Finding this eerie looking bird was a thrill. We know "they are here" so, no big deal, right? Not exactly.....
W9 and I opted to bird Woodlawn Cemetery. It's typically not our first choice of areas to go. The light is predictibaly terrible, and good light seems to be the key to a successful photo.
No matter. Here we are, and, as friends, we have supported each other through some rough patches. Even if we don't find any cool birds and perhaps suffer through some of our local color ( Yellow Gloves, for example) when it's time to wrap up the show we know we've had an adventure.
I like to leave a bit of space between us as we walk through the cemetery. I have to be careful not to trip over low headstones or twist an ankle stepping into a hole. I think I scare the birds off before I even see any. Better let W9 take the lead.
A bird rockets from somwhere on the ground near W9, flicker sized but not a flicker. It stays low as it flies giving only a few fast wing beats for propulsion. Then my mind kicks in with helpful thoughts. "Forget it, it can't be rare." "We'll never find it." "We'll be stuck trying to figure out what it was." All the while W9 is methodically and slowly combing the area where it disappeared.
I tread quietly and calmly. It's a good practice. Remember to shut up.
W9 calls my name in that voice you use when you can't yell but a whisper isn't going to get anyone's true attention. "It might just be a piece of wood...." I am peering over W9's shoulder and I can see that it is, indeed, a bird. Someone has tossed a feathered Ghandi Topi hat.
We carefully creep around in a wide arc to try to get the sun behind us. There are no vibrant colors. I think I make out a shut eye. This must be the front end of the creature. Or as W9 says "the side that eats." I can't even tell which side of the face ...I make out a strange little beak with gnarly nostrils. Odd whiskers.
We set up our camp stools. After a while we start to text local friends and birders. Jerry takes a break from work to stop by and check out the Common Poorwill. W9 has left and Jerry has errands to run. I sit by myself. Squirrels are running around doing squirrley things. It occurs to me that a squirrel might rouse this sleeper... the wind picks up and I watch it lift a few feathers. The hat starts to slowly rock. The head turns ever so slightly and one eye opens a bit and then cryptically shuts.
This is good birdwatching.
I was very excited to post my very first ever photo of this weird little dude. And then I remember why I fave so many strange photos. I fave really good ones too, so don't worry. But sometimes there is a story to that frame filled with shadows, leaves, and branches.
Trick or treat? Maybe a bit of both. Be good, my flickr monkeys. : )
Tags: pekabo90401 Wesen woodlawn cemetery birds southern california birds Bird watching Bird watching Los Angeles common poorwill crepuscular Phalaenoptilus nuttallii Chotacabras Pachacua Engoulevent de Nuttall Caprimulgidae 80D Canon Camaraderie canon 80 D cemetery monkey 100-400 oiseau Lightroom lind chim manu Friendship Fugl Life bird found by W9 not a rare bird halloween nocturnal nightjar santa monica woodlawn cemetery avem
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Merry Christmas.....was Happy Thanksgiving to all my flickr monkeys....
"If you take a walk in the woods on a summer evening, you may be treated to the ethereal, flute-like song of the hermit thrush, often the only bird still singing at dusk (and the first bird to sing in the morning). In 1882, naturalist Montague Chamberlain described it as a “vesper hymn that flows so gently out upon the hushed air of the gathering twilight.” The hermit thrush, once nicknamed American nightingale, is among North America’s finest songsters; its beautiful song is one of the reasons Vermont chose the hermit thrush as its state bird.
The hermit thrush is one of the first woodland migrants to return to northern New England in spring. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of this brown bird with a white breast dotted with black and a rusty rump and tail, perched on a log, flicking its tail up and down. ...
Extensive research has been conducted on the hermit thrush’s exquisite song. Analysis of spectrograms (graphs of sound frequencies) has shown that the songs of individual hermit thrushes are quite different. Male thrushes have a repertoire of seven to thirteen song types. No two birds sing the same song. The males sing with variety, never repeating the same song type consecutively. Researchers believe it is the female who has shaped the songs of male hermit thrushes over the eons. Males with certain singing characteristics are chosen to be fathers, and those singing behaviors are perpetuated. The melodies of the hermit thrush follow the same mathematical principles that underlie many musical scales. The males favor harmonic chords similar to those in human music.
