Black-headed Grosbeak[all photos public domain]
This past Saturday was a most excellent day of birding! The beginning birding class at Placerita Canyon met at the eastern end of the park, at Walker Ranch. From the small parking area off the Placerita Canyon Highway, we hiked down a step trail. Along the way we saw a Spotted Towhee and a House Wren.
At the bottom, we looked across the trail and spied a riot of birds in the bushes and tangled branches of a small hill: Western Bluebirds, House Finches, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Sparrows. The call of a Red-shouldered Hawk had us all cranking our necks upwards to catch it as it passed overhead.
We crossed a small stream and entered a meadow area bordered by old-growth oak forest. A riot of bird song filled the air--the most I've heard in one place. We spotted numerous Steller's Jays, which are here year round due to the 1,850' altitude. Western Bluebirds popped out of nest boxes that were hagning in some of the trees, and Oak Titmouse sang from a nearby branch, and several Robins made an appearance.
The highlight of the day was seeing some 'true life adventure' between an Acorn Woodpecker and two Stellar's Jays. One of the jays was trying to pry some acrons from a post that just happened to be the woodpecker's granery. The woodpecker swooped down and chased the jay off with loud cries, then the jays started hollering back--it was a racket! The woodpecker sat on a branch protecting another granery while the two jays just sassed it back. These little spectacles are what really makes birding fun for me. It's great to see them, but to see them going about their bird business is something special!
On the way back across the stream I took a closer look and saw some tadpoles along the slow edges--a whole bunch of little tiny ones that must have only been a day or so old! I bet this stream will soon have quite a night time chorous in residence! Placerita does offer night hikes, so I may go back soon for one of these. The opportunity to hear frog song and spot an owl is too good to pass up.
Next Saturday is the the last class of our session and I will miss all the woderful people who participated and our guides, Bob Ross and Bob Fischer. I'll be taking photos next week and will put up a group shot. It's worth memorializing!
The final treat of the day was after the birding class--Paula & I stopped at a nearby BBQ place, picked up some lunch, and enjoyed it on her patio. While we were eating, I happened to look up in one of her trees just in time to spot a Black-headed Grosbeak--my first outside of Washington State! A beautiful bird, just sitting there in plain sight, let us glass him for about 15 minutes. What a treat!
[Composed while listening to Dave Mason's "Alone Together"--and oldie but goodie!]