Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Big Bear Lake (12th)

This is a bit belated due to my SD card holder in my PC messing up.

                                                                            Big Bear Lake

Up in the mountains of San Bernadino lied what seemed to be a popular tourist destination; Big Bear Lake.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this location, because birdwise there was literally nothing on the internet apart from a photo of a Bald Eagle and a Steller's Jay, both found at the location. The latter was the most interesting to me because it was something I was after. A mountain habitat tenatively had the opportunity for some other birds that are endemic to the high altitudes i.e. Pygmy Nuthatch, White-headed Woodpecker etc.

The first bird I saw at the Best Western hotel was actually a Bald Eagle. The hotel was surrounded by a decent stand of pine trees and in between the gap I saw a white-headed and dark bird of prey. It disappeared behind the forest in a flash, so no pics. In the sky around there were some Violet-green Swallows and a few Cliff Swallows, the latter of which were nesting around the hotel itself. House Finch was here too.

The first bird of interest was a little agile bird in the garden out the back. It hung on the trees yet it would dart out and catch insects on the fly too; it was almost as athletic as the Restless Flycatchers back in Australia. To my surprise it was a Pygmy Nuthatch. Definitely not the behaviour I expected from a nuthatch. While most nuthatches scour up and down tree trunks, this one, while minorly dabbling in that act too, was much more focused on the insects flying past. The other nuthatches were sitting on the sofa all day compared to this little bird. I was also surprised that they were here. This region of Big Bear was pretty developed and urbanized.

There were a couple of American Robins, too. The female had sticks in its beak, so it seemed like there was a nest being built somewhere.

I also had a Red-shafted Flicker, many Band-tailed Pigeons (they are surprisingly big) and some Pine Siskins at the garden.

The lake itself was kind of a let-down. For one it was entirely man-made, which takes away the point of this being a wilderness. Secondly the lake is entirely commercialized. Want to walk around the lake? Well you can't because it is all private docks and homes.

                                                                            Big Bear Lake Discovery Center
This center was situated on the other side of the lake. I thought that if I saw any Steller's Jays this would be the place. While driving past the lake I saw only Mallards and American Coots as well as one Pied-billed Grebe, but more interestingly there was one Eared Grebe in full breeding plumage, which I should have had my camera out for.

At the center there were even more Violet-green Swallows, including some visiting nest boxes. I think the strangest thing was all the dry Sagebrush. It looked more like a chaparral habitat with pine trees than true mountains, even though the elevation was higher than Jasper National Park of Alberta.


A lizard. That's all I know.

The picture directly after the previous.

At the feeder was a jay, though a Western Scrub-jay. When I came back minutes later, however, a Steller's Jay had taken its place. Its a real shame about the shade!

Some chipmunk-like mammals were running around in the scrub, though I have no idea what they were. There was a pair of Red-winged Blackbirds that also came to the feeder here, similarly a single Cowbird hung around, though made no actual attempt to feed from it. Elsewhere there was a trio of Western Bluebirds. Around the sage were some very pale sulphur butterflies. As the Common Sulphur was not found here, I assumed it was the only other sulphur around here which was the Hartford's subspecies of Queen Alexandra's Sulphur. However, on examining the images, it seems that they were Southern Dogface. 
There was a Coyote in the brush at the far end in the car park.
And this nestbox was home to a Mountain Chickadee.

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