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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Nerdy Birdy: Idyllwild Campground

I woke up around 5:00 am this morning to begin my first day birding at Idyllwild park. From the various places I found online to try birding I decided to start with the campground. Right from the parking lot, there was a large meadow and I started snapping and wandering slowly around right away.

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THE MEADOW

The most vocal were the OH SO TALKATIVE Stellar Jays. Brilliant blue chests and back with flashing blue eyebrows and tall crests make this one of my favorite birds to photo. Too bad they are not a super cooperative bird to get photos of, he’s a little shy.

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STELLAR JAY

I know that the European Starlings are a bird that everyone frowns on. I know that they are taking over everywhere and pushing other species of birds in areas out. However I like that this bird is so adaptable to be doing so well. That and I cannot help but love its iridescent gorgeousness. It is a pretty bird despite its reputation.

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EUROPEAN STARLING

The Spotted Towhee is another one of those birds that is a bit camera shy. This one was singing away and let me slowly approach. I was able to get a few pretty good photos before he decided he had enough.

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SPOTTED TOWHEE

After birding the meadow I took the path running alongside the little stream. There were pretty dense shrubs and small trees lining the stream and I spent quite some time chasing the 12 or so Wilsons Warbler.

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WILSON’S WARBLER

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WILSON’S WARBLER

On the other side of the river, in the campground, I found myself getting frustrated. I was HEARING a bunch of little birds but the pine trees were THICK. Like trying to photo a needle in a haystack.

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Patience is the ONLY way to photo in such a dense forest. Some of the birds perched low and were pretty cooperative like the Dark-eyed Junco’s. They would sing, they would sit still for minutes (an eternity compared to some birds) and they would in general just ignore me. Oh if only all birds were so cooperative.

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DARK EYED JUNCO

Once I found a bird I just watched and waited until they either got a little closer to the ground or I lost them. It took a ton of time, I found myself standing around with a crick in my neck often, but the end result was fantastic. I started with a group of what I thought were warblers. I found out that they were Townsends Warblers, a bird I already have photos of, but I was trying to get better photos so I didn’t just move on.

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TOWNSENDS WARBLER

Oh boy oh boy was I glad I stuck with the group of Townsend’s Warblers because in that group I ended up finding a single Hermit Warbler. HURRAH a new bird for me to cross off my Nerdy Birdy List!

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HERMIT WARBLER

I was photographing the pretty easy to find White Breasted Nuthatch. They are loud, they are pretty large, and with their blue back and white belly they stick out a bit. In general they are one of the more cooperative birds.

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WHITE BREASTED NUTHATCH

I mostly was trying to focus on the smaller little cousin the Pygmy Nuthatch. There were a ton of them all though the campground and although they were FAST I got some pretty good shots.

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PYGMY NUTHATCH

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PYGMY NUTHATCH

I don’t think that ANY bird I found today got me more excited than when I found the Brown Creeper. This is a bird I saw earlier last month by accident in Chicago. I was totally bummed then because I didn’t get a photo with my good birding lens. This time I also found him while I was waiting for another bird to come a little lower. I just happened to see a movement out of the corner of my eye and there he was, the most perfectly silent camouflaged little pipsqueak of a bird. And once I saw one I found about six. I was so super excited to get a great shot of this bird.

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BROWN CREEPER

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THE BROWN CREEPER HAS THE BEST CAMOUFLAGE

Originally I only set aside about two hours for the campground before I wanted to move on to my next location, however I found so many fantastic birds I ended up staying until 11am. The only reason I stopped was because it was time for lunch and my cards were full. Five and a half hours of birding and I was starving; time to head to town for some food and a quick download of my photos. I ended up at the Red Kettle, a place one of the rangers suggested. Although I didn’t eat healthy, that burger and fries was the best meal I ever ate. DELICOUS!

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After lunch I returned to the campsite and decided to hike up to the Visitor Center. What I didn’t realize when I started is that the path was ROCKY, straight up hill and with the high altitude and the weight of the camera I was struggling midway through the hike.

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I was at least thankful that the path was very clearly marked with signs. With each sign I passed I stopped to check my map.

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Since it was mid-day I didn’t find that many birds out on the trail. I was getting a little frustrated. All this work and not even any birds were out. But then as I climbed there were stops for the sweeping vistas. AHHHHH gorgeous, now this is more like it.

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I spotted a Red Tailed Hawk on a dead tree out in the open just hanging out. I love my long Telephoto lens, I can get really great photos of birds super far away!

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RED TAILED HAWK

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RED TAILED HAWK

But just when I thought, great a sitting Red Tailed Hawk... how exciting, a Red Shouldered Hawk flew in and started harassing the much larger Red Tailed Hawk. Although not crystal clear it was a pretty viscous air war attack. It was really neat to see the sizes of the two birds right next to each other.

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RED TAILED HAWK GETTING HARRASSED BY THE MUCH SMALLER RED SHOULDERED HAWK

After the hawk war I immediately ran right into another new bird. The Ash-throated Flycatcher was darting after the annoying insects flying around my head. He scared me when he got so close. Another new bird to cross off the Nerdy Birdy List!

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ASH THROATED FLYCATCHER

A few minutes later I finally made it to the visitors center, and that is a topic for a whole other post.

2 comments:

Loree West said...

These are wonderful pictures. What a great day. Thank you for posting. My brother used to go to camp in Idyllwild many many years ago. It is a gorgeous area.

Jennifer Arens said...

Sounds like my kind of day!

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