Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Weekend of Feasts

This lucky Red-shouldered Hawk, like me, spent much of its weekend near Batiquitos Lagoon just north of San Diego, eating.

My father's 80th (!) birthday is in a few weeks, and since UF's spring break is this week, the rest of my California-based family decided to hold a big weekend celebration for him now, the only time I'd be free to travel. Dad grew up in a family of restaurateurs and loves a good meal, and appropriately enough, we spent the greater part of the weekend eating.

The first feast of the weekend was lunch on Friday: my parents picked me up at LAX and we drove straight to Little Saigon to check out a place I'd been thinking of trying for months. (We were headed towards San Diego, so this was not out of our way.) We had amazing, crackling-crisp egg rolls and a crazy-good sizzling fish with dill and turmeric, all served with huge piles of fresh herbs, rice crackers, noodles, and various sauces. We had no idea how these components were supposed to be combined, nor did we know what the proper etiquette was for doing this—but no matter, it was tasty.

We arrived at our weekend pied-à-terre, the Four Seasons Aviara (one of my sisters works for them and we got a huge discount). Even better than the overwhelming poshness of the place was its location: within walking distance of Batiquitos Lagoon, one of my favorite birding spots in San Diego County.

But first there was dinner at a cute little French bistro with the extended clan, who had all gotten into town about the same time.

Glenn and I got up early on Saturday morning, and snuck out for a sunrise bird walk at Batiquitos. My first trip there, for a Sea and Sage Audubon field trip two years ago, gave me my first-ever sightings of a Hermit Warbler, Western Tanager, and Spotted Towhee, so I have fond memories of the place.

Saturday was a gorgeous morning, crisply cool and clear, but the bird assortment was still more winter than spring—lots of American Wigeons, White-crowned Sparrows, and Townsend's Warblers. The heron/egret rookery at the south end of the lagoon trail was still quiet--no nesting activity yet. The only new spring arrival we got was a single Warbling Vireo.

Then we returned to our villa at the Four Seasons and ate a huge bacon-and-egg breakfast with the family while playing Wii tennis and Wii bowling. My parents are actually pretty good at Wii bowling. Go figure.

This was followed by errands (and lunch) at the outlet malls in Carlsbad, followed by a couple of hours of (real) tennis, followed by the "official" birthday dinner and a slide show (with cake and champagne) assembled by one of my sisters.

Sunday morning featured brunch at the hotel before we all checked out and went our separate ways.

And now I'm back in Gainesville, after a red-eye out of LAX and a connecting flight on a tiny puddle-jumper. And Glenn is finally here with me! He'll be here for two weeks; since I'm not teaching this week, we plan to get some serious birding in.

Let the fun begin!

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