We took a trip up one of the local canyons in the Santa Ana mountains in search of mid-April migrants, and pretty much hit the jackpot right from the beginning. We thought it might be a good day when this handsome Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens) was there to greet us in the parking lot. He was pretty cooperative too. We stopped in a dry foothill canyon to listen for sparrows and were rewarded: Lazuli Bunting, Black-chinned Sparrow, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Lesser Goldfinch, Western Tanager, California Thrasher, Bewick’s Wren and both Blue-gray and California Gnatcatchers were there, along with California Towhee, Phainopepla and a distant Coastal Cactus Wren.
From there we went to our target destination: Silverado Canyon. The reported MacGillivray’s Warbler, a much sought-after mid-April migrant, was present and accounted for, calling loudly enough to be heard over the stream. Mountain Quail were calling from all over everywhere. Pacific-slope Flycatchers worked the understory over the creek. There seemed to be a wave of common warblers moving through: Wilson’s, Townsend’s, Black-throated Gray, and a few Nashville Warblers, as well as a handful of late Yellow-rumped Warblers of the Audubon’s race. Some of the Orange-crowned Warblers (Oreothlypis celata) are resident, and will stay and breed here. The morning light was perfect for photography too.
There was a good showing of vireos too, with half a dozen migrant Warbling Vireos, and at least two singing Cassin’s Vireos were present along with vocal resident Hutton’s Vireos. An early Western Wood-Pewee sang its distinctive song in the distance, a perfect complement to the activity in front of us. We found a stream crossing that had shallow enough pools that migrants were coming in to bathe and drink. Hermit Thrushes stood by shyly as the warblers boldly splashed about. This lovely male Hermit Warbler (Setophaga occidentalis) gave us quite a show. Some of these bathing birds were so busy, they let us approach quite closely, so that even small birds like these warblers were huge in the 10×42 Zeiss Victory HT binoculars we were lucky to be using. It’s pretty hard to beat that kind of frame-filling view of such beautiful birds!
All photos were taken with a Canon EOS T3 equipped with a 100-400 mm zoom lens.