Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Summer Plans

Memorial Weekend was not at all what I'd planned. Instead of birding my head off in the desert I was stuck at home sick. Not fun at all. On the bright side, classes are winding down, the sun is out, and I have some awesome plans for this summer to look forward to.
I will spend the first half here, birding and attending summer school at UCI. The month of August through September 15th I will be at the University of Cambridge in England!!! There is a summer study abroad program through UCI that allows me to take classes there and live in the dorms. So it looks like my year list will include quite a few birds of the British variety =)
I also have side trips lined up to bird with friends who live in and around the Cambridge/London areas, woo hoo! We get three day weekends the entire time to facilitate side travel. I also signed up for a painting course which is held, weather permitting, in the gardens. We all know my ulterior motive for this was to be outside more often so I can get as much birding in as possible. (my other class is one that applies to my major)
The official program ends on the 6th of September, but I plan to stay in Europe for a week or so afterwards to travel around and get some extra birding in, maybe head back to Scotland, since our 5 day side trip won't be nearly enough time there for me.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Quick Stop for YHBLs

On my way home from work today, I stopped by the FDA building off Jamboree to check for the yellow-headed blackbird flock there. There was a blackbird flock, but they were Brewer's, not yellow-headed, with a few grackles mixed in. House finches also sang from the fence line as I cruised by... I'll have to try again later and see if I have better luck.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day at SJWS

I went for a walk at the marsh today after making breakfast for my mom. It was overcast, but surprisingly humid. There were plenty of western warblers in the meadow. Yellow, hermit and orange-crowned, and cute little Wilson's warblers all called as they foraged in the cottonwoods next to the Duck Club. Warbling vireos were present, as was a very vocal yellow-breasted chat by the boardwalk.

The most pleasing find of the day was a vociferous Bell's vireo, which with a small amount of coaxing, came out to investigate me and my clicking camera for a moment before heading back toward its friend (mate perhaps?) in the bushes.
It was pretty warm by the time I finished, so I headed back to my car to relax and enjoy the rest of my day with my mom. Happy mother's day everyone.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

San Diego and Mexico Pelagic

Today I went on a pelagic out of Point Loma, San Diego. We were aboard the Grande, of Point Loma Sportfishing. We went out to 9 mile bank to bird in San Diego/ABA waters, where we saw pink-footed and sooty shearwaters, northern fulmar, black storm-petrels, Xantus murrelets, cassins auklets, red-necked and red phalaropes, pacific and common loons, Brandt's, double-crested and pelagic cormorants, surf scoters, caspian terns, and a black-footed albatross!
Point Loma Lighthouse

American x Black Oystercatcher

From there we left the U.S. and headed into Mexican waters to the Coronado Islands to look for boobies. We had a brown boobie buzz the boat headed toward the islands. When we reached them, we saw black oystercatchers, one American-type (likely hybird) oystercatcher, baby brown pelicans, Brandt's cormorants in breeding plumage, and best of all, baby brown boobies!
Black-footed Albatross with Western Gulls
Brown Booby
Brown Pelicans with Chicks

On the way back, we had much less success with birding, although we did come across the same black-footed albatross, allowing the photographers on the boat to get another round of photos. Our trip leaders included Oscar Johnson, Jon Feenstra, Guy McKaskie, Todd McGrath, and others.

Northern Fulmar

Harbor Seals with a few Elephant Seals Mixed In
All in all, it was a very successful boat trip for me, and I am looking forward to going on more pelagics in the future!
My shitty Pink-footed Shearwater shot, boooo

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Birding @ UCI

Today was overcast and cool, but the birds were out in abundance. On my way to class there were bluebirds swooping down from the branches to grab insects from the grass, and robins foraging for worms and other tasty items. Not one, not two, not four, but five, yes five black phoebes were on a small patch of lawn flitting around and seemingly playing tag with one another. I assume they were probably fledglings, simply adorable. 
In the bushes and trees, song sparrows were singing, bushtits called out to their companions as they moved around Aldrich park, and even a nuttall's woodpecker called from high in a sycamore. I was surprised to hear cedar waxwings calling from above the tops of the trees, perhaps getting ready to leave the area. Another good spot was a dark-eyed junco (Oregon type) at the base of a tree, I love the way their pink beaks seem to pop out against the dusky color of their heads.
Orange-crowned warblers and yellow warbers sang from the trees, and common yellowthroats called from the low bushes. House finche's bubbly songs were abundant, and house wrens singing rounded out the chorus of birdsongs I heard today. It was wonderful to get some birding in, however brief, considering how busy I've been with midterms.
I attended OC-SCB's meeting, it was a wonderful presentation on the dolphins that have been coming into the bay in Newport. The speaker was Dennis Kelly, a professor at Orange Coast College. On my walk home, I went through Aldrich park again to see if I could hear the great-horned owl that was near Humanities Hall last quarter. No such luck, but I did hear a barn owl screech only once, probably flying over?
I will be spending memorial weekend birding in the desert with some friends, so I should have some photos and plenty of updates!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Birdathon 2008

Saturday the 26th was the annual Sea and Sage Audubon Birdathon or Big Day. This is a day where teams compete to see the highest number of species in a 24 hour period. Wouldn't you know it, this year it fell on one of the hottest days to date. My team, composing Mark Singer, Tom Benson, Vic Leipzig, and myself, sweated our way through a brutally bird-less day. We had a rough time picking up reasonably expectable birds, and as a result, had a much lower species count this year than our number for the previous year.
The biggest miss we had was the rails at Upper Newport Bay. To our amazement and frustration, after three tries, we struck out on clapper and Virginia rail. I hope that doesn't indicate a decline in the species, as I cannot recall a time when I haven't heard a rail there when I expressly tried for them. Yikes.
Despite the heat and low numbers, it was as always, a great experience. There were some cool highlights, like wonderful views of a greater roadrunner, and the lesser nighthawks buzzing by our heads calling as dusk fell. For probably the first time in two years, I spent an entire day birding without once bringing out my camera, so I have to apologize for a text-only post. 
Well, all I can say is that I'll be looking forward to better numbers next year =)