Thursday, February 28, 2008

Birding @ UCI

Well tonight as I left my class I got a special treat, a great-horned owl called as I headed toward ring road. I turned and walked into Aldrich Park (probably not too wise to linger in the park at night) but as I was walking that direction I called to a friend from class and he came over to investigate with me. I attempted quite pitifully to copy his call and when he didn't respond I switched to an even more pitiful screech-owl interpretation. He wasn't having it, and continued to call nonchalantly about every 5-8 minutes.
After searching for nearly twenty minutes I gave up on seeing the owl and headed for my bus home but I'm thrilled to add this bird to my campus list - I hope it won't be my only species on my UCI list by the time I graduate =)

Ornithology Lab: Upper Newport Bay

Today's lab was at Upper Newport Bay. The weather was gorgeous and we had a couple good sightings for our class. The first was a snow goose and the second was a clapper rail that came 0ut in plain view for a few seconds, and finally a Eurasian wigeon tucked in with a flock of American wigeons.
Purple flowers

Allen's Hummingbird

Notice the wigeon that doesn't match the rest...



Monday, February 25, 2008

Birding @ UCI

Well today I walked back from my class in the school of engineering area - it's about a 35 minute walk if you keep a fairly leisurely but steady pace. There were orange-crowned warblers calling from a grassy ravine filled with arroyo willow, where a great blue heron stalked for prey, and plenty of American and lesser goldfinches along the pathway. 
A pair of northern mockingbirds outside the ARC were not pleased by my presence, and even less so when I pished a few times to see if they'd come any closer. A flock of bushtits were interested in the sound of my inhaler as I took a few puffs to quell the wheezing from walking uphill. (Leigh needs to get in better shape) A black phoebe called from the spokes of someone's television antennae as I turned the corner from California to Arroyo Dr.
Even now as I sit in my apartment typing this up, I heard a flock of goldfinches go stone silent as a red-shouldered hawk cried "keer keer keer keer" from somewhere nearby, another lovely day on campus at UCI.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Birding @ UCI

Today we had no class because of President's Day, so I went birding on campus with my friend Christina who is taking ornithology with me. Rather than walk through Aldrich Park like I always do on campus, we walked up California Ave, behind the ARC (anteater recreation center) where there is a lot of open grassy areas with natives like mulefat and and some yucky non-natives like mustard and artichoke thistle. We watched giant flocks of lesser goldfinch gorging themselves in the rosemary bushes bordering the street, and Christina was suprised as how responsive they were when I pished in a flock of bushtits.

We saw a single horned lark, which very much excited us, and fifteen minutes later there were 20 or more of them. One wandered very very close giving us great looks at him. A western meadowlark sang from a sycamore, and as we walked up to see it, a giant black-tailed jackrabbit (!!!) flushed away toward the ravine. It was a life mammal for Christina, and definitely a county species for me. The last time I saw them was when I went to Death Valley with my class at IVC.

We compared Anna's hummingbirds to an Allen's hummer we found on a branch, and saw both California and spotted towhees, and watched a murder of crows reacting to a red-tailed hawk that was circling the ARC soccer fields.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ornithology Lab: Bolsa Chica

Well today our lab was at Bolsa Chica in Huntington Beach. It had rained for a few hours in the early morning prior to the lab, and many of us wondered if it would be cancelled. We showed up to the parking lot and found everyone bundled up and ready. We walked across the boardwalk where we saw plenty of double-crested cormorants, ruddy ducks, bufflehead, american coots, and a pied-billed grebe.
Belding's Savannah Sparrow
Good looks at both male and female surf scoters was a treat for me, especially when I managed to snap a shot of a female scoter eating some sort of mollusk.
Surf Scoter - male

Surf Scoter - female, she's got some sort of mollusk in her mouth!

Lesser scaup, both males and females were there in large numbers, as were northern pintails, and all three species of teal - cinnamon, blue-winged and green-winged. As we walked to the green fence, we saw a large number of shorebirds walking along the shoreline.
One-legged sanderling
Dulin, red knots, dowitchers, willets, and western and least sandpipers were all in there, and a lone one-legged sanderling picked its way along the shoreline alone.
Lesser Scaup

Northern Pintail - females

Northern Pintail - male

A greater yellowlegs in among the American avocets, marbled godwits, and dunlin, provided the opportunity to study this species' behavior.
Greater Yellowlegs

