Castle Rock/Pine Canyon, this morning, 5/12/19

tracy_farrington
 

A morning walk in Castle Rock Regional Park (Walnut Creek), and further up into Pine Canyon,
produced some pleasant Springtime rewards. The setting, as is so often the case this time of year, was
positively bucolic: clear skies, mild temperatures, and just enough breeze to gently deliver the redolence
of our oak woodlands.
As I stepped from my car, I was greeted by a singing WILSON'S WARBLER. Shortly thereafter, at the outset
of my walk, I heard the first, of what would become several, ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS. West of the
swimming pool and adjacent to the basketball court, sits is a stand of Locust trees. As I expected, there
was a nesting pair of BULLOCK'S ORIOLES; what I did not expect, however, was to also find a nesting pair
of WESTERN KINGBIRDS. A kingbird nest, specifically in these trees, is a first for me.
WESTERN BLUEBIRDS were fairly abundant, and several of the bird boxes provided were occupied by them.
After leaving the recreation area, and ~200 ft. before getting to the first cattle gate, I heard quite a lot of
activity on the right (west side) of the trail. At about this point, there's an old wooden fence post that shares the
space with some short snags. To the left there's a good sized oak right next to the fence. In that one tree I found
two pair of Bullock's Orioles, each tending to a nest; another Western Kingbird nest; a pair of nesting
Western Bluebirds, and a couple of LARK SPARROWS, anxiously courting. The under-story was being defended
by a HOUSE WREN. In the nearby small, broken oak closest to the trail, a pair of MOURNING DOVES were
tending to their nestlings.
A bit further along, near the junction with Shell Ridge Loop trail, I first heard, then finally sighted, a LAZULI BUNTING.
I'm hoping for a successful nest, here. It's been at least three years since I've found any
sign of nest activity for this species, in this particular location.
The stretch of trail beyond, where the canyon narrows and becomes quite wooded, can be very attractive.
Several pair of AMERICAN ROBINS were found nesting, and a female BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK was gathering
what appeared to be nesting material. In the distance a male was singing, non-stop. Moving on, another grosbeak was
heard, along with ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS (2), and a WARBLING VIREO.
Where the trail opens up, I climbed to the bench at the top of the berm, and found another nesting pair of House
Wrens. They were using the small wooden bird box in the oak just to the left of the bench. A BROWN CREEPER, was
singing, almost continuously, and by the looks of several dead branches supporting loose bark, I suspected a nest was nearby.
The face of the Castle Rocks to the north was backdrop for dozens of WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS, and VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS.
One pair of swallows was seen inspecting a couple of cavities in the large oak at the foot of the berm.
At times during my walk, I could hear the collective "laughter" of WILD TURKEYS serving as an occasional chorus, of sorts.
For more than twenty years I've had the good fortune, and the privilege, to live but five minutes from this wonderful and
accessible habitat.

Good Spring, and happy birding.
Tracy Farrington
Walnut Creek

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