Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Barn Owl Cam!

I wanted to share this link to a live camera that is placed in a barn owl nest at Starr Ranch Sanctuary - owned by the National Audubon Society. I'm hoping to spend some time there saturday, Scott Thomas is doing owl banding for his research on raptors in the County. I watched once before when I was about 14 and it was really amazing to see baby hawks and owls that close up, so I'm hoping to go again this weekend.
Click here to check out the live footage which refreshes every 15 seconds.

Monday, March 24, 2008

LCWP Panorama

Here's a small panorama I made of the view from my visit to Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, using about 4 photos which I merged together in photoshop. It's a bit messy but I like it, and I'm going to have to start playing with this feature more often...

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park

My first birding excursion for spring break really wasn't much of a birding trip at all. It was more of an all-around nature hike for three hours at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park - all the way up the canyon to the ridge-line (I think it's a part of the santa ana mountains but I may be wrong because I was looking out across Laguna and Aliso to Saddleback).
I need an ID on the flower and the insect, click for a closer view.
I love this shot of the red-tailed hawk against the hillside, click to see him.

I parked at the Nix Nature Center - which is very nice, and starting in the parking lot I heard wrentits and California towhees competing for the loudest and most numerous bird award. A close runner up were the California quail with their "chi-CA-go" calls from the bushes.
Bee on unidentified white flowers.

Yellow Violets

This really has been one of California's best wildflower years since I bought my camera - I was constantly switching back and forth between my 75-300 zoom lens for birds and some butterflies to my regular lens with macro adapter for flowers... and oh, the flowers! Everywhere I looked, yellow, white, many shades of purple, and blue. It was amazing. My pants are filthy from crawling on the ground to get a shot, or pressing through the bushes to get closer looks. 
Behr's Metalmark
The butterflies were also out with a vengeance, checkerspots, whites, sulfurs, orange-tips, ladies, duskywings, blues and more! I wish I was good enough to ID them to the species, but unless I shot a photo of them, which was hard since the buggers were patrolling so zealously they rarely paused to nectar and allow me a photo.
Dodder - a parasitic plant that takes nutrients and wate from it's host.
I made it all the way up to walk along the ridgeline where I got breath-taking views of Orange County and the hillsides which I had just hiked up. The plant diversity was thrilling, as were the butterflies and birds. I was looking down(!) on ravens and red-tails enjoying the thermals rising on this incredibly warm day - somewhere in the high 80's where I was. I was having such a blast up there that I didn't want to hike back, but images of my car being locked in when the gates closed for the night finally urged me to begin my trek back.
The trailhead where I came out onto the ridgeline.
As I headed toward the car, I took my final shots, filling my memory card to the brim, which is hard for a photographer when you don't have a spare handy. I was torn between each new potential shot, and the horror of having to delete some shots before I had a chance to see them on a computer screen to judge whether or not they were worth saving. Guess it's time to invest in that second memory card so I don't have to make that choice...
Mariposa Lily maybe?

While on the ridge, I passed some cool rock formations, which I snapped a few shots of because I recognized the type of rock from geology, but couldn't bring the name into my mind. I'll probably add it in later when I figure it out. Within the limestone there was a bee hive - or is it nest when it's in the ground? All in all, this was one of my best hikes to date, I had a wonderful time, despite the heat, and saw a lot of new things through my lens, what a wonderful treat for spring break!
Miner's Lettuce, a water-loving species. Edible as I recall although as a general rule I never sample plants in the field, better safe than sorry!
Mallow species?
I want to say this is a monkeyflower for some strange reason.
White flower - perhaps a phacelia, there were dozens of purple phacelia there.
Owl's clover - a root parasite.
Whoops! Chipping-sparrow, guess I ought to pay more attention before I post ;)
Looks like some sort of pea species, ID needed!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary

Yesterday I birded around the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary with my friends from ornithology, Christina and Kelli, after spending two hours shopping at Acorn Naturalists. Unfortunately by the time we got there, the gate was closed for the night, and of course Harding Canyon, like the rest of the Cleveland National Forest is closed until further notice because of last fall's fires.
Wild Cucumber

We still managed to have a good time, seeing a hermit thrush on the ground feeding, as well as a golden-crowned sparrow, both of which were lifers for the girls. The raucous calls of western scrub-jays and the chi-ca-go of the California quail were great practice to get them birding by ear as well.
Chapparal Yucca

Non-bird life included flowering blue dicks, wild cucumber, and a few other species as well. I tried unsuccessfully chasing down a moth that zoomed by, but the darn thing wouldn't cooperate and pose for a photo for me.
Blue Dicks

Prior to meeting up with them, I saw one of those "hummingbird" moths at the Marriot hotel on Pacific Coast Highway where I met a friend for lunch, I haven't seen one of those since my summer road trip last July...
Can anyone ID this pea?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Lost Trail

I birded at SJWS today because the cabin fever from this cold was starting to drive me up the walls. I spent more time than I should have considering how sick I've been, but it was such a nice day out. I started out sitting in the parking lot next to the pond, when you sit they don't seem to mind as much and come right up close like this avocet did.
There were plenty of ducks on the ponds, green-winged and cinnamon teal, mallards, shovelers, and back by the boardwalk I had a few gadwall. I liked this shot I got of the ducks all lined up, from left to right there's a male green-winged teal, followed by a female teal, then a male cinnamon teal, female shoveler, then male shoveler.

