Sunday, February 19, 2006

Back Bay with Jan

The last two nights brought blessed rain to SoCal. As much as I appreciate the precipitation in this dressed-up desert, I hoped that it wouldn't infringe on plans to visit a preserve with a friend.

Thankfully, when Jan and I began walking the dirt trails at Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve aka Back Bay, this was our skyward view: lovely, puffy, dramatic clouds. They shielded the sun's warmth for a while but eventually acceded the sky to the hot planet. Jan and I appreciated the clouds' gracious dispersal, particularly as she now hails from Seattle -- where they experienced 27 days of rain in January. Oy.

This morning's dry skies likely helped Jan and me see as many birds as we did during our experimental morning. It was my first time to introduce a nonbirding friend to this activity as well as another opportunity to hone my skills at giving directions to a bird: "See the top of this flower stalk in front of us? Go up a little. See the branch in the mud that's shaped like a sickle? Go up about 1 o'clock. See the Western Grebe? It's got a white belly, dark wings, white throat and dark head."

Jan did her fair share of spotting, including American White Pelicans, White-crowned Sparrows, Great Blue Herons and an American Kestrel. When two herons flew by, Jan gasped and call them "majestic"; I liked hearing her appreciative response to the sight. We also watched a heron in the drainage ditch for a long time as it preened, and the kestrel also preened while we spied on him. (I took this photo through my 8-power binocular.)

We saw a handful of hummingbirds as they perched atop tall shrubs, fed and guarded their territories from interlopers. We watched a Rufous/Allen's flit endlessly amid tree branches for a while. Two or three Anna's delighted us by turning their heads at an angle to catch the sunlight and show their magenta gorgets. I gasped a couple times out of admiration.

Our morning meander also included Red-winged Blackbirds, American Avocets, amorous Mallards, Snowy Egrets, House Finches, American Coots, Great Egrets, Lesser Goldfinches and California Towhees.

After 90 minutes in the fresh air, we bopped over to a coffee house for warm beverages and baked goods. Sitting at a table on the outdoor patio, we enjoyed this view (on the left) and the warm sunshine that turned half of my face pink.

The wonderful morning at the preserve reinforced why I live in the third most-expensive place in the United States. As a SoCal native (are we on an endangered species list yet?), I can't put a price on the pleasure and convenience of this climate and the ability to do almost anything comfortably during any time of the year.

Apparently, the birds agree with my positive opinion of the Golden State, as 629 species currently appear on the Western Field Ornithologists' California Bird Records Committee's list.


Anonymous jason said...

Good report. The Back Bay is a wonderful place. I live in the San Fernando Valley, so it can be a bit of a hike, but always well worth the trip. I was there mid-morning both Sunday and Monday and saw a lot of great birds. Didn't see the reported Common Teal, but got the other three. Missed the Clapper Rail, but got a good look at the Sora. Both the American and Eurasian widgeons were also there. After the threats of rain, the weather was near perfect, and I can't wait to return.

February 21, 2006 10:04 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Pleased to hear that you've found it to be a good spot worth the drive, Jason. Please let me know if you want to meet there.

February 21, 2006 10:29 AM  
Blogger Ka said...

Based on that post, I realized that I should hike out in the Back Bay more than in El Moro. Glad to hear you enjoyed the weekend.

Thanks, Amy

February 21, 2006 11:28 AM  

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