A closer look at Bonelli Park’s feathered residents

story and photography by Emily Lau

A mallard drake dries himself by flapping his wings repeatedly. Mallards are a common sight near water, and males are identified by their iridescent green heads. They are known as the ancestor of domestic ducks due to their interbreeding capabilities. / photo by Emily Lau

A mallard drake dries himself by flapping his wings repeatedly. Mallards are a common sight near water, and males are identified by their iridescent green heads. They are known as the ancestor of domestic ducks due to their interbreeding capabilities. / photo by Emily Lau

Some have traveled thousands of miles to find a place to temporarily call home, and others have long been familiar with its murky depths and sandy shores. They roam the shallow waters of Puddingstone Lake with their iridescent green heads and black bodies with beady red eyes. Their loud recognizable squawks echo in a unison as they chase pieces of bread scattered across the ground by children. Many know them as the ducks seen at every other park, but these common birds are mallards and American coots, just two of more than 250 species of birds that can be observed throughout the year at the 1,975-acre Bonelli Park in San Dimas.

The easiest to spot are the abundant waterfowls found floating near the shores of Puddingstone Lake. Mallard and coots are the most common, but larger white birds can be seen in the distance near the marshes and sometimes sighted wading in the shallow water near the shore. These herons and egrets are shy and less common but are more elegant and exciting to finally see. It is not a good idea to get too close, though, because they will soar back to the comfortable darkness of the marshes.

Other shorebirds, including killdeer and sandpipers, hop along the beaches and peck at the debris washed ashore. One might not even see them while walking on the beach, because the slightest movement causes the small birds to flutter away. Grebes look like mallards from afar, but their elongated necks and narrow beaks are unique. They silently float across the water and occasionally dive underwater, only to emerge elsewhere.
Though there are many birds on Puddingstone Lake, many other species can be found throughout the park. It may take patience, but one can catch a greater roadrunner scurrying across a dirt path or a downy woodpecker chattering high up in a tree.

The park is teeming with birds of many sizes and colors, from a small hummingbird fluttering from flower to flower, to a large heron wading in the marshes. Whether they are hiding in the tall trees, bobbing on top of Puddingstone Lake or soaring high above, these birds have made Bonelli Park their home.

The warm sunlight reflects off the still water in Bonelli Park’s Puddingstone Lake, a 250-acre artificial lake that was historically used as a flood control basin. Today, it is a place for visitors to enjoy recreational activities such as fishing, boating, water skiing and bird watching. The lake is home to more than 250 species of birds that can be observed year round. Bird life at the east end of the lake near the camp grounds is especially prolific because  it is protected from  motor boat activity. / photo by Emily Lau

The warm sunlight reflects off the still water in Bonelli Park’s Puddingstone Lake, a 250-acre artificial lake that was historically used as a flood control basin. Today, it is a place for visitors to enjoy recreational activities such as fishing, boating, water skiing and bird watching. The lake is home to more than 250 species of birds that can be observed year round. Bird life at the east end of the lake near the camp grounds is especially prolific because it is protected from motor boat activity. / photo by Emily Lau

A juvenile Anna’s hummingbird flutters from flower to flower in search of more nectar. Males are easily recognizable by their bright pink throat feathers, but females and juveniles are dull in comparison. The birds also help with plant pollination when collecting nectar by spreading pollen to other locations. / photo by Emily Lau

A juvenile Anna’s hummingbird flutters from flower to flower in search of more nectar. Males are easily recognizable by their bright pink throat feathers, but females and juveniles are dull in comparison. The birds also help with plant pollination when collecting nectar by spreading pollen to other locations. / photo by Emily Lau

A greater roadrunner, with its beak agape, shows off its crest as it looks in the direction of the object that piqued its interest. Greater roadrunners may not be able to fly as well as other birds, but they have been known to reach running speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. They are native to the deserts of the southwestern United States. / photo by Emily Lau

A greater roadrunner, with its beak agape, shows off its crest as it looks in the direction of the object that piqued its interest. Greater roadrunners may not be able to fly as well as other birds, but they have been known to reach running speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. They are native to the deserts of the southwestern United States. / photo by Emily Lau

 A flock of mallards and American coots takes off and creates a disturbance on the surface of Puddingstone Lake. The waterfowl can be found interacting with each other near the shore of the lake. / photo by Emily Lau

A flock of mallards and American coots takes off and creates a disturbance on the surface of Puddingstone Lake. The waterfowl can be found interacting with each other near the shore of the lake. / photo by Emily Lau