Sunday, April 26, 2009

Birdathon 2009

Yesterday was Birdathon - a 24 hour birding competition to see the highest number of species from midnight to midnight. My team consisted of myself, Vic Leipzig and Neil Gilbert. We birded all over Orange county for an 18 hour period. Beginning at 3:30am we picked up Neil and headed into Silverado Canyon for owls. I knew it would be a good day when our first bird of the competition was a Spotted Owl - a life bird for me! The owl called beautifully for us, and we continued up the canyon in search of owls. As we headed up the canyon we ticked off long-eared owl, great-horned owl, and common poorwill. 
An exciting find of the day while we were trying for sawhet owl was a singing purple finch - a county bird for me. Dawn was showing its colors and we needed to get down to the coast, so we began our descent back down the canyon. Stopping at a pull-out we got out to try sawhet again, and got a green-tailed towhee calling from the bush in front of our feet, another county bird for Leigh. Dawn chorus was getting going as we were leaving the canyon, and we ticked off a few warblers and passerines like ash-throated flycatcher.
We headed to the coast to hit our usual spots in search of pelagics, and other coastal specialties. We did well, only striking out on a few expected species, some of which we would have opportunities for again later in the day. We ran into Bruce Aird, who was heading a rival (hehe) team, who we hopscotched along the next three spots up Laguna Canyon.
The theme of the day seemed to be that we were picking up less common species, at the expense of "sure things". An American redstart at Mason Park was a good find, yet we had no white-crowned sparrows, a winter migrant we were hoping would still be around. All along the weather was nice, cooler and a bit overcast in the morning - good for birding, then sunny but cool. Unfortunately, as we headed into the afternoon, the wind began picking up, and by the time we made it to Huntington Central Park, which is a migrant trap where we'd expect songbirds and other specialties, things had gone dead silent.
We spent the last few hours of daylight getting coastal shorebirds and terns at Bolsa Chica, where we saw yet another Birdathon team. A sweep through Upper Newport Bay, which we had skipped in the morning, provided us the usual rails and a few things we'd missed elsewhere. A few grabs in Irvine, and we headed back inland for a second stab at the crepuscular and nocturnal species before we called it a night.
It was an excellent day of birding, and I enjoyed getting to bird with Neil Gilbert, a transplant in Orange County who has a blog where he will undoubtedly post his version of events. I didn't take my camera out the entire day, too busy birding and driving, so sorry this is a photo-less post. Next year, I may be doing Birdathon in Vermont unless I can find the time to sneak back to the OC ;)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Birding @ UCI

I'm sitting in Aldrich Park at the center of UCI's campus right now. It's sunny, breezy and lovely out, currently 90 degrees. I am hearing lesser goldfinches, the buzz of a selasphorous hummingbird (Rufous or Allen's). House wrens, house finches, and orange-crowned warblers are also calling from the trees above. Western bluebirds have been flying down from the sycamore branch above me to pick insects  off the other benches and the ground. Song sparrows call from the bushes next to me. A Nuttall's woodpecker just called from the eucalyptus grove behind me. It's such a remarkably beautiful day, that it makes me wonder why on earth am I graduating and leaving this gorgeous campus in just 55 short days??!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunset Photography Workshop

I went on a photography sunset hike today in Bommer Canyon to get a few tips on good sunset photographs from a professional, Andre Torng, who leads hikes for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Huntington Beach Bird Saturation Survey

Today I helped out with a saturation survey of Belding's Savannah Sparrows at the Huntington marshes. My partner and I had a portion of Brookhurst Marsh. It wasn't a particularly birdy day, and we had members of the public trying to get in to fish and walk around in the protected area we were surveying. A contractor working on the restoration brought his dog in off the leash, which is a huge no-no in an area where an endangered subspecies like the Belding's SAVSPs are nesting, for cryin' out out! Besides the sparrows, our best birds were two semi-palmated plovers - one looked like a juv. 
Anna's Hummingbird


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Two Year Anniversary!

Today is the 2 year anniversary of my blog! I can't believe it's been two years since I started posting =)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Limestone Loop Hike to Dripping Springs

Today I hiked about 6 miles in Limestone Canyon. Nice overcast cool day - perfect for slightly longer distances since you don't overheat as easily. Great day for wildflowers, we had a good variety, despite striking out on my favorite flower, the CA poppy.

Chapparal Yucca

Popcorn Flower

Dripping Springs
Common Checkered Skipper

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Summer Job

Hey all, I know it's been quiet around here - classes started again at UCI, it's my final quarter at UC Irvine. I graduate in June, scary I know. This summer I will be working on Catalina Island as a Summer Naturalist with the Catalina Island Conservancy. I'm looking forward to the change of scenery, endemic flora and fauna, and doing what I love - leading nature programs.
In the next few weeks I'm signed up to help with a few hikes with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, and then there's Birdathon at the end of the month, so hopefully I'll be posting more frequently soon.