#396 Ross’s Goose at North Lake

Beth isn’t comfortable driving by herself here in Irvine yet so this morning I took her to church; and while she attended services, I walked around the North Lake in Woodbridge. This is just an artificial lake in the middle of a suburb with almost no brush or other habitat around it. In fact, there are nicely mowed lawns right down to the water’s edge, which from a wildlife perspective might as well be a desert. (Actually a real desert would probably have a little more diversity) I wasn’t expecting too much, but the lake does attract some waterfowl, so I thought there might be something interesting.

At first I just saw the usual commoners: Mallard, Canada Goose, American Crow, one Muscovy Duck that had almost completely reverted to wild plumage. The first really interesting species was a couple of American Wigeons. Then I saw what I thought was a sleeping Ring-necked Duck, but a little further on I encountered a small flock of Lesser Scaup, so I expect that’s what my sleeper was too. (I’m about 90% sure they were Lessers. Telling Lesser from Greater is tricky.) There were also 4 or so Eared Grebes scattered at various locations around the lake.

I saw one Hummingbird in a garden that wasn’t obviously either a Rufous or an Anna’s. In fact, the one look I got at its gorge (throat) appeared ?golden?! That doesn’t match anything I know or could find in the field guide, and was probably just a trick of the light.

A little further up, just past the bridge some people were feeding the birds thus attracting a mixed flock of Mallards, gulls, Brewers Blackbirds, American Coots, Canada Geese, and one Snow Goose? I wasn’t expecting Snow Goose down here and it looked small for a Snow Goose so I checked my Sibley’s. ow and behold it wasn’t a Snow Goose at all. It was indeed a Ross’s Goose! I don’t know how common they are here, but I’ve never seen one, in California or New York.

Ross’s Goose swimming

I carefully checked but all the field marks matched: small pink bill with blue base, no black grin mark, smaller overall size. I was so excited by this find that I didn’t pay much attention to a probable Dunlin walking along the concrete, and by the time I started looking more closely at it, the bird had disappeared, so I can’t be sure about that one.

I crossed the bridge heading west. While crossing I spotted a Turkey Vulture flying over. On the other side, there were some bushes along the trail that hosted at least one, probably two or three, Oak Titmice. A couple of Mourning Doves flew out of the bushes. (Memo to self: verify that Mourning Doves are the only common suburban dove around here.)

I could have finished the half loop around the lake, but I was hearing quite a ruckus from the adjacent streets so I headed off down Stone Creek South instead. I’m not sure what the attraction was, but several trees were packed with Yellow-rumped Warblers, Lesser Goldfinches, Western Bluebirds, and a Townsend’s Warbler. (My first in a couple of years.)

From there I walked back to St. Andrews, where I added a possible Purple Finch and a definite White-crowned Sparrow while waiting for Beth in the parking lot. Total confirmed species count (not including the Hummingbird sp. or the Purple Finch but counting the officially uncountable Muscovy Duck) was 23:

  • Ross’s Goose
  • Canada Goose
  • Muscovy Duck
  • American Wigeon
  • Mallard
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Eared Grebe
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Turkey Vulture
  • American Coot
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • California Gull
  • Mourning Dove
  • Black Phoebe
  • American Crow
  • Oak Titmouse
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Townsend’s Warbler
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Brewer’s Blackbird
  • Lesser Goldfinch

I remain pleasantly surprised at the lack of common invasives (House Sparrows, European Starlings, and Rock Pigeons) here (though I did later spot one House Sparrow in the Target parking lot).

My California list now stands at 153 species, second only to New York. (Lesser Scaup was also a new California bird for me today.) My Orange County list is now at 70 species.

One final bird: when driving home from church I spotted 4 American Pipits feeding the grass by the side of the road while stopped at the light at Harvard and Main. That makes California 154 species and Orange County 71.

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