We left the San Jacintos and headed for Big Morongo Valley Preserve. The hosts at the preserve had several hummingbird feeders set up by their trailer. Watching the feeders produced great looks at Black-chinned, Anna’s, and Costa’s Hummingbirds. Other birds found around the feeding area included Black Phoebe, Western Scrub-Jay, Bushtit, and Lesser Goldfinch. Additional species found during a walk around the preserve’s Marsh Trail included Cooper’s Hawk, a calling Virginia Rail, Acorn and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, “Red-shafted” Flicker, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Cassin’s Kingbird, Verdin, House Wren, Bewick’s Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer Tanager, Spotted Towhee, Song Sparrow, and Great-tailed Grackle. A short drive over to nearby Covington Park got us great looks at a male Phainopepla and a male Vermilion Flycatcher.
From there, we headed west towards the Orange-Anaheim area. After checking into the Motel 6 at the junction of I-5 and Highway 57, we drove over to Santiago Oaks Regional Park, hoping to see Screech-Owls. It was a real fancy park with nice facilities and well-marked trails. While hiking around looking for the best owl habitat areas, we found a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks, California Quail, Acorn and Nuttall’s Woodpeckers, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Cliff Swallow, Western Scrub-Jay, Bushtit, House Wren, American Robin, Spotted and California Towhees, Brewer’s Blackbird, and Bullock’s Oriole.
Since most of the oaks were found around the picnic area, we decided to concentrate our efforts there at dusk. Babe also discovered a well-used hole in a broken-off tree trunk in the same area, which looked promising. As it started to get dark, I played the tape and an owl responded right above us. After some disappointing looks, we heard what we believed to be young owls calling. In the next half-hour, we got really nice looks at two adult Western Screech-Owls feeding two fledglings. It was about this time that we noticed someone walking around with a flashlight. When we got back to the car, we were asked by a park ranger why we were still in the park. We explained that we were from Pennsylvania and were looking for owls. He nicely, but sternly, told us that the park closed at sunset and that we would have to leave. He explained that he was concerned since he had no way of knowing whether we were lost or injured or just looking for owls. And, with the park containing occasional bobcats and mountain lions (there was a warning sign at the entrance), we could understand his reasoning. We thanked him for his understanding and only giving us a warning.