets. A black-crowned night heron winged his way over the water and took up residence in a tree branch.



There were the usual suspects, of course: American coots, Canadian geese, Mallard ducks … later, the Muscovies and Greater-White Fronted Geese. But I saw no Great Blue Herons or Kingfishers. No doves or finches. I was not a little distressed to see someone had plowed under a large patch of a section of reeds where finches and several other birds have their homes.

Nevertheless, it turned out to be a fabulous day for birding:  I saw the sweetest female blue bird in a pine tree … yellow-rumped warblers … a lincoln’s sparrow. A great-tailed grackle went striding through the grass at one point! Brown-headed cowbirds and redwings kept company. Along the shore were killdeer and sanderlings in their breeding plumage. Tree swallows were darting over the water, radiating happiness.


On the water were greater and lesser scaups as well as cinnamon teal ducks! At one point, a male cinnamon teal did me the favor of rearing up in the water and flapping his wings so I could see the white under-feathers, confirming his identity. I also saw red-headed ducks. The females were lovely! Scaups, cinnamon teals, and red-headed ducks were all new IDs for me, so very exciting.


When I retraced my steps, heading back, I was delighted to see the pelicans and many more great white egrets than I had two or so hours before. An osprey was perched high in a tree, and a raft of common mergansers were swimming and diving together in synchronous harmony. The night heron I saw earlier had been joined by his mate. The green heron had also come out and perched on a branch in the water. Beautiful!



Baby Birder on the Beach!

2.19.18 Ocean Park Birdwatching

Birding on a Windy Day

This weekend I headed over to Lompoc to visit my brother, sister-in-law and beloved nephew, Elijah, who is almost two years old. We decided to head out to Ocean Park to go birding at the estuary. Estuaries, where fresh water meets the sea, are good places to see birds of many different kinds within several yards of each other.

On the drive over, we saw a turkey vulture soaring beside the roadway (of course), and as we entered the park, we saw Northern Shovelers fishing in fresh water. When we decided to park and get out of the car, our adventure took a bit of a twist, however, because it was extremely windy!

Some of the birds were literally being blown side-ways through the air before our eyes. It was a real trip to watch them try to stay on top of the wind currents and go where they wanted to go. Some seemed to be enjoying the wild wind (while others looked a bit harried). It was even difficult for me to hold my binoculars still at times and focus. It appeared to be high tide, and the ocean waves were lifting up their heads and crashing down all white with foam.

Despite the wind, we did see a large number of gulls, including a California Gull camped out on a log; a pair of Western Grebes, diving down for fish; a female Buffalo-Head duck, with an unusually large white patch on her cheek, in company with a few others; a Golden-Crowned Sparrow, who at one point looked like he had a mohawk because of the wind blowing up his crown feathers; and a Black Phoebe, who was blown on the wind into a patch of shrubbery when she took to the air.


American White Pelicans


Photograph by Jane Beal

Two Pelicans at Twilight

Strange angels have come down from the sky,

white and shining, with orange mouths, open –

they never leave one another’s side.

I see this picture of loyalty on the lake

as the Sun goes down.


Psalms for the God of Birds
(in progress)


Bonelli Regional Park
La Verne, CA

Swallow-Tailed Kite

Tonight I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Brian McClaren speak at the University of La Verne about spiritual migration. He began his lecture with reference to the swallow-tailed kite, which migrates between South America and Florida, where the speaker lives:


To me, the most meaningful part of the presentation came during the Q & A, when Dr. McClaren spoke about “the dilemma of multiple belonging” in the context of an individual belonging to a faith tradition that defines an “us” vs “them” … and of how that expression of the faith tradition forms a restricted circle … but the individual believer may walk to the edge of that circle and come into contact with those who believe another way … and together with those in the other circle, form a new circle that overlaps both circles — so that we may begin to talk with one another about the way of love as a way of life.

Dr. Brian McClaren

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!