March 23, 2011

Lawrence's Goldfinches at San Timoteo Creek

"Striking in appearance and enigmatic in behavior": Lawrence's Goldfinch, Carduelis lawrencei, a photo by Bill Bouton on Flickr.

On Sunday my buddy Linn, a.k.a. Hawkeye, called with an invite to bird Hulda Crooks Park in Loma Linda before the storm arrived. Local birder Tarik Townsend had seen Lawrence's Goldfinches at the park, and selasphorus hummingbirds [pdf] had been spotted there too, so we bundled up against the cold and headed off with those species in mind.

From the Cornell Lab's All about Birds:
A handsome and uncommon small finch, Lawrence's Goldfinch breeds across a small range in the woodlands of California and Baja California. Its highly erratic movements from year to year make assessment of its population trends very difficult.
They migrate east/west — how cool is that?

I'd seen one at Cal State San Bernardino in early February when Tom Benson led a beginner bird walk there — Tom wrote that it was the earliest in the year he'd seen one on campus by about a month. Linn hadn't seen one yet this year.

The clouds were pitch dark and spitting rain, but we did get some good looks at a selasphorus hummingbird [he had a brown back and a bland throat, so I'm thinking hatch-year male Rufous...?] right before the storm began in earnest.

Or we thought it began in earnest. But it only poured for five or ten minutes, and then quit.

So after a quick Starbucks run we drove down Fern Avenue to San Timoteo Creek and a little marshy area off San Timoteo Canyon Road. We hadn't been there for more than a minute when Linn found four, count 'em, four Lawrence's Goldfinches in a dead tree just north of the creek. Quite awesome — two handsome males and two females. After a minute they flew off to the northwest, but we stuck around a bit longer to check out the resident Yellowthroat, a few swallows [no Cliff Swallows yet - they nest under the nearby bridge], the ubiquitous Yellow-rumps, and the Red-winged Blackbirds. Then we quit, because it was about 50F freezing cold. The storm hit later that night, flooding area roads and bringing tons of birds to my feeders the next day, as rainy weather tends to do.

San Timoteo Creek between Fern Avenue and Alessandro Road is a good place to bird: see more here and here [map, pdf].

The Flickr photo above was taken by Bill Bouton at Chimineas Ranch in San Luis Obispo County, California.

See also:
Davis, Jeff N. 1999. Lawrence's Goldfinch (Spinus lawrencei), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:

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