Christmas Bird Count in Victorville, CA – Part 1

December 29, 2014 at 4:12 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, Nature, Nature photography, Wildlife) (, , )

Spring Lake community, Victorville, CA

Spring Lake community, Victorville, CA

I’ve participated in Christmas Bird Counts in Friendship, Maine; Big Bend National Park, Texas, and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia.  Here in Southern California, there are opportunities to join many more groups for this annual census of the birds.  On Saturday I explored a country-club development and an adjacent community college in nearby Victorville.

Male American wigeon

Male American wigeon

I went with Steve, who has been very active in the local birding community.  He was on the lookout for the usual suspects, as well as rarities he’d seen the year before.  He had a knack for summoning the very bird he was looking for – a rare Eurasian wigeon.

Eurasian Wigeon male

Eurasian Wigeon male

Easily identified by its rust-red head, as opposed to the green-cream heads of its American counterparts, Steve found it right away.  Then he saw another.  Two of these rarities, which most likely strayed off-course from Siberia.  A lifer for me!

Eurasian wigeon among American wigeons

Eurasian wigeon among hundreds of American wigeons

Eurasian wigeon stretching

Eurasian wigeon stretching

Wigeons are quite handsome ducks, and occur in large numbers here. Golf courses and their ponds are pretty good places to see a variety of birds.

American wigeon female

American wigeon female

Another rarity was a lone herring gull, easily identified by its pink legs among the common California and ring-billed gulls with their yellow-green legs.  Steve’s spotting scope pulled in distant birds my 6×30 power binoculars could barely see, and he was adept at scanning groups of “usual suspects” for unusual visitors.

Herring Gull

Herring Gull

American coots are ubiquitous and oh-so-ordinary.  But up close, their red eyes make an impression.

American Coot

American Coot

They are good prey for the peregrine falcon we saw patrolling the golf course ponds.  A pile of gray feathers was proof of that.  Falcons and hawks like to pluck their birds before carrying them off.  I once watched a Cooper’s Hawk pluck a chickadee until it looked like a tiny little supermarket chicken.

Peregrine Falcon, immature

Peregrine Falcon, immature

Mallards also fit into that “plain Jane” category as far as birds of interest go, but again, up close, the male’s head is a marvel of creative beauty.

Mallard drake

Mallard drake

Male northern shovelers also have green heads, but have long shovel-shaped bills and rust saddlebags.

Northern Shoveler Male

Northern Shoveler Male

Canada geese, too, are found just about everywhere, but are still handsome in flight.

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

We saw ruddy ducks, canvasbacks, buffleheads, eared and pied grebes, and several other types of water birds.  Then we visited the marsh near the college.  Stay tuned for the birds we found there.

Text and photographs copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

Feel free to reblog or share

Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

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