My most recent visit to Orange County gave me a chance to spend a short time at Newport Bay.
Most folks are aware of Newport Beach a city centered around the lower bay with multimillion dollar homes and a large boat harbor. Very few are aware that the bay extends several miles inland and serves as an important ecological reserve.
The Daily Bucket is a nature refuge. We amicably discuss animals, weather, climate, soil, plants, waters and note life’s patterns.
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The upper end is just a mile or two south of the Orange County Airport and large airliners flyover every couple of minutes, sometimes quietly gliding in for a landing or with engines screaming as they work to gain altitude.
I first visited the northwestern edge of the reserve on top of the bluffs. It has a number of trails along the bluffs through the coastal scrub which is undergoing restoration. Many of the plants have ID signs. There is the Muth Interpretive Center but I didn’t enter because I had such a short time frame.
What is interesting is that most of the plants look dead and dried out, typical for summer and fall in SoCal. But the roots are still very much alive. When the rains come these plants spring to life.
I looked but didn’t see any birds in the brush except for a mourning dove that perched on a rope set up to cordon off the restoration area.
I did manage to spot a couple of egrets on the marshlands.
I then headed toward the eastern side of the bay. I stopped at another vista point where I spotted several birds enjoying the quiet waters of the farthest part of the bay.
I saw two little brown dots on the water. Even with my lens at max zoomed (600), they were still might small. Here are my attempts to magnify.
I kept hearing songbirds chirping and when I turn around I realized that one of the houses on the bluff above the bay had a bird feeder. It was in deep shadow and I was in the sun so a decent picture was all but impossible. I identified house finches and a mourning dove but they were constantly moving and showed up as blurs. This was the best I could get.
There is a road called Back Bay Drive that hugs the east side of the bay below the bluffs. It is one way with ample room for walkers and bikers to enjoy the reserve. There are a couple of places where you can park and walk. There are level trails and benches available accessible for those with mobility issues at a couple of parking lots along the drive.
Viewed additional birds as I drove along the road. I hopped out at the Big Canyon parking lot and found the following:
Finished up continuing along the drive.
The last bird I found I could not identify in my field guides. It appears to be a Pintail Whydah, an invasive species native to Africa. That is a male in full breeding colors.
If it is a Whydah, this species is a parasitic breeder. The hen takes over another finch’s nest, lays her eggs and her babies are raised instead of their own. I spoke with a local birder who let me know that the Whydahs tend to use other nonnative species such as spice finches and munias rather than the local birds.
When I have more time I plan on going back and exploring some areas that I didn’t have time to see.
Orange County is expected to be in the low 80s for the next few days with the marine layer coming in each day to keep the temperatures moderate.
What’s up in your neck of the woods?