#407 and 408 at the Base of the Santa Ana Mountains

I spent some time looking for Black-headed Grosbeak last May in San Francisco without success. Who knows? Maybe I even saw it but didn’t recognize it. I certainly didn’t recognize life bird #407 in Santiago Oaks two weeks ago on a Sea & Sage trip led by Linette Lina. However I did at least recognize that i twas something weird when I saw it. My first reaction as Oriole. My second was Robin. My third was Bluebird, and all this within the space of a couple of seconds. That should have clued me in that I had something new. Fortunately Linette recognized it as soon as I pointed it out as a Black-headed Grosbeak.

Migration hadn’t quite fully kicked off yet, but we had a more than respectable showing with over 30 species:

  • California Quail
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Mourning Dove
  • White-throated Swift
  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Acorn Woodpecker
  • Nuttall’s Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Pacific-slope Flycatcher
  • Western Scrub-Jay
  • American Crow
  • Common Raven
  • Oak Titmouse
  • Bushtit
  • House Wren
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Wrentit
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)
  • Black-throated Gray Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Spotted Towhee
  • California Towhee
  • Song Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Black-headed Grosbeak
  • Bullock’s Oriole
  • House Finch
  • Lesser Goldfinch

Besides the Black-headed Grosbeak, this list included two Orange County Birds for me: White-throated Swift and Wrentit.

The Audubon trip ended a little early so on my way home I stopped off at Irvine Regional Park to see if I could find the Ladder-backed Woodpecker that’s been reported there. I didn’t (it might have helped to check the reported location before going to the 477 acre park; but while I was exploring the far side of the creek bed, I heard a distinct mewing like a cat. Well, not really like a cat. In fact, it could only be described as cat-like by someone whose first hand experience of cats was limited to Tom & Jerry cartoons. it sounded about as cat-like as dog’s squeaky toy and not nearly as good an imitation as a Gray Catbird does. Nonetheless I could see that someone might perhaps describe this sound as cat-like so I hung out hoping it might be the bird I’d been looking for lo these many weeks.

And Lo it was! In short order out popped a tiny blue-gray bird with a distinct black cap” a California Gnatcatcher, and Life Bird 408.

On the way home I pulled off at Peters Canyon Wilderness Area, which is also supposed to be a good spot. I didn’t have the energy left to walk the trail, but just hanging out, I added several birds to the day list, and two to my Orange County List: Ring-necked Duck and Canvasback. I should have spent more time there because another local birder who was there almost exactly the same time I was later reported Violet-Green Swallow and Lawrence’s Goldfinch, the latter a potential lifer for me. I’ll have to go back when I have more time and energy.

Next stop: Beijing.

Leave a Reply