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Bird Talk

BIRD TALK: THE COMMON RAVEN

 

By Greg Dunne                                             

August 10, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)--The Raven has such an undeserved reputation--always associated with darkness, despair, death. Right away one thinks of Ravens and Alfred Hitchcock, the Addams family, or Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” and the movies inspired by Poe’s poetry, the 1935 classic “The Raven” starting Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. The list of Raven influence and culture is endless.

BIRD TALK: THE GREAT BLUE HERON

 

By Greg Dunne                                          

August 8, 2014 (Lake Murray) --Always dazzling when you see them with their long S-shaped necks, usually standing motionless, they look as if they are in stealth mode. The Great Blue Heron is one of our largest, most majestic birds in the East County.

BIRD TALK: THE COMMON HOUSE FINCH & NOT SO COMMON RELATIVES

 

April 21, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) --There is a staggering estimated population of up to 1.4 billion House Finches across North America. If the birding scientific estimates are accurate, that would be about the same as the number of people in China today!  When you consider that the House Finch was originally only in the western United States and Mexico until 1940, its success in population growth is even more impressive.

BIRD TALK: THE ELUSIVE BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER

 

By Greg Dunne

March 15, 2014 (Cowles Mountain)--The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher is a small songbird living here in our East County that reminds me of the Wrentit.  It mainly reminds me of the Wrentit because it is not easily seen.  It is always a thrill when you can get a glimpse of this beautiful, but tiny bird. It will be a great time to observe small songbirds now that the rains have cleared and the sun reappears.

BIRD TALK: MT. FORTUNA’S WRENTIT

By Greg Dunne

January 24, 2014 (Mission Trails) -- Instead of being  glued to the sofa and TV watching championship football games to see who will be going to the Super Bowl, I got a big pay-off with a photo of a cute little bird on Sunday.  I passed a few hikers along the way to the top of Mt. Fortuna out at Mission Trails Regional Park on Sunday afternoon.  How can you beat the great weather we have for hiking here in the East County, especially considering the hard winter the East Coast is getting right now?

The big pay-off for me was my first photo of this warm and fuzzy Wrentit. 

BIRD TALK: MIGRATORY BIRDS

 

By Greg Dunne

December 17, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Our County has many migratory birds.  This week, I’m highlighting two of them: the Northern Shoveler Duck (although a few will stay year round) and a small song bird, the Townsend’s Warbler, a winter visitor.

The Northern Shoveler is primarily a winter visitor to the County, abundant this time of year at Santee Lakes, Lindo Lake and I’ve even spotted a few this year at Lake Murray. The Northern Shoveler is a medium sized duck with a very long bill that is wider at the tip than the base. It has a glossy dark green head similar to the Mallard Duck but the bill of the shoveler stands out from any other duck.  Shovelers use this bill to filter out food from the water.

BIRD TALK: NESTS - HOMES FOR BIRDS

 

By Greg Dunne

July 24, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Bird nests can be hard to observe. We usually just stumble across them out in nature. One place you can always see a large variety of Egret and Heron nests is in the Eucalyptus trees at Lindo Lake.

“Large” fledgling Egrets and Herons are leaving the nest at this time of the year. I say large because the Snowy and Great Egret babies getting ready to leave the nest are as big as their parents. It always looks a little odd to see Mother Egret feeding a bird nearly her own size in a very crowded nest.

BIRD TALK: THE WESTERN BLUEBIRD

 

 

By Greg Dunne

June 22, 2013 (Alpine)--“I'm a bluebird, I'm a bluebird I'm a bluebird, yeah, yeah, yeah,” to quote Paul McCartney. Just last week our “children” left the nest here in Alpine, our Western Bluebird children, that is. We enjoyed their company for about three weeks.

We have a birdhouse sitting on the railing going down steps leading to the front door of our house. It was put there some time ago just for yard décor; we thought it was too close to everyday foot traffic to be a choice place to set up raising baby birds.

BIRD TALK: BULLOCK’S ORIOLE

 

By Greg Dunne

March 16, 2013 (Lake Murray) -- Spring has sprung, warm weather is here and the wild Ramona Lilac is in bloom all over the hills in the East County. It is the time of year to keep a keen eye open for the Oriole. These birds winter in Mexico and then start to come north as the days get longer. In my experience, March and April have always been the best time to observe these beautiful, bright yellow-orange birds with sharp contrasting black on the back, throat and top of the head.

BIRD TALK: THE CATUS WREN

 

By Greg Dunne

February 21, 2013 (Lake Jennings) --   Many birds call both California and Arizona their home.  Although our state bird, the California Quail, crosses over into other states, it does not cross over to our neighbor to the east in Arizona.  However, the Arizona state bird, the Cactus Wren also calls our East County its home.

The Cactus Wren can be found here occasionally in Southern California. This particular Cactus Wren I photographed at Lake Jennings. It was having a good time making itself known; its loud alarm call “tek-tek-tek-tek” as it gets louder and louder towards the end.  It seems to me that wrens can throw their voices. This would make sense because wrens will try to distract you from their nest by making themselves heard as they move farther and farther from the nest.

BIRD TALK: RARE BIRDS IN EAST COUNTY

By Greg Dunne

November 15, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)--We have our share of rare bird sightings now and then in our East County. The three I am going to talk about are the Greater White-Fronted Goose, the Nutmeg Mannikin, and the Vermilion Flycatcher. The Vermilion Flycatcher and the Nutmeg Mannikin are going to be the hardest to spot by the novice birder, but with any experience watching birds you should be able to see these uncommon visitors.  The Greater White-Footed Goose on the other hand can easily be seen any time of day at Lindo Lake.

