Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Garden-variety Birds

This is the fourth and final in a series of posts featuring birds from our recent trip to San Diego.  You can find the other parts here: part 1, part 2, and part 3.

When thinking about birding around San Diego, there are so many habitats - like the lagoons, beaches, and deserts in the previous posts - it is easy to overlook the great variety of birds that can be found in backyards throughout the area.  We were fortunate in finding a rental property that shared a lovely garden with our very generous hosts.  This habitat provided some great birding from the moment we woke up on our first morning.
Almost the first birds we saw on the trip - Anna's Hummingbird, Calypte anna, and Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans, side by side above the back fence.
The Black Phoebes were quite common and we saw them at almost every park we stopped at along the coast.  Similarly hummingbirds were widespread and often seen feeding on flowers in the same parks and gardens - we had three in the yard at the same time one afternoon.  Of course certain species are very cosmopolitan and we found several species that would be considered "the usual suspects" in Calgary, at a different time of year.
A House Finch regaling us with morning song - the yellow-orange coloration is not a morph I've seen in Alberta 
Yellow-rumped Warblers (Audubon's subspecies) are year-round residents in parts of California but didn't show up in Alberta until about four weeks after I took this photo
Similarly, White-crowned Sparrows spend the winter here and should be showing up any day now
However the backyard birds aren't just different colour morphs or out of season Alberta birds.  In some cases the populations are dramatically different, like what seems to be a swap in numbers between House Sparrows and Song Sparrows, with the latter flitting around in every bush and picnic area.  There are also those birds that are commonplace in the San Diego area but never seen north of the 49th parallel such as the above Black Phoebe and the aptly named California Towhee.  These birds were everywhere, announcing their presence with a distinct, slightly metallic "teek" as they forage in the brush or on the ground.
This California Towhee was feeding underneath a Hyacinth Macaw at the San Diego Zoo - I took a little flak from my wife for taking this photo first!  Definitely an "LBJ" but also a real stunner - it's all in the eyes.
I hope you've enjoyed this little overview of my brief exposure to southern California birding.  I look forward to the next visit and recommend this to anyone looking for a different birding experience.
Bins and beer - probably signs of a good holiday!

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