Sunday, May 3, 2009

Annual Birdathon

The day after my foray to Carbon Canyon, I took part in the Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon Society's Annual Birdathon. The team that I went out with did not bike their route as Martin Byhower's team did the following day. Yes, we used our cars and good thing, too, because we covered a lot of ground. This was to be my first official birding outing since my husband died four years ago. Of all the activities that we did together, my husband and I, this is the one that I found to be the hardest to carry on by myself and I was worried that I would hold the team back because I am a little rusty. The object of the Birdathon is to see as many different species as possible in a given area in one day. You need to know your birds and be very quick about identifications.

The morning started very early, at 6:30 a.m., when we all met at a local eatery to plan our day. Since I had breakfast before I left home, I went out with the first group to bird Friendship Park in San Pedro (photo above) while the others stayed for a hearty bacon and egg breakfast. They would need it. It was cold out there! And breezy! I had never been to Friendship Park and wanted to see what it was like. First, we left one of our cars at the bottom of the hill and then drove together to the top.

It didn't take long before exciting things started to show up along a wall in back of some houses. The first of two Orioles, the first of four Lazuli Buntings, and some Golden-crowned Sparrows got our day off to a very good start. The first Oriole was a Hooded, later in the same park we would find a Bullock's. Lazuli Buntings, which I had not seen for 10 years, appeared throughout the day. Likewise, the Golden-crowned Sparrow is not usually seen around my area and I have not seen one since 2000. I can be so precise about this because my husband was an inveterate list-keeper.

We walked down the hill catching Common Yellowthroat, Cassin's Kingbird, Red-tailed Hawk, lots of California Towhees, and a Black Phoebe, along with the usual American Crow, Northern Mockingbird, Scrub Jay, Bushtit, and House Finch. I also heard but did not see a couple of Song Sparrows and one possible California Thrasher. Apparently, "heard" species count, too, and I have good ears. At the bottom, we met with another team member and collecting our cars, headed off for the rendezvous spot, Pt. Fermin Park.

Pt. Fermin is a good place to get out the spotting scope and gaze over the ocean. Usually shearwaters can be seen, but I never was good at shearwaters so I let one of the guys use my scope. There were a lot of birds out there, but no shearwaters. One very strange bird flew in, preened himself, and then tucked his head under his wing feathers and standing on one leg as shorebirds often do, went to sleep. It appeared to be an albino or partially albino oystercatcher. Most likely it was a Black Oystercatcher and not an American Oystercatcher since that is the most common one in the west, but being albino, how could you tell? The bill was unmistakably an oystercatcher's and bright orange. It's too bad you can't see it in the photo.

After Pt. Fermin, the group split up again with some heading for Wilson Park in Torrance and others to Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro. I decided to take a look at White Point Reserve, since it was so close, hoping to get a California Gnatcatcher. I had been there last January and seen several. No luck. No gnatcatcher, no Meadowlarks, only more Cassin's Kingbirds. Even the Rock Wren, another bird I had seen in January, was gone because they have removed his rocks!

By now it was near noon and I was hungry. The plan was for all to meet for lunch at the Lighthouse Cafe in San Pedro and compare notes before continuing. Since I had been hiking the day before, I was getting pretty tired by now, so I sneaked home for a little rest and a lunch of my favorite foods. Lesser Goldfinches were at my feeder and I dutifully added them to the list. After lunch at home, I met the others at the cafe and had another lunch, I was that hungry from all the hiking!

Afterwards, some of us headed for Harbor Regional Park and Lake Machado. Unusual things have been known to turn up there, and the park did not disappoint us. Another albino? This time an egret or heron flew across the lake that had us wondering. Three of us saw it, so it wasn't just me getting bleary-eyed. It was all white with black legs which would signify a Great Egret, but its bill was pale not bright yellow. And it was a very big bird, as big as a Great Blue Heron and there just happened to be one nearby for comparison. We argued about that one for awhile and I don't know what it was officially put down as. We did see other normal Great Egrets and two Great Blues.

After Harbor Park, I headed for home. I was done and I think so were the others. One group had gone on to Bellona Creek since it was on their way home. I don't have the final species list for our group but everyone seemed to think there were fewer birds than usual. The only warbler we saw all day was the Yellowthroat and that is unusual for migration season. Maybe the very hot weather we had at the beginning of the week pushed the birds further north sooner.

1 comment:

  1. O my Goodness I was tired just reading of your adventure. Still it sounded like an amazing day.

    DIL AZ