I watched a yellow-rumped warbler picking grubs off of a cottonwood, which was very exciting, and if the darn tree hadn't had so many branches in the way, I might have gotten a decent shot. It was cool to see it fly off the branch, pick up the grub and fly back to perch and swallow it as the grub wriggled trying to get away.

I walked along a trail I don't think I've ever been on, aptly named the "Lost Trail". It was a cute little stretch deep in the riparian section of the marsh. This area was quite birdy despite the wind, which was quite strong today, but nothing compared to yesterday. Orange-crowned warblers were singing, as were marsh wrens and spotted towhees. Bushtits called to each other from the trees around me, and yellow-rumped warbler's drippy calls were prevalent.

I flushed a great-blue heron that had been on the side of the path, as it flew overhead I got a few interesting shots, and as I was almost back to the parking lot, I looked into the first pond and saw a white-faced ibis feeding by itself, which pleased me because I don't have very many good ibis shots.
This white-crowned sparrow caught my attention. It's almost time for them to be heading out for the season, along with the yellow-rumped warblers and the ruby-crowned kinglets. Speaking of which, I haven't been seeing many of them lately, I think they're gone for the most part, although I did have one today while I was on the Lost Trail. Such cute little characters they are.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Birding @ UCI

I have been sick, sick, sick this week. I had strep throat at the beginning of February, and then never quite allowed my immune system to recover because I had a very busy few weeks in late February and early March. So for the last week I've been paying for it in the form of a cold, which meant very little birding, its finals week anyhow so I guess it's a good thing I can't use going birding as an excuse not to study ;)  I'm crossing my fingers that I'll kick this thing soon so I can get out a few times over my spring break.
Today however I ventured out of the apartment to buy the Birds of Europe guide so I could begin studying for Cambridge and Edinburg this summer. (I got all the way to the bookstore to find out they carry it but nobody had it in stock, so I ordered it online). On my way there I saw a northern harrier teetering about in this crazy wind, hunting over the fields behind the ARC.
Last night, right around sunset I had the pleasure of watching a black phoebe land on my balcony and hang out for a little while, flicking it's tail as it called. It sat there for a full minute or two before flying off to perch somewhere for the night. That pleased me, because with this cold I haven't had much energy to go birding with the exception of my lab final for ornithology last week. Sometimes when we can't go out in nature, it comes to us =)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Just Published

Never underestimate the power of the internet. You can do all sorts of amazing things these days, like for instance, create a place online where people can read about your daily forays into the natural world, and view photographs that you've taken. Or create and publish a book of this blog and another of your favorite photographs to share with people.
By Leigh Lindstrom Jo...

Today I did just that. This amazing website, called Blurb.com, complied my blog into a book which I was able to edit on my computer and publish in an online bookstore. I've already ordered a copy and it'll be at my house in a few weeks (I'll be sure and post a review of it when it comes to my door).
It's amazing that we can do stuff like this, you can be your own publisher, and I've looked through the general Blurb bookstore, and believe me, it really brings to light how many truly talented and diverse people there are out there.
So anyhow, here's a link to my bookstore so you can see what I've made, order a copy if you so choose, and create books of your own!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lab Final Ornithology: SJWS

Today was our last field trip for ornithology. We had our lab final, walking around the ponds and the creekside looking at species to identify. There was an exotic weaver finch by the San Joaquin creek that startled the heck out of me when the glowing orange-y yellow feathers hit the light. It was a great trip and a great class and I am very sad that I don't get to use schoolwork as an excuse to go birding, I was really getting used to regular trips with people instead of birding by myself all the time... ;)
Double-crested Cormorant

Red Admiral

Nesting Tree Swallows

Exotic Weaver

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Ornithology Lab: Peter's Canyon

Today was a gorgeous day to be outside. We birded at Peter's Canyon in Orange, CA. We did a dry run of our lab final, walking around the lake identifying species. There were great looks at red-winged blackbirds, lots of tree swallows calling overhead, and plenty of plants and fungi to distract me from the birds.
Orange County can be beautiful!

Anyone good at IDing fungi?
I dunno what this is, it looks very familiar.
ID anyone? Looks like some type of phacelia.

Christina knew this one.

Another fungus

White-tailed kite

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Wildflowers on Campus

Well today I took my camera with my macro adapter back out to the field beside my apartments on Arroyo Dr. to photograph another flower I'd noticed that wasn't there last time. It's this gorgeous purple and yellow-y orange flower. I emailed Bob Allen, local botanist and pollination expert and he informed me that it's in the genus Linaria, and related to snapdragons. It's unfortunately a non-native species.
There was also this amazing duskywing sp. that I accidently disturbed while photographic a flower too close to the one it was on, after it settled, I crept up close to get some amazing looks at it with my macro - I knew I bought those lens adapters for a reason!

Tonight was the OC-SCB meeting (first wednesday of every month in the Nat. Sci. II building on UCI's campus) Tonight's speaker was Peter Bryant, a professor of biology at UCI and an avid photographer and entomologist. He gave us the rundown of the majority of insect groups in orange county, including spider photos close enough to make you squirm... It was great fun, and if you live in Orange County and haven't attended a meeting, you should really come check it out.
Tidy Tips