A year ago I visited Blue Lake Park when I realized it was in my newly created 5-mile radius. I had only been there once before, a brief stop on my bike in 2013, and had no idea just how much good habitat was tucked away there.
For whatever reason, they made this map upside down. On the west end (right side of map) that dotted trail is awesome with boardwalks and viewing decks around a wetland planted with native plants. The open field in the middle floods and the geese and ducks love it. The lake itself has non-migratory Wood Ducks, kingfishers, Bald Eagles, and all the things you would expect. Shorebird habitat is the only thing missing.
After seeing how much potential it had and how little it was eBirded I decided to make it my new patch for a year. eBird had 72 species reported in the park, now there are 112. I have had 99 myself. Let's check out some highlights.
Last December I hung out with Jacob for the first time outside of Birds and Beers and I chose Blue Lake as our destination. He noticed a Snow Goose in the massive goose flock on the lawn.
In mid-December I visited on one of our many snow days. The park was often technically closed because of snow/ice/fallen trees/etc but I would park up the road and walk in.
On Christmas afternoon I walked around and found the owl spot. Pellets everywhere, many that looked fresh, though I could not spot an owl that day.
In January I finally discovered the owl but couldn't get photos at first. On my 5-mile radius Big Day Challenge against Steve and Nate we didn't see the owl, though the park gave us our only Hermit Thrush of the day.
Later in January I experienced my first squirrel-in-a-trash-can there.
Also my first Hutton's Vireo for the park.
One afternoon in mid-February Jacob and I found a Say's Phoebe fly-catching around the main field.
In March I realized California ground-squirrels live there.
I also managed photos of the resident owl for the first time.
Yeah. A freakin Barn Owl. It was a semi-reliable sight at the park for almost nine months. Unfortunately Great Horneds and a Barred may have sent it on its way, either to another location or to its grave.
In April things started to get fun with migrant warblers including Nashville, Wilson's, Orange-crowned, Black-throated Gray, and of course Yellow-rumped.
A drizzly May morning produced a family of Hooded Mergansers which I never saw again. I am guessing they hijacked a Wood Duck box, which I fully support.
That same morning I stumbled upon a Great Horned Owl family.
In the evening I went back with Jacob and Matthew to check them out, and we had bonus piles of Western Tanagers and an impressive double rainbow.
In June I was surprised to find a Red-eyed Vireo in the trees as this is not an easy bird in the county away from a few known locations.
The Great Horned owlets were growing up but still being cute.
In July I met this ugly baby American Goldfinch:
August was good for flycatchers, like this Western Wood-Pewee taking on a moth:
The loudest Cooper's Hawk ever was also present.
Late September brought more new park birds like Purple Finch and Lincoln's Sparrow.
October brought in a flock of American Pipits plus my first White-throated Sparrows for the park.
I concluded my year of birding Blue Lake this week on a surprisingly sunny morning. There are no longer fresh owl pellets to poke, and I haven't seen an owl in awhile. I had 41 species for my efforts, a fine checklist for a November morning. Townsend's Warbler was my 99th bird for the park.
I also had five Greater White-fronted Geese which I had not seen there since 2013.
Not a bad way to end a year of patch-flogging! It was nice to always have somewhere to bird, somewhere with no dogs and no homeless camps, yet never a lot of people. Watching a location change from month to month is fun, and I hope to find somewhere just as great to call my patch in my new 5MR.
Good times and happy patch birding!