Similar to the trip November 18th trip, this trip was led by Brian Nichols and was a tour of The Ponds at Castle Rock development and surrounds. There were a few birders with life lists in the thousands, others with decades of birding under their belts and still others from various parts of the country which made for a nice mix of experience levels. The morning began sunny and just a little chilly, but turned colder and cloudier as the morning wore on. Our trip this time we began at the pond in the middle of the development where we immediately spotted a Green Heron, American Widgeon, and American Coots. We then explored the common fields and saw a few White-crowned Sparrows, Lincoln’s, Lark, and Brewer’s sparrows skulking among the weeds. Since the birds seemed to be hunkered down, Brian decided we should travel to Woodland Road and see what we could find there. We had slightly better luck seeing common birds, such as Great-tailed Grackle, Rock Pigeon, and Mourning Dove, Cactus Wren, Common Raven, Gila Woodpecker, European Starling, Abert’s Towhee, American Kestrel, Verdin, and Lesser Goldfinch. The goldfinches were especially cheering as they were in groups of about 50 or so birds. We also saw a Prairie Falcon perched on a eucalyptus tree.
After a short break at the gas station where we saw Harris’ Hawk, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and a Costa’s Hummingbird, we again entered Castle Rocks and traveled to one of the larger ponds. However, first we stopped at a smaller pond to see if we could pick up the Eastern Phoebe that someone in the group claimed to have seen. Although we checked and rechecked the pond several times, we saw only Yellow-rumped Warblers and Vermillion Flycatchers in the area. The larger pond held American Coots, Mallards, including a Mexican Mallard mix, American Widgeon, Common Merganser, Ringed-necked Ducks, and two Pied-billed Grebes. The surrounding trees held Ruby-crowned Kinglet, tons of Yellow-rumped Warblers, a pair of Red-naped Sapsuckers (probably the same pair we saw in November) and another Costa’s hummingbird. We again went around to the back of the pond, but alas, no show such as that in November waited for us there. It is an incredible place though. I simply closed my eyes and drank in the woodsy/salty/cinnamon-y/ eucalyptus smell of the place. Had it been a little warmer, I might have curled up for a peaceful nap there. On our way out of the pond area, we got really good looks at a Green Heron hunkered down on the back side of the pond. At the last stop before leaving, we watched a Peregrine Falcon be chased from his perch by a Red-tailed hawk. I skipped Agua Caliente park this time in favor of some hot grub at home.
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