Monday, December 29, 2008

Annual Bird Events

Snow Geese in Flight courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, photographer--Donna Dewhurst.

Wild Bird Counts

Is a personal year-long count a birder can make each year of the species without using you fossil fuel, but instead using your feet or bicycle near your home or work. Several categories exist.

"Find a good spot for bird watching -- preferably one with good views of a variety of habitats and lots of birds. Next you create a real or imaginary circle 17 feet in diameter and sit inside the circle for 24 hours, counting all the bird species you see or hear. " Takes place in the fall.

For several days in December and into January, birders count bird and species.

Takes place in winter. For several days, birders count birds in several locations of their choice.

Bird Festivals in California

Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival

Annual event in Central California.

Annual Snow Goose Festival

Chico, California in January.

Flyway Festival

San Francisco Bay.

San Diego Bird Festival

Salton Sea International Bird Festival

Godwit Days

Northern California

Sandhill Crane Festival

Lodi, California.

Heron Festival

Kelsy, California.

Tule Lake Migratory Bird Festival

Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua

Mono Lake.

Annual Kern River Valley Hummingbird Celebration

Kern River Valley Annual Nature and Turkey Vulture Festival

Monterey Bay Birding Festival

Watsonville, California.

Central Valley Birding Symposium

Stockton, California.

Walk on the Wild Side

Near Freeport, California.

Aleutian Goose Festival

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Information You Might Need Before You Go Birding

Plan before you go birding with these links:



The Weather Channel

Noaa National Weather Service

Severe Weather Warnings

AccuWeather Severe Weather Warning

National Hurricane Center

Daily Sunrise/Sunset and Tides

Sunrise and Sunset

US Navy Observatory Complete Sun and Moon Data




Google Maps Directions

MapQuest Directions

Yahoo Maps

Traffic Conditions

Birding Information

Birding Hot Spots in Orange County, California

Bird Walks and Nature Programs in Orange County

Orange County Rare Bird Alert

Sea & Sage Audubon Society

Reviews of Restaurants and Hotels

City Search Restaurant Reviews

Reviews of Orange County restaurants.


Reviews of restaurants, hotels, and attractions.

Lonely Planet

Guide to Hotels and more. Travel Guide.


Reviews of Restaurants and Hotels.



Train travel.

Auto Club

Travel Planning, maps, books, etc. Has some great maps and discounted (for members) books on hiking trails and more.


Travel site.

Discounted Travel.

Discounted Travel.

Cheap Tickets

Discounted Travel.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Newport Back Bay Morning

Immature Northern Harrier--Circus cyaneus at the far end of the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve parking lot above the Muth Interpretive Center.

Went out for an early morning walk at Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve. I entered on the "back side" of the reserve. Directions to the back side: Traveling south on the 55 Freeway, exit on Fair and Del Mar (same exit as Vanguard University). You will drive a short distance to get to Del Mar after you exit the freeway. Turn left on Del Mar and drive for almost a mile. Cross Irvine Avenue. Newport Ecological Reserve is on your right. Look for the parking lot.

Sitting on a light post in the parking lot was an immature Northern Harrier. He flew when I came near, and landed on a sign at the far end of the parking lot. He let me come closer until a runner scared him away. He flew away to a nearby electric pole, his white rump confirming the id. Saw him later flying low over the wetlands looking and listening for prey.

Say's Phoebe--Sayornis saya , a little puffed up to conserve heat in the cold morning air.

It is common to see Say's Phoebes on both sides of Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve. It was a cold December morning, and this little phoebe was very puffed up and at times looked fluffy as it scanned the area for insects.

Western Meadowlarks in the mesa area above the Muth Interpretive Center at Upper Newport Bay.

At first without seeing them from the front, I missed that these were Western Meadowlarks. Duh. Well, it pays to know your birds from the back and the front. Long, dark bills, eye stripes, and short tails. I'll be watching for them next time.

The estuary dotted with wintering birds.

The views of the bay and the wetlands from this side are beautiful.

A trail follows the stream.

It is a good idea to look ahead on the trails when you go birding so you know what's coming up and get a good look. Otherwise, birds flush and you get a glimpse.

A dew-dropped winter shrub was visited by hungry and thirsty House Finches--Carpodacus mexicanus.

