Thursday, January 28, 2010

Return to Laguna Lake - 1/27

It was the kind of day where I had to take a break from work - a bright sunny day with a cool breeze, fresh from the recent storms. I cycled to Laguna Lake (about 4 miles) for a late lunch and to look again for the elusive White-throated Sparrow (I had missed this species in five tries so far this month!). Laguna Lake Park in San Luis Obispo offers lake habitat, riparian stands, grassland, rocky hillsides, marsh, some chaparrel and groups of pines, oaks and other introduced trees.
I discovered this sparrow species here before the local Christmas count and it was re-found at the count, so I pedalled straight for the spot near the main entrance where it had been, with other zonotrichia sparrows. I quickly found the same apparent flock, but it was so scattered in the weeds and oaks that I had to follow the flock around for 30-40 minutes before the flock finally concentrated in an open area around a footpath. Just as I saw the flock in the open through my binocs, a woman walked right past me and flushed the flock in all directions. What do you say to someone like that? "Excuse me ma'am, you just flushed my flock!" To which she would likely reply, "Stay away from me you weirdo, and stop looking at me with those binoculars!" I could imagine the morning paper's headline, "Local Stalker Pretends to be Birdwatcher". According to the arresting oficer, "He didn't even have a bird book!". "I did some investigation at the public library" the officer added, feeling clever, "and the bird book there showed that White-throated Sparrows don't even occur in California!"... So, I instead followed some Bonaparte's Gulls down to the lake (hoping for a different black-headed type gull).
I rode my bike along the lake shore, but found nothing interesting until I took off across some fields on my mountain bike and flushed a Sharp-shinned Hawk (new BIGBY species)and ticked off the field marks as it went into a thick tree. Other birds in the fields with scattered trees included Western Bluebird, juncos, butterbutts (Yellow-rumped Warblers), Say's and Black Phoebes, and a couple of Lark Sparrows (BIGBY #3 for the day). I checked the initial sparrow flock once more, but didn't find the White-throated, so I took off around the southwest side of the lake through a residential tract with a couple of viewpoints of the lake and up Diablo Drive (see my map link) for a view of the back of the lake. A White-tailed Kite (Bigby #4) was hunting out along the edge of the lake, and at least a hundred geese - Canada, Cackling and White-fronted were scattered along the back of the lake and out into the fields.
Last, before cycling back to work, I stopped at the ponds and flooded fields along Foothill Blvd., where wigeon, Gadwall, shovelers, Cinnamon Teal, coots and pintail fed and Northern Harrier, Kestrel, red-tail and other raptors perched. Despite the miss of the White-throated, my 10 mile midday ride was productive and enjoyable.

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