Green-backed Lesser Goldfinch:
I was in San Jose, CA last month for a work conference- SMX West. It was great to get the latest SEO strategies and tips from the experts. I was there for 3 days, but I was so busy attending sessions I didn't have a chance to bird until the last day. It worked out better that way anyway- it was finally sunny and in the 60s for my final afternoon in San Jose when I had an hour to kill before my flight home.
Although San Jose is a large city, I was confident I could find a nice city park to bird. My strategy is to plot my central location (San Jose Convention Center) on Google Maps and then zoom out until I spot a green patch. I found Guadalupe River Park, which runs throughout the city.
There was an entrance just a couple blocks from the Convention Center, which was convenient. I spent some time reading the Google Place reviews, which were helpful because they made me aware that it might not be the safest place to go alone. Some of the comments mentioned homeless people living there, which isn't uncommon but good to be aware of. I remember when I used to bird at the Charles River in Watertown I would sometimes notice a homeless person's tent/shelter in the woods off the path. It's important to be aware of your surroundings and be on alert when you go birding alone. I only go during the day and try to choose areas that are well-populated. If I encounter someone who makes me feel uncomfortable I just move away from the secluded area and go back to the more populated part of the park/path. When you're following the scent of a rare or life bird it can be difficult to pull yourself away, but stop and think about what's more important- your personal safety.
Anyway, fortunately I didn't encounter anyone dangerous during my short time birding at Guadalupe River Park, although I did notice some homeless people working on their shelter in the woods across the river. They were shouting and hammering away, which made me notice them. I just simply moved back toward the road where it was more populated and where I wouldn't be bothering them and vice versa. Unfortunately as birders we're rather conspicuous with our binoculars and cameras. I didn't want them to think I was looking at them, which was difficult because there were some warblers down that end of the path, but it wasn't worth upsetting some unpredictable homeless people.
In addition to the Green-backed Lesser Goldfinch pictured above, I saw many other life birds. That's the most exciting part about traveling- getting to see new birds. Since I had never seen one before, the Lesser Goldfinch took some research to identify. I always start with the most distinguishing characteristic- in this case the fat beak typical of finches. Since most of my bird guides are for the Eastern U.S., California birds are not usually pictured. In the end it took some searches and my Crossley ID Guide to find this bird.
Allen's or Anna's? Hummingbird:
Female Allen's or Anna's? Hummingbird:
The Hummingbirds are another tricky ID for me. Although I had seen California hummingbirds before when I was in San Francisco, I needed to take a closer look at these. It's been hard for me to find exact matches in my Crossley ID Guide, or through Google Image searches. I'm leaning toward Anna's though. Advice?
These Black Phoebes were very fun to watch. They were the alarm birds of the park- everywhere I walked they flitted around sounding the alarm call for other birds. Before I ID-ed this bird I called it the "shama" bird because the shape and contrasting colors reminded me of the White-rumped Shama I saw in Hawaii.
Another life bird for me. I was surprised to see this pair swimming through the murky, trash-lined river as I looked down from the footbridge above. Just goes to show- always be on the lookout for birds!
Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler:
This as an interesting ID- it looked like a yellow-rumped warbler, but with a yellow throat. I just had to look up my Sibley Guide and look at the variations for the yellow-rumped.
Injured or diseased Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler:
Initially I thought this bird was preening after a bath, but the closer I looked I noticed some raw red spots on its neck. I'm not sure if this was the result of a fight, or perhaps some sort of disease.
And finally, I have a mystery bird. My initial guess is a Warbling Vireo, but I'm open to suggestions!