Sunday, May 25, 2014

Farewell tour of the USA

I'm writing this from our new house in Maynooth, County Kildare, Ireland. We arrived early Wednesday morning on a red-eye from Boston.  My wife, both kids and I survived and are adjusting to our new home.  But before we arrived here, and after we left Oregon, we did a little farewell tour of the ol' U-S of A.  My wife was in a wedding in Southern California, so we jumped on the chance to spend a few days in sunny San Diego at a resort there.  We knew that the Sun is a rare commodity in Ireland and wanted to say bye to it in style. So we parked ourselves in a nice bungalow on an island in the bay and enjoyed the beach and most of the 5 pools.  We did pick a week where the temperature was over 100F every day, and most of San Diego was surrounded by fires, but we still had a nice relaxing time. I even managed to take my binoculars for a walk once or twice.
There were lots of Great Blue Herons around, maybe 10 different ones, they almost out-numbered the Gulls.

Great Blue Heron
Great-Blue Heron - San Diego CA
And this little Black-Crowned Night-Heron was hanging out at the cafe where my son and I were eating lunch while the girls were getting mani-pedis.  It would lurk and then grab whatever food fell onto the ground, even french fries.

Black-Crowned Night-Heron
Black-Crowned Night-Heron - San Diego CA
Surprisingly it could still fly after eating all that crap.  Just nearby we got to see some neat Jellyfish swimming alongside a boat dock.

Moon Jellyfish - San Diego CA
There were lots of yellow birds flying around and they were really hard to see against the light-green leaves.  But I saw some Western Tanagers and a few Wilson's Warblers.

Wilson's Warbler
Wilson's Warbler - San Diego CA
Another yellow bird that I saw, and a lifer, was a surprise Hooded Oriole, what a great looking bird.

Hooded Oriole
Hooded Oriole - San Diego CA
I was telling my family about it on our way to dinner later than night, and what do you know, there was another one.  There were also lots of Hummingbirds about.  Most were Anna's, but a few Costa's Hummingbirds were buzzing around too.

Costa's Hummingbird
Costa's Hummingbird - San Diego CA
Sadly I found a dead Swainson's Thrush that had flown into a door right after I had entered to get coffee one of the mornings there. I moved if off of the path in the hope that it was just stunned, but it never moved again.  I had hoped to see one in Oregon, but never did. But as luck would have it, I would see a 5 of them flying in and out of a hedgerow at the resort.  I can only guess that this was a group of recent fledglings that were still with their parents.

Swainson's Trush
Swainson's Thrush - San Diego CA
The other birding highlights of the trip was watching Little Terns dive bombing fish at the beach.  But they were far too fast for my camera to capture.  We were also there during a rash of wildfires throughout San Diego County.  There were 11 at one point. We were travelling further into California for a wedding and was actually afraid that we weren't going to be able to get to it.  But the fires were under control and the highway was open when we had to leave.  The fires did give us a nice sunset during dinner our last night at the resort.

Smoky Sunset
Smokey Sunset - San Diego CA
We left Sunny southern California for equally Sunny Pittsburgh to spend a few final days with family before our big jump across The Pond.
I was able to squeeze in a few hours birding in between parties and visiting Primanti Brothers. My goal was to get lots of eastern warblers on my life list.  A goal that I did not even add 1 to. I did manage to see some new-to-me birds though.  But really, I got so see some of my favorite east coast birds.
My first trip was to Beechwood Farms Preserve in Allegheny County. But alas, it was too cold for bugs to be out, so it was too cold for Warblers to be out too. But I did get to see some nice Eastern Bluebirds out enjoying the morning Sun.

Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird - Beechwood Farms Preserve, PA
I also saw my favorite hawk, a Red-Shouldered Hawk. It went into some trees, and then I saw it land on a wooden "T" where it ate something.

Red-Shouldered Hawk
Red-Shouldered Hawk - Beechwood Farms Preserve, PA
There were lots of woodpeckers about.  The first bird that I saw after getting out of my car was  Red-Bellied Woodpecker. And a Downy was in the same tree. Later I would see another Downy and then 2 Pileated Woodpeckers at different parts of the preserve.  Finally I tracked down a Northern Flicker by following it's very noisy calls.  There were also lots of Indigo Buntings about, but none that wanted their picture taken.  On my way back to my parents house I decided to stop by the Tarentum Bridge and try to see the resident Peregrine Falcons.  I looked around for a few minutes without seeing any, but on my way out I noticed one in the rear-view mirror.  I backed-up and parked and hopped out for another look.  Sure enough there was one in the same area where I'd seen them before.

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon - Tarentum, PA
And then I noticed a second one fly up.  When seen side-by-side it was easy to see that the first one that I spotted was the female and the other the male.

Peregrine Falcons
Peregrine Pair, male on left, female on right - Tarentum, PA
I also ran into Steve Gosser there.  Steve is a fantastic photographer from the area and has managed to get some incredible photos.  He told me that there may be a nest there and that there would be an inspection later that week.  As it turns out, there were 2 chicks there when I was, but I didn't know where to look.  There was a bit of excitement during the inspection, which can be read about here at Outside My Window if you would like to read about it. 
I snuck in one more chance to try and see some Warblers at Harrison Hills Park.  I finally did get to see a few, but none that I had not seen before.  I did tried really hard to see some Worm Eating Warblers, but dipped on them.  
One new bird was shouting it's name at me, an Eastern Wood Pewee.

Eastern Wood Pewee
Eastern Wood Pewee - Harrison Hills Park, PA
And nearby were 2 warblers, Black-and-White Warblers.  I managed to get a shot of one while it stopped to eat.

Black-and-White Warbler
Black-and-White Warbler - Tarentum, PA
And there were so many beautiful Scarlet Tanagers about.  This was the same park where I saw my first one the year before.  But I didn't a single good shot.  I saw at least 5, but there could have been twice that number.
Another warbler that I was surprised to see was a Common Yellowthroat, and I saw a pair of them too.

Common Yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroat - Harrison Hills Park, PA
Nearby I was surprised by one of my target birds in PA.  If I didn't see one before I left, I knew of a yard where the were readily seen.  But instead, this Rose-Breasted Grosbeak decided to same me an extra trip.

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
Rose-Breasted Grosbeak - Harrison Hills Park, PA
I was really hoping that this was a Worm Eating Warbler, but instead it's a fairly nice, if not exactly diagnostic, shot of a Red-Eyed Vireo, which was a lifer for me the day before at Beechwood Farms.

Red-Eyed Vireo
Red-Eyed Vireo - Harrison Hills Park, PA
I didn't have the warbler extravaganza that I had hoped for, but it was still enjoyable to get back to some familiar places for a proper goodbye.
So that's it for me bothering birds in North America. I had my first walk with binoculars in Ireland today and got to see some really great birds.  But because it was taking turns misting and raining, I didn't get any photos.  But it can't rain here every day, can it?

I'm already missing everyone back home (wherever that may be).  But the family and I are adjusting and my wife starts at work tomorrow.  We're still waiting for our household stuff to show up, along with my scope and waterproof shoes.  But I've already made a birding contact and will hopefully get out a bit this week and get some photos to share.  To be honest, I'm really missing my 7D, the SX50 isn't cutting it and I may not be able to wait to get back to the US to replace it.  We'll see though.

Thanks for making it this far,

Cheers from Ireland.  

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