Perhaps this is why the song of the hermit thrush is so appealing to us. Wrote naturalist John Burroughs, “Mounting toward the upland again, I pause reverently as the hush and stillness of twilight come upon the woods… And as the hermit thrush’s evening hymn goes up from the deep solitude below me, I experience that serene exaltation of sentiment of which music, literature, and religion are but the faint types and symbols.”
by Susan Shea, a naturalist, writer and conservation consultant who lives in Brookfield, Vermont.
Tags: pekabo90401 king gillette ranch toyon red berries hermit thrush thrush Catharus guttatus Grive solitaire Zorzalito Colirrufo Lightroom lind chubby bird avem Wesen Vogel Bird watching Bird watching Los Angeles southern california birds 100-400 80D canon 80 D Canon Camaraderie chim Wintertime Winter light Winter Holidays big eyed rusty butt shy bird oiseau Santa Monica Mountains branch monkey
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It was the moment we suddenly U-turned at an intersection onto a dirt path that the adventure kicked into high gear. We were transported to a different place and time.
We skirted the Raptor Sanctuary and after many a twist and turn, pulled up to a huge concrete edifice, water at the base and a Great Blue Heron on top like an iconic architectural sculpture.
Doors slam. We have parked our SUVs. The air is fresh and the heat of the day is not yet upon us. I was tempted to call Lou “Bwana.” Time to get the gear ready.
Months earlier, Lou let me try his 100-400 lens which he attached to my T1i. The setup was hard to manage. Now with the beefier 80-D and a wrist brace, I was loving the upgrade. This day Lou attaches his 1.4 extender.
We walked down a short path towards the water’s edge. We are in year five of a historical drought so water is a scarce commodity. Later Jerry announces that he'll walk up to the top of the massive concrete edifice. I fear it is too dangerous. This is the Whittier Narrows Dam. I picture a massive body of water on the other side only to find out that we are on the “other side” already. The bit of water I see is all there is. Jerry reports seeing a bike path and golf course on the other side…
Dried brown grasses turn to green grasses closer to the water. Tiny beige birds are flittering about nervously.
Lou recounts how a Northern Red Bishop can be seen at this spot, early in the morning, just around sunrise. He glances up at the overcast sky to speculate that they might show up as the sunlight is blocked.
Right on cue, out bursts ORANGE. The star has arrived. Our small group takes a collective gasp.
Tags: Euplectes franciscanus bishop orange bishop northern red bishop West Nile Red Bishops african bird Franciscan Bishops countable southern california birds 80D canon 80 D canon Camaraderie friendship whittier Narrows Dam birds of Whittier Narrows Bird watching Birdwatching Los Angeles pekabo90401 weaver wesen grass monkey Vogel tiny and fast tiny bird orange oiseaux naturalized bird finch Less boring than a bobolink 100-400 Eve from wall-E
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I hop into W9's car and off we go to a stakeout in nearby Pacific Palisades. It's the sort of neighborhood where people might emerge from their homes in evening gowns and tuxedos to be transported in stretch limousines to some Hollywood movie award event.
We have precise directions. Alejandra and Manuel are smiling and give us a warm welcome after we pull over and park. Another couple are there watching as well.
I am relieved to see that we have a team effort because it is unlikely that I will ever spot such a plain looking little bird without help. A little bird flies over our heads and lands on the lawn precisely where he was spotted a few days ago. This lawn monkey is moving from the shaded area farther away, hiding under the house hedges. This is private property and it looks like no one is home. We confine ourselves to the curb but the bird is just too far away. I can see my camera has maxed out with the highest ISO it can muster.
We introduce ourselves to the other birding couple. We recognize their names, Mary and Nick Freeman. They are local bird experts. Nick allows us a look through his spotting scope. And suddenly I can see this wonderfully different sparrow. I want to move in closer to improve my odds of getting a better shot but someone politely says "Wait...” so I do.
