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8907Ruff continues in the East Anaheim area, late Saturday

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  • Willick, Doug
    Aug 3, 2014

      On Saturday evening (2 August), the Ruff continued on the “upper” Santa Ana River (as far as Orange County is concerned), in the east Anaheim area (about 500 to 600 yards downstream [west] of the Imperial Highway crossing, as measured on Google Earth).  The bird moved around a little, but was usually just a little downstream of the first small “drop structure” west of Imperial.  This is the bird that was first found on 23 July 2014 by Mike Huang.  The easiest access, as mentioned during previous posts, is to park in the shopping plaza just west of Imperial, along the south side of La Palma.  Drive to the far (south) end of the shopping plaza and park.  This parking area is on the north of the Santa Ana River (SAR), and provides direct access to the river.  One can either walk downstream (west) along the north side of the SAR, or cross over to the south side (using walkway along Imperial), and then take the official biketrail downstream along the river.  There were decent numbers, though only a modest variety, of shorebirds there Saturday evening.  The Ruff was usually either foraging by itself, or occasionally loosely associating with a flock of Long-billed Dowitchers, and peep.  The bird is an adult, and appears to still be in mostly alternate plumage, though a few basic (winter) plumage feathers can now be seen coming in.  The bird appears to be a female, based in part on the alternate plumage (though it’s interesting to learn that a very small percentage of male Ruffs have an alternate plumage that closely resembles that of females), and more particularly on its size in comparison to the other shorebirds that were present (the bird appears to have a body mass no greater than that of a dowitcher).  I may be going out on a limb here, but there may be circumstantial evidence to suggest that this is a returning bird, one that possibly wintered here last winter, and potentially even the last two winters (this based on a series of Ruff records along the “upper SAR”, going back to spring 2013, all that appeared to involve adult females).  So I’ll be very curious to see what this current Ruff ends up doing.  Shorebird habitat is currently more limited in the upper SAR, as although right now there is plenty of water in the SAR for a ways downstream of Imperial, the river bed becomes completely dry by the next crossing downstream (Lakeview Ave., about 1.5 miles to the west).  There has been no water in the Lincoln to Tustin Ave. crossing of the SAR since this past May.  Other birds of local interest along the SAR, on 2 Aug., included a singing Blue Grosbeak and five or six Black Skimmers, which came flying upstream, and appeared to keep on going past Imperial Highway.    


      Of more local interest, a pair of Dark-eyed (“Oregon”) Juncos are nesting in the Fairhaven Memorial Park side of the Fairhaven/Santa Ana Cemetery complex in Santa Ana.  A territorial male had been present here in early summer, and on 2 July I was able to discover the male was paired.  This past week (29 July and 1 August) I was pleased to see that the pair had an active nest (watched the adults making multiple visits, carrying food).  Although juncos are known to be regular breeders in the Santa Ana Mountains portion of Orange County, and on occasion in the foothills at the base of the mountains, up until recently this species had been known to breed only once or twice in the coastal lowlands (in the early 1990s at Huntington Central Park).  More recently it appears that Dark-eyed Juncos are beginning to show more evidence of nesting in the lowlands.  This year, in addition to the pair in Santa Ana, summering (and confirmed nesting) Dark-eyed Juncos were present on the U.C. Irvine campus, and in a residential area of Newport Beach.  This trend of lowland nesting juncos has been seen for some time in other coastal Southern California counties, especially to our north.  So it appears it was just a matter of time before this trend began to be seen in OC as well.


      Doug Willick

      Orange, CA

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