Monday, January 18, 2016

Star Struck

I am by no means a celebrity aficionado: I barely recognize celebrity names, have none I'd claim fandom of and have never watched any award show nor read a celeb-oriented magazine, but there are times when I am indeed star struck by a bird that seems, to me, to be a celebrity. Many of these are target birds, species I long to see, and last May I had the opportunity to see a spectacular one on a trip to California.

I've passed through California frequently as a cruise departure port or airline layover, but rarely take the time to visit the state - a sore deficiency on my part, as there are many lovely birding areas in the Golden State. Yet on this trip I wasn't birding per se, but was enjoying some of the more commonplace - and not so commonplace - tourist attractions in a brief couple of days. One of those days yielded far more birding than I'd have thought possible.

With just a few hours available, my husband and I planned to visit one southern California destination we both desired to see - Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. In mapping out how to drive there, I discovered some trails that might be good for a brief birding walk, but I had no idea how good they would be. By luck alone, this one stop would truly be a star-studded experience.

First, we were able to get outstanding views (smog notwithstanding) of the famed Hollywood sign, an icon I'd been wanting to see for years. Second, the observatory - a free facility to visit - was far more comprehensive and beautifully laid out than we'd imagined. And third, for me - the birds. I'd hoped to see an acorn woodpecker, an easily recognized and distinctive species, and I'd have been content just to add that one bird to my life list. Little did I know that I'd also be adding several others to my list in just that stop in a very small portion of Griffith Park. Among the birds I saw were not only a dozen or more acorn woodpeckers with incredible, easy views, but I also added the wrentit and rufous-crowned sparrow to my life list that day. The next day, I'd also add the white-throated swift to my list, albeit in a different location.

I'd not have expected such amazing birding in such a dense urban area, but it serves as a reminder that anywhere can be a great birding destination. I can't wait to return to the same area and explore the park - and other birding hotspots in southern California - more thoroughly, and who knows, maybe I'll see a few more feathered celebrities.

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