Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ornithology Lab - Crystal Cove

This morning's lab was at a favorite beach birding spot of mine, Crystal Cove. It's a great place to see the species that frequent shorelines, like sanderlings, black-bellied plovers, brown pelicans, and gulls galore, as well as coastal sage srub habitat featuring the "California" trio - towhee, thrasher, and the endangered gnatcatcher.

It was a gorgeous morning, sunny (almost to the point of glare) and breezy. We peeled off layers as we walked in the sunshine along the waterline. It was a great day for shorebirds, the usual suspects like willets, whimbrel, marbled godwits, and sanderlings all showed, as did some other coastal species like both ruddy and black turnstones, a black oystercatcher, and surfbirds. I leaned and observed a new field mark for black-bellied plovers - a black armpit visible in flight. Exciting. Another great find was a red-breasted merganser that flew by, and was encountered again on the walk back.

Double-crested and Brandt's cormorants were present in the surf, and brown pelicans cruised along the waves. Some tidepools gave a good opportunity to get some gull I.D. practice in, as ring-billed, Heerman's, and western gulls all probed the crevasses for food. A royal tern sat in among them, and a caspian flew overhead, providing those quick enough to see them with a contrasting view of the species.

A single osprey was our bird of prey for the day, flying overhead south along the shore to Laguna. As we walked up into the sage scrub, white-crowned sparrows were hanging out in the bushes, and twice a California thrasher provided us with good looks of it perched and singing. The Cal gnatcatcher called its raspy mew much to my delight (they happen to be one of my favorite species). A solitary raven flew over as we headed back to the cars, with a low guttural croak.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Birding @ UCI

Southern California has been getting a large amount of much needed rain. This morning, as I walked to ornithology, the yellow-rumped warblers were calling from the dripping eucalyptus trees. The rain didn't seem to bother them one bit, not that it bothered me either, I had my raincoat and duck-handle umbrella ;)
At leas two Anna's hummingbirds also seemed to be enjoying the rainy weather, calling and actively flying low in front of my path. Right before I turned to my building, a gorgeous Townsend's warbler caught my attention as it picked in among the low branches of a pine tree.
I hope this rain will make for a great wildflower bloom in a few months... we certainly needed it, even if it makes walking to class a soggy expedition.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Birding @ UCI

On my way to class this evening I walked a little slowly to get a touch of birding in. I encountered the same family of American robins that I'd seen under the same tree the week before. Feeding on the ground with them were juvenile and adult white-crowned sparrows.
In Founder's Court there was a mixed flock of bushtits and yellow-rumped warblers, with a lone townsend's warbler mixed in. He was a handsome fellow, and called a cute pip-like call note.
Also calling was a nuttall's woodpecker, and the whirring flight of an Allen's hummingbird signaled his presence in the fading light.
I sat and enjoyed the townsend's little flock for a few minutes, and then I walked to my class.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ornithology Lab 2: SJWS

Today was the second ornithology lab, this time to some familiar stomping grounds, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. I was a little worried last night, as the wind was rattling my windowpanes and scratching tree branches past the walls of the apartment. This morning however, the wind seemed to have died down enough to allow us some good birding.

The ponds were pretty birdy, with cinnamon, green-wing, and one potential blue-wing teal. There were bunches of swallows, tree, barn, and even a few northern rough-winged swallows. As far as raptors go, we had a very cooperative Cooper's hawk, a female northern harrier, and a red-tailed hawk.
Saddleback Mountain

Saturday, January 12, 2008

January Visitor!

I went birding today with my friend Daryl who is visiting Orange County from Humboldt where he is currently attending Humboldt State. We started at Estancia Park, where we chased and saw a gorgeous Pine Warbler which was a state bird for Daryl and a year and county bird for me. A Red-naped Sapsucker was a treat as well. We ran into Tom Worster, who I originally met a few years back at the Pine Warbler at El Dorado Park in LA county.
Click on the photos to see closer views of these images

We then birded at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, where we saw the American Bittern that has been seen for a few days now, and got gorgeous looks at it in broad daylight due to the high water levels in the pond making the bullrush into floating reed beds.
Red-naped sapsucker

American Bittern

Besides that, there were bufflehead, shovelers, green-wing, blue-wing, and cinnamon teal, as well as white-tailed kites, red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, and whimbrel mixed in with the black-necked stilts. One poor stilt's feathers looked utterly bedraggled, and on closer inspection, we could tell it had come out for the worse from an encounter with some oil. It kept flapping and preening to no avail, trying to straighten up. I sure hope it's able to pull through...

Anna's Hummingbird

(click these to get closer looks)

It was otherwise pretty quiet, and after walking through the back area for a while, we decided to call it a day from there.

Whimbrels bathing (click to see closer)

Northern Shovelers

Thursday, January 10, 2008

First Lab: Ornithology

This morning at 7am we met at Mason Park for our first ornithology lab. It was quite frosty and cold and my toes were numb, I guess rainbows were a poor choice of footwear...

It was an introductory lesson, and most of the group had never been birding before. Coots galore provided a good opportunity to get practice with binoculars, and get used to looking at birds.

We had a total of around 32 species - including Cassin's kingbirds, a spotted sandpiper, and a say's phoebe.

(As always, you can click on the photos to get a closer view, some are much easier to see that way)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Ornithology Class

Well today was my first day of classes for the winter quarter back at UC Irvine. Both of the classes I attended today seemed promising, and none more so than ornithology!!! I'm so excited to be taking this class. My professor is John Avise, a distinguished geneticist, evolutionary biologist, and author who had been teaching ornithology for 30 years.
You can bet I'll be putting updates about all the wonderful information I'm learning up here from time to time. I'm also enrolled in the lab which is composed essentially of field trips to go birding, gee I can't believe I get credits for this ;)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Kick-Off January 2008

Hello to all. Hope you made it through the holidays no worse for the wear. Yesterday I went birding with Drew at Sea and Sage. He has a great eye for raptors (seeing as they're all he's interested in bird-wise). We saw 4 species in all - northern harrier, red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, cooper's hawk, oh and vultures if you count them ;)
Click me for a closer look!!

Besides the hawks the birding was good but not earth-shattering. Plenty of yellow-rumps still around, and a gorgeous and camera-friendly gnatcatcher was a welcome surprise. The northern shovelers made great camera fodder, but I think it's time to get a new UV cover and general get some maintenance done on my cannon, it's looking a little beat up lately...
Click me too!

Well, I'm going to try to get out birding a bunch this month, but classes are starting up again Monday (eeek) and I've got some great ones to look forward to like Environmental Law and Ornithology!!!!