Monday, October 22, 2007

Southern California Wildfires

I'm sure by now many of you have heard about the multiple (I think the number is up to around 17) wildfires burning between Santa Barbara and San Diego - the closest one to me being the Irvine/Orange County fire which was started by arson. The fires began late Saturday or Sunday, raging through the wilderness areas and even communities. The Santa Ana winds - hot dry winds blowing out towards the ocean from inland - have stoked the flames.

View Larger Map
The Santiago Fire, as it is now being called, is buring some of my favorite birding locations, including Modjeska Canyon and Silverado Canyon where I have gotten multiple lifers and birded many times over the years.
Here is a link also provided at Amy Hooper's blog: Wildbird on the Fly.
The smoke and ash are choking the air here, and my own campus, UC Irvine, is canceling outdoor classes and recreation, and making allowances for absences due to evacations of local homes, as well as health hazards for students with asthma and other respiratory complications.
This map has a lot more detail about the exact locations and various containment of the multiple fires.
The biggest problem are the bark beetle infestations which have killed out and dried out the local forests, as well as this extended drought that California has been suffering. I have family and friends who have been evacuated from their homes, so we're all crossing our fingers here...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Different Kind of Duck

Well, I haven't had much opportunity to bird in the past few weeks, but I have had a chance to watch a different kind of duck... the Ducks of Anaheim - hockey!

I am a big hockey fan, but for those of you who aren't, the Ducks (formerly the Mighty Ducks) won the Stanley Cup this past spring, which is like the Superbowl of hockey. So far this season, the team has been doing quite well, and my boyfriend and I have had the good fortune to be at the games - two rows up behind the Duck's bench to be exact. Hopefully I'll have some time this weekend to see the other ducks in Orange County =)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fall PRBO Birdathon

I had the good fortune to be asked again by Vic Leipzig if I'd like to be on his fal PRBO birdathon team. I of course said yes because I had enjoyed the Sea and Sage Birdathon I did in the spring. The team consisted of myself, Vic, Roy Poucher, and Steve Sosensky.

Saturday evening around 6:30pm, we headed to Peter's Canyon and picked up a few species to start the list, including among other species, ring-necked duck and black-throated gray warbler. We went to Irvine Regional Park and picked up western screech-owl and had a barn out actually fly in over our heads as well. Sunday morning at the sunless hour of 5am, we met at SJWS to consolidate into one car, and as we headed out, we were greeted with the sight of two bobcats running across the road, white tails flashing as they passed through our headlights, a good luck omen!

We got our rail species at UNB, and continued on along the coast, picking up the black oystercatchers and Cresent Bay, and my county yellow-headed blackbirds at Crystal Cove State Beach.
We birded north to Huntington Central Park, which gave us a few species, including a dusky flycatcher, but the winds had picked up making things quieter than any birdathon team would like, so we made a group decision to head inland where we still needed quite a few basic species for our list.

A stop at Irvine Lake, a spot not normally birded, yielded my lifer of the day, a sage thrasher! as well as quite a few other needed species. Then to Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, where we gained some basics like California quail, and fox sparrow.

With a quick stop to pick up some lunch, we moved on to Irvine Regional Park, which did not give us the target species we expected to get, so we moved on towards the coast. Bolsa Chica was a good spot, as it usually is for the coastal shorebirds, gulls, and terns.

We ended our day back at the marsh where we had left our cars, and were able to add a few final species to our list. We also observed some photographers down in one of the ponds that had dried down enough to allow dry land in the basin. I highly disapprove of that behavior, a good shot is never worth it if you are disturbing the sanctuary that is being provided to the wildlife you are photographing.

All in all it was a very good day birding, despite the winds making the birds hunker down, and wearing us out perhaps more than we would have been otherwise. Our species list, while still being revised for the next few days seems to have ended at 134 species total.