We are a clot of paparazzi standing in the road. Several cars stop as folks want to know what we are watching. I am having a really good time exchanging bird stories with my fellow birders. As we watch our odd little visitor, he begins to move a bit closer to us. I'm glad we didn't throw in the towel. 400 photos later, Mary and Nick ask us if we want to try for another rare bird, the Greater Pewee. The location isn't very far away but nobody walks in LA so we hop into our cars (portable bird blind) and head over a few streets.
A frog is croaking. He sounds close. W9 does a mean frog imitation and engages the frog in a conversation. I can see how impressed Mary is. Then she gives us her best Spotted Owl call.
"Plain in plumage but distinctive in habits, the Cassin's Sparrow inhabits arid grasslands in the south-central United States and northern Mexico." Allaboutboids. Not Baja Mexico, not California, not even close.
Tags: cassin's sparrow Rare bird pekabo90401 Pacific palisades birds southern california birds 80D canon 80 D 100-400 1.4 extender sparrow lawn monkey Wesen Lightroom Bird watching Bird watching Los Angeles Canon Camaraderie Friendship moineau spatz mus spurv passero chim se sẻ manu liilii σπουργίτης スズメ 참새 鳥 鸟 fugl lind oiseau ibon πουλί 새 avem manu پرنده chim นก птица Peucaea cassinii Bruant de Cassin Zacatonero de Cassin Go Dodgers! Hairdo feathers Lifer Life bird lifer bird TLDR
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It was a last second change of plans. Jerry was going to take us up to the San Bernadino Mountains but a window of clean air and cooler weather made a visit to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont attractive.
Chilao would have to wait for another day.
I checked ebird before we left. We might get lucky and find a sleeping Barn Owl in a palm tree. Pepla-guys had been spotted there recently. And strangely enough a Wrentit sighting was reported. Wrentits are supposed to be a coastal bird and the botanic garden was 50 miles from Santa Monica in the Inland Empire. Another mystery, kids. And I suspect the Templars are involved.
The folks at the garden were friendly and welcoming. We asked about the owl. Then we searched....
We typically yell or whisper our discoveries and sometimes point too, but that's not always helpful. So when a Wrentit appeared I was asking "Where? Where? I don't see it!" in a panic with W9 and Jerry both trying to help me get this active "drought colored" bird. Helping someone else see the bird has its own reward. It means your communication skills are good. The clock is ticking. The bird isn't where you first spot him. But you don't give up. You continue to communicate... describing the color of a shrub or pointing to a leafless tree. Tall or short? Find a landmark and go from there. It’s the equivalent of hearing a fast moving sports game, a “play by play” radio broadcast, think basketball or tennis. Or ping-pong for the love of cheese.
I scan the scene and use my peripheral vision to watch W9 and Jerry for new clues. W9 was making some quick gestures. I was crushed that I couldn't understand the message.... then I could see that W9 was swatting away flies...and not giving me signals.
Yet the Wrentit was there and even fleetingly graced us with a song… before moving far away, now backlit… Little Pleistocene fart.
So (insert generic excuse for not getting any great bird photos) a collage was in order. I forgot how to make one. I looked at lightroom templates and clicked on a few. And magically all the old collages I've made were changed and I don't know how to put them back like they were. Isn't technology the best?
The 86 acre garden had fallen under the spell of a wet Winter followed by Springtime. So much in beautiful bloom!
I can't identify the flowers and cacti beyond "Side-of-the-roadium." So pipe up if you know the ID.
Another adventure under our belts, W9 and I almost fall asleep as Jerry chauffeurs us safely through the tedious and mind-numbing drive home. Thank you, Jerry.
Tags: pepla-guy Phainopepla Phainopepla nitens Santa Ana Botanic Garden Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden Baeolophus inornatus oak titmouse wesen tiny and fast vogel Mésange buissonniere Sastrecillo chapparal monkey Chamaea fasciata Cama brune Camea wrentit garden monkey Pleistocene bird pekabo90401 camaraderie friendship birds of southern california lightroom 80-D 100-400 canon canon 80-D california towhee swallowtail butterfly butterfly California native plants botanic garden Claremont Inland Empire collage lightroom collage bird watching bird watching Los Angeles California poppy female Phainopepla cactus TLDR Minimal screaming babies this day Wrentit mystery Explore secret: no collage Springtime Los Angeles
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