Monday, July 9, 2007

My Favorite Weekend

Birds and food. What more can you want?

What makes for a perfect weekend of birding? This weekend certainly wasn't it. (Brief summary: Bushtits! Bushtits! Bushtits!) So I won't discuss my weekend sightings here. Instead, I will pay homage to the Los Angeles Times' most vapid feature : My Favorite Weekend! (And my weekend won't include sushi, yoga, or token "quality time" with a kid from a previous marriage!)

Friday night: Dinner at Honda-Ya in Tustin. Sip sake and Sapporo and eat soothing simmered stews and grilled things on skewers until we explode. (And since this is our idealized favorite weekend, none of the booze will have the slightest effect on our ability to drive home.) Return home, check OC Birding for the latest sightings.

Saturday morning: Wake up at 6. Eat a quick breakfast, load our kayaks on top of the car, and head to North Star Beach for a morning of paddling around Upper Newport Bay. Watch the resident Ospreys fishing and feeding their fledglings at their nest on Shellmaker Island. In the reeds at the water's edge, Clapper Rails and Green Herons will be strolling about. Terns and Black Skimmers will swoop just inches above our heads.

Saturday afternoon: After a picnic on the beach and a trip home to shower and store our boats, we head to San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. By now, the sun has peaked and the birds are starting to revive from their midday doldrums. We start at the front ponds, looking for nesting activity, late/extremely early migrants, or just plain weird behavior from the permanent residents. We move into the back area, where White-tailed Kites, Northern Harriers, Red-shouldered Hawks, and half a dozen migrant warbler species (hey, this is Our Favorite Weekend) make lengthy appearances and sit cooperatively for Glenn's photos. We watch White-faced Ibises and Black-crowned Night Herons settle back into the front ponds as the sun sets.

Since it's our Favorite Weekend and none of this activity has made us hot, sweaty, or dusty, we are presentable enough to head across the street to Ruth Chris for filet mignons and a good Shiraz. As we eat, we marvel that a place like San Joaquin could exist only 5 minutes from John Wayne Airport. Life is good.

Sunday morning: We're off to Huntington Central Park, where we run into a lot of birders. We spot dozens of marvelous little critters flitting about near the island (many of which will be identified for us by friendly, more experienced birders nearby). On our best days at HCP, we come out feeling smarter and more knowledgeable then we we came in.

Sunday afternoon: After lunch at the Park Bench Cafe at HCP (food is only so-so, but the servers are sweet and the setting even sweeter), we head to Bolsa Chica and park by the footbridge. We watch loons and random geese swim about. Then we walk down to the tidegates and watch for Black Skimmers and hunting terns and egrets. The long-term visiting Reddish Egrets flail about looking panicked and hysterical as they hunt—but we notice they catch as many fish as their more sedate local cousins. There is method to their madness.

From the tidegates, we head up to the mesa, where Peregrine Falcons and Merlins make regular appearances. Near the beanfield, we spot Loggerhead Shrikes and Western Meadowlarks poking about in the brush. Back at the tidegates, we join the gang of photographers trying to get sunset shots of the Elegant Terns in flight.

As we head back to the parking lot, the scent of lighter fluid and grilled meat wafts across PCH from the beach. This always makes Glenn declare that he wants carne asada for dinner. And since this is Our Favorite Weekend, we indulge: as we sip margaritas and wait for our food to arrive, I tally up the list of our sightings for the weekend.

Sunday night: We head home, where the house is pristine and sack lunches are ready for us to take to work on Monday. Since this is still part of Our Perfect Weekend, I have no problem sets to grade and all my lectures for the week are prepped and ready to go. After a hot bubble bath, I curl up with some light reading and start planning my next weekend. My only challenge of the day: how can I top perfection?

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