One of the things I love about winter in Orange County is all the sparrows, finches, and other birds eating seeds on dry plants. It can be beautiful

A White-crowned Sparrows--Zonotrichia leucophrys on a still-green tree.

The White-crowned Sparrows--Zonotrichia leucophrys and their songs are so much a part of winter. It adds to the mood.

Snowy Egrets--Egretta thula and Great Egrets--Ardea alba at a "fishing hole.

Sometimes in the wetlands, a pool forms and captures fish and invertebrate that attract egrets and herons in large groups. It is quite a sight. This one group was a little sad because of the beauty of the egrets and herons as they hunted among the trash for food. Usual trash in wetlands are snack wrappers, drink cups, water bottles, juice bottles and other containers. Take your trash out and don't throw it on the streets. It gets swept into the wetlands through the sewers. Check out my posts California Coastal Cleanup Day and Watershed--What is it? .

A male House Finch--Carpodacus mexicanus on a dry shrub filled with seeds.

For a common bird the House Finch--Carpodacus mexicanus is a pretty one. The male is red on its head and chest. People often ask what the beautiful red bird is. In the spring, the male sings just as beautifully as he looks.

On the San Joaquin Hills side, the water channels wind through the wetlands.

I moved on to the other side. Getting in my car, I headed for PCH and Jamboree and turned north on Jamboree. Then turned onto San Joaquin Hills and parked on the street just before it dead ends into Back Bay Drive.

Among the American Wigeons--Anas americana, is a distinctly different red-headed fellow. A Eurasian Wigeon--Anas penelope--A Rare Bird.

During winter, Eurasian Wigeons--Anas penelope are often seen in the area just beyond the parking lot by the drainage pipe that empties from the canyon into the bay. You can see them in many parks and other areas. Though rare, they are here often in winter.

Two pairs of Northern Pintails--Anas acuta fly overhead.

Seeing ducks fly overhead is common. The San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary is very close--across Jamboree at the top of the bay. Birds frequently go from one to the other.

Out in the wetlands an Osprey--Pandion haliaetus perches on a sign post.

Ospreys--Pandion haliaetus nest at Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve and can be seen here and at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach, and at many parks with stocked ponds. They show up where they chose.

This is a Western Kingbird looking over the wetlands.

After my long walks on both sides of the bay, I was ready to move on. I headed on to San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary to get in a little more waking and birding before heading home. All in all, it was a good day.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Foggy Bottoms at Bolsa Chica

Fog covered the Bolsa Chica hiding the wetlands beneath a wet, white blanket.

As I drove towards Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve just after six in the morning, I didn't know if I would be able to take any pictures or see much of anything. The fog lay low over everything. When I got there, white fog lay over Bolsa Chica. The ground and the bridge were wet. Water drops hung on the railings of the bridge.

The damp, dripping footbridge.

The footbridge is normally crowded with photographers and their tripods, some scattered birders, and locals out for a brisk morning walk. However the fog had evidently discouraged the morning crowds. This morning there was just a moist sprinkling of people on the bridge.

American White Pelicans find a drier spot on a small island of marsh grass.

The birds appeared and disappeared into the fog. It felt like when I misplace my glasses and can't see very far--except the wetlands was covered with a slowly moving white mist that hid the usually sparkling water. Today it was white and gray as I looked out from the bridge.

Willet in the muck.

This little Willet stood bravely on his little patch of pickleweed and green gunk.

A ghostly Western Grebe fed in the mist.

The limited visibility brought strange feelings of isolation and intimacy.

Socked in.

The normally clear path that you can see all the way down was shrouded in white.

Wetlands in the fog.

Some of the birds seemed distant like this Snowy Egret below on the post.

Snowy Egret sentry.

Then he got closer.

Snowy Egret on the footbridge in the fog.

The fog seemed to thicken and white out the landscape and the rest of the bridge.

Close up of the Snowy Egret in the mist.

The slowly swirling white mist made the birds and I seem alone together inside the fog. More like a room than the landscape I knew was out there.

Snowy Egret looking out into the mist.

The footbridge had a mysterious, New England air to it.

Dripping Willet.

Everything was damp, dripping, and cold.

Two Eared Grebes come out of the white mist.

