As I have already mentioned in my post about finding and identifying a California Gnatcatcher I spent quite a bit of time wandering what little open spaces are left in the small portion of Yorba Linda I could reach on foot from where we were staying over the holidays.  I did this both because I am a birder and am therefore a bit compulsive but also because a house populated by four women and three children, that is, Daisy, her two sisters and their mom, our four-year-old niece, Audrey, and our not-a-year-old-yet-but-you’d-never-know-it-to-hear-him-wail nephew, Aaron, and, well, you will understand why on occasion I had to head for the hills, even if those hills were covered with subdivisions.  As I have already mentioned, I was pleasantly surprised and pleased by the variety of bird life that manages to survive and thrive in what little space is not devoted to pavement and houses.  So, without further ado, here are some of the birds that I was lucky enough to come across in my wanderings.

First up, the phoebes, both Black Phoebe and Say’s Phoebe.  Black Phoebes are everywhere in southern California while Say’s Phoebes are a bit more scarce, though still common.  There was one Say’s Phoebe that I could rely on every morning to sit in nice morning light and let me digiscope it for three or four shots before it went on its way after a bug.  For Californians these two birds must blend into the background and for California birders they are probably trash birds but I can’t get enough of the two charismatic phoebes.

Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans both above and below

Say’s Phoebe Sayornis saya above and below

White-crowned Sparrows were impossible to avoid on my outings.  In fact, several were spending their winter in the margins of a small parking lot up the street!  It was a pleasure to get so many good looks at a sharp-looking sparrow like the White-crowned Sparrow, a treat for an eastern birder who generally only gets to see them on occasion in migration.  Even better was working my way through the flocks of white-crowneds and actually being rewarded occasionally with a Golden-crowned Sparrow.  Sure, it wasn’t wildly out of place like some lucky people have experienced of late but regardless of where they are seen Golden-crowned Sparrows are a really cool little bird.

White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys

first-winter Golden-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia atricapilla

Golden-crowned Sparrow and White-crowned Sparrow

And there was a whole big bunch of other birds as well…

Bewick’s Wren Thryomanes bewickii

Allen’s Hummingbird Selasphorus sasin (and, no, I don’t know what is up with those gorget feathers)

male Bushtit Psaltriparus minimus

Western Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma californica

California Quail Callipepla californica

female Bushtit Psaltriparus minimus

So when you are in an unfamiliar place with birds you don’t see very often around don’t be afraid to check out some marginal habitat.  You may be surprised at what you find.  I know I was!

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.