Sunday, September 21, 2008

Back in California

I birded today with a friend from the East Coast, Ben. He needed to track down Cal gnatcatcher for his lifelist, so we met at Upper Newport Bay. After three hours of hearing them without a good view, we finally got on one calling nearby and once we had our fill of looking at it, gnatcatchers were everywhere. A blue-grey even popped up and gave us some good looks, typical, once we've seen them, they're everywhere.
(Click me!)

We headed up to the coast to Bolsa Chica, which was a strangely quiet place, in between the shorebirds departure and the fall ducks arrival. The weather was incredible, sunny and breezy, and I even managed to burn my face, ugh. I was surprised to see a large number of belted kingfishers on the far end of Bolsa Chica in the eucalyptus grove. We walked around and back to the parking lot, where we parted ways.
In some ways, I'm very glad to be home, but I sure do miss Cambridge. The scenery, the birding, the ambiance - it truly was a wonderful place and I plan to go back in the future. Now it's time to buckle down and enter my last year at UCI (!) already - wow. 

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Goodbye Cambridge

My last birding trip in Cambridge was to Milton Country Park with Richard. We grabbed a bus over and walked around for a few hours. I finally got good looks at Kingfisher - they are SO cute! We got caught out in the rain, but then the sun broke through again for the last bit of our birding. We tried really hard to get me good looks at Bullfinch - but they're incredibly timid, and all I got were flybys, lots of calls, and glimpses of them through the bushes. Oh well.
Mute Swan looking for handouts
My trip to Cambridge has been amazing, and I am definitely sad to be leaving this charming place. The birding on my trip was amazing, thanks to Richard Hall, Torcuil Grant, and Ilya MacLean. I got somewhere around 65 lifers - I'll do the final tally when I'm home and over my inevitable jetlag.
Train tracks

I leave England Monday, I will be spending the weekend in London with a college friend. I am definitely planning to come back to England in the future - perhaps for a higher degree or just for pleasure.

Milton Country Park

Monday, September 01, 2008

Weekend in Paris

I had the most incredible weekend in Paris, France. We left Saturday morning at 3:45am (ughh) and took a train to King's Cross in London, where we caught the Eurostar to Paris. We arrived to have brunch around 10:30am - I of course had a chocolate banana crepe to get into the spirit of things. We went to the hotel to freshen up and ditch our luggage, then it was off in smaller groups to explore. My group went to the Monmarte District and the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur. I bought my incredibly tourist-y "I 'heart' Paris" shirt of course.

Eiffel Tower from the top of the Arc De Triomphe

From Sacre-Coeur, we headed to the Notre Dame to meet with the other groups and walk through the famous cathedral. We grabbed some over-priced baguettes nearby then headed to the park behind the Notre Dame to have a wine and baguette picnic, which was fun. After a few glasses of wine, we began a leisurely 4 mile, hour+ long walk along the River Seine to the Eiffel Tower. It grew darker as we walked, and by the time we saw the tower it was glowing blue and sparkling for the hourly lightshow.

The Eiffel Tower lit at night

The evening ended late - 1am, as we attempted to get off the tower through masses of summer tourists. Sunday morning we headed to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and the other great works of art held there. We enjoyed about 3.5 hours of wandering around the Louvre - I spent most of my time in the Greek, Roman, and Etruscan sculture rooms. After our museum walk, we grabbed more baguette sandwiches and headed across the street to Tuileries Gardens where we had a picnic and napped in the sunshine on the lawns.

On the hour they do a 10 minute light show

After lunch and a nap, we again split into groups. Mine headed up the Camps-Elysees to shop and head to the Arc de Triomphe, which after sitting under to people-watch, we climbed the seemingly never-ending spiral staircase to the top to get breathtaking 360* views of Paris in the daylight to compliment our nighttime Eiffel view. We headed back to the hotel to freshen up before going back out -this time to the Latin Quarter, where we had a French dinner at Chez Clement. After a leisurely dinner, we headed up to a Piano Bar where we sipped wine and listened to the French and English songs played/sung. We called it a night after midnight and were up bright and early again this morning to catch trains back to Cambridge - which feels like home now, I have mixed feelings to think about the fact I go home in less than a week....

The Louvre

The Venus de Milo

The Mona Lisa
The Arc de Triomphe

Basilique du Sacre-Coeur

Notre Dame
Notre Dame and the River Seine