We were at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine to participate in the Southern California Audubon Coordinating Council meeting, which was being hosted by Sea and Sage Audubon. The great thing about a location like that for a meeting is that you can go birding before the meeting starts, so of course, we did. With winter giving way to spring, and many birds beginning to molt into their nuptial plumage, a lot of the species present were beginning to look pretty good. The American Avocets were starting to get peachy-headed. There were many Tree Swallows hawking insects overhead, with the occasional Northern Rough-winged to keep us honest. Incidentally, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary is host to 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, there were several unusual birds to be seen. The first of these was somewhat unexpected at this location: a dainty little Lesser Yellowlegs, feeding with characteristic rapidity in the shallows of Pond D. Notice the delicate beak, whose length is less than 1.5x that of the head. This bird was difficult to get pictures of because it kept sprinting out of the frame!
On Pond C, we found the one unusual visitor to the marsh that we were expecting from previous visits: the continuing drake Common Teal. Formerly recognized as a distinct and unique species, males of this Eurasian sub-species of our Green-winged Teal are readily recognizable by the absence of the vertical white bar on the anterior portion of its flanks, and by the 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, which is much reduced or invisible on male Green-winged Teal. Watch this space for future developments: the International Ornithological Union has already re-split Common Teal out from the Green-winged Teal. Who knows if or when the American Ornithological Union will follow suit. Either way, it’s a snazzy looking bird!