The main purpose of coming here was for my parents, at least my mother. She has started to get into nature, and now carries binoculars and a sketchbook. Flowers are her main thing.
And indeed unlike the visit here only a week or two ago this place was overflowing with wildflowers. House Wrens were strangely common and their song, the same song that lies in the background of many American TV programmes, filled the air throughout nearly the entire trip. A Yellow Warbler was heard singing in the trees above the creek just by the car park. I saw it perched on an open branch; it is a regular sound in the creek and riverine habitats, but actually seeing them is another story. There were 3 Band-tailed Pigeons flying overheard, not that unusual but only the third or fourth time I have seen this species.
In the eucalyptus at the back of the village I heard a familiar call, that of a Black-headed Grosbeak. I almost thought it was a Downy Woodpecker, but the bill on this bird showed otherwise. It was a female. We started off along the Coyote Trail, and instantly I found this interesting Assassin Bug, Apiomerus californicus.
|A. californicus is a relatively newly described species, originally considered conspecific with|
A. crassipes. It was only offically recognized in 2011; just last year. It is a predator
of bees, syphrid flies and wasps.
|Don't normally get as good views as this; most birds hang out in the shady canopy of trees.|
There are very few trees here, only bushes.
Several looks at wildflowers later, we came to a little field. A swallowtail was cruising around this area; a very pale one at that. It flew closer and I saw that the stripes were pretty bold. I instantly lost interest in whatever I happened to be taking pictures of at the time (which was a flowering Yucca) and was taking pictures hoping that one of the shots in flight would be focused. But it didn't matter, because the next best thing happened: it actually landed:
|While not that rare, the Pale Tiger Swallowtail is very hard to come by and is scarcely seen that|
The second is a surprisingly large Tiger Whiptail:
The sound of cicadas was quite consistent during the walk thus far. It wasn't the obstreporous metal grinding or the incessant droning, instead being a single click repeated every few seconds, something pretty regular with the small inconspicuous Tibicen cicadas. Of course it was near impossible to a get a good look at them in such dense shrubbery, but while walking I heard one exceptionally close to the path. And sure enough I actually saw this impossible insect. It even sat still for several minutes.
*Note, Tibicen is referring to Tibiceninae as in the family, not the genus Tibicen.
|Tibicen cicadas are very numerous and diverse, though at the same time are pretty much|
impossible to tell apart, so I have no hope in even putting this to genus level.
|A Tibicen family Cicada is a lot smaller than it's noisier Cicadine cousins.|
|While not a good image, with Wrentits you can't hope for anything.|
It shows the face, though, which in my personal bird photography terms makes
this a success.
Along the Medicine Woman trail was another orange-and-black butterfly, though too big for a Checkerspot. It was a Fritillary of some sort, I assume Callipe by looks but I am not familiar with the local species. Luckily it co-operated and I got a picture of the underside, which in Fritillary terms is the only sure-fire way to identify most species. It was one of the "Brown-underside" Fritillaries, a self-proclaimed group which the Callipe is a member of.
At the lone oak tree at the top of the semi-hill, yet another Bullock's male flew out of the tree. What I was more interested in was a flash of blue in a large oak tree on the opposite side of the path. It instantly went into the canopy and I did not get a good look, but it eventually flew out and I saw it was completely blue on the back, so it obviously was not a Lazzy. I thought maybe it was a Blue Grosbeak.
As it was about to perch it was chased off by another identical bird, also bright blue, which meant there was at least two. They continued to fight eachother for a while, and it was getting kind of frustrating; I just wanted to see them sit still. Eventually one of them did:
It wasn't just blue; it was completely blue. And its beak was thin. There was only one thing that could be, but it would be quite rare for this side of the United States. It wasn't a Lazzy Bunting or a Blue Grosbeak, but an Indigo Bunting. And there were two of them. A couple of similarly-behaving brown birds at the back may have been females, meaning a tenative four birds. The only thing better than a rare bird is lots of them.
After the view pictured, it disappeared completely, though it did make a final passby before disappearing into the oaks. The birds were completely mute, and even when I played the songs and calls on my Ipod there was no response. Since they had disappeared, there was not much else to do but continue the walk, though nothing could mellow the excitement of seeing a rare bird in full breeding plumage; most Indigo Bunting sightings are of dull brown juveniles.
The remainder of the walk was spent teaching my mother how to tell the difference between Cabbage Whites and Chequered Whites in flight, and surprisingly she managed to pick it up very quickly.
There was an immature Say's Phoebe in the village area. It perched on the wooden fence and flew under the eves of the houses.