We visited San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine to participate in the Southern California Audubon Coordinating Council meeting. Sea and Sage Audubon graciously hosted this event. At a location like that, arriving early allows you to go birding before the meeting starts. Naturally, we did! With winter giving way to spring, and many birds molting into their nuptial plumage, a lot of the species look really beautiful. The American Avocets all sported their peach-colored heads.
There were many Tree Swallows hawking insects overhead, with the occasional Northern Rough-winged to keep us honest. Incidentally, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary hosts the southernmost breeding colony of Tree Swallows in the western U.S. Marsh Wrens and Common Yellowthroats were yelling at us from the sedge beds. And as it turned out, several unusual birds provided happy surprises. A dainty little Lesser Yellowlegs gave us great looks here. It fed with characteristic rapidity in the shallows of Pond D. Consequently, we ran into problems photographing it: it kept sprinting out of the frame! Notice the delicate beak, whose length is less than 1.5x that of the head.
On Pond C, we found the one unusual visitor to the marsh that we knew from previous visits: Common Teal. Formerly recognized as a distinct and unique species, this Eurasian sub-species of Green-winged Teal visits us occasionally. Readily recognizable males lack the vertical white bar on the anterior portion of its flanks. Instead they sport a horizontal white bar on the scapulars that ours lacks. Another more subtle identifying feature of the drake Common Teal is the more prominent white striping in the face. Conversely, male Green-winged Teal lack this altogether, or show only a little bit. Thus, birders should watch this space for future developments. The International Ornithological Union already re-split Common Teal out from the Green-winged Teal. Hence, when the American Ornithological Union may follow suit. Either way, it’s a snazzy looking bird!
All pictures were taken with a Nikon CoolPix P300 digital camera attached to a Kowa TE-11WZ 25-60x Zoom Eyepiece and Kowa TSN-883 spotting scope, using a Sayegh Digidapter for Kowa TE-10Z and TE-11WZ.