A horned grebe provided a great contrast to the eared grebes we had been seeing on our last few trips, and a western grebe represented the larger grebes as well.
Horned Grebe
Western Grebe
It was quite cold out, and every once in a while we would get droplets of cold rain spitting on our faces. A pretty rainbow cut across the sky while we birded, providing some brightness to an otherwise overcast morning. We cut the trip short despite the large amount of good birds, partly due to the weather, and partly because it's a good half hour drive back to campus.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Birding @ UCI

Today was our first exam in ornithology, and as I walked to class I was practicing orders and families in my head, but the birds around me kept distracting me - a gorgeous western bluebird in the grass, an oregon type dark-eyed junco. A black phoebe swooped across the path in front of me, and some american goldfinches noisily fed on sycamore seed balls. Birds distracting me from my last minute ornithology studying, how appropriate.
The test went well, I felt pretty good coming out of it, in case you were wondering ;)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Visit From the East Coast

Today I got to bird with a good friend, Scott Haber, and his girlfriend Susan Newman who visited last February as well. I picked them up from the train station in Irvine, and we headed inland to Silverado Canyon. We arrived there after driving through a very green swath of Orange County (hooray for rain) to find that it will be closed until November 2008, along with the rest of the Cleveland National Forest, due to fire danger/damage. A $5,000 entry fine didn't sound worth poking around, so we made a beeline for Irvine Regional Park to look for the Lewis's woodpecker being seen. No dice on that bird, or phainopepla, ironic considering I'd seen a few of them only two days prior at the same spot.

We birded rather lazily, then decided it was lunch time, as the gorgeous weather and heat had our eyelids drooping and our stomachs growling. I introduced them to Veggie Grill, one of my favorite restaurants, stopped by Cha for Tea to get some bubble tea, and then gave them a quick tour of UC Irvine before getting them back in time for their train to LA.

According to a friend, this is probably in the genus Layia, common name is tidy tips

On my way home I stopped at the open field next to my apartment building to snap some photos of the flowers that popped up because of the heavy rainfall we recieved over the last few weeks.

According to a friend, this is Phacelia parryi

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ornithology Lab 4: Irvine Regional Park

Today we birded Irvine Regional Park, and had quite a few good sightings. The usual oak woodland species were present, including oak titmice, acorn woodpeckers, and phainopeplas in the mistletoe. Wood ducks were one of our highlight species, as this is the place in Orange County to see them.
A belted kingfisher called elusively from across the pond but stubbornly refused to allow us good looks, which was unfortunate because I find them delightful. Double-crested cormorants drying their wings provided a good chance to study this behavior, and a single female lesser scaup was a neat find in among the dozens of mallards.
Sorry the quality is so bad, it was far off by the time I got my camera on it... note the squared-off tail.

The Lewis' woodpecker was an awesome sighting, as was a definite male sharp-shinned hawk, perched in a tree nearby, which flushed as we walked up on it. We also saw a merlin perched in a tree from across an open meadow, which is a bird I rarely see, and was delighted to find, even if distant.
The parrots at Irvine are a crack-up, I don't recall them being there in such numbers! Lilac-crowned and red-crowned parrots made a ruckus in the trees as we attempted to look at native species.
Today's trip list put me at 108 species for the year so far according to where I keep my lists =) Next week's trip is to Bolsa Chica, which should be awesome...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Birding @ UCI

So today was such a gorgeous day that I decided to ride my bike to campus for the first time since summer. In the open fields by the ARC - anteater recreation center - there were crows and some western meadowlarks that flushed as I rode by. A great-blue heron was hunting in the field as well, no doubt looking for squirrels or gophers, it startled me when I saw it, so much so that I laughed out loud. Probably sealed my reputation as the crazy girl on campus, she stops suddenly stares and trees and bushes, makes strange noises at said bushes, and even laughs to herself seemingly for no reason. Oh well, normal is relative anyhow.
As I left ornithology to walk through the center of Aldrich park, the yellow-rumped warblers were raising hell in the trees, it's sure going to be quiet when they take off for the year. I'm also starting to hear orange-crowned warblers, which I admit had me stumped. Whenever you hear a species again for the first time in a season there's that, "geez that sounds so familiar but what the heck is it?!" moment.
I'm on campus all day today because I have classes spread during the day and into the evening, and then tonight is the Orange County Society for Conservation Biology's meeting at 6:30pm in the Natural Sciences II building. It's open to the general public and many community members attend, more even than students I think. Tonight's guest speaker is actually my ornithology professor, so it should be a great meeting.