Tuesday, March 02, 2010

On Sunday morning Dee and I spent three hours at El Franco Lee Park. There weren't as many birds this time as there had been ten days earlier but there was still plenty to look at.

Wildflowers had started to appear and were attracting the attention of insects. So it looks as though spring is arriving after what has seemed like a very long winter.

The trees everywhere were very busy with Yellow-rumped Warblers - I don't think I've ever seen so many in one place before - while the grassy areas had small groups of Lincoln's and Savannah Sparrows.

One of the Savannah Sparrows

Most of the birds on the lake were American Coots but mixed in with them were Northern Shovelers, Blue-winged Teal, Mottled Ducks, Lesser Scaups and my first Ruddy Ducks of the year. Other birds on or over the water included a Great Blue Heron, a Great Egret, Ring-billed and Laughing Gulls as well as our first Anhinga of 2010.

As we approached a lady who was looking through a scope, she beckoned us to come and see what she had found. It was the Harris's Hawk that had been reported several times over the previous couple of weeks. It was quite distant but still a thrilling bird to see, particularly since it is well outside of its normal range.

A little later we met the same lady again and she asked us if we had seen the Eastern Screech Owl. Apparently it was in a tree that we had walked right past without noticing anything. She led us to the tree and pointed up to where the bird was sleeping, oblivious to our excitement. And we were really excited, because this was a life bird for both of us!

After two hours we sat down to have lunch at the picnic tables, serenaded by the constant calls of Red-winged Blackbirds. At one point, the sound of the Blackbirds was drowned out by the noises made by two smaller birds which seemed to be in a total frenzy. As I walked over to where they were dashing around, I saw that they were a pair of Downy Woodpeckers which were frantically trying to dislodge a male Red-bellied Woodpecker that had settled on "their" tree. They kept screeching and flying at the Red-bellied until it finally gave in and moved away. It wasn't until I looked at my photos later that I realized a Cooper's Hawk had flown by unnoticed while the woodpeckers were having their dispute.

Ten minutes later, the Red-bellied returned and the Downys again kept attacking it until it flew off. This time, though, I was able to get a better look at the Red-bellied and I was struck by how much red it had on its face.

As I was carrying our picnic bag back to the car, I again ran into the helpful lady. "Have you seen the Vermilion Flycatcher?" she asked. This is another bird that has decided to winter here, well outside its normal range, and one that I had unsuccessfully looked for on my previous visit to the park. The lady pointed me in the right direction. At first, the bird was sitting at a distance with its back to me and I could only see some of its red plumage when it turned its head, scanning for insects.

Then I got lucky and it flew into a tree a few yards from where I was standing. What an amazing brightly-colored bird it is!

Very happy that our three hours in the park had turned up 34 species and several very exciting birds, we got into the car and started home. But before we had five yards, Dee spotted a Cooper's Hawk in a tree ahead. I jumped out and managed to capture one photo as the bird flew off. It was a good end to a very good morning.

As I mentioned earlier, wildflowers were springing up all over the park. For those of you who like flowers, here are a few of those that we saw.


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