Sunday, March 08, 2015

Hawk Alley

American Kestrel Couple
Our final trip with the Birding Festival was called "Hawk Alley." How could I resist this one? About 30 or so climbed on to an executive style motor coach which may have been a bit more than we needed. The poor driver couldn't quite get this monster down the little roads in the agricultural parts of San Diego County where the birds were. At one point, he had to back up almost a quarter of a mile to return to the main road after we found a Vermillion Flycatcher. We watched for birds by a field of contented California dairy cows (who were rather aromatic), then drove through the groves where trees had blossoms and fruit at the same time. Our leader knew where a Golden Eagle nest is, but we didn't see them.
Cooper's Hawk
Of course, raptors were not the only birds we looked for, but they were my favorites. You knew that already, right? A small county park with a very small pond was home for this Cooper's, Red Shoulders and an Osprey.
Red Shouldered Hawk Couple
March must be the time for romance among Californian raptors. We came across at least 3 species who were getting romantic.
Some of them were very far away, even with my 60X zoom on my camera, so we appreciated all the birders who'd brought their scopes along. Of course, I couldn't resist taking a few shots, knowing they would probably be pretty fuzzy.
Red Tailed Hawk
I kept hoping we would see some of the unusual raptors here in the west. For a moment, I thought this might be a Swainson's Hawk, but apparently not, according to the field guide.
Ferruginous Hawk - internet
 I got a brief look at a Ferruginous Hawk (so the leader said, and he was pretty good) but did not get a photo myself. It's amazing how similar they are, at a distance, to the abundant Red Tailed Hawks. Compare them in the book sometime.
Bald Eagles
Waaay across one field, the leader pointed our a dark blob in the tree, which turned out to be a Bald Eagle sitting on the nest. I asked if there was a large lake just over the edge of the field, and he said eagles around here eat mostly ground squirrels instead of fish. That makes sense, given how Aquila enjoys his rat at suppertime. And there are plenty of ground squirrels to go around.
Osprey Soaring
 Lack of large lakes didn't discourage this Osprey though. He sat in a tree above a shrunken vernal pond, and actually dove in, although he didn't catch anything and returned to the same branch to continue his watch without paying any attention to us at all.
Varied Thrush
Varied Thrush - internet
 Everyone was excited to find a Varied Thrush, skulking in the shade under a picnic table. The Varied Thrush is rarely seen outside the Pacific Coast. You can just see his orange eyebrow in my photo, so I borrowed one from the Internet for comparison.
Burrowing Owl
The cute little Burrowing Owl was my target bird for this trip, and we finally found him along the edge of a large cattle field. Ground squirrels are all over in this area, but we couldn't drive or walk to get a closer look at the owl. In the last four days, we saw 11 raptor species, 25 new Life birds, and a grand total of 139 species! We were honest and did not include any bird that we didn't actually get a look at, even though the leaders saw it. What a weekend!

1 comment:

Grampy said...

Enjoying you journey and discoveries.