Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Long Goodbye

A bird you won't find in Florida: A Hooded Oriole .

For the past few weeks, I've been in an eating frenzy: Dim sum. Tlayudas. Pinakbet. I love ethnic food—the hotter and weirder, the better. And I have to get as much of it as I can now, because in three weeks, I won't be able to get any. I'll be hopping on a plane out of LAX at some ungodly predawn hour and heading to Gainesville, Florida, and my new job at the University of Florida.

The job seems great (my soon-to-be colleagues have been fantastically friendly and helpful in our e-mail correspondence), the birding in Florida is, of course, awesome, but my heart has been in my stomach since I signed the contract. When I applied for the job last spring, it looked like no other teaching positions in my field would opening up locally this year, and since Glenn's current job is only a temporary contract gig, one of us had to get something a bit more stable, even if it meant leaving the area. This was the last thing I wanted to do: I grew up in So Cal, my family is here, and all my beloved birding spots are here—not to mention my favorite banh mi place with an only-in-California accessory, a trilingual English/Spanish/Vietnamese menu.

Sympathetic friends who knew of our plight all told us that maybe it was time for a change, and something interesting and different was no doubt right around the corner. And they were right. I can always come home to visit, and convince my sisters and parents that they really, really need to visit Disney World on a regular basis. And what's not to like about teaching at a school that has real live alligators and breeding Limpkins right on campus?

This would be a most excellent adventure except for one thing: Glenn will have to stay behind, at least through the end of the year, because of his job. Birding without him won't be quite as much fun, no matter how many lifers I get. And getting all my crap across the country and moving sight unseen into a new town without him won't be much fun either.

So in the meantime, we've been enjoying our local sites together, even in the midst of the summer doldrums. Knowing I only have a few more weeks of California birds, I decided to spend as much time with them as I can. Yesterday, we returned to Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in Modjeska Canyon, a sweet little place we hadn't visited in a while. There, we saw a pair of bright Hooded Orioles, and several Band-tailed Pigeons:

One of the sanctuary staffers told us that the resident Band-tailed Pigeons all perished in the Santiago fire last year, and only recently had more started to move in. It was fun seeing them again. We had always had good luck finding Mountain Chickadees and White-throated Nuthatches at Tucker, but none were in evidence yesterday. Instead, I was happy just to smell the wild sage and listen to rustle of oaks and sycamores in the hot wind: the smell and sound of a Southern California summer.

Even a particularly humdrum afternoon at Bolsa Chica made me sentimental. On the mesa, a pair of California Towhees were engaged in an odd fight/chase whose purpose we couldn't quite figure out: Were they mating? Fighting? Some kind of territorial dispute? Here's one of them after the event:

I normally wouldn't think of posting a Cal Towhee here. But right now I'm not taking any of our local critters for granted.

I haven't left yet, and I'm already homesick.


tenderstorm said...

It must have been a very difficult decision for you to make. One one hand you will have a better job, all those exotic lifers (think snail kites, anhingas, anis) and thrill on tasting Cuban food (media noche sandwiches are to die for) - and yet it is always hard to leave family and familiar places behind.

In about two years we will be moving back to the Philippines to retire (and feast on genuine pinakbet). So we can somehow relate to how you feel.

Good luck on your new job, Felicia! We will certainly miss you and Glenn.

Corey said...

Wow, what a turn of events. I can vouch for the great variety of birds in Central Florida. Heck, there's a Sandhill Crane farm just outside of Gainesville. Do me a favor, if you ever spot a Glossy Ibis please get some really good photos of it and post them . . it's my Eleanor.

Felicia said...

Thank you both for your kind comments--don't worry, Bob; Glenn will still be around--keep an eye out for him and his camera at all the usual hotspots! But I'll miss running into you and Cynthia.

And Corey, I'll definitely keep an eye out for Sandhill Cranes and Glossy Ibises. I'll be passing briefly through your neck of the woods on my way out (changing planes in Charlotte). I'll think of you as I race cluelessly through the concourse!

Sparverius said...

Wow. Well good luck out there. That is certainly a big change. Leaving familiar ground is never easy, but change is a good thing.