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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Nerdy Birdy: Topanga Canyon

Mr. Rogue and I are exploring some of the hikes near the new house. Today we decided to go to Topanga Canyon. We sadly didn’t get motivated to leave the house until after 11 which means that I wasn’t going to be seeing that many birds, but I would be spending a day hiking with my man... the two evened themselves out.

We took the most direct route that our GPS gave us. We didn’t think that one through and because we let the computer decide we ended up getting caught in horrible beach traffic. And just when we got through the horrible beach traffic we got stuck in the then even more horrible Malibu traffic. Once we finally got there I was surprised Topanga Canyon is an oasis of amazingness.

I was having a very long internal debate with myself as we got our bags and camera gear together to go on our hike. I brought the big lens but I was so sore from all the working out I did this week I wasn’t sure if I should just leave it. But then I couldn’t leave it. I just knew that if I did and I saw something awesome that I would regret leaving it. Even though it was more horrible than words can relate to walk up and down canyon hills with that HEAVY piece of equipment it was so worth it. We saw quite a few birds, starting right in the parking lot, even though it was by now noon and the sun was hot.

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UNIDENTIFIED SPARROW

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DARK EYED JUNCO

Once we got onto the trials we started to explore. I really loved how many different terrains they had in the canyon; meadows and fields gave away to brush and then here and there would be dense clusters of trees. Where there is water and this much diverse foliage there are bound to be lots of birds.

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Sometimes you have to really search for the birds and sometimes they walk right in front of you. Mr. Rogue and I were climbing a small hill when we suddenly came upon a covey of California Quail. I have only seen the California Quail once before, and quail in general are pretty hard to find, so I was excited to see this group of about 7 birds. Sadly however they, and the terrain, were not cooperating and we only got so so shots.

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CALIFORNIA QUAIL

We found quite a few birds in the three hours we were in the Canyon. Most of which I had already seen before like the Turkey Vulture.

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TURKEY VULTURE

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WHITE CROWNED SPARROW

But then halfway through our hike I found what I thought was a new bird. Whenever I go hiking somewhere new I usually try to look up the bird list and see if there is anything new that I can keep my eye out. I was pretty sure that this bird was the Hutton’s Viero but I couldn’t verify it until I got home, I had forgotten my bird book. I was ecstatic when I looked him up and confirmed it was the Hutton’s. Although the photos are not a ‘Kodak Shot’ as my parents and I like to say I was still excited. This is a new bird for me to cross off the Nerdy Birdy List – Hurrah!

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HUTTON’S VIERO

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HUTTON’S VIERO

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HUTTON’S VIERO

Although in Southern California it can always feel like summer we do actually get a short spring and I was happy to see all the flowers coming up. And where there are flowers there are hummingbirds defending their territory! They are fast little guys, always darting all over the place, it is tough to get a good shot of them.

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ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD

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ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD

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ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD

While looking for birds you inevitably run into many other animals on the trail. Animals like the ground squirrel, various lizards, and even deer are pretty common...

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... but neither of us were really prepared for the rattler. Let me start out by saying that Mr. Rogue is a various cautious hiker. He even stated when we arrived that this territory would be perfect rattlesnake country. So Mr. Rogue was walking in behind me through some tall thick grass. My attention was on the trees around us trying to sight the next bird so I didn’t really hear the rattle... I did however hear Mr. Rogue’s gasp of shock and turned just in time to see the man jump back 10 feet. The rattle continued for a few movements and then everything was silent. So I was standing on one side of the path, Mr. Rogue was standing on the other, and the rattler was sitting in wait right between us. Mr. Rogue decided to wait for 15 minutes giving the rattler plenty of time to slither away before he cautiously got to my side of the path. Ok enough adventure for the day... we started to walk heavy (stamping your feet so rattlers get out of the way) I thought Mr. Rogue was adorable stomping around the meadow.

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ON THE PATH TO THE RATTLER

On the way back to the car, just before we reached the parking lot I saw an old big dead tree. I knew it would be a perfect place to try and find a woodpecker.

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I walked slowly toward the tree and was rewarded with hearing some pretty loud pecking. I ended up finding an Acorn Woodpecker trying to find bugs in the bark. Although I have seen this bird a few times before I love his little clown face. The more I am getting to know the individual habits of species of birds the easier they are to find. When I first started to bird I wouldn’t have hiked out of my way to go look at a specific tree and I would have missed this beautiful little guy.

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ACORN WOODPECKER

All in all I had a FANTASTIC time. I love that Mr. Rogue and I can share our love of photography and hiking. Mr. Rogue isn’t really a birder, he will occasionally help point out birds he sees to me, he loves to shoot photos of the landscapes. I am hoping over the years to coax him into finding the beauty in birding. For now I will just be happy to be spending time with him out in nature.

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Now if I could just get over the physical pain I was in for hiking so long up mountains with my big heavy lens. I started out on the hike thinking I could make it carrying that lens but by the end of the day I was crying in pain. My soul was happy, my body not so much.

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2 comments:

Jennifer Arens said...

That hummingbird was beautiful! I have to agree with Mr Rogue that landscape and trees are magnificent, especially since moving to Kentucky! I too would have FREAKED out if I had been in contact with a rattlesnake! Ack!

paul peggy zeus said...

That first bird is a female House Finch I believe. Check out the stout beak and streaked breast. I'm glad Mr Rogue got outside for a change, looks like he can use some sunshine. Beautiful pictures, but where is one of the rattler? lol

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