BIRD TALK: THE CALIFORNIA VALLEY QUAIL

By Greg Dunne

September 24, 2012 (Alpine)--The California State Bird is the California Valley Quail. Over the past two seasons, I have had the pleasure of having a covey of California Quail living in my back yard!

My last count, as of yesterday, is nine quail living in my back yard. I remember seeing the new little chicks around the end of April. The chicks are now as big as the adults are, however, you can still tell the juveniles from the adults by the size of the plumes on the top of their heads as well as the markings and feathers that are not as deep and striking as the adults’ markings.

BIRD TALK: THE ANNA'S HUMMINGBIRD

By Greg Dunne
                                                
August 8, 2012 (Lake Jennings)--I am going to make an assumption here, but I believe that the Hummingbird is everyone’s favorite backyard bird.

Although there have been sightings of 10 different species of Hummingbirds in San Diego County, our resident Hummingbirds are the Black-chinned Hummingbird, Costa’s Hummingbird, and, probably the most commonly seen Hummingbird here in the East County, Anna’s Hummingbird. The Hummingbirds’ range is strictly throughout North and South America. They fascinated the first Europeans to arrive on the continent. Christopher Columbus wrote about them and many wondered if they were a cross between a bird and an insect – at one point being called “flybirds”. Later, their feathers became fashionable ornaments in Europe (a practice that has thankfully fallen out of favor).

BIRD TALK: THE BLACK CROWNED HERON

 

 
 
By Greg Dunne
                                                
June 26, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)--Although the Black-Crowned Night Heron is mostly nocturnal and not commonly seen by the casual observer, it can also be seen during the day.  

BIRD TALK: THE DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT

 

By Greg Dunne
                                                
April 27, 2012 (Lake Jennings) –The Cormorant is a silly bird. That’s what I named my favorite photograph of the Cormorant, which I  entered in the Lake Jennings photo contest.  My photo received an honorable mention and will receive a ribbon, which I will proudly display on my desk. Before I provide more information on Cormorants—including why they are silly birds-- I would like to mention a few words about the rangers and staff at Lake Jennings. 

 

BIRD TALK: THE AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN

 
By Greg Dunne
                                                
March 27, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)--  You might ask what a Pelican is doing inland at any of these East County Lakes: Lake Murray, Lake Jennings, Santee Lakes and Lindo Lake.  Most people associate Pelicans with the sea coast, as do I.  When I see Pelicans at La Jolla Cove it seems perfectly natural and there are always plenty of them to be seen.  Of the two species of Pelicans in our area, The Brown Pelican and the American White Pelican, it’s the American White Pelican that is frequently seen at and around our lakes in the East County.  

 

BIRD TALK: THE REGAL OSPREY

 

 
By Greg Dunne
                                                
February 14, 2012  (Lake Murray) --  One of the royalty members of the skies in the bird world is the Osprey. The king of raptors may go to the Bald Eagle, but on an equal hierarchy as the Eagle is the magnificence Sea Hawk, Fish Hawk, Sea Eagle--  more commonly known today as the Osprey.

BIRD TALK: MANDARIN DUCKS SIGHTED AT SANTEE LAKES

 

By Greg Dunne

January 16, 2012 (Lindo Lake) --  The latest poser for my Canon was this beautiful Mandarin Duck on January 14.  On a cold, cloudy Saturday  morning at the water’s edge at Lindo Lake it was my first new bird of the year 2012!  This is the first time I’ve seen a Mandarin Duck in the wild.

BIRD TALK: THE WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW


By Greg Dunne
                                                
January 4, 2012 (Lake Murray) -- The Sparrow is not exactly an exotic or glamorous bird, but it’s one with which we are all familiar.  This column highlights just a couple of the many sparrows in our area. Have some fun and try to guess how many different varieties of sparrows have passed through or are residents of our fine county that the San Diego Natural History Museum list on their website.  Answer at the end of article, and I’ll give you a hint, it’s over 10.

BIRD TALK: WILD TURKEYS AND TURKEY VULTURES

By Greg Dunne                               

November 16, 2011 (Harbison Canyon) -- It’s November, the month when we all enjoy turkey at Thanksgiving. So this edition of Bird Talk is on the wild turkey and the other turkey namesake bird, the turkey vulture.

The wild turkey is not native to California, although it is native to North America. Numerous attempts tointroduce the turkey to California failed. Then in the early 1990s a second attempt was successful.  Today, wild turkeys can be seen throughout the back hills of East San Diego County. 

BIRD TALK: THE GREEN HERON

By Greg Dunne

                                                
November 2, 2011 (Lake Murray) --This is one of my favorite birds. It’s also John Vanderpoel’s  #183 bird on his 2011 “Big Year” bird list. More on that later.
 
The Green Heron is an odd sort of bird, short and stocky; it reminds me of a cartoon caricature from the 1960’s.  It is smart, tough, and intolerant of other birds--even other herons!  

NEW COLUMN! BIRD TALK: THE GREAT EGRET

By Greg Dunne

 

October 21, 2011 (Santee) -- This resident of the East County can be found at many lakes in our area. Egrets have been found as far east as Cuyamaca Lake, but are commonly seen at Lindo Lake, Lake Jennings and Santee Lakes, where this Great Egret was photographed.

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