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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

#49: California Towhee - Cabrillo National Monument, CA

Once you step out of the car at Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego, you’re in a totally different world. Wrentits sing like bouncing ping-pong balls from the chaparral cliffs, and the insane ramblings of Bewick’s Wrens emanate from nearby bushes. But then there’s another sound, a crystalline chip that pierces through the morning chorus. Along the concrete sidewalk, a small brown bird hops around, ignoring the tourists walking past. It’s a California Towhee, and it’s everywhere.

For a bird with such a geographically restricted range, California Towhees are incredibly common. Everywhere I went in the Golden State, I saw these small birds that look completely non-descript at first glance. But look more closely, and you’ll see that it’s an intricate tableau of browns, tans, and oranges, all working together to create perfect camouflage for coastal California’s dry understory.

As with many mornings, San Diego's "June Gloom" plagued us once again.

Like the Western Scrub-Jay from last week, James and I found this California Towhee not feet from our car, chipping from one of the bushes that lined the parking lot. The thick morning fog clearly did a number on this bird’s feathers, and he looked incredibly disheveled compared to some of the other birds we’d see. Still, it’s the only towhee that provided a close look, and for that, I’m incredibly grateful.

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