By the bridge, birds swam in and out of the fog.

Red-breasted Merganser floats by in the fog.

My camera was not always cooperative. It tended to focus on the wisps of white moisture floating by and not the subject I was trying to shoot.

Loud Forester's Tern getting ready to dive for a fish or bomb dive an Eared Grebe. It was hard to read his intentions.

This loud little guy frustrated a few photographers as he flew all around and above the footbridge.

And heading back to the parking lot, the Ring-billed Gull sitting on the railing in the fog.

A mysterious, damp morning. A fine birder's morning.

Fogged In from OC Birder Girl on Vimeo.

OC Birder Girl Links

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

A Walk at Bolsa Chica Before the Winds

American White Pelicans

Eared Grebe--Podiceps nigricollis

The Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns of Orange County

Red-breasted Merganser--Mergus serrator

Western Grebes

Willet--Catoptrophorus semipalmatus

Orange County Bird Checklists

Bird Walks and Nature Programs in Orange County

Migration--The Pacific Flyway and Orange County

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Two-stop Birding

Peeps. Hmmm. My best guess is Least Sandpipers and Western Sandpipers.

I like to hit several birding places in one outing. So today I went to Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve aka Newport Back Bay, and it was somewhat quiet.

Black Skimmers. Some lighter juveniles in the mix.

All over Orange County I am seeing mulefat going to seed. It catches the sunlight and looks pretty. So I took a picture. Provides lots of food for the birds in fall and winter.


I am thinking this is mulefat. Isn't it pretty?

A closer look at the mulefat.

It attracts lots of White-crowned Sparrows, House Finches , Lesser Goldfinches and lots of Bushtits, and other seed eaters.

Marbled Godwit and a peep of some kind. Peeps are beyond my scope. I am guessing a Western Sandpiper.

There are always mixes of Marbled Godwits, Willets, and Black Skimmers just beyond the parking lot on Back Bay Drive.

And the American Wigeons back from their breeding grounds. I often see them near the drainage pipe from the surrounding neighborhood.

The American Wigeons are often beyond the parking lot on Back Bay Drive, and occasionally have a Eurasian Wigeon tucked in among them. Many of the sightings of Eurasian Wigeons come from this spot. None today. I met a birder/photographer looking for an Osprey. He had been there for hours and hadn't found one. I mentioned he might want to check at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary since it is so close. Sometimes if you don't see them at Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve, they are at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. It was fairly quiet at Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve aka Newport Back Bay , so I got back onto Jamboree and turned left. Turned right on Michelson, right on Riparian to the end, and down into the parking lot of San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. The Sea and Sage Pancake Breakfast was finishing up. I had completely forgotten about.

Black-necked Stilt with its black-and white feathers and red legs mirrored in the water.

I had to park in the auxiliary parking lot which provided a closer view of the first pond. It was full of shore birds and ducks.

American Avocet in winter plumage foraging.

Lots of shorebird action.

Dowitchers. Long-billed? Short-billed? Guesses?

Semipalmated Plover

Pair of Killdeer--Charadrius vociferus scurrying about being vociferous.

Northern Shovelers shoveling.

Female Northern Harrier scattered the shorebirds.

When the shorebirds take flight, I look for a hawk. This time it was a female Northern Harrier looking for a fast meal.

Northern Harrier coming around for another turn around the pond.

Common sight. American White Pelicans coming into San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary for a rest.

Overhead a flock of American White Pelicans flew looking for a resting place deep in the marsh. I see them often on the islands or strands of mud in one of the ponds back in the marsh. Often see Black Skimmers there as well, but not today.

Osprey up in the Eucalyptus between the Audubon House and the trail by the pond. Notice the fish under his left foot. Look at that bill!

I met a birder and photographer in the parking lot that I seem to see everywhere in the Southland. Dave. Sunburned and peering through his telephoto lens. He pointed out an Osprey in the tree by the Audubon House. Many thanks to Dave.

He stayed up there eating for hours.

People told me the Osprey was in the eucalyptus tree eating for hours. He had a very large fish. Look at that seriously sharp, hooked bill. A bill made for fish!


Are you still there?

I took a lot of photographs, and all in all it was a good birding day. Have fun birding the Orange County!