Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Walk Among the Fall Leaves at Huntington Central Park West

Mallard drinking water after the staff at Alice's Breakfast in the Park hosed off the cement.

On a recent fall day I drove into the parking lot on the back side of Huntington Park West. It is the side near Alice's Breakfast in the park. As I walked from from my car toward the path under the eucalyptus trees, I could hear warblers chipping in the branches high above. There were some flowers here and there and a lot of bushes that fall had reduced to a tangled mass of twisted, bare branches. Blurry, fast-moving warblers streaked from the trees into the bushes and back again. To the right, there was a group of bushes decorated with clusters of red winter berries. The closer I walked toward Alice's, the louder the quacking became. At the counter, I ordered an orange-pecan muffin and some hot chocolate. I took the white bag and the hot paper cup to an empty table and sat down. I sipped the hot chocolate and gazed out at the lake and the birds. The sounds of the place and the season soothed me as I picked a frosted pecan off my muffin and ate it. The pecan had a sweet, orange taste from the frosting. Alice sure knows how to bake.

Double-crested Cormorants off to the right.

Alice's Breakfast in the Park on the West side of Huntington Central Park West has some good food. I usually get the hot chocolate. Sometimes I sit at a table sipping hot chocolate and watch the lake like today. There are usually lots of ducks there, and if you happen to have a white plastic grocery-store bag, they will follow you for a long time thinking you are going to feed them. That day there was lots of quacking from the Mallards and whistling from the American Wigeon--Anas americana.

Where's the food?

The weather report said that it would be sunny with showers. Well, it wasn't sunny, and there were no showers. But there were clouds scattered across the sky, and a cold breeze blowing across the lake. People were feeding the ducks and coots. Soon waterfowl were swimming, running, and flying in towards Alice's like there was a two-thirds-off, one-day sale at Robinson's-May. There were Mallards , mixed park ducks, American Coots, American Wigeon, pigeons, and squirrels feasting on bread being tossed out onto the grass. The honking geese loitered near the shore, but never came up onto grass. I looked carefully through the crowds of ducks, but I did not see the female Mandarin Duck this time. She seems to have moved on.

Lots of Mallards , American Wigeon, American Coots, and pigeons poured under the fence.

I very briefly saw an American White Pelican that must have touched down for a short break and taken off again. American White Pelicans are fresh water Pelicans. However, I recently saw some at Bolsa Chica by the observation area. I have never seen one at Central Park, but check Alice's Breakfast in the Park site and see a picture of several American White Pelicans. Evidently, these pelicans like Central Park, too. I have also seen American White Pelicans in the past at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine, a few days ago at Carr Park in Huntington Beach, and at Lake Balboa in the San Fernando Valley. In fall and winter, you will find them wherever there is plenty of fresh water and fish.

As I headed over by the playground and the landing, I saw White-crowned Sparrows. They were hopping all over on the ground and among the tangled, bare winter branches of the trees and bushes. They hopped among the leaves foraging for seeds.

White-crowned Sparrows--Zonotrichia leucophrys with a seed.

I love to watch them and listen to their calls. I just stood there hearing those clear notes followed by the trill and watching them sort through the leaves for food. The ground was covered with leaves that had fallen from the sycamores and other trees and shrubs.

White-crowned Sparrow hopping away.

As I went past the landing and rounded the lake, I saw a Green Heron--Butorides virescens standing in the shallows near the shore. He was amazingly tolerant of people and even dogs. Mallards and American Coots swam around him, but he barely took his eyes off the water. Even when a dog played on the shore not far away. With the drought, the shore is easier to reach and people and dogs walk down to areas that were under water before. There are less places for wildlife to hide.

Green Heron--Butorides virescens fishing at Lake Huntington in Central Park down the path and past the playground and the landing.

Great Blue Heron stands guard.

Just past the Green Heron was a Great Blue Heron--Ardea herodias standing quietly overlooking the lake. Calm and watchful.

Great Blue Heron--Ardea herodias standing on the shore, and a Mallard swimming by.

I also saw a Black Phoebe--Sayornis nigricans. See the dog in the background below? That's the one that was playing on the shore not far from the Green Heron that didn't budge.

Black Phoebe--Sayornis nigricans.

And then by the reeds I saw another Black Phoebe--Sayornis nigricans.

I was by another strand of eucalyptus trees on the far side of the lake when the Great Blue Heron--Ardea herodias took wing. It flew across the lake, landing in a nearby eucalyptus. It stood there in the tree, looking back over the lake.

Great Blue Heron--Ardea herodias in a eucalyptus tree.

As I walked further around the lake, I saw and heard a Song Sparrow. They have a beautiful song.

Song Sparrow

They say we don't have seasons in California, but that's not true. There are subtle changes in the plants and animals here. If you pay attention, you know that leaves change color and fall to the ground, birds change their feathers, and that even the sounds in the trees and shrubs are not the same as in the spring. And so I walk among the trees with their bare branches, crunch the leaves under my feet, and listen to the chipping, whistling, and trills, and I know fall has come and is changing into winter once again.

OC Birder Girl Links
Central Park
Birds of Central Park

To read more about the book below or to buy it at Amazon, click the picture below.

See OC Birder Girl Store on Amazon.

Subscribe to My Birding Blog: Posts (Atom)

No comments: