On Tuesday October 20th at O’Melveny Park I led the first bird walk for SFVAS since our Coronavirus pause. It it was so nice to go out with a group of people to spot and talk about birds again. With a full limit of ten participants, all of whom had made a reservation, agreed to wear a mask and maintain social distancing, we started up the road past the grapefruit orchard. There we saw all the usual suspects foraging under the trees: Lesser Goldfinches, Yellow–rumped Warblers, Oregon Juncos and White -Crowned Sparrows in abundance.
As we continued up to the grassy lawn we spotted the first of the many Hermit Thrushes we found that day. Most were seen near the margins of the grass and the chaparral. As we continued up the road we saw another regular winter resident of the park, a Red-breasted Sapsucker. He was not near the usual sapsucker hangout on the east lawn, where there is a California Pepper tree that is ringed with thousands of sapsucker holes, but rather at the last section of grass before the road narrows into a small footpath.
As we walked up the path single file we got an unusually close look at a Wrentit who agreeably posed for the photographers in the in the group. A little higher up we paused to ponder the identity of a hawk perched faraway on the edge of the hilltop. We all finally concluded it was a Red-tail with an unusually pale, practically white breast.
As we headed back down the hill at the end of the walk some of us paused at the benches to reflect about how we felt about the process of the walk. I got feedback that everyone felt safe with the rules in place and the venue of a large park with mostly wide paths and grass lawns helped. Also, because this walk takes place on a Tuesday away from weekend crowds social distancing was a bit easier that it might otherwise be. So I am declaring this first experiment in birding during a pandemic a success.
(Landing page featured image by David Zalubowski/AP)