We attended the San Diego Bird Festival at the beginning of March, like we do pretty much every year. It’s always fun to rendez-vous with all those familiar folks and get in some good birding time at the county immediately to the south. In recent years, organization of this birding festival has been taken over by San Diego Audubon, and that chapter has done a great job of continuing the traditions of excellence established by this long-running festival. One of the logical changes they made was to keep the vendor booths closed in the early mornings when all the festival participants are out on trips anyway, which meant that, after arriving early to set up the booth on the first day, we had extra time in the mornings, which we of course used to go birding! This allowed us to pursue some of the interesting birds that were over-wintering in the greater San Diego Area, such as the Grace’s Warbler at a nearby cemetery, the Thick-billed Kingbird, back for its second year in Chula Vista, and so on.
One bird we looked for, in part because it was so close to Marina Village, was a reported Palm Warbler at Westminster Park, a little neighborhood pocket park on the north end of the Point Loma Peninsula. We parked in the empty lot and walked out onto a lawn fringed with red-flowering eucalyptus and sycamores. It didn’t seem at all like Palm Warbler habitat at first glance. Evidently, the warbler was of the same mind since it had apparently left. The place was just crawling with warblers though, mostly Yellow-rumps and Orange-crowns, with the occasional Townsend’s mixed in for excitement. We started pishing from a strategic location and soon had a crowd of irritated birds and one house cat interested. Seriously – we actually pished in a cat – it didn’t jump up on the fence until we started making noise! Anyway, the next thing emerging from the trees was this handsome young male Summer Tanager. He frustrated us by always staying in the shadows whenever he perched, but we still managed to photo-document him adequately.
The next thing to arrive was a noisy flock of Aratinga parakeets. Small flocks of these birds roam all over Point Loma Peninsula – we’ve seen them in several other locations there – and they seem to really like the red-flowering eucalyptus trees, as evidenced by this shot. These birds appear to be Red-masked Parakeets, also known as Cherry-headed Conures, the same species made famous in the book about the wild parrots on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco. They are separated from the similar-looking Mitred Parakeet (and also common feral bird) by the more extensive red on the head, crown and face, and by the presence of more red in the leading edge of the wing, particularly in the wrist. We were surprised as always by how well they blended into the trees once they had made their typically loud entrance. They were actually a bit difficult to pick out in the scope even when rustling around right in front of us.