Thursday, February 15, 2007

Southern California Nature Preserves

It's been a delightful time with weather being perfect in the high 60's. This photo was taken at the hotel after 20 hours of flying and business meetings, but that didn't hinder my excitement to be in a warm climate in February.

As you can imagine, our itinerary has been filled with birds, critters and flowers. I hope you'll enjoy "joining me" as you view our online photo albums. Block out the cold outside your doors and windows and spend a bit of time in Southern California.

PLEASE add any comments to the photo albums and especially any identification you can give to those critters without names.

Our first wildlife area was the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary which had a wide variety of waterfowl. If you can identify anything, please leave comments. This sanctuary encompasses 300 acres of coastal freshwater wetlands, half of which are being restored to a natural state. The remaining acres are quality habitat and are not in need of restoration.

Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve appeared bleak as we approached a seemingly barren habitat, but we left being very excited about seeing an American Kestrel, California Towhee and a California Ground Squirrel. At first we thought we saw prairie dog burrows, but quickly realized the little guy was not a prairie dog.

The California Ground Squirrel may climb into a tree like our squirrels back home, but generally they remain on the ground. They feed primarily on plants which includes seeds, fruits, berries, stems, flowers or bulbs. They can also damage fruit, grain and nut crops. These critters form colonies but tend to be anti-social.

Although there were many burrows in a row along with the one behind this little guy, he stood his ground alone in front of his own burrow. Several animals can occupy one borrow which is from 5 to 200 feet long. Each animal in the burrow has a hole of its own and although another one may be closer if being chased, he will race to his own when alarmed.

Swallow Nests - Mission San Juan Capistrano 2-12A very special place for me was the Mission San Juan Capistrano where the Cliff Swallows return each year on March 19th and depart on October 23rd (that's Randal's birthday). Surrounded by adobe walls, the interior was peaceful and serene with history all around us. The gardens were pretty along with the fountains with fish. I was entertained by a Black Phoebe.

We spent a day in San Diego at Balboa Park visiting the Natural History Museum, viewing a 90 year old fig tree, Palm Canyon Trail, and strolled through the area created for the California Exposition with magnificent buildings and lovely flowers too.

Before heading back to Escondido where we stayed, we visited Seaport Village for the ocean views and lively gulls who don't mind posing for as many photos as anybody wants to take.

We allocated a day for desert habitat and headed out to
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. I wanted to see a Roadrunner, Raven and Bighorn Sheep. I got the first two but we never did see any sheep although they reported sightings along with lambs. Did you know that Roadrunners mate for life? We enjoyed quite a few blooms although it was a bit early for Spring especially since rainfall has been low. The bees and butterflies were enjoying the nectar.

We saw a pair of birds snuggled together on a tree, which seemed so appropriate for Valentine's Day. They looked like large house finches as you can see from the photo. I don't know what they are, so let me know if you do.

View more photos of the mystery bird, clicking the double arrow on the right to look at close-up views. You can leave comments/names on any of the photos.


Anonymous said...

We walk the reserve every evening, and on our many visits I noticed the duck you have pictured seemed like a mallard that got mixed up with something else. It's beak was black instead of yellow, and with the bright white breast and rust sides almost resembling the colors of a pinto pony, but sharing the iridescent green neck matching the mallard. I couldn't let it go after seeing a pond almost full of what I assumed were a mis-breeded bunch of mallards so I began to research. Come to find out, they are not mallards at all. They are called Northern Shovelers. So cool, I feel like I discovered a new duck.

sharingsunshine said...

How exciting that you came upon the photo in my post. It's amazing to me when I can actually ID things I see. There are many that I can't seem to determine (as you would notice in the same photo album).

But this guy was in my book and had enough unique features to be able to figure it out. For those wanting a better photo of the Northern Shoveler, here's the link:

Anonymous said...

I don't know how long ago the photo of this particular mystery bird was posted, but it's not a mystery at all. It's a male house finch.

sharingsunshine said...

I had mentioned it looked like a large version of the House Finch. We have those at our feeding stations also. This bird seemed much larger though, so I wondered if it was some other type of finch or something else.

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