Monday, October 15, 2007

A Walk in Huntington Central Park West 10/15/2007

Huntington Lake in Huntington Central Park Lake Huntington -- low water level due to drought.

It was about two hours before sunset. My mother and I went for a walk at Huntington Lake at Central Park in Huntington Beach. Even this year-round lake is down due to the drought. Lots of tree roots are exposed that would usually be submerged. I was stunned to see how far down the water level had dropped. The other side of Central Park has little water left due to the drought. Here at Lake Huntington, the water level is down, but there is still enough water to support animal life. We saw lots of birds including many ducks, coots, sparrows, a Great Egret, a Double -crested Cormorant, a Black Phoebe, and an Osprey overhead.

American Wigeon
American Wigeon--probably an Adult Female

There were American Wigeons starting to join the crowd of ducks. They don't quack--except the female a little. They have what Cornell's All About Birds describes as a "High squeaky whistle, resembling squeaky toy." If you click on American Wigeon, you can read the profile and listen to their distinctive whistle. Breeding plumage for the male begins in October--this month. However, I didn't see any males yet.

Male Mallard checking out a squirrel hole for food.
Trick or Treat! Male Mallard checking out a squirrel hole for food.

The Mallards were all over the park. On the shore and in the lake. Above is a male Mallard checking a California Ground Squirrel hole for food. Many people feed both the ducks and squirrels which means some food gets scattered in to the squirrel holes. Squirrels and Mallards typically mix here while feeding. Sometimes they get very close together and don't seem to mind. Nonetheless, sticking one's little green head down a dark hole seems just a little risky to me.

Cooper's Hawk
Mature Cooper's Hawk sitting in a low tree observing ducks and coots below.

The adult Cooper's Hawk above sat in a very low tree not far from Alice's Breakfast in the Park. It is the tree near where the chain link fence comes out perpendicular to the lake. A tree hangs over the water. It sat there for at least an hour and watched the birds coming and going around it. It also watched the ducks and coots waddling around directly below it on the muddy shore. It must have recently had a good meal because it showed just a casual interest, and did not attempt to catch anything. It let people come very close to it, and didn't seem to mind. I was using a zoom, so I was not as close as it seems.

Green Heron on the shore looking for fish.
Green Heron on the shore looking for fish. In this shot, you can actually see the green sheen.

I got my first digital camera in May. I have seen Green Herons four times since then, but this is the first decent shot I have been able to get. I took this between the bushes on the way to the playground. It didn't move much and was quite a cooperative subject. Here you can actually see the green sheen for which it is named. You often cannot.

White-crowned Sparrow
The White-crowned Sparrows are back.

White-crowned Sparrows and warblers are back. I love the look of the White-crowned Sparrow and the song. It is a beautiful song. Click on the White-crowned Sparrow link to see the Cornell All About Birds Profile and listen to that great song. They were all over in the undergrowth and leafless trees. They would come out and hop around on the ground, then fly back in to the undergrowth if startled.

Female Wood Duck? Or Female Mandarin Duck?Female Wood Duck

This little duck has been hanging around with the Mallards since summer at least. She joins the crowd as they beg for food. She is quieter than the Mallards and more lady like. She doesn't quack, but makes a strange sound like a combination whistle and sneeze. She seems very sweet. Check out the Wood Duck Society for more information on Wood Ducks. Wood Ducks can usually be seen at the Los Angeles Arboretum. Note: I have had second thoughts about this identification--I think I made a mistake and that this is actually a female Mandarin Duck. See my post Wood Duck or Mandarin Duck? for all the details.

Duck Escort
We were escorted to our car by a large contingent of ducks and a few coots. They quacked all the way. It was a great short walk. We saw so many great birds. The sounds and sights of the lake near sunset stayed with me throughout the night.

Sunset at Huntington Central Park
Sunset at Huntington Central Park

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