#461 Costa’s Hummingbird

You don’t usually think of California as a desert state like Arizona or Nevada, but once you cross the first mountain range heading east, it really is. In the southern part of the state, there’s only a thin strip along the coast that’s verdant, and even that is heavily irrigated.

Beth and I have been in Orange County for a little over a year now, and we’re starting to get our car legs so we’re wandering a little further afield. Last weekend we decided to drive over to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in eastern San Diego County to see the desert bloom, not to mention find what birds and beetles we could.

We dropped the dog off at the vet about 7:00 A.M. and headed South on I-5, then over the mountains on CA-78. The roads were more circuitous than expected, so we didn’t get to anywhere interesting until about 10:00 and skipped a possible side trip to Lake Henshaw. Instead, our first stop was at the Tamarisk Grove Campground at the intersection of Yaqui Pass Road an CA-78, at about 1400 feet. I’m not sure if it’s a natural; or an artificial oasis–I suspect the latter–but it does have a reputation for attracting birds. Not surprising: it’s the only green patch for miles around.

No sooner had we parked the car and crossed the road than I heard a distinct “cheep” coming from a hummingbird perched on a cactus. In Orange County, hummingbirds don’t go “cheep”. They go “Pfft-pfft-Pfft” (Anna’s) or “Bzzzzz” (Allen’s). Could it be? yep, it was number #461, Costa’s Hummingbird.

Costa’s Hummingbirds do pass through Orange County regularly but not at any predictable location or time; and you have to be lucky to find one. If the birds aren’t coming to you, you just have to go to the birds. In Anza-Borrego, they are by far the most common hummingbird, and we would see many more throughout the trip, including this gorgeous male collecting nectar in Hawk Canyon:

Male Costa's Hummingbird sipping from flower

We walked around a bit, and found a few more birds including a couple of Phainopeplas and several interesting moths. However we had a schedule to keep so after about 45 minutes, we headed up the road to Borrego Springs. More on what we saw there soon.

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