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Thursday, March 15, 2012

#50: Black-headed Grosbeak - Cabrillo National Monument, CA

Oh man. The Drip. It’s a legendary site among birders visiting southern California. During spring and fall migrations, songbirds will flock to a leaking pipe at the Cabrillo National Monument to drink and bathe. Of course, James and I visited in the middle of summer, so we didn’t see nearly that kind of action. Still, I got more than my share of lifers there, including a Bell’s Vireo that belted out its favorite song. Then this guy showed up.

Honestly I couldn’t identify it at first. Not because it isn’t distinctive, but mostly because I’d only been in the state a couple days and he was in an odd plumage. Clearly it was a grosbeak, but a far cry from our Rose-breasteds that like to hang out high in trees and out of site. Rather, he was an immature Black-headed Grosbeak – the expected species that breeds in California, just without the namesake black head.

This guy was my lifer, and I honestly couldn’t complain – I mean, he hung out just a couple feet from us while we watched him drink from that eponymous pipe dripping into a manmade bowl. Yet always the greedy birder, I wanted to see an adult male before I left, in his breeding best with an onyx mask and bright ochre underparts. I got my wish just a week later, when one flew out of a stand of trees near the San Elijo Lagoon. But none could match the awesomeness of the first Black-headed Grosbeak I ever saw – the one that day at The Drip.

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