Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Memories

Hey all, I know it's been spookily quiet around here, fall/winter of '08 was a very stressful, busy, and decidedly un-birdy time in my life. Here's a look back at my top 15 best birding moments of 2008. (I have a feeling the majority of them will have taken place in the UK...)

1. On December 10th, I got to participate in a pilot for a show about a birding competition, Richard Crossley's Wild in the City.
2. On September 21st, a friend from the East Coast was in the area, and we met up to get him some local lifers and bird in the Orange County area.
3. On the 28th of August, Richard Hall and I walked along the River Cam to Grantchester from Cambridge, and enjoyed the weather and the wildlife.
4. Also in August, I met a Cambridge local for a drive to Wicken Fen, where we enjoyed a quiet walk around the place, catching me a lifer or two and quite a few great shots of the scenery.
5. On friday the 15th of August, I attended the British Birdfair where I met birder Ilya Mclean, a Scottish birder currently living in England. He got me quite a few lifers just walking around the fair's location. I also ran into a few U.S. birders who attended the fair!
6. On August 12th, I found myself in Edinburgh, Scotland, where I met and birded with Torcuil Grant, a great Scottish birder who generously drove quite a distance to bird with me. He got me loads of lifers, and I was treated to views of much of the surrounding countryside as well.
7. On my first day in Cambridge, Richard Hall and I met to bird in Cambridge, around the many college gardens, and over through a field. I got a slew of lifers, and enjoyed a beer in a pub when we got a surprise shower from mother nature!
8. I participated in a Wetlands Survey in Huntington Beach in July '08. We were doing bird surveys of the marshes there for a snapshot of the current bird populations, concentrating on Belding's Savannah Sparrows, before they began restoration.
9. In June, I birded UCI's own Aldrich Park, where I wandered around snapping photos and enjoying the quiet morning of the usually, very busy campus.
10. on May 10th, I went on a pelagic out of San Diego, which dipped down to Baja California's waters to the Los Coronados Islands where we saw boobies!
11. On the 6th of April, I went camping out at Anza-Borrego desert with my UCI club - the Orange County Society for Conservation Biology. It was an amazing weekend for birds and cacti!
12. I spent a great day out hiking on my own at the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park in March, where I saw and photographed all sorts of great plant and bird species. 
13. In March I published a hard-copy version of this blog online, for the year of 2007, available for sale here.
14. I was taking Ornithology back in Winter Quarter of 2008, and Bolsa Chica was just one of the great field trips with my lab class - all of which can be found in links to the side of this post.
15. In January, my friend Daryl came to visit, and we chased rarities all over Orange County, in the process boosting his county list by quite a few necessary species. 

Well that was a snapshot of 2008 for me - have a safe and Happy New Year, and see you in 2009!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Full Moon Hike

Last night I went on a full moon hike in Bommer Canyon. Bommer Canyon is a remnant of the Irvine Company's property, which has been set aside to stay as open space. It's not open to the public except by guided programs available through Irvine Ranch Conservancy's Wildlands and Parks. You can sign up under the "Let's Go Outside" tab at
We walked by this water tank welcoming us  in the dark

We met at a quarter to six inside the park, and got a little briefing on the route and what to expect. Then we headed out for our 3 mile hike up the canyon, around the ridge, and back down. It was overcast initially, blocking the moon. It was the closest moon in 15 years, and when it came out from behind the clouds it was like someone had switched on a light. We hiked without turning our flashlights on so our night vision would have a chance to adjust.
Here's a map to give you an idea of where the canyon is

A western toad leapt across the path in front of us, nearly landing right under my foot! We watched him as he passed across the path, then continued on our hike. 
A motion-sensor camera went off halfway up a steep slope - normally meant to catch the nocturnal wanderings of bobcat, coyotes, and other animals, it instead caught us!
We made our way to the top of the ridge, where all of Orange County was laid out below us in a shimmer of lights, only the old El Toro Marine Base was dark.
We started the switch-backs of our descent back into the canyon, passing by native cholla and prickly pear cactus, and through some nice untouched coastal sage scrub habitat. I'd love to come back and bird along that part of the trail in daylight.
By the end of our descent the temperature dropped noticeably and we were glad to be getting into our cars to turn the heat on. My car's temperature gauge read 48 degrees, chilly for the OC. It was a fun hike, one of the few true night hikes I've ever done, and I'm sure not the last.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wild in the City

Yesterday I got a fun opportunity to be in a pitch video for a pilot tv show called Wild in the City. Richard Crossley is a British birder who wants to create a show for mainstream television where he goes to different urban cities and challenges a team of good birders to see who can see and photograph the most species from dawn to dusk.
Great Egret at Sunset

We filmed a mock competition for the pitch so that he could show what the gist of the show would be. It sounds like a cool idea and I hope it pans out.
LA River

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My Quilt

My cousin is an award-winning quilter. When I was a little girl, she made me a beautiful pastel quilt, which went to my younger cousins eventually. To replace it, this summer she made a gorgeous fall-colored quilt with nature motifs. I wanted to share it here since it's stunning, and will be appreciated by nature people because of the patterns she chose =)
Here's the finished product!

See the birds that were sewn in by her friend who stitches the layers together?

Here's another close up showing the stitching as well as the beautiful fabrics she chose

So this is what I was thankful for this holiday season - enjoy!