As is usual, my dad and I arrived around 5:40am, just before the sun peaked over the horizon. We set out on the Niedrach Nature Trail first, changing up our usual routine of heading out toward the banding station first. Birds were very quiet, with little activity other than a few Great Horned Owls calling in the distance. Some Canada Geese and Western Grebes called from the lake, but due to the low like we were unable to see our first birds. We walked further along the trail and out onto the boardwalk. A Mourning Dove called in the distance and soon made an appearance. As the sun started to make its way to cresting the horizon, the park burst into bird activity. A ton a fussing from two birds drew us back to the beginning of the boardwalk, and after a little head scratching, realized they were House Wrens welcoming the morning in. Wilson's Warblers and American Goldfinches quickly became active and suddenly a Common Nighthawk made an appearance as it flew just a few feet away from us through the trees. We picked up a few ducks as we scanned the lake a Black-capped Chickadees soon joined the dawn chorus and made appearances shortly after. We continued along the trail and came to the dike. We found a Northern Harrier working the field in the glow of the rising sun, and soon it's mate joined in. We spent several minutes in awe of watching the harriers hunt in front of the rising sun. We picked up a few more common birds and started along the path back towards the trail head and nature center. We picked up our first Downy Woodpecker of the day and soon picked out a Dusky Flycatcher. We started walking some more when my dad stopped and noticed a non-House Wren wren flitting about the trail behind us. My dad got the best look and I just noticed enough to know that it didn't act nor was it small enough to be a House Wren. We discussed it amongst ourselves and settled on identifying it as a Bewick's Wren. We were unable to find the bird again but did find ourselves a Hammond's Flycatcher as well as a MacGillivray's Warbler. This was one of the birds we were really hoping to see today. We resumed our walk back and along the way watched a Peregrine Falcon fly by. We were at 28 birds by this time and decided we wanted to hit 30 before going back to the nature center. Nicely enough, a Cooper's Hawk made an appearance as soon as we talked about getting 30 birds and a few seconds later spotted a Western Wood Pewee sitting in the top of a tree. Happy that we hit 30, we proceeded back to the main area picking up Eurasian Collared Dove along the way.
We met the park volunteers who were driving the Eagle Express, and decided to drive out to the eagle viewing gazebo before walking the trail to the banding station. We took our seats and two other people, former park volunteers themselves, joined us on the first Eagle Express ride of the day. No new birds showed themselves on the ride over. Once we parked at the trail head to the gazebo, we picked up a flock of Brewer's Sparrows and heard a couple White-breasted Nuthatches calling in the trees. We walked out to the gazebo and proceeded to listen to and talk about the history of Barr Lake, the eagles and bird. No eagles were on the nest, but we did find a juvenile Bald Eagle sitting out by the edge of the lake. The lake itself was only 23% full, leaving expansive flats to be scanned. We found a few shorebirds but were unable to identify any. Waterfowl were abundant on the lake, as were American White Pelican, Great Blue Heron and Killdeer. I meandered back along the boardwalk to try to find some birds calling in the trees. A flycatcher was working one tree, but flew off before I could make an identification. A movement in the weeds just a little ways from where I was standing drew my attention, as did a 'chirp' call. After waiting a few seconds, another MacGillivray's Warbler made an appearance, allowing for the best views of the bird I've seen. After about half an hour at the gazebo, we all got back on the Express to head back. Along the ride back, we picked up a Merlin perched regally on a stalk of reed in a field. Another Peregrine Falcon flew overhead and out toward the lake. As my dad and I watched, an American Kestrel flew out and started chasing the Peregrine! We lost sight of the birds behind some trees, but one soon flew back and perched in a tree around the bend. We stopped the Express and got out to discover the Kestrel perched in the tree, and the Peregrine nowhere in sight. Another smaller raptor flew in and the Kestrel took off after it. We were amazed to watch the American Kestrel "dogfight" with a Cooper's Hawk. They chased each other around for the better park of two minutes, scaring up a Downy Woodpecker and Northern Flicker. The Coop soon left and the Kestrel was finally able to relax. We arrived back at the nature center with no further excitement.
We met Ira and Tammy before we headed out to the banding station and chatted about birds that had been seen. . Many numerous common birds made appearances as we walked the, but our attention was drawn to multiple sparrows working the dike along the trail. We spent a long time enjoying nice views of multiple different species of sparrow. Brewer's Sparrows were the most common, and we sorted out other sparrows including House Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Vesper's Sparrow, a solitary Lincoln's Sparrow working the dike along the opposite direction as the rest of the group and Chipping Sparrow. We also saw a Rock Wren working the rocks in the dike. We made it to the banding station in time to see them band a MacGillivray's Warbler, and stayed to see a Dusky Flycatcher be banded too. We then set off to the far gazebo. Along the way, we ran into Randy, who is one of the states best birders. We chatted for a bit and then we pushed on. We continued to scan our "escort" flock of sparrows, and noticed a drab, grey finch working it's way in the opposite direction. I watched it and outside of some wing bars, could only place it as a House Finch, so I called out "it's just a House Finch." My dad looked at me then looked at the bird again and said "Are you sure? Because that looks like a Blue Grosbeak to me." Upon thinking it over, I realized the identification which elicited the comment: "Well...that explains why that House Finch had wing bars." After a nice laugh, we continued birding along the trail. I soon thought I heard a Red-breasted Nuthatch calling from somewhere in the trees behind us, and due to the fact I was still thinking about the grosbeak, proceeded to call out "Red-breasted Grosbeak calling in the trees behind us." A short pause followed before my dad burst out laughing and said "Red-breasted Grosbeak huh? Don't think I've ever heard of that bird before." It took me a second to realize my name merging and I corrected myself as I laughed as well. As we rounded the bend to head out to the blind, we were delighted with wonderful views of Townsend's Warblers working the trees. There were about 10 of them total. No other out of the ordinary birds showed up so we decided to head back. As we started back, we ran into a couple who had attended our April bird walk at Two Ponds. We were delighted to see that they had come to the festival and we talked and birded with them for a little while. We found a Yellow Warbler working the trees during this time. After a few minutes, we decided to take advantage of the low water and head out onto the lake flats and see if we couldn't find any shorebirds. After the walk back, we decided to head out onto the desolate flats.
At first glance, the flats looked desolate and the water a LONG ways away. At second glance, the flats still looked desolate and the water a LONG ways away. So off we went. There were no predefined trails, so we trudged along on our own. We came across a set of tire tracks that started and ended in only about 200ft. We looked at each other as we tried to figure out this mystery, and joked that this was where the Delorean scene was filmed for Back To The Future. After a long while of walking, we set up shop and scanned the water and waters edge. Gadwall and Green-winged Teal were present in droves. We hiked up a small "hill" and scanned the flocks on the other side. We saw a couple shorebirds but were unable to make an identification as they were too far away. We scanned the flotilla and picked out some Blue-winged Teal, Northern Pintail and Ruddy Duck. We searched through a flock of gulls way out and were able to find a couple California Gulls. Two American Pipits and a couple Song, Chipping and Brewer's Sparrows made appearances on land, but otherwise it was as it looked, a long way out and desolate. We made the long walk back to the nature center.
Returning from our self-exiling, we chatted with some other birders and vendors before we were to head out. We chatted with Christine Humphrey who was a volunteer with the Wild Animal Sanctuary. We talked about birds, the sanctuary and her photography set up and photography. We looked at some of her pictures and WOW! She is an incredible photographer and her work should definitely be checked out! I will include links to her website at the end of this blog. Be sure to check out! The vendors were leaving and we decided that we should leave too. We were perplexed as we got into the truck as to why we had not seen any kingbirds. We slowly drove the road to the entrance, scanning the stalks and fences for any birds. A few birds on one fence caught out eye, and we finally found a few Western Kingbirds as well as some sparrows. This was a great way to end a great day of birding!
Thanks to everyone who came to the festival, to all the birders leading bird walks, to all the vendors who showed up, and for all the volunteers and park officials who made this possible!
Here are some photos I took during the festival:
The sun starting to rise.
Rail eye view.
A skein of geese and a Northern Flicker just before sunup.
Chipping Sparrow! Picture! A few bird pics were set up for kids.
The Morning Hunt. A pair of Northern Harriers hunting in the rising suns first light.
Mule deer that came over the dike.
A Northern Harrier flies by the eagle viewing gazebo.
If you look closely, you can see the Coop hot on the Kestrel's tail. Left side in middle.
A Harris Hawk that Hawk Quest had to show.
One of our "escorts."
The MacGillivray's at the banding station.
The Dusky Flycatcher at the banding station.
Townsend's Warbler in the trees.
Birding the desolate flats and the groups of birds we were scanning.
The "Delorean Tracks"
An interestingly patterned leaf along the trail.
Here is the link to Christine's website: http://www.christinehumphreysphotography.com/ Be sure to check it out!