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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