Musings of a roaming nature nerd

Breeding Season Begins

My southern California field season began a full two months ago and I’ve spent my days hiking and surveying for Cactus Wrens in the glorious, steep, chaparral country. But the job I was actually hired for (surveying for endangered Least Bell’s Vireos and Southwestern Willow Flycatchers) finally began just a week ago! Funding issues delayed access to river corridors on Camp Pendleton, but the birds don’t wait on budgets and bureaucracy. Breeding season is in full swing!

What a treat to be out over this past week. Although knee high rubber boots were often a necessity and poison oak abounds, nothing beats a sunrise start to the day serenaded by sweet bird song. Walking the channels of the Santa Margarita, San Onofre, and San Mateo rivers resulted in endless discoveries. Coyotes pranced across the empty washes at dawn. Startled whipsnakes darted away like lightning at the vibration of my footfall… except for the poor one I stepped on! He darted away later (hopefully uninjured), and I was just glad he wasn’t a rattlesnake! A little speckled fawn snuggled into the shade while its mother fed nearby. And baby birds were everywhere! Cottonball-like Killdeer, on tall spindly legs scampered around on the rocky sand banks. Hummingbird mamas frantically defended their button-sized chicks. And Least Bell’s Vireo papas, sang and sang and sang, even through mouthfuls of food for their young nestlings. Seeing what will hopefully be successful nests of an endangered bird especially brightens the days. A long season still awaits and if this first official week is any indication of how things will go, I am very excited to be out there in the thick of it!


Least Bell's Vireo nest


A Least Bell's Vireo nestling


A tiny Anna's Hummingbird nestling


An Allen's Hummingbird in brilliant breeding plumage! Look at that sheen of his gorget when he turns his head!


River's end


Dry river bed


Sunrise at the San Mateo


2 Responses

  1. Dad

    Glad to hear you’re finally working on the vireo project! :-)

    May 20, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    • annie

      I unwittingly walked into thicket full of poison oak, stinging nettles and raspberry thorns today, which made for a less wonderful day! But I’m still glad to be out there doing this kind work!

      May 21, 2012 at 2:03 pm