Saturday, March 16, 2013

Birding Sentimentally in Orange County, CA


My wife and I drove from Utah down to Orange County, California at the end of September to help some of her siblings care for her aging parents. Her father was in the final months of life as a result of cancer and her mother was falling under the relentless grip of Alzheimer's Disease.  My mother in law was very supportive of my love for birds and bird photography and always encouraged me to take time to look at the birds of Orange County during our visits. She wanted me to tell her which birds were singing in her yard and she was always eager to see what photographs I captured during my outings.

I did some birding during that trip, but I had some poignant moments as I sat and visited with my wife's parents and realized how incapacitated they had become. They were so different from the people I met nearly 29 years before when I married their daughter. I imagined myself in their situation and realized what a blessing it is to have health that allows us to move about at will and keenly functioning senses that allow us to hear, see, touch, smell, taste, and feel deeply the beauties (people and nature) of this life.  I counted them blessings each morning when I awoke to be with family and we could hear the varied songs of the resident Northern Mockingbird, the calls of Black Phoebes and Allen's Hummingbirds, and the busy chattering of the small, nomadic flock of Bushtits that passed through the backyard on a daily basis. 

The images below may seem random, but they represent some of the special birding moments I experienced during that visit. I hope you enjoy the diversity and beauty of these birds and take some time soon to visit with someone who may need your care and attention. You and they will be glad you did.

These Bushtits visited my in-law's yard daily. After photographing them I realized that males, females, and juveniles have different colored irises. Yellow for female (and I think juvenile) and dark for male.

Female (yellow iris) Bushtit in Cypress, CA
Female (yellow iris) Bushtit in Cypress, CA
Male (dark iris) Bushtit in Cypress, CA
Northern Mockingbird in Cypress, CA
Adult Nonbreeding Black-bellied Plover (showing dark armpit) at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Orange County, CA
Nonbreeding Forster's Tern at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Orange County, CA
Hunting Great Blue Heron at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Orange County, CA
Least Sandpiper at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Orange County, CA
Long-billed Curlew at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Orange County, CA
Foraging Long-billed Curlew at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Orange County, CA
Long-billed Curlew with Crab at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Orange County, CA
Marbled Godwit at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Orange County, CA
Hunting Reddish Egret at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Orange County, CA
Hunting Reddish Egret at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Orange County, CA
Hunting Reddish Egret at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Orange County, CA
Hunting Reddish Egret at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Orange County, CA
Hunting Reddish Egret at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Orange County, CA
Savannah Sparrow at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Orange County, CA
I believe this is a Beldings variety, resident in southern California salt marshes
Semipalmated Plover (showing its semipalmated/partially webbed toes) at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
Orange County, CA
Willet at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Orange County, CA
Red-tailed Hawk at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Orange County, CA
Adult Cooper's Hawk in Cypress, CA
Adult Cooper's Hawk in Cypress, CA
I made my first ever visit to Huntington Central Park in Huntington Beach during that visit to Orange County. One of the first birds I observed was a juvenile Cooper's Hawk that flew down into the water and then returned to a perch to air out its feathers. It presented several opportunities for photographs in varying light conditions.

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk at Huntington Central Park in Huntington Beach, CA

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk at Huntington Central Park in Huntington Beach, CA

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk in Huntington Central Park Huntington Beach, CA



Some local birders gave me a tip that allowed me to see my lifer Hutton's Vireo in Huntington Central Park that day as well.

Hutton's Vireo in Huntington Central Park Huntington Beach, CA
Now this last bird came to my attention toward the end of my visit to Huntington Central Park. I saw some local photographers with ginormous lenses, fingers, and eyes pointing in a specific direction. Naturally I decided to investigate. I was informed that they were looking for a sub-Saharan bird called the Pintailed Whydah. "A Pintailed what the?"  Apparently, a pair was breeding in the wild. I guess it was breeding season according to their biological clocks from the southern hemisphere? The birds had briefly gone into hiding because my earlier Cooper's Hawk had passed through the area. A few minutes later the male appeared and began displaying for the female. A quick search of the Whydah on the Internet will lead you to some video clips of their breeding display. It's quite interesting.

Pin-tailed Whydah (in the wild) in Huntington Central Park Huntington Beach, CA

9 comments:

  1. wow - so many photographs worthy of special mention here; I enjoyed every one. I understand your sentiments on the aged. Your finale opportunity to pick up the Pin-tailed Whyndah so unexpectedly must've been SUCH a buzz; well done! Right place, right time

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Carole. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I always enjoy the accessibility of birds where ever we go. The Whydah was certainly unexpected.

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. I hope you enjoyed them. Thanks, Adam.

      Delete
  3. Excellent photos. Thanks for sharing them. I'm a photography student and would love to know the type of camera and the settings you used.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jill. I enjoy capturing and sharing bird images. I hope you are enjoying photography. I started about three years ago. I'm past due for some updates to my equipment, but I use a Nikon D5000 with a Nikon 300mm f4 lens. Feel free to email me and I'll answer any questions about how I go about photographing birds.

      Delete
  4. A truly lovely post Jeff, and that Whydah is a real jaw-dropper (so are many other birds you photographed of course, but that thing has foreign flare!). It is so difficult to endure seeing the final stages of life in loved ones, but, as it seems you have found as well, witnessing the beauty and grace intrinsic to cycling life in nature is then all the more poignant.

    Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very beautiful birds!! Thanks for sharing!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Such a lovely tribute post to your father and mother in law .. your photos are breathtaking. I especially enjoyed the Foraging Long-billed Curlew, Hunting Reddish Egret and Pin-tailed Whydah .. wow!

    ReplyDelete