Inaugural Post: Motivation and Purpose

As you might surmise from the name, the purpose of this blog is to catalogue the various species of birds that are found in Arroyo Simi. If you are familiar with the Arroyo Simi, that may admittedly seem like a bit of an odd objective, and perhaps it is, but allow let me to explain.

The whole project, if it can rightly be called that, came about rather fortuitously. About a year ago, I decided to place a hummingbird feeder in the backyard. Other than a family of lizards, our backyard was pretty devoid of wildlife at the time and I decided I wanted that to change. Before we moved to Simi, we had a hummingbird feeder in the backyard, but ultimately got rid of the thing because the hummers were pretty darn territorial and aggressive. In fact, it got to the point where we almost couldn't go out onto the patio to retrieve and refill the feeder without having to run for cover from a squadron of dive-bombing hummers.

Despite that experience, I decided to try again, so I purchased and placed a new feeder in the backyard and begin watching humminbirds using an old pair of binoculars. Watching hummingirds arrive in the yard piqued my interest, so one day while I was at The Home Depot, I picked up a bag of bird seed and started strategically scattering it around the yard. When birds predicatably arrived in response, I decided that some assistance in identifying them was in order, so I purchased Kaufman's Field Guide to Birds of North America as well as the National Geographic Complete Birds of North America (the latter which I picked up at Borders before it went under for the ridiculous price of $10). With the assistance of those guides, I discovered that the birds eating seed in the backyard were primarily White-Crowned Sparrows and House Finches with a California Towhee, Western Scrub Jay, and Mourning Dove thrown in here and there for good measure.

Shortly after that, I started packing the Kaufman guide and binoculars with me when I wandered through the local hills and would try to identify what I saw. I also started a spreadsheet to record not only the birds that I observed, but when and where I saw them because I noticed that there appeared to be seasonality associated with the presence of the sparrows in my backyard. Of course, this really wasn't particularly revelatory, but I had never paid any attention to it previously.

Then one day, while I was looking for new places to explore, I decided to walk along the dirt service road flanking the Arroyo Simi just west of Madera Road. In all the time I had been in Simi, I had never condescended to walk along the arroyo because of my perception that it was nothing more than a concrete sewer stuffed with transients and trash. While it is littered with trash, and transients do call both the underpasses and the wooded areas home, I was surprised to discover that the arroyo also sustains a diversity of bird-life that I hadn't imagined would or could be present. In just a few of what my daughter calls "nerd field-trips," I was able to identify Red-Winged Blackbirds, Cliff Swallows, Snowy Egrets, Black-Necked Stilts, Mallards, and the ubiquitous American Coot. I also saw what I understand to be some less common species for the area, including a Green Heron, a White-Faced Ibis, and a couple of Hooded Mergansers. I was certain there had to be more. I was also certain that this "more" could be found on the internet.

So I went looking online for an inventory of all of the bird species that frequent or call the Arroyo Simi home. Granted, I may not be the most adept at locating such things, but my search came up empty. I suppose it is possible and even probable that local birding organziations such as the Conejo Valley Audubon Society and/or the Ventura Audubon Society maintain such inventories, but I failed to locate them. That was the moment I decided to create my own inventory and to make it available online to anybody else who may be interested.

Whether I am successful in that endeavor or not, what I thought I would do instead of just posting dry information about the species I have seen is to also post, where possible, video footage and/or stills to photo-document my finds. Although getting such footage is oftentimes a difficult task, I think that will make the blog more interesting and dynamic. It will also reduce the incidence of mis-identifications as someone with better knowledge is bound to correct me when I go astray.

Speaking of mis-identifications, I am not an ornithologist and don't pretend to be an experienced enough "birder" to be able to claim infallability. Therefore, I invite you to correct my errors and to provide supplemental information about any species that I have identified (or mis-identified) on this blog by way of comments. In order to make this catalogue as comprehensive as possible, I also invite you to provide information about species that you have encountered at the arroyo.

That's pretty much it. I don't know that ultimately the information I am attempting to collect will serve any greater purpose other than simple knowledge, but that's personally good enough for me. And if at the end of the day, the information is useful or interesting to someone else, so much the better.