Common Western Birds Seen At The San Diego Bird Festival

I thought I had planned my bird festivals so well this winter. Florida and San Diego--what better places could a Minnesota girl go to in January and March? Alas, both were a bit chillier than I expected. Florida had a record setting cold snap. And well, San Diego was still really warm at 50 degrees compared to where I live, but not shorts weather. Part of it was that I did many field trips where it's expect to be chilly, like on a boat or in the mountains.

While on the woodpecker trip for the San Diego Bird Festival in the mountains we looked through my scope, we could see the top of the mountain was covered in frost. Glad we weren't going to the top. It was pleasantly chilly enough where we were. I have to say, I had some of the best field trip grub ever at this festival. The best part was all the Laughing Cow Babybel Cheese. Nothing like enjoying great birds in the mountain and eating cheese.

I'm so excited! I found another photo of a Brewer's blackbird that I forgot I took in my iPhoto stash. He's so pretty, shining in all his iridescent glory of the full sun. This bird was part of a flock hanging out at a picnic area. I got to feed them as I tossed bits of my sandwich to the flock. Ah, one person's trash bird is another birder's treasure.

Another bird I was excited to spend time with was the western bluebird. We get tons of eastern bluebirds where I live and westerns are different because their rufous coloration extends to their backs. Eastern bluebirds just have the sky blue down their backs. I was happy to find a male western bluebird that wouldn't turn around and just show me his back.

Check out this super cute dark-eyed junco (the western version sometimes known as Oregon junco). They were flitting around all over the ground and this one paused to get a sip from a small puddle of water. It's the same species as the dark-eyed junco I see here, just a different color. Dark-eyed juncos used to be divided into five different species, a few years ago, this would have been a countable bird, but now the five are lumped into one. I wonder how long until they are divided again?

There were some common birds for me that others on the field trip where excited to see, like this male purple finch. He's beautiful, but he was a lifer for several people on my field trip. And we had to work to see this dude. I'm used to peering out at the feeders at Mr. Neil's and there they are. This one was singing at the top of a tree and it took some time to find the right angle for folks to see him. I giggled at working so hard for a feeder bird. He was singing his territory song, and I managed to get a video of him singing:

Such a pretty song and it's lovely to hear territory song after a long winter.

Anna's hummingbirds were all over the place and we found a female who appeared to be incubating eggs on a nest. She must be well habituated to humans. This nest was at about my eye level in a bush. The bush was in the corner of a "V" where two well travelled paths intersected and people walked by unaware as we watched.

We saw quite a few red-tailed hawks. Many were grabbing thermals and starting to do pair bonding activities. In Minnesota, these guys are setting up territory now. Females should be laying eggs soon. The red-tails in San Diego looked like they were on about the same schedules.

We did see some mammals out on the trip. This was a ground squirrel watching the birders as we were watching the birds. Something about his posture made it look like he was plotting our demise.