Month: July 2020 (Page 2 of 3)

Birding Wonderland

Comet Neowise Torrey Utah

The comet Neowise over Torrey, Utah

Quiet and Calm in the Interior West

After 125 days of “quarantine”, our family had grown weary. With the COVID case count growing, and stay-at-home measures increasing, we decided it was time to flee Los Angeles. Our destination was a part of south central Utah that the old-timers called Wonderland. My wife’s parents have an amazing house on a wind-swept mesa in Torrey, Utah. It’s a tiny little town, perfectly situated for easy adventures to the red rocks and slot canyons of Capitol Reef National Park or to the alpine lakes and forest of the Aquarius Plateau and Boulder Mountain. The area is a designated International Dark Sky Park, with better views of the Milky Way than I’ve ever seen.  You’re lucky to visit this area any time. These days, it has an added attraction. COVID (like high-speed internet) is just a rumor around here. 

Mountain Bluebird Torrey Utah

Mountain Bluebird, Torrey Mesa, July 2020

We arrived just before sunset on Wednesday.  The wide open space, the quiet, the beauty – it all added up to a calm that I hadn’t felt in weeks. This morning, I took a walk around the mesa. There aren’t a lot of birds right where we’re staying, but the ones that come by are great to see. The first two birds I saw were a Pinyon Jay and a Mountain Bluebird. I added Juniper Titmouse, Lark Sparrows, and Violet-green Swallows. I also found an odd-looking sparrow that I assumed to be a partially leucistic  Black-throated Sparrow 

Black-throated Sparrow Torrey Utah

Black-throated Sparrow

The highlight of the day came this evening – clear views of the comet Neowise zooming through the universe. The photo at the top was taken from our bedroom balcony. I’m so excited that we’ll be spending the next two weeks here in Utah. My target bird is a Northern Goshawk. They can be found on Boulder Mountain, but not reliably. You have to be in the right place at the right time. Crossing my fingers I can finally add it to my life list.

Pinyon Jay Torrey Utah

Pinyon Jay, Torrey Mesa, July 2020

Black-necked Stilts on Ballona Creek

Black-necked Stilt Ballona Creek

Black-necked Stilt, Ballona Creek, July 2020

Black-necked Stilts on Ballona Creek

Today, I went for a bike ride along Ballona Creek. There is a bike path along the concrete creek. It runs from the beach at Playa del Rey about 6 miles inland to a park in Culver City. We live halfway between the beach and the end of the path. Instead of heading from my house toward the beach, which is my usual path, I went inland. There’s rarely a lot of bird ac

tion on this section of the creek. It is almost entirely devoid of dirt, mud, or vegetation, so there isn’t much to attract the birds other than a drink. One section has had Solitary Sandpipers during fall migration, and there are often a handful of Greater Yellowlegs and Killdeer around. Besides the Northern Rough-winged Swallows, the predominate bird on this section of the creek is Black-necked Stilt. 

Black-necked Stilt Ballona Creek

Black-necked Stilts breed on the creek. On my ride today, I saw at least 16 juvenile birds, ranging in age from a week or so to approximately 8-10 weeks. It was pretty fun to be able to see the development of Black-necked Stilts in one short bike ride. As you can see from the picture at the top of the page, they are mostly legs at first, and a speckled white color. But as they grow, the black feathers come in. Before they get jet black feathers, though, their backs and wing feather have a rusty fringe.

Black-necked Stilt Ballona Creek

As development proceeds, they retain a white arc above the eye. The legs just keep growing, and slowly evolve into the pink stilts of adult birds.

Adult Black-necked Stilt

Adult Black-necked Stilts

Ballona Creek Culver City

The Ballona Creek in all its concrete glory

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