#402 Pacific-slope Flycatcher

Yesterday I spent the morning exploring William R. Mason Park, trying to add a few more birds to my BGBY list and keep pace with fellow OC birder Neil Gilbert (at least for the walking competition. No way I can match him for the bicycling BGBY). I started at the West end (more park-like) and walked all the way out to Concordia Road, then back.

I got out early enough to catch the shorebirds that sometimes hang out on the park’s lawns at dawn and dusk. Today there were not only several Long-billed Curlews and a dozen Whimbrels. There were also a few Marbled Godwits, a first for the park if not my list.

Whimbrels., marbled Godwit, and Long-billed Curlew

The lakes (ponds really) had the usual collection of waterfowl: Mallards, Ruddy Ducks, a Pied-billed Grebe, one or two Northern Shovelers, a Cackling Goose, a Swan Goose, and several hundred American Coots.

Swan Goose and Cackling Goose

One Snowy Egret had not yet left its evening perch, and a few Western Bluebirds were flitting around from tree to tree. Numerous Yellow-rumped Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, and Song Sparrows were singing from almost every other tree along the edges of the park.

Crossing Culver, the park becomes much more wild, and a lot more interesting. This is the section where the signs warn you to watch out for mountain lions. I’ve never seen one though. Shortly after entering this area, I spotted my first BGBY bird of the day, a Sharp-shinned hawk, likely female from the size, circling overhead. There were several other fly-overs in this section including a Ring-billed Gull, a Great Blue Heron, and my first Turkey Vulture of the day. (The raptors don’t come out till the day starts to heat up.)

I spent quite a bit of time around Bobcat Junction, where I found a Greater Roadrunner a few weeks ago. No such luck today, but somewhat further west I spotted three California Quail, a first for my BGBY list, and some White-crowned Sparrows.

After I’d reached the end of the park at Concordia Road, I grabbed a quick breakfast at IHOP and then headed back. Almost immediately on reentering the park, I spotted three Downy Woodpeckers, the third new bird for my BGBY list. Then just a little bit down the trail, I saw a bird fly into a tree/large bush on the left side of the path. I got my binoculars on it, and was presented with an obvious Empidonax flycatcher with an olive back, wingbars, and a big white eye ring. The bill looked flat and bicolored. Then it was gone. I probably didn’t have but a second or less to look at the bird, and certainly didn’t get a photograph.

These birds are extremely difficult to ID, especially when they aren’t calling. Fortunately, after consulting my field guide, there was only one candidate that was even remotely likely in this location at this time of year: Pacific-coast Flycatcher. That’s life bird #402 and #81 on my BGBY list.

By this time the thermometer was pushing 27°C and the butterflies were quite active. I definitely had West Coast Ladies, American Lady, Checkered White, Cabbage White, and Mourning Cloak. However some of the most colorful and interesting ones never stopped long enough for me to get a good look, much less a photograph.

American Lady Butterfly

I also noticed many more fresh webs than I’ve seen in the park previously, including several funnel webs. Entomological activities should be picking up with the warming weather in the next few weeks.

Dewy web in grass

I gradually made my way back home and added one more bird to the BGBY and year lists on the way: a female Purple Finch around the houses near Bobcat Junction. I knew there’d be something good there today! Crossing back into the more manicured sections of the park, I scanned the ponds one more time and was rewarded with two Canada geese, a few Eared Grebes, and a family of Egyptian Geese:

Momma, daddy, and baby goose

Total species count was 43 in just under five hours:

  • Swan Goose
  • Cackling Goose
  • Canada Goose
  • Mallard
  • Mallard (Domestic type)
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Ruddy Duck
  • California Quail
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Eared Grebe
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Snowy Egret
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • American Coot
  • Whimbrel
  • Long-billed Curlew
  • Marbled Godwit
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Mourning Dove
  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Rufous/Allen’s Hummingbird
  • Nuttall’s Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Pacific-slope Flycatcher
  • Black Phoebe
  • American Crow
  • Bushtit
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • European Starling
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s)
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Song Sparrow
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Purple Finch
  • House Finch
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • American Goldfinch

These are still mostly